Review: Doom (Sega 32x)

The mass murder simulator genre started with Doom. It’s interesting looking back at Doom 17 years after it’s initial release; that one simple game could create so much controversy, create an entire new genre of games, redefine an industry, and shift gaming’s focus from kids to adults. Doom.

Less than a year after Doom’s release on the PC, the first console ports trickled out to Atari’s Jaguar and Sega’s 32x in November of 1994. Doom for the Sega 32x was ported by Sega themselves and released alongside the Sega 32x add-on during it’s American launch.

It’s hard to review such an iconic game like Doom, since everyone has probably played it. But as time goes on, I’m sure there are newer gamers that haven’t played before (I'm sure some of my readers weren’t even born in 1993). So for you, here is a look back at the game.

Doom for the Sega 32x was my first experience with the game, and to this day is still the version I’ve spent the most time playing. The premise is simple. Navigate your way through 16 levels (not 15 as often erroneously reported) collecting weapons and key cards, blasting your way through hoards of demonic creatures in search of an exit.

The level design in Doom is excellent. From the first level to the last, Doom presents a somewhat straight forward path to play through the level. Open doors, find key cards (red, blue, and yellow) to open up new areas of the level and progress. As you progress, the levels get more confusing and maze like, requiring you to remember where different colored doors are to return to once you find the appropriate key card. The size and difficulty ramp up gently as you progress, with the game rarely overwhelming you, but always challenging you.

My only minor gripe is that when you die, you start from the beginning of the map without anything but your fist and the pistol. This makes the last few levels a real pain in the ass when you die.

The art style of Doom also garnered plenty of controversy back when it was released. There are plenty of demonic themes littered throughout including upside-down pentagrams and crosses. As the levels progress, they look less like military bases and more like hell itself. The art design is fantastic and I was surprised to see so much variety squeezed onto a tiny 24 megabit (3 megabyte) cartridge.

The controls are straightforward, and work best with a 6 button controller. The d-pad controls your movement, the A button runs (auto-run is on by default), the B button fires, and the C button opens doors and switches. The X and Y buttons cycle through your weapons. Lastly, Z brings up the map, which is helpful for navigating some of the larger levels. Overall, Doom for the Sega 32x controls surprisingly well and everything is very responsive.

The only thing missing in Doom for the Sega 32x is proper strafing. Rather than having dedicated strafing buttons, you are stuck with a single strafe button, C. You are then stuck using the left and right buttons on the d-pad to strafe in that direction. This does limit movement a bit (as you can’t strafe and change direction at the same time) and makes avoiding enemy fire a pain in later levels.

We now return to the Sega 32x specific portion of our program. Doom for the Sega 32x often gets thrashed for 3 main things: music, bordered graphics, and missing levels.

The 32x version of Doom does feature music as good as the Super Nintendo version of the game. It does however sound better the the Atari Jaguar version (which features NO in-game music). But how does it compare to the original PC version? Quite well. Here is how most gamers with a Sound Blaster 16 card experienced Doom back in the 1990’s. While the 32x music is technically simplistic, even by Genesis standards, the melody and dark tone are still there.

Next up, the boarder around the play field. There is a somewhat thick boarder around the play field in the Sega 32x version of Doom. It’s there to help keep the gaming running at a consistent frame rate, and after a few minutes, is barely noticeable. Still, it’s disheartening to see the Sega was unable to get the SuperH processors to render the game in full screen prior to release.

Lastly, Doom for the Sega 32x only features 16 if the games original 27 levels. Doom for the 32x features only levels from the first two episodes (Knee-Deep in the Dead and The Shores of Hell), skipping the third episode completely. The 16th level is only accessible if you play through the game without the level select cheat (for this review I played on normal difficulty with no cheats). In addition to the removed levels, many of the more complicated levels have large sections removed and level geometry simplified.

So with these 3 flaws, is Doom for the Sega 32x a bad game? Far from it. It’s still Doom, and as mentioned above, Doom is a damn fine game. As a Sega 32x launch game, it’s excellent. It blows the pants off anything capable on 16-bit systems of the time. It’s even better than the 3DO version. It set the stage for what the Sega 32x could have been.

Overall, Doom for the Sega 32x is a solid game. The controls are responsive, the graphics show off what the 32x is capable of, the levels are fun and well designed, and the dark atmosphere still feels fresh today. If you’re looking for the definitive version of Doom, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re looking for a fun 32x game, you’ve hit the jackpot. Now try not to murder anyone.

Graphics 7/10 - Excellent texture mapped graphics, smooth frame rate
Sound 5/10 - Average soundtrack, decent effects
Game play 8/10 - Very playable, wish you could properly strafe
Overall 8/10 - Excellent 32x game