I’m not a big fan of list articles. At best, you could find interesting stuff that might intrigue you and maybe share to your friends on Facebook. At worst, you find terrible click-bait articles that seem to be written more for a paycheck than any informative value. It’s something I’ve refrained from doing here, as I prefer writing interesting long form stuff instead.
One particular list article by Cracked irked me considerably. A recent list, “6 Awesome Hacks That Did Mind-Blowing Things With Old Games” featured some cool stuff like Iron Man or the Incredible Hulk in Grand Theft Auto IV, or the entirety of The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind in Oblivion‘s engine. Even Just Cause 2: Multiplayer Mod, where you could go crazy in the world of Just Cause 2 with hundreds of people, made the list. But what was number one? Brutal Doom.
I won’t go too much into Brutal Doom as it’s made the internet rounds everywhere over the past couple of years, but it’s championed as the “definitive way to play Doom,” with more gore, violence, Mortal Kombat-style fatalities, even a key that’s simply dedicated to flipping off enemies. It’s amazing at first, but it outstays its welcome pretty quick.
I’m gonna be honest: I think Brutal Doom is an overrated, mediocre mod. The only thing it has going for it is the ridiculous macho factor, and that seems to be championed by every average dude who always writes about the Doom mod scene. Brutal Doom is usually mentioned as “the way Doom was meant to be,” but it really isn’t. Brutal Doom isn’t the way Doom was meant to be played, it’s Doom if it was a terrible caricature of itself. It’s the Doom comic in game form.
So, as a response to the article (as well as breaking my own personal rule of no lists), I’m making a list of 6 awesome Doom mods that aren’t called Brutal Doom. These are ones that the Doom community swear by, and are more worth your time than Brutal Doom any day of the week.
As always, these require Doom to run. You can get Doom II on Steam for the low low price of $5. After that, you’ll need a source port to play these. I recommend GZDoom (for Singleplayer) and Zandronum (for Multiplayer). While these mods will work perfectly fine with the default Doom II levels, I do recommend playing these with custom PWADs, which I’ll link to as well. Unless stated otherwise, these are meant to be played in single player.
Police Brutality: Wildweasel presents Terrorists!
Ever wanted to be an action hero? Terrorists! will live out your dreams of being the next Chuck Norris. Armed with only a pistol and the ability to kick dudes in the face, this mod adds real life weapons and enemies for you to fight in.
In addition to the weapons and enemies, there’s also a new feature where you level up your guns by killing enemies with them. Upgrades start out simple, like faster fire rate, but as you level them up, they get more crazy, like a Beretta that converts to burst fire, or a revolver that becomes a long-range rifle. Even your melee and grenades can get upgrades, from electric grenades to explosive roundhouse kicks.
Wildweasel’s made some other great mods, like the WWII-inspired Nazis! (which goes great with the Egyptian themed EPIC 2), and the action packed Diaz. Terrorists became one of my favorites, only because of the weapon upgrades. The three I just mentioned are all pretty good mods for Doom, and give enough gameplay changes to make it just as fun. For those who want to live out their action movie dreams without actually getting hurt, Terrorists! will do the job nicely.
(Disclaimer: I might have a slight bias as I am friends with the guy who made this mod. It’s still high quality, though!)
Ever wanted to play through Doom campaigns with characters besides Doomguy? Well, Samsara adds characters from many old games of the era, from Duke Nukem, to B.J. Blazkowicz, even the heroes from Chex Quest and Marathon make an appearance here. Now playing as each character will allow you to use only that character’s weapons, so you can’t run around with 4-5 weapons from different games, sadly. However, that’s a compromise I can deal with considering the variety of classic characters involved.
I’ve always loved crossovers between different game series, official and non-official. Samsara scratches that crossover itch. Playing as the various characters gives a much different take on Doom. Nothing’s more fun than ripping through Chex Quest as Duke Nukem, or playing custom levels like Community Chest 4 with Ranger, or bringing firearms to the world of Heretic. There’s even mods that add the enemies from those games, giving us an unusual mix that you normally don’t see in games like this.
Samsara is meant to be played online, either fragging with friends in deathmatch or working together in co-op, with each person choosing different characters for each situation. Though you can play this single player in GZDoom, it’s not the recommended way to play this. Get some buddies together in survival co-op and rip through as many levels as possible. Just make sure you put it on random character for the ideal Samsara experience.
Let me put it this way: Reelism is one bizarre mod. It’s a wave-based survival mod where you score points by killing dudes, but as opposed to other Horde Mode-style games, this one’s different. Every wave starts a slot machine which determines the the rules for the wave. Could be anything from fighting Wolfenstein 3D enemies with explosive weapons and the ability to fly, to fighting enemies from Strife in a freakin’ tank. This, coupled with the levels of a bridge, a hell planet and a generic JRPG world, makes for a ridiculous experience that you gotta play to believe.
Some of the mods make it so you’re using weapons from a certain game and enemies usually from a different game, but sometimes they throw tricks in, like activating Rise of the Triad‘s Dog Mode for a Round, or throwing in harmless bronies. Others make it more challenging, like removing friction to Nintendo 64-like fog to exploding enemies. Some are just useless, like touch screen mode. All of this plays into Reelism’s absurdity.
