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Ultimate Doom (Mac) artwork

Ultimate Doom (Mac) review

"For someone like me, who likely is never going to leave the planet Earth, the thought of becoming a Space Marine is an attractive prospect. Being able to travel to distant planets and call the moons of Mars my home sounds like the adventure of a lifetime! Sadly, as classic first-person shooter Doom illustrates, there is a wee bit of a darkside to holding such an occupation. For mysterious reasons, the forces of Hell pay a little visit to Phobos and Deimos (those Martian moons, for those n..."

For someone like me, who likely is never going to leave the planet Earth, the thought of becoming a Space Marine is an attractive prospect. Being able to travel to distant planets and call the moons of Mars my home sounds like the adventure of a lifetime! Sadly, as classic first-person shooter Doom illustrates, there is a wee bit of a darkside to holding such an occupation. For mysterious reasons, the forces of Hell pay a little visit to Phobos and Deimos (those Martian moons, for those not versed in astronomy). If I happened to be among these Space Marines, odds are I’d be quickly slaughtered by forces beyond my comprehension, only to be reborn as a mindless gun-toting zombie.

And that’s if I’m lucky. Surviving that initial onslaught would just put me in position to meet an even worse fate. You see, those accursed Hellspawn were quite efficient in their bloody conquest, only leaving ONE survivor. Doom is the story of his trek through a world turned upside-down by the invasion of an evil dimension. Well, maybe referring to Doom as a “story” is a bit inaccurate, as there’s next-to-no plot beyond you killing everything in your way, but that’s okay, because this game brought the goods! Not only was it a thrilling and violent adventure, but also proved simple to manipulate. Aspiring programmers were easily able to design their own levels (many of which can quickly be found online), giving this game replay value that few titles can even come close to matching.

The fame and popularity of Doom can easily be illustrated by merely pointing to the fact that Ultimate Doom exists. Take the 27 levels of the original game (spread over three episodes), add one more nine-level mission and repackage the whole thing and *VOILA* a new game has been born! It might not be ground-breaking, but there’s no finer way to experience how the original Doom took over the gaming world than by playing this — the “ultimate” form of that classic.

You start out by picking your difficulty level and scenario. Take it from me: ignore the fact that the two easiest skill levels, as well as the most difficult, exist. This game does not truly become fun until you play the default “Hurt Me Plenty” difficulty. If you find that too easy, “Ultra-Violence” is waiting in the wings to ensure you get more than your money’s worth. Go up to “Nightmare” and the fun is replaced by frustration, though. No cheat codes work at this level and most monsters constantly respawn, making each level a race against time that most players are destined to lose time and time again. Meanwhile, the first two skill levels just lack a certain something. While there still may be challenging sections, Ultimate Doom just doesn’t have quite the same impact at these “beginner-friendly” difficulties.

As for the scenarios, “Knee Deep in the Dead” is considered classic due to the intricate way its levels are designed. While none of the enemies (with the exception of the two Barons of Hell which serve as the final level’s boss) are imposing, they’ll still be able to give you more trouble than you’d expect. Trap walls open up behind you, releasing zombies itching to fill you full of lead. Dark corridors provide the perfect cover for near-invisible Spectres to sneak up and take a bite out of you. It’s the perfect tutorial for a beginning player, as it’s not too tough, but still full of diabolical traps and secrets.

Most of the levels here take place in the base-like structures the Space Marines called home, but as you progress through the next two scenarios “Shores of Hell” and “Inferno”, the scenery gets a bit more disturbing. Demonic visuals, lakes of fire and more powerful opposition all make it quite clear that your marine isn’t in for a routine day at the office. If you have what it takes to get past these challenges, the extra episode (charmingly titled “Thy Flesh Consumed”) awaits with nine more levels designed in a creepy gothic style. Things can get quite rough here, as the programmers waste no time in proving they aren’t shy about throwing heavyweight enemies such as Barons at you — whether you’re ready for such encounters or not!

All of that is nice, but really doesn’t delve into the essence of why Ultimate Doom is such a magnificent game. In my eyes, this game blends together the best parts of survival horror and spaghetti westerns to create a game that’s able to alternate between tense, nerve-racking moments and flamboyantly over-the-top shootouts — with most levels containing both elements.

Just look at the early stages of the second level of “Thy Flesh Consumed” to see exactly how all this plays out. As the level begins, you’re instantly put into an intense fight, as a horde of weak soldiers and imps besiege you. Things get worse, though, as the sounds of battle attract a few tougher foes. Suddenly, you find yourself backed up against a wall, strafing left and right as quick as possible, while firing wildly in the hopes you can gun down all your foes before they get close enough to overwhelm you. It’s a brutal gunfight where you have no cover, forcing you to both have an aggressive trigger finger AND be light on your feet to avoid getting pinned down by enemy fire.

Survive that showdown and you’ll get to advance to the next room to get the stage’s first key. Initially, only a handful of weak foes challenge you, possibly giving you the impression this little side-trip will be an easy one — which makes the upcoming trap even more devastating. As you dash onto a ledge, a wall opens in front of you, giving you access to the key....and giving a Baron access to you. Now, after that huge fight to open the stage, there’s a good chance that you might be hurting a bit as far as both health and ammo go, so you might decide that retreating a bit and trying to snipe the monstrous foe from around a wall is a viable strategy (I know I did!). Unfortunately for you, the programmers seemingly knew you’d be tempted to do that, as a wall behind you is also triggered to open, releasing TWO MORE BARONS!!! Congratulations, dude, you’re low on ammo, have a less-than-desirable amount of health, don’t have much room to maneuver AND are in a room with a trio of one of the game’s toughest monsters. If you’re good, you might last 10 seconds. If you’re great, you just might have a chance in hell of getting that key and escaping (relatively) unscathed. Just don’t get too frustrated when you have to reload your save for the umpteenth time.

Other levels send you into devilishly-designed mazes where enemies may be lurking around any of a multitude of corners; into huge battlefields where you have to use every bit of cover available to protect yourself against powerful attacks while preparing your own offensive AND into convoluted bases where any action you make could cause secret passages and alcoves to open, revealing their assortment of grotesque beasts ready to end your mission.

Ultimate Doom alternates between being tense and exhilarating. One minute, you’re staring at your utter lack of ammo, hoping against hope that you can outlast the last few enemies that have you trapped in a semi-secluded alcove. Just seconds later, you’ve taken down that final foe and are gleefully collecting all the goodies strewn throughout the battlefield. Full of pride and with your inventory restocked, you feel invulnerable as you await the next challenge....only to have that confidence stripped away by a devilishly clever sneak attack that inflicts grievous wounds on you before you’ve even figured out what’s happening. Ultimate Doom is designed to send players on an emotional roller-coaster ride, which it does with the greatest of ease. In my time playing it, I’ve been overjoyed and triumphant, as well as frustrated and despondent — but no matter how bad things are looking for my marine, I’m too addicted to not come back for more.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (August 03, 2005)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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