DOOM: Stop Shooting Me
I have been playing the hell out of Doom.
Note that when I say Doom, I’m really referring to Doom, Doom 2, Final Doom, and a few Doom mods I’ve scrounged up from various Internet websites. They’re all basically map packs for the same gory mass.
I know I talked about Doom forever ago, but after watching the newest Errant Signal episode I felt like giving it another look. This time I looked for that Ghoul’s Forest 3 mod that Chris mentioned, which lead me to find ZDoom, a source port that makes the game about a million times more fun.
I don’t actually know what a source port is, but ZDoom seems to run on a different engine than the Steam version of Doom that I’d been playing prior to this discovery. It runs a hell of a lot more smoothly and quickly. It also hosts a myriad of options that the original Doom didn’t include, like customizable controls, mouse aiming, autorun (thank Odin for that), an alternate HUD, the list goes on.
As a result, I’ve been playing the hell out of Doom, as previously stated. It’s a ton of fun. Fast movement, satisfying weapons, elaborate levels, powerful threats. The 2D sprites have aged fairly well, as opposed to the hideous 3D models in Quake, and this game has all the pieces of a good, solid shooter with a massive buffet of levels.
But while the game is good, I’d really hesitate to call it great, and here’s why.
These guys. Fuck these guys.
The standard mooks that get thrown at you in large numbers are soldiers who wield pistols and shotguns. Another common enemy is the heavy weapons guy, who has a minigun. These guys are infuriating. They constantly break game flow and ruin the fun.
They’re fairly flimsy; a few pistol shots will kill the regular soldiers, and even the chaingunners will always die from a super shotgun blast. The problem with them is that they use hitscan attacks.
For the uninitiated, the two types of ranged attacks in a shooter are “hitscan” and “projectile.” Hitscan refers to attacks that hit the target (or wall, if you miss) the instant they’re fired, while projectile attacks actually take time between launch and impact. Pistols and shotguns are generally hitscan, while rocket launchers and crossbows are projectile.
Hitscan enemies are fine in the shooters we have today, where you can take a few shots, hide behind cover until your health regenerates, and then pop back out again. But Doom doesn’t have regenerating health. Doom is designed around the idea of quickly moving around the battlefield as to avoid taking any damage whatsoever.
And that would be fine with projectile enemies, where there’s actually any possibility of avoiding a shot coming toward you. But with hitscan enemies, the only way to prevent taking damage is to not be within the enemy’s line of sight. This means taking cover, and when you’re having to do this constantly, it really screws up the running and gunning of Doom’s core design. And to make matters worse, many rooms with these soldiers don’t have cover to hide behind, so you have to run back into the previous room or take several shotgun blasts to the face.
To the game’s credit, their accuracy isn’t perfect, but the accuracy and damage go up on higher difficulties. On hard mode all it takes is one second for a chaingunner to chop your HP bar in half, and don’t get me started on nightmare mode.
Oh, and here’s a recurring setup: PLAYER steps into room and is immediately torn apart by chaingunners. PLAYER reloads, pokes head through room to find where chaingunners are, and dies again. PLAYER reloads again, steps into room and immediately shoots one chaingunner, steps out of room having taken 20 damage, steps back into room to shoot next chaingunner, etc.
A hard mode playthrough will swiftly derail into an adventure in save-scumming. I think I pressed the quicksave button more often than the fire button, and this would not have been nearly as much of a problem if they had just stuck to projectile attackers.
You’ll notice that Croteam learned from id Software’s mistake with the soldiers when they designed Serious Sam. In Serious Sam the only hitscan enemies are the Arachnoids, who don’t show up very often, are generally not put in SURPRISE! situations, and don’t have very good aim. Then Croteam unlearned this lesson when making Serious Sam 2 and 3, but that’s a story for another time.
Anyway, despite all that, I still quite like Doom. It’s flawed, but fun nonetheless. And that’s impressive given its age.
I proudly present Doom and its sequel with the Still Holds Up Award from NGD: