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Doom: Attack Of The Sprites

Feature; Jan. 25, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Jenner David Cauton
Subtypes: Opinion
Proving gameplay triumphs over graphics

I have a confession. In my last Doom article, I promoted both Doomsday and GZDoom, and while I said GZDoom radically changed Doom's gameplay, beforehand I was playing Doomsday almost exclusively; I just couldn't find myself going back to sprites. Sure, Oblige gave me an infinite supply of levels to play through, but then I started wanting something with more oomph. So I decided to get my feet wet and dive into the sea of mods that GZDoom has produced, and I came out drenched. ScoreDoom was just the icing on the cake.

To clarify, none of these mods have 3-D models -- they only use sprites. Some sprites are based of off actual 3-D models from other commercial games. Copyright goes to the original creators, as some of the authors don't list credits in full. Some sprites are even used from other people who, in turn, borrowed them. All of the mods mentioned below include more than just seven weapons, but still utilize Doom's slow-and-clunky weapon switch. In this case, it's better to use number keys, and/or special keyboards like the Zboard Merc that puts the keys closer together. The mods below also have new monsters, which makes the game a lot harder. (Let's face it, the original Doom with a mouse just makes things easier.) So much harder, in fact, that some user-made levels that were originally made difficult are now just practically impossible. Keep in mind none of the mods include any new levels. (Though there are plenty that do that.) Instead, they serve as overlays to any level/wad you play.

The mods are also made to be extremely replayable. Because of their special spawning system, any new monsters or items unique to the mod will show up without the need to edit the level itself. (Presumably it was made for the original Doom, in which case most user-made levels are.) For example, most of the listed mods below use a random equivalent spawning system, in that where a regular zombie man/former infantry would normally appear, the game would choose 1 of 5 equivalents (with different attacks, it's more than just a re-skin) somewhat equal in strength and in the same category to spawn in place of it. This also goes for guns found on the ground too (weapons that were already there, not dropped from an enemy), such as a chain guns being replaced by one of two weapons of the same category at random. Start the same game over again, and it reshuffles everything. Please note that this is just a general idea from what I've experienced or read -- the exact system may or may not differ slightly from mod to mod.


Doom Rising

Despite the title, Doom Rising isn't a mod in which you're trapped in a mall and forced to bludgeon hundreds of zombies with umbrellas and chairs. (Although I sure wouldn't mind that.) Instead, Doom Rising changes all the weapons into their Doom 3 counterparts, complete with sprite replicas of the Doom 3 weapons and their sound effects. The game includes the new weapons introduced in Doom 3, save for the Soul Cube. The weapons each use their own ammo as well, so weapons with similar types, such as the pistol, machine gun and chain gun (they all use bullets) all have their own ammo drops that can be picked up. The game also adds the need to actually reload your weapons, forcing the player to slow down and take cover once in a while.

The new monsters in this mod are from Heretic, Hexen, and a few others, as well as a few modified versions of the original Doom monsters. Oddly placed? Yes. Hell of a lot of fun? Hell yes. Rising also adds a score system and kill statistics, giving it more of an arcade feel. (Though it's more on the low side, like 15 points for killing an imp equivalent enemy or 50 for bigger enemies.) Thrown into the mix are allied NPCs who fight along your side. (Pictured above.) Their spawn rate is rare, but killing them will lower your score tremendously -- more if you gib them. There's also helpless victims who constantly scream for help, which are annoying but are considered allies too. The problem is when allies spawn in tight, one-way corridors, which means it will take forever to push them the other way. Their brains are just as smart as the zombies you're shooting, so if anything else, they're mostly a hindrance as they run around aimlessly when no enemies are present.

The only downfall to this mod is the default Doom HUD doesn't properly display the new ammo types, so playing in a full-screen HUD is required. The problem is, on high resolutions, such as 1920 x 1080, the HUD fonts are very small. You can opt to use GZDoom's alternative full-screen HUD, which has somewhat bigger fonts, but then your score won't display. In the end, you'll have to choose between the two HUDs or lowering your screen resolution.


Mutiny

There's really nothing much to say about Mutiny -- other than it's really good. The game seems to cater to players who like to see something new, but who like the original weapons. There's no reloading involved, and all the weapons have been reskinned, like the chain gun turning into a Sten-looking SMG, or the pistol in particular firing a bit faster. In addition, Mutiny adds a second weapon to every weapon slot (other than the shotgun), doubling the choice of weapons. These include weapons like an officer pistol, assault rifle, a flamethrower, among other things. As for monsters, the game focuses on more humanoid types and robots. About the only Doom-related enemy you'll see here are modified Hell Barons. You won't find anything ... meaty ... like cacodemons, or manucbus, etc. Mutiny also makes use of GZDoom's built-in inventory system, giving you an arsenal of power-ups. This also means med-kits (the big ones) are no longer used on the spot, and are instead "useable," something that takes getting used to after just running over them after all these years.

Unlike the other mods, Mutiny can be played without random spawning if you so choose.Simply run the base mutiny .wad alone instead of both the base and spawner, and the enemies will become static. The downside to doing this, though, is that not everything will be there -- like the new monsters. In addition, the new weapons stay, but if you don't have the randomizer in, the game won't arbitrarily spawn 6.68 millimeter bullets, the only new ammo type Mutiny adds. Without the randomizer, the only way it spawns is to kill the enemy who uses assault rifles, which uses said ammo. In Mutiny's case, such enemies replace the original Doom's Hell Knights. And  not too many Doom levels place Hell Knights as common as regular infantry. So, if you simply must place Mutiny without the random spawner, I recommend creating Oblige levels with a high number of Hell Knights, if only so you can have plenty of assault rifle ammo; it's a staple gun in most games, after all. 


