File this one under “mods you probably thought already existed.” With Voxel Doom, you can now play the legendary 1993 first-person shooter Doom with all the monsters and items rendered in beautifully chunky, 3D voxels. While smaller-scope voxel mods have existed in the past, this one replaces just about every single one of the game’s old-school, 2D sprite-based enemies and items, granting the lo-fi goriness of the classic shooter a fun new dimension.
Released on Mod DB today by modder Daniel “Cheello” Peterson, Voxel Doom 1.0 runs on GZDoom, a popular source port that vastly modernizes Doom’s nearly 30-year-old game engine. Veteran Doom modders with folders and folders of WADs are no stranger to GZDoom, but if you’re new to the world of Doom mods, it’s an essential utility for adding more functionality to the original game (such as mouse look, jumping, or crouching) as well as playing really cool mods like the Doom “megawad” Sigil from the game’s co-creator himself, John Romero.
Voxels, then, are like a three-dimensional take on typical 2D pixels. As “volumetric pixels,” voxels are simply points in 3D space that have a size and color assigned to them. Throw thousands and thousands of them onscreen at once and you get a unique type of 3D graphics that, if you make ‘em nice and chunky, can call to mind classic 2D sprites, but with an additional dimension.
Recent games like No Man’s Sky, Valheim, and Teardown have utilized voxel techniques to achieve their unique looks, and they’re often favored when creating destructible, malleable environments. The technology has been around for some time, famously appearing in games like Novalogic’s 1992 helicopter sim Comanche, Looking Glass’s underrated 1996 Terra Nova, and 1999’s action-adventure great Outcast. In action, voxels can give off a somewhat “retro” vibe and that’s what makes adding them to classic, sprite-based first-person shooters such a cool concept.
Of course, the sky’s the limit with classic Doom mods. Some expand the original game, while others try to add more modern gameplay features. What makes Voxel Doom so cool is that the change in graphics manages to preserve the original feel of the game while making it “pop” just a little bit more. That’s a far cry from more typical attempts to jam 3D models into these decades-old games, which usually ends up looking garish rather than true to the original aesthetic.
The mod’s creator talked about this very phenomenon in a stream showing off the new mod with fellow GZDoom developer Nash Muhandes, saying that “if you look at [the voxel models] at a certain angle, it looks like the original sprite.” This cool illusory effect of voxels is what drew Cheello to them originally. On Muhandes’ stream, they talked about how the transformation of 2D sprites into 3D voxels results in a kind of mindblowing effect that doesn’t immediately look out of place, but rather fits, especially in Doom’s case, quite naturally in the scene.
Stomping through the corridors of Martian Hell with this mod is undoubtedly a fun time. Everything from demons to pickup effects and equipment now pop to life, yet still look very much like the classic sprites. While your actual guns remain the regular 2D sprites, weapon pickups in the environment look especially cool, as they now spin in place. The mod currently only works on the original 1993 Doom, but according to Cheello, “Doom 2 monsters will be completed in the very near future.”