The hoary old godfather of first-person shooters, the landmark game that redefined both video games and the concussive sound of virtual shot gun blasts has, after 862 ports to 12 different systems, finally slummed its way over to mobile devices. Mobile gaming is at this point used to being the last one picked for the team and really we’re happy to have been picked at all. What’s more, we remain well aware of the overall goodness of this seminal yet ancient game. You might argue that this port is not all that significant because DOOM 3 BFG Edition was released for mobile devices in 2012. But while the BFG Edition is a decent game, in many ways it is not classic DOOM.
So how does id’s classic hold up after all these years? More importantly, how well does Bethesda’s port function on mobile phones? These are weighty questions, my friend. The answer to the first is that it holds up well. The answer to the second is a bit more complicated. In order to answer it we have to take you all the way back to the beginning.
The FPS Godfather
For those of you who were raised on the tundra, DOOM was a vastly popular FPS created by the legendary developers at id Software in 1993. So popular, in fact, that it spawned movies, comic books, a plethora of copycats, sequels and remakes. It remains one of the most ported, and arguably one of the most influential video games ever made. In it you play a space marine, affectionately known as “The DOOM Guy,” who is somehow the lone survivor of a space station overtaken by hell’s minions.
If you can see past original DOOM’s heavily pixelated trappings, you will undoubtedly appreciate its hellish comic book aesthetic. From its bold blood red lettering to its gorgeous gun animations, to the malevolent beauty of its Cheshire Cacodemons, the game gets ambience right. And the sounds—the sounds remain impeccable. The scratchy roar of imps as they hurl fireballs at you, the satisfying groans of blasted zombies as they crumple to the floor and, of course, the second-to-none bellow of ye old shotgun blasts. Also, the circa 1990 synth soundtrack is still driving and thoroughly amusing. In short, all of DOOM’s ambience remains intact.
So, great game, great port, right? No. It’s not. If you have the means to play it with a controller as we eventually did, then, yes, it is still a wonderful game. However, the touch control system, which we also spent some time with, is a hot mess. And because most of the people who pick this up will play it by tapping and swiping their screens, it has to be assessed sans controller.
Touch Controls Par Crapola
To that end, one of the most vital aspects of the original DOOM’s greatness was the way gameplay flowed, which was largely predicated on the speed and hairpin precision of its controls. Unfortunately, Bethesda has taken this essential aspect of the game and blasted it into gibs. This is how it works: Your touch screen is vertically divided into three evenly distributed sections. You move DOOM Guy around with the left section, while the middle section serves as an action button. It’s the right section of the screen, however, where the problems lie. The right third of the screen serves as both a means to pivot DOOM Guy 360 degrees and to fire his gun. Bad choice. When you attempt to fire, the screen often shifts DOOM Guy sideways and you miss. Not only that but you cannot fire as you turn. These two facets of Bethesda’s touch controls absolutely sever the flow of the game.
It’s Called a Fire Button
Originally, with a dual-stick or mouse/keyboard setup you would be dashing backwards and forwards while turning any of 360 degrees AND simultaneously shredding monstrosities with your gat of choice. Not anymore. What Bethesda should have done was taken a quick glance at some of the best and most popular mobile FPSs, namely games like Unkilled, Dead Trigger and PUBG for that matter. Two words, Bethesda. Fire. Button. You turn using half the screen in Unkilled, for example, and you have a virtual fire button like on the joy sticks of yore. Here’s the thing about a virtual fire button on a small mobile device. It works. It makes a mobile first-person shooter almost as functional as using a controller or a keyboard/mouse combo. It keeps the game flowing. And really, at this point it’s mobile FPS 101.
There’s also been a lot of hoopla online about DOOM’s DRM. If you are unaware, Bethesda originally tacked on a DRM, wherein the player had to have an online connection and sign into Bethesda’s servers before they could play. This unnecessary annoyance showed up on the Switch version and made a lot of gamers insane. Bethesda claimed it was a mistake they would fix and they did, in a way. Unfortunately, vestiges of it remain on the mobile port. Now you no longer have to sign in to play, but the game never informs you of this. Instead, it directs you to sign in after install and every time you fire it up. It’s particularly annoying for a 26 year-old old PC game whose code was released to the public in 1997.
Bethesda’s port of DOOM remains a decent game in spite of its quasi-functional controls and DRM issues because DOOM is, at the end of the day, DOOM. Some will work the touch controls until it is kind of playable as we did. Without a controller, however, it will be a disappointment to the majority of first-person shooter and classic DOOM fans. If you have a functioning controller for your device, buy it. It’s a blast to play. However, for the vast majority of mobile gamers, who do not have a controller for their devices, wait. Wait for Bethesda to evolve a few more brain cells and add a frickin’ fire button.
Is it Hardcore?
Yes! And No!
While playable, Bethesda’s port of this landmark classic is marred by its crap DRM and dysfunctional touch controls. If you have a mobile controller, scoop it up. If you don’t, wait for Bethesda to add a virtual fire button.