Shack Plays: Doom on PlayStation 1, Part 1

Grab your BFG and plug in that old PlayStation controller. No, not the DualShock 1. The older one. We're going to hell.


During Countdown to Doomsday, our cornucopia of Doom-related feature articles, videos, and podcasts all week leading up to Doom Eternal's launch, I ranked ports of the original Doom. What's more, I named the PlayStation version as my favorite.

Not only my favorite port. My favorite version of Doom. And yes, I'm a keyboard-mouse, WASD, card-carrying member of the PC Master Race. I've played Doom since its shareware days.

But to me, Doom has always been as much a horror game as an action game, and the incredible lighting and audio of the PlayStation version have stuck with me. It's Doom at its finest: bloody, frenetic gameplay set in gloomy corridors with a soundtrack--composed by the brilliant Aubrey Hodges--that burrows into your skin and stays there, festering, with every step you take deeper into the darkness.

Doom PSX. Live it. Love it. Shoot all the things.
Doom PSX. Live it. Love it. Shoot all the things.

Many Doom fans may not be familiar with the PlayStation port. It was developed by Midway and launched in 1995, before Sony's DualShock controller became ubiquitous with the PlayStation brand. That meant you moved with the d-pad and strafed with shoulder triggers. It worked well, much better than you'd think.

In the interest of sharing the love of all things Doom, I returned to the PSX game by way of a mod for GZDoom, my source port of choice. To make the experience as authentic as possible, I played with an 8-bitdo SN30 Pro controller, which resembles an SNES gamepad but with two extra triggers and two analog sticks. Which I didn't use because, again, Doom on PSX is old-school.

Doom's PSX port consists of The Ultimate Doom and Doom 2: Hell on Earth. Interestingly, one of the major changes Midway made was to structure Doom as one contiguous episode. That means you go from E1M8, centered on the iconic showdown with two Barons of Hell, into E2M1, the beginning of episode two, with your ammo, health, armor, and weapons intact.

We've uploaded a commentary-free version of my playthrough, allowing you to soak up the ambience of the audiovisuals without me chattering on and on about Doom PSX the whole time. Which I definitely could, and will, in a future commentary edition of this playthrough.

Before I send you to hell… er, Mars, I'll be publishing a full making-of article on Doom PSX and Doom 64, the histories of which are intertwined, tomorrow, March 20. Check back then for details on how the games came to life. Below, you can read a few bullet points detailing some of the bigger differences that separate Doom PSX from the original, and from other ports.

  • As mentioned, The Ultimate Doom's four episodes are linked to form one contiguous game, like Doom 2.
  • Doom PSX doesn't include a Nightmare difficulty, likely because attempting it with a controller would have been a different kind of nightmare. Ultra-Violence is the highest difficulty setting.
  • Players brave enough to play on Ultra-Violence are in for a treat: Monsters from Doom 2, such as the Chaingunner, Revenant, and Mancubus, make cameos in certain maps. Their presence changes up encounters, spicing up the combat for players like me, who've played these games so many times that encounters, while still fun, have lost much of their suspense and challenge.
  • Since I'm playing a mod for the PC version of Doom, I could have played with a keyboard and mouse. Instead, I opted to use a controller. Why? Two reasons: authenticity, and challenge. Doom PSX's AI was adjusted to compensate for the fact that the game had to be played with a gamepad. Enemies move and attack slower than they do on the PC, to give players time to turn and aim. Playing with K+M cheapens the experience. Also, the fact that controllers are inherently less accurate and more cumbersome than the PC's peripherals (sorry, but it's true) adds a layer of challenge for someone like me, who could run circles around enemies on the PC.

Hyped for Doom Eternal? Check out Countdown to Doomsday for even more Doom-related features, videos, and more.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at and @davidlcraddock.

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