It is always pleasant to relive the feelings I had when I was playing Doom back in the day. Granted I wasn’t exactly supposed to play that kind of game at my age at the time (I was 7 or 8 or so), but it was always fun to play with my two brothers, taking turns when dying or sharing the keyboard. I can vividly remember trying to keep my brothers alive by spamming IDDQD (god mode cheat) at the end of the shareware version of Doom95 where you would teleport in a dark pit full of monsters you couldn’t survive even if you had God Mode on.
Eventually I “grew” out of it – playing Doom at the speed it entails is not something I have been used to when I was playing the game at 7 years of age with all the cheats on. I got a slight feeling of motion sickness because of the low FOV and stopped playing. That still happens today though.
Now then, the fanbase of Doom is a large one – ever since the game’s release in 1993 (on my 3rd birthday, oddly), the game’s modability has ensured a lot of resilience on the market – it’s still being sold on Steam for 10 bucks. So I’ve tried one of the more popular mods – Brutal Doom.
A lot has changed since the days of Doom, but even more has stayed the same. The game won’t run on Windows 7 natively, so I had to use ZDL3 with Skulltag, loading up the WAD file for Doom 2 and the PK3 mod file for Brutal Doom 1.3. Skulltag is quite a large encompassing application, having a ton of options to customize your playing style, including but not reserved to free look aiming (like any other FPS on the market today, just avoid looking directly down or up, stuff gets distorted and you might get sick), hitboxes for enemies, crosshairs, death cams and about 200 other options I didn’t care to memorize. John Carmack’s game engine is quite a piece of code for something made 18 years ago.
About Brutal Doom itself, it’s a gratuitous violence mod, pretty much. While it doesn’t add much new in terms of weapons or enemies, it does add brutal fatalities when you punch things while in Berserker mode, bloody sprites going everywhere, headshots, more gibbing than you can shake a stick or punt, an awesome animation when you chaingun a zombie to the floor and so on and so forth. You can also blow away part of imps in a really bloody fashion.
For a game which hasn’t evolved much visually since the early 90s, it’s quite a graphic thing. It almost has a Mortal Kombat effect on the less bloody but still violent early Street Fighter ages, making a statement that Doom was and is truly a violent game. On the other hand, the gratuitous explosions of gore gives into the other area of the spectrum – becoming a stylized FPS game that you don’t exactly see much these days because of fear of high age ratings.
Most mods don’t shy away from taboo subjects. Games didn’t either in the 90s. Doom is a game in which a space marine goes in the depths of Mars to kill demons. Eventually he gets to hell and gets the job done proper. A similar vibe is shared by the story of the original Diablo, and the second one as well – you got into the depths of one place until you hit hell and killed the big baddie: in Doom’s case the CyberDemon and the eponymous antagonist in the Diablo series. Religious imagery was around aplenty in both series.
That is not the case with the third game of each series. Doom 3 was a clear sci-fi story that still liked the concept of hell while D3 skirts the religious imagery entirely.
But this blog post is about Brutal Doom. Playing the game is still hard. With Brutal Doom it’s even harder. Harder still it is because of the way I’m currently used to playing FPS games. While I would run into rooms with recklessness back when I was a kid, now I slowly strafe around corners checking each and everything I see. That’s not the way Doom works. There is no cover most of the time, so you just keep your shift key pressed and run around like a madman killing enemies before they get to shoot you. It takes some getting used to, but it makes the game so much faster to play, so much more active.
And the chainsaw. So bloody. And the shotgun – the most satisfying shotgun I’ve actually played with in an FPS, is made even more satisfying by this mod, giving the screen a little bit of a shake to accompany the thunderous sound of the shot. The result helps – fountains of blood form from the enemies killed by the shotgun if they aren’t gibbed outright.
The minigun is also a weapon made better by the mod, allowing you to slice through a zombie soldier and spread it across the floor like you would some sort of red gelatinous butter. And this is all with 16bit like graphics. Yeah, it’s not Crysis, Bulletstorm, Battlefield 3 or any recent CoD. It’s one of the forefathers of FPS brought to date. And it’s still one of the most satisfying manshoots (demonshoots, rather) that I have played to date.