Diaz

Diaz actually has a little bit of back-story to it. For starters, you play as a woman named Olivia Katarina Diaz. Diaz is sent to the same UAC base our ol' Doomguy has been sent to in the interest of keeping the peace. Yeah, right. Simply put, Diaz is ... well, I'll let one of her testimonials explain:

"She kicked me in the nuts last month because I asked her how much she weighed. I still can't feel them. I'm getting worried."

But just like other mods, it's simply an overlay. It's a bit disappointing in that this is still Doom -- you never really get to see what Diaz looks like. Other than being able to see her pixelated faceless sprite when choosing her outfit at the start of the game (or her partner, Hernandez), you'll never see her again. OK, so you hear female sounds when you get hurt, or karate war cries when using fists, but c'mon, her kick sprite is just Duke Nukem's boot colored brown! Regardless, this is the first Doom mod I've ever seen in which your fists actually do decent damage and even go so far as a mini-combo punch-kick system, so don't forget about them.

Background aside, Diaz is yet another addicting weapon-and-monster replacement wad. As with Mutiny, Diaz adds a plethora of new guns to the table, as well as new monsters. (Although I personally wish the standard SMG didn't look like an MP40; it stands out among all the other modern weaponry.) Unlike other mods, the guns Diaz throws in adds a bit of recoil to them, giving that extra oomph and requiring steadier hands. Like Mutiny, Diaz's weapons all need to be reloaded, and these weapons can run out quickly. It should be noted that Diaz uses a real reload system, akin to the Battlefield series. Reloading halfway through a clip essentially wastes whatever was left in it, so you'll have to mind your need to reload compulsively like other shooters.

Diaz doesn't add too much in the way of new monsters; however, a patch to the mod has been released (by someone else, in the same link above) that adds a load of additional humanoid monsters and changes all the regular Doom monsters to robotic ones, similar to Mutiny. The only problem is the flying robots. Most act normal, but some flying robots spawn with cacodemon or pain elemental behaviors. Not only is it strange to see a robot bleed or roar like a fleshy monster, the "corpse" sprite of these "robots" is just a static picture of the robot in the middle of exploding, which leads me to believe this sprite assignment was in error. It's very annoying and cumbersome to try and see through it when fighting other monsters, as this"corpse" sprite is as tall as your screen. This can be fixed with a .wad resource editor, like Slade, but it's still inconvenient.


Aeons of Death

Technically, this was the first GZDoom mod I tried after ScoreDoom, and originally I was going to praise this as the best one -- until I saw how unbalanced it was. AOD is a collaboration of many monsters and weapons all thrown together in one giant mess -- more commonly more known as a "clusterfuck." AOD borrows from many other GZDoom mods and brings in material from Duke Nukem, Heretic, Hexen, Quake, Quake 2, Redneck Rampage, Blood, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life, and dozens of other games you may or may not of heard of.

When starting a new game, you can select a character class for yourself, but it doesn't change the game that much. It changes your three starting weapons (of which you can ditch if you so choose) and starting health points. But the most obvious change is in the default HUD. Some HUDs look fine, but other classes have parts of the interface jutting up from the bottom of the screen. Playing the game in high resolution doesn't scale these HUDs either, so you'll have to be content in having a distracting ammo counter in the center of your screen -- unless you change your screen resolution to the lowest possible, 640 x 480, the only resolution the HUDs seem to handle.

I love all things randomized, but in all honesty, AOD goes a bit too far in this department. Many seem to feel that since AOD doesn't have a set theme (like Doom hell-type monsters, or Diaz's military-type monsters and weapons), it doesn't make it a good game. I can understand this to a certain point; after all, it is weird to have soldiers with guns, wizards with wands, dragons, and hellish beasts all while you're shooting with a plasma gun -- all in the same room -- but I'm not one to claim video games are supposed to be art. Doom is old, and it should be treated more like an arcade experience; anything random adds to the replay value.

The problem is there's just too many resources. There's seemingly hundreds of different kinds of monsters and 50 odd guns. Memorizing which weapons go to which slot or which gun uses this or that ammo can be a pain, and Doom doesn't exactly have the best weapon selection method. The game has a much needed option to limit weapons to three per category, adding strategy in which weapons you'll swap, but even then, it's still too much to keep track of. (The developers themselves have admitted they get lost too.) And don't even think about playing this game with the alternative full-screen HUD, as the nature of the HUD fills your screen with 30 or so ammo counts to keep track of.

Because there's so many guns and monsters, you'll often end up in unbalanced scenarios, which is a game-breaker for me. The game constantly goes from being either too easy or too difficult -- there's nothing in between. I've constantly run out of ammo either because I'm forced to use pistol-equivalent weapons against cacodemon-equivalent enemies because that's all that spawned, or because the game keeps giving me ammo for weapons I don't have. Sometimes the game may give you ammo for overkill weapons like rocket launchers to kill simple enemies in close corridors, but never more common, safer ammo types. The only time AOD seems to be enjoyable is