I've always been a huge fan of DOOM. I remember playing it for the first time on my Uncle's (then) state-of-the-art 486 PC, blasting demons and imps with a plasma rifle while my relatives talked or played cards or whatever the hell it was I thought adults did at the time. I remember being so stoked when I finally picked up DOOM II back when I was 12 years old, losing many hours of sleep trying to get past the Cyberdemon at the end of the Refueling Base (Mission 10), and then going to middle school the next day and telling my friends all about it.
Cut to 17 years later; I'm pushing 30, working full-time, but I still manage to sit down and play some Doom every now and again; but the hard truth is that the game hasn't aged well at all. Sure, there are dozens of source ports and mods that make the game look prettier, or change the textures and monsters. Hell, there are mods that change EVERYTHING, turning the game into a whole different entity, but in the end, Doom just doesn't thrill me the way it used to. Here's a scary thought: in 2013, Doom will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. Since then, First-Person Shooters have gone through twenty years of evolution. Even with all the OpenGL enhancements and particle effects, playing Doom in 2011 just feels awfully anachronistic.
"You know, we never talk anymore..."
Still, how do you breathe new life into a game that's nearly two decades old? That's the question modders and mapmakers have been trying to answer through their creative efforts over the years, and while some of these efforts are indeed admirable, most of them fall short in recapturing what made Doom so goddamn fun to play back in the early '90s. That is, until a user named "SGT_Mark_IV" came along.
"SGT_Mark_IV" is the online handle for the creator of Brutal DOOM; a .pk3 file for use with popular Doom source ports GZdoom
. While it works with most vanilla WADfiles, it does not play nice with mods that change the weapons, monster sprites, etc. This might be a turn off to some; but I didn't let it faze me. I picked up the GZDoom version since I didn't have Skulltag on my computer, and loaded it up with Doom II. What I expected was a run-of-the-mill gore .wad that added a few extra death animations. What I got, however, was the most fun I've had playing DOOM in over 17 years; so much so that I can't play the original games without this mod anymore. It's impossible for me to go back.
While "Brutal" does add an EXTREME amount of blood and gore, what makes it so great is that it tweaks the game to be very fast-paced and tense, effectively re-balancing the damage, monsters and weapons while leaving the core experience intact.
The first change I noticed was the default starting weapon; you are given a fully-automatic assault rifle instead of your original pistol, complete with an alt-fire zooming function for headshots. Yes, enemy sprites now have an extra hitbox for their heads, making them slightly easier to take down if you aim high. Additionally, your fists are now silent; enemies will not be alerted to your presence if you throw a punch. This allows for stealth kills on weaker enemies, and if you're lucky, you can actually perform a silent takedown, snapping a zombie soldier's neck while his buddies just mill about unaware. Even better, your fists can throw jabs (left-click) or more powerful hooks (right-click), and there's even a "mighty foot" function (a la "Duke Nukem 3D", activated by the "Q" Key) that will knock back enemies and stun them for a split second, making it incredibly useful against Pinkies (demons).
All the other weapons function more or less the same; though some have alternate fire modes: The Super Shotgun can fire one barrel at a time, the chaingun (which now CHEWS through ammo) has a spin-up/spin down mode for impoved accuracy (at the cost of mobility), and the Plasma Rifle can fire several bolts in a shotgun-style spread. With all these advantages, there are two huge drawbacks: One, all weapons now have splash damage to a degree, meaning you can't fire a BFG 9000 into a crowd of demons just to clear a path without sustaining MAJOR damage (or just exploding outright). The other big drawback is that weapons (save for the BFG 9000 and the minigun) have to be reloaded, giving any nearby enemies a free shot if you're not careful.
You can also pick up unique weapons off of certain dead enemies, like the Revenant's missile launcher (pictured above).
