Through the looking glass: A ton of mods through the years have offered dramatically different takes on id Software's classic first-person shooter. Voxel Doom, in contrast, is remarkably subtle, given how it fundamentally morphs the game's characters and props from 2D to 3D.

ModDB user _chillo released a new mod this week that replaces most of the original Doom's 2D sprites with 3D voxels. One might think the change would clash with the game's visual identity, but if anything, the voxels complete it.

The last mod I tried that added 3D character models to a 1990s 2.5D FPS was one of the optional settings in the EDuke32 source port for Duke Nukem 3D, and I quickly switched it back off. It might be a fun distraction after spending many years looking at the original graphics, but games like Doom and Duke 3D work through optical illusions that make 2D look like 3D. That style doesn't neatly fit with genuine 3D polygons.

Also see: 3D Game Rendering 101, The Making of Graphics Explained

Playing Doom with voxels, I almost can't tell the difference from the vanilla game until I get up close. The demons, props, and explosions look as pixelated as ever and don't stand out from the 2.5D environments. Perhaps one of the mod's greatest assets is that it maintains the original animation frames.

The main alteration is that when the camera moves around the sprites, they no longer have that spinning billboard effect that typically breaks the illusion of 2.5D shooters. Instead of trying to make the 1993 FPS look modern, Voxel Doom rounds out its fake 3D presentation.

As opposed to something like the ray tracing mod which adds a totally new, fascinating lighting system, the voxel mod reminds the one that used a neural network to upscale the sprites in 2018. That mod also sought to simply smooth out some of Doom's visual edges, specifically when players got up close to the sprites.

It would be interesting to see both applied to all the other 2.5D shooters like Duke, Wolfenstein 3D, Blood, or Star Wars Dark Forces. Modder _chillo is currently working to add Voxel Doom to Doom II.

Those looking to try it out can download the zip file from ModDB, then drag and drop it on top of a GZDoom executable. Playing it requires GZDoom 4.8.2 or later and the original Doom.wad file.