3 Incredible Modern Mods for Old School DOOM

Ever since its 1993 release, the original DOOM has held an iron-secure place within pop-culture history. It also remains one of the most popular and enduring old school games, even in our current era of that-became-ancient-last-week and “I beat it the week it came out, what's next.” Even in the lackluster new age of video gaming, where it seems hip to be a practiced kind of blasé about absolutely everything, people will get excited about DOOM. The release of the 2016 re-envisioning not only refreshed the franchise's overall presence, but drew more and more gamers to examine the original set of games (DOOM, DOOM II, the two-pack Final DOOM, and official add-on The Master Levels) with the same awe and wonder many people feel when they discover something incredible that has been hiding under their noses the whole time.

A large part of the original game's continued popularity is owed to the modders: people who make add-ons, alterations, and even improved running environments for DOOM. On December 23rd, 1997, the source code for the DOOM game engine was released for use and examination by fans and aspiring game-makers. First, new maps (levels) made by fans began to flood the early Internet. Some of them were very good; plenty of them were absolutely terrible. This ended up being worth suffering through, for it was only the beginning. Eventually, by use of user-written programs like DeHacked, people could even alter the way the game's environment and physics worked, and even mold its entirety to fit a new style or form. An intimate understanding of the game was forming among the burgeoning mod community...

This culture grew, changed, and grew some more, on into the post-DOS era and beyond. Currently, the most common way of playing the original IWADS (files containing the core assets of the DOOM games themselves) is with a shell like GZDoom, Zandronum, or Boom. These programs expand the very functionality and capability of DOOM, allowing for more modern FPS play (if desired) and also allowing an entire new universe of incredible mods to breath continuing life into the classic series.

Below you will find a sampling of these mods, the creative efforts and love-labors of committed and talented DOOM fans in the current age. Some are more popular than others among the community itself. Some almost totally divorce DOOM from its original form, simply borrowing the code and structure. Some are just simple but wonderful changes made to one of the most modded games in the history of the hobby. All are worth checking out.

 

Lithium

Runs in: ZDoom/GZDoom

Runs with: Any DOOM IWAD file (as far as I know. I have run it using Doom, Doom 2, and both Final Doom ones)

This is one of the more recent mods, having seen the light of day at the beginning of this year. It's still being worked on and has seen a lot of improvement. Lithium is described by its creator as a “light RPG mod,” and I think that label is both appropriate and accurate.

One of Lithium's key elements, the CIB. Along with an altered heads-up display, this thing provides you with a knockout shopping experience, info on monsters, and some sick wetware.

One of Lithium's key elements, the CIB. Along with an altered heads-up display, this thing provides you with a knockout shopping experience, info on monsters, and some sick wetware.

Lithium's most noticeable alteration to the base game (besides the obvious new weapon designs) is a drop-down interface called The CIB. This acts as a menu for various “wetware” cybernetics, a store to buy new weapons and gear, and a means to access information. If you're wondering how you're supposed to bankroll weapons and gear, that ties directly into the other added element players will immediately notice: When you slay monsters, you get cash in the form of “credits. Some upgrades require modules and tools that cannot be bought in the store and must be found, having been swapped randomly in place of certain traditional DOOM powerups on the maps.

Lithium's strongest points are its neat cyberpunk theme, the player-controlled scalability of play (you can manually adjust things like the rate of pay for monster kills, etc.) and the well-done graphics on the new weapons and CIB display. The mod still needs work and is rough around the edges, but is heading in a very cool direction. NRW readers who embrace the cyberpunk aesthetic would be well-served to check it out.

 

Mega Man 8-Bit Deathmatch

Runs in: Zandronum

Runs with: none: it is its own stand-alone IWAD

This one's been around for a little bit longer, and it's extremely our shit. MM8BDM allows you to duke it out in Deathmatch-style battles set in the world of Capcom's most famous android hero. This “total conversion” mod is hardly even a mod by the strict use of the term; its creator CutmanMike has essentially hollowed out the DOOM engine and bent it to his own will, creating a first-person 8-bit robo-arena in the Mega Man universe. Play is fast-paced, exciting, and authentic to its source material. MM8BDM even has something its early incarnations lacked... a single-player storyline. This is still a work in progress but everything I've seen so far looks incredible.

What really holds this one up is its nostalgia factor, as well as how lovingly the feel of the MM games has been reproduced in a new format. It is definitely not DOOM, but it's a lot of fun. Anything I could throw hard criticism at is being updated and worked on. Those of you who enjoy competitive FPS dueling and are diehard fans of the Mega Man franchise should take a look. Hell, I'd bet many of you know about this already.

 

Brutal Doom

Runs in: ZDoom/GZDoom

Runs with: Any DOOM IWAD, but it's best with Doom 2 or one of the Final Doom installments

Let me start off by quoting the first member of a Doom-related Facebook group who responded when I asked them for input on Brutal Doom to supplement my own:

“It is not a COD shooter for five-year-olds. Make sure that's in there before the kids get a hold of it and everyone shits their pants.”

If you're reading this, sir, I have made sure it's in here. And thank you. Thank you for telling it like it is.

I've struggled with a good way to sum up Brutal Doom, but I suppose the best way to describe it at a glance is to say that it is the concept of Doom, cubed. No, multiplied by an exponential value far exceeding that. It is Doom if you gave Doom the same serum they used on Captain America, treated it to a few strong doses of PCP, and set it loose. What began as an experiment to make the original games more elaborate and bloody has, over time, become a monumental love letter to the franchise by way of fundamentally transforming its foundation.

There are new, cooler, more entertaining weapons. The monster behavior is less linear and more challenging. The berserk medpack enables you to bodily dismantle the denizens of hell with your bare hands like you're casually unwrapping a candy bar. Countless small improvements to the graphics and sound add up to a rich sensory experience. Marcos Abenante (known in the community as Sergeant_Mark IV) has taken the original games and used the power of GZDoom to somehow magnify the entire experience. It is the same game, but it is everything it should be.

I would offer pointed and balanced criticism of Brutal Doom, but I really can't find much to dislike. Abenante has slaved away at this mod for a long time now, and it has even garnered the attention of John Romero himself, who offered it enthusiastic praise. Brutal Doom won the Mod of the Year award on Mod DB in 2012, and has not lost stride since. This is the one I encourage you all to try... but bear in mind the admonishment quoted earlier... this shit is not gentle. It is not for the faint of heart.

I kept the number of mods mentioned to three in this article because I didn't want to present thousands of words in a sprawl that would eventually diminish all the work cited within it. I kept this as short as I felt it needed to be, and chose three that would stand out to our readers. I may detail more in a future article, because I assure you: these three are far from the only worthwhile DOOM mods out there. I encourage any devoted DOOMer to cruise the web and hunt for other mods as well as try these three. Here's to this iconic game never dying, due to the blood and vigor its true fans continue to give forth.

Bryan Eddy