In case you’re new to the wonderful world of 1990s retro gaming, I should probably explain what a “source port” is. In short, a source port is a program that allows older games (whose source code has been released by the developers) to run on more modern computers – usually with various modifications and improvements.
As source ports for “Doom” go, I’m usually more of a “GZ Doom” kind of person. However, a couple of months ago, I heard of another source port that I thought that I’d check out – I am, of course, talking about “Doom Retro“.
[NOTE: When writing this review, I used version 1.6.5 of this source port, although I think that at least one new version of it has been released since then. ]
Even so, let’s take a look at “Doom Retro”:
As the name suggests, “Doom Retro” is a source port which tries to keep the old “Doom” games as close to their original form as possible. In other words, there is no jumping, no y-axis aiming, only six save slots and all the things you would expect from a more “traditional” version of “Doom”.
In fact, even the map screen looks exactly like it does in the original version of the game:
Even the options menu has been pared down to something close to it’s original form (compared to the 20+ options you will find in a source port like “GZ Doom”):
The most amusing thing about this options menu is that you can set the level of graphic detail in the game to “low”, which makes the game resemble the blurry low-resolution version of it that was released on the SNES in the 1990s:
One of the more interesting things about “Doom Retro” is the default keyboard layout. It contains both a more modern layout (where you use the WSAD keys for movement and the mouse for turning and shooting) as well as the traditional keyboard-only “Doom” controls, so that you can switch between the two whilst you’re playing. Literally, both layouts are mapped onto the keyboard at the same time.
Out of a sense of nostalgia, I decided to use keyboard-only controls and… wow… I’d forgotten how much more difficult “Doom” was when you have to move using the arrow keys.
Seriously, I thought that I was a lot better at “Doom” now than when I was a teenager due to sheer practice alone, but I think at least part of it is due to the fact that most modern source ports allow you to use far more responsive modern FPS controls (as well as jumping, y-axis aiming etc..).
Of course, back then, my teenage self thought that using anything other than the arrow keys for FPS games was tantamount to sacrelige. But, well, that’s the foolishness of youth for you.
But, even though “Doom Retro” tries to re-create the traditional “Doom” experience, there are a few new touches too. Although some of these are minor graphical improvements (eg: rippling water textures etc..), the most notable change is that some of the monsters have differently-coloured blood (eg: cacodemons have blue blood and both Hell Knights and Barons of Hell have green blood) and the game now contains slightly more realistic blood spatter effects.
This has been done in quite a few source ports and mods for “Doom”, so it’s nothing new. But, nonetheless, it still works really well and it adds slightly more atmosphere to an absolutely great game.
The only major flaw with “Doom Retro” is that, because it tries to be very “traditional”, there are apparently limitations on the kinds of WADs that it will play. From what I can gather, it will mostly only play WADs that don’t change too much about the original game.
And, as someone who likes “Doom” WADs that contain lots of new weapons and monsters – this seemed like quite a serious flaw to me, and it’s one of the main reasons why I’m not switching away from using “GZ Doom” any time soon.
All in all, if you want to relive the classic “Doom” games of your youth, then you can’t go wrong with “Retro Doom”. Playing with the old keyboard controls can make the game surprisingly, and enjoyably, challenging – but the lack of support for many mod-heavy WADs means that this source port is nothing more than an enjoyable nostalgic curiosity. Nonetheless, it does what it says on the tin, and I can’t fault it for that.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would get three and a half at the very least.