Even some powerups have been reworked: armor and health bonuses give you 2% instead of 1, and the invisibilty artifacts have been taken out completely. In their place are "helper" marines, other doomguys that have been taken hostage by the forces of Hell. Free them with a melee attack, and they will fight by your side for the duration of a level (or until they die, which will happen more often). Most of the time they're equipped with assault rifles, but if you're lucky, they'll be packing a plasma rifle or even a rocket launcher. The downside, though, is that these guys are not good with navigation; if they're atop a high ledge or in a tight corridor, they'll end up bouncing into the walls like they were inside a pinball machine.
They're EXCEPTIONALLY good at shooting things, though; and in the end, isn't that what counts?
Now, with all these items at your disposal, you might be thinking the game will be too easy. Well, you'd be wrong. You're going to NEED all that extra help because the monsters have been tweaked as well. The forces of Hell are now three times as aggressive, do ungodly amounts of damage (even WITH armor equipped!), and are four times more accurate with their weapons. Not only that, they have new secondary and sometimes TERTIARY attacks that will catch even the most experienced doomer off-guard.
PROTIP: He doesn't want to give you a hug.
The Imps are a perfect example: Their fireballs are faster and more powerful, but what makes them really dangerous is their lunge attack. In the original game; imps would just mill about, and would scratch you if you were dumb enough to get close. Now, if you're within three feet of one, it will LEAP forward , closing the distance to rip you open. Also, height plays no factor, so imps that are above you will leap off of crates and catch you by surprise! It gets even worse; some enemies (like the Cacodemon) can strafe now, Pinkies will deliberately charge to your side to try and flank you, and some enemies have had their weapons improved...the Spider Mastermind's minigun, for instance, now fires EXPLODING SHELLS(in an earlier build, it had a BFG installed. Consider yourselves lucky).
However, as tough as the new enemies are, it's even more satisfying when you kill them. The death animations are just so damn fun to watch: exploding heads, severed limbs, watching those goddamned imps holding their intestines as they bleed out, then running up and kicking off their stupid, ugly heads I HATE THOSE THINGS--
*ahem* uh...sorry. The crowning achievement in the gore department, though, has to be the new and improved "Berserker" pack. They still last for one level, and sometimes enemies will randomly drop one when they die. Needless to say, if you see one, GRAB IT. You won't be disappointed.
"I'm just saying, this is gonna end badly for one of us."
The Berserker pack has two modes: "Smash" mode, which is the old-fashioned "punch enemies into blood paste" mode from the original game; and then there's "RIP AND TEAR!" mode, which lets you perform enemy-specific "fatalities" that trigger a special death cutscene where you watch Doomguy mercilessly eviscerate a monster in the most heinous ways possible. These fatalities are not wholly aesthetic, either; depending on the strength of the monster, you can get a 10% to 30% health bonus from a R&T kill. Even so, I preferred "Smash" over "Rip and Tear!", as I felt the fatalities took me out of the game a little. The silent takedowns I can accept because you're trying to AVOID a firefight, but as far as the fataIities go, I mostly reserve them for killing the last monster in a group (or finishing off a really strong monster, like a Baron of Hell), or if I'm low on health (as other monsters can't harm you when you're in a cutscene). There are other fun things you can do with it as well: remember the lost souls? Those floating, flaming skulls? Yeah, well you can actually GRAB them out of midair (in Rip and Tear mode only), then toss them at other enemies! Even better, you can actually pick up exploding barrels and throw them.
All in all, Brutal DOOM does an excellent job of taking an already-classic game and giving it a complete overhaul. Hopefully id and Bethesda take a peek at this, and use some of the gameplay elements in Doom 4 (whenever THAT gets released). The latest version is v0.13 (which you can get here
), and SGT_Mark_IV is already working on the next version, so if you want to check on its progress, check out his Youtube account here
And for the TL;DR crowd, here's a trailer
that a fan put together. I suggest you watch it, because the screenshots I posted do NOT do this mod justice. You have to see it in action. Or, you could just download it on a whim and try it for yourself. Either way, if you're a fan of Doom, do NOT pass this up. Trust me.