Basically Reelism is the god damn melting pot of Doom mods. The items, enemies and weapons come from dozens of different old-school shooters, while also adding a few enemies of its own. All the levels are inspired by other games, and it has no consistent style. Though in this case, the randomness of it works in Reelism’s favor, making sure the experience is different every time you play.
However, the mod is not easy. Most of the time I was lucky to get past three rounds, and that meant games that were no longer than 2-3 minutes at a time. Despite that, it’s a great mod for when you got a few minutes of time to kill.
Psychic is a bit different from the other mods shown here. Where most of these just replaced weapons or threw in everything but the kitchen sink, Psychic adds elemental magic to its arsenal.
When you kill enemies, you pick up Bloodmoney which you use to buy items in the shop. The things you can buy range from buying/upgrading weapons and magic, health and armor pickups, even brief powerups like enemy damage giving you health back or enemies being scared of you. Bigger enemies give more Bloodmoney, especially if killed with your elemental powers.
This gives a wholly new Doom experience, even with level packs like Requiem. Granted, this doesn’t make Doom itself any easier, in fact it’s a bit more challenging than the other mods mostly due to the limited weapons available. Don’t expect this mod to make Doom a cakewalk, even with powerful magic and guns.
At times, Psychic’s design feels like cyberpunk with a pinch of Gothic flavor, which makes it stand out a bit differently than the other mods shown here, and it’s pretty cool. It reminds me of 2000s-era action/horror movies, which was kind of a popular thing during the era. It’s quite a shame the idea of guns and magic has never been touched upon much before this, because Psychic has an interesting idea here.
Up to this point, I’ve covered mods that drastically changed the gameplay. Usually by adding new weapons and abilities. But what about the more cosmetic side of Doom modding? Where it’s more about looks than drastically changing the gameplay mechanics? I’ve got your answer right here with Beautiful Doom.
I always recommend that new Doom players try to play Doom the closest to the original as possible (that means no mouse look, jumping, or crouching!) because using mods or source ports that add features can basically break the game and give players the wrong impression on how Doom was played. Beautiful Doom doesn’t do that. The core gameplay is the same as it was back in ’94, but now features flashier graphics, more blood and wonderful particle effects. It takes those kind of aesthetics that Brutal Doom enforced, but without the drastic gameplay changes alongside it.
If you liked the pretty graphical effects of Brutal Doom, but didn’t care for the ridiculous dismemberment, I recommend Beautiful Doom instead. Same cool effects, but with the classic Doom gameplay experience intact. No ridiculous finishing moves and taunt buttons here, and it’s better as a result.
I saved the best for last. Get ready to praise glorious Mother Russia, comrade.
Russian Overkill lives up to its name. It has ridiculous weapons that pretty much destroy anything in their path. Dozens of shotguns, machine guns, and rocket launchers are at your dispersal. There’s also Black Hole launchers, explosive plasma launchers that can obliterate large groups of enemies, shotguns where the alternate fire launches spent shell casings… this mod is god damn nuts.
This mod is clearly meant for those who just wanna kill everything in sight with the most ridiculous, overpowered guns without any worry of dying. Even through later levels of some of the hardest mods, I had loads of ammo and plenty of health and armor to spare. I was an unstoppable killing machine, the way Stalin would’ve intended. Provided he was around and supported crazy weaponry like this.
Seriously, this is meant to be played with levels where there’s boatloads of enemies at every turn. Throw on something like Scythe II and let ‘er rip with these weapons. The weapons are so overpowered that you’ll feel like a real badass even if you’re not playing on the highest difficulty.
Even the difficulty levels are ridiculous. One of the difficulty levels just replaces all the default weapons with the most powerful, devastating, area-clearing weapons. It’s great if you wanna clear entire levels with these guns, but bad if you value your survival at all.
If there’s any Doom mod from the list that should be tried at least, it’s this one. It’s overpowered and hardly balanced, but it doesn’t really need to be. You’ll want to wreck everything in sight, and you don’t care what you use to get there. It truly is overkill.
Granted, there’s a lot of Doom mods that have come out for the past 20+ years. More than likely I missed a few here and there, so if there’s a Doom mod that’s a personal favorite, leave it in the comments.
Keep in mind that I don’t hate Brutal Doom per se, stylistically it’s a well-done mod. It’s the excess gore, the over-the-top elements, and its ridiculous “hardcore” attitude that rubs me the wrong way. It’s not a bad mod, just highly overrated. All the other mods I mentioned are much better, more fun experiences. For anyone who wants to get into what the Doom community’s been doing over the past few years, these are much, much better examples than what Cracked thought deserved the #1 spot in their crappy mod list. (I would’ve replaced the Baldur’s Gate mod with something like Black Mesa instead. Bunch of guys take ten years to release a remake of Half-Life, now that’s a story.)
Other Doom mods I’d highly recommend include Action Doom and its sequel Urban Brawl, Zen Dynamics, and Zharkov Goes to the Store. I could easily cover a whole bunch of these, but I only wanted to cover some of my favorites. There’s a whole boatload of great Doom mods, this is just a small sampling of them. Hell, I’d recommend checking out the Cacowards at Doomworld, there’s a bunch of great mods there too.
This is why Doom is one of the best games of all time. You won’t find these absurd mods in a modern shooter, that’s for certain. And if they did, they’d probably sell it to you for $15 a piece instead.