2016’s DOOM reboot opened the doors for a wave of retro FPS games that mimicked the fast combat of id Software’s instant classic, but who did it best?
The return of the fast and frantic gameplay of 2016’s DOOM by id Software also brought with it the return of the DOOM clone. Helped along by ’90s nostalgia, a surge of retro FPS games flooded the market, each one harkening back to the days before Half-Life, Halo, and even id’s own Quake. However, not all of these nostalgic shooters can capture what makes DOOM so great. There are more good games than bad in this category, but only the best of the best fit in when sorted alongside the originators of the first-person shooter.
What makes for a good DOOM clone? Besides the aesthetic choices, there are a few qualities that are practically required to succeed in this genre. There needs to be a wide arsenal of weapons ranging from an explosive rocket launcher to something unique and game-defining like DOOM‘S Chainsaw. There needs to be an equal variety in the enemies, both in design and in how they attack whatever lone warrior they’re opposing. Perhaps most importantly, there needs to be a certain type of level design. Windy corridors, well-hidden secrets, and wide-open areas with far too many foes are the order of the day.
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With that in mind, there are certain breeds of retro FPS that don’t really fit as a DOOM clone. Games that take place in a single arena like Devil Daggers are basically an arcade translation of DOOM, capturing the frantic combat but missing out on the maze-like level design. There are also games like Post Void that look and feel like DOOM but have different ambitions. These are all a great change of pace for the FPS fan, but there are only a few full-length shooter campaigns of this ilk that match up with id Software at its finest.
Best Modern DOOM Clones: Ion Fury
Following a disappointing top-down debut, Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison’s second adventure will be the one that players remember years down the line. Ion Fury is the first game to run on the Build Engine made famous by Duke Nukem 3D, but it’s not just a throwback. Ion Fury features a meaty shooter campaign with a lot of new tricks. From powerful shotguns to the unique Bowling Bomb grenades, each new weapon opens up a wealth of fun gameplay options. Even the biggest veterans of FPS players will find novelty in the seven episodes found here.
Best Modern DOOM Clones: Project Warlock
Perhaps the most unique looking of any DOOM-adjacent FPS, Project Warlock also may have the most to offer in terms of gameplay. There are around 60 levels to conquer utilizing 38 different types of weapons. These range from melee options to magic spells alongside the firearm staples. The variety also extends to the rogue’s gallery, which covers everything from demons to mechs to medieval knights. Project Warlock is a game somehow crafted by a single developer, but it still accomplishes more than any team could muster in the ’90s.
Best Modern DOOM Clones: DUSK
New Blood Interactive is a company that captures the same spirit of id Software in its independent heyday. Its breakthrough hit, DUSK, is a showcase of what DOOM clones have to offer. There’s a mighty shotgun, a progression of tough but fair enemies, and intense boss battles against seemingly insurmountable odds. Every New Blood game following DUSK captures some aspect of DOOM at its core, but only this original masterpiece brings it all together into a must-play FPS offering.
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