Review: “Freedoom” (Freeware Computer Game/ IWAD For “Doom II”)

2014 Artwork Freedoom Review Sketch

[Note: Before I begin, I should probably point out that this is a review of the “0.8 Beta 1” version of Freedoom that was released in 2012. There was a new version released this year, but from what I’ve briefly seen of it – it looks nearly identical to the version I will be reviewing here.]

One of the great things about “Doom” and “Doom II” was that ID Software released the source code for both of these games in the mid-late 1990s, meaning that people could modify the games to their heart’s content and produce source ports which allow these games to be played on modern computers. But, contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean that “Doom” itself is freeware. In order to play it, you still need all of the copyrighted graphics files from the full version of the original game.

Well, that’s where “Freedoom” comes in. This is a freeware replacement pack for all of the “Doom II” graphics and levels which means that literally anyone can enjoy the masterpiece that is “Doom II” for free. All you need to play it is a modern source port like GZ Doom.

Screenshot_Doom_20140712_183500

Although I’ve had “Freedoom” for a couple of years, I only really started playing it properly when I couldn’t find some decent new WADs for “Doom II” one night last month and, even if you already own a full copy of “Doom II”, it’s still certainly worth playing because it’s basically a 32 Level TC for “Doom II”.

Yes, as well as 32 new levels, you’ve also got new weapon graphics, new enemy graphics and new textures – it’s almost like a completely different game.

Well, it's still very reminscient of the original game too... Although some of the backgrounds are cooler.

Well, it’s still very reminscient of the original game too… Although some of the backgrounds are cooler.

First of all, the level design in “Freedoom” is fairly good. At the time of writing this review, I’ve only played about two-thirds of the game and there are some surprisingly good levels in there – however, the quality, size and length of the levels can vary heavily.

You might find yourself getting stuck for days on a ridiculously complex level that requires finding six keys (yes, six!) and doing a lot of exploration in order to finish and then find that you can complete the next level in the space of about five minutes without even breaking a sweat.

Not only that, the endings for some of the levels seem to be placed arbitrarily and it’s possible to finish some levels after only exploring about half of them.

Still, as I mentioned earlier, I’m reviewing an older version of this game from 2012, so it’s possible that the levels may have been redesigned and tweaked slightly in the latest version. And, despite the flaws I mentioned earlier, the levels are still very playable, very fun and often enjoyably challenging.

Screenshot_Doom_20140712_183529

The weapons in “Freedoom” function exactly like their counterparts in “Doom II”, although all of the graphics are slightly different.

On the whole, most of these weapons still “feel” fairly good, although the basic shotgun is slightly too quiet, the rocket launcher looks like a flamethrower and the plasma gun doesn’t feel quite as powerful as it did in the original game (even though it looks a lot cooler).

Unfortunately, these cool-looking flames are just part of the rocket firing animation.

Unfortunately, these cool-looking flames are just part of the rocket firing animation.

But, some of the new weapons actually look cooler than their “Doom II” counterparts – such as the basic pistol (which actually looks like a pistol), the super shotgun, the chainsaw and the BFG. So, this kind of balances out some of the flaws with the other weapon graphics.

Likewise, the new enemy designs are something of a mixed bag. Some of them look a lot less dramatic (and weirder) than their “official” counterparts – for example, the new cyberdemon is a bizarre green pointy robot rather than a cool-looking giant demon. The new Cacodemon graphic looks like a hilarious flying jellyfish too.

But, saying that, many of the new enemy designs look a lot cooler than the original monsters did. For example, the “Zombie” enemies now actually look and move like actual zombies:

Well, they also look a little bit like the Strogg from "Quake II" too...

Well, they also look a little bit like the Strogg from “Quake II” too…

The “Imp” enemies look like creepy giant cobras – which gives the game a slightly cool “Ancient Egypt” kind of feel. Plus, the new Mancubus looks like something from an Iron Maiden album cover – even down to it’s well-animated death animation:

Wow! Eddie's really let himself go....

Wow! Eddie’s really let himself go….

The best enemy redesign is probably the pink “Demon” enemies. In the original game, they looked like some kind of giant mutant bull/gorilla creature and weren’t really that scary.

However, in “Freedoom”, they have been turned into giant bloodworms that will probably end up haunting your nightmares:

Aaaargh!

Aaaargh!

I haven’t really checked “Freedoom”‘s compatability with all of the various “Doom” mods and TCs out there, but I imagine that it would work well with old-school WADs that don’t include much in the way of new graphics.

I think I tried using it with “Brutal Doom” once last year out of curiosity and many of the new death and weapon animations just looked weird. But I imagine that “Freedoom” would probably work well with mods, WADs and TCs that don’t change too much about the original game.

All in all, “Freedoom” isn’t perfect. But it’s still absolutely great regardless. The new levels are fun and about half of the new graphics are better than those from the original game. If you’ve never played any “Doom” games before and are curious about it, then download “Freedoom” (and a source port) and give it a go before you buy a copy of the original game.

Plus, if you’ve got a copy of the original game, then this is a fairly solid 32-level TC/ IWAD for it. Yes, the level quality can vary slightly – but it’s still very playable and very enjoyable.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would probably get a four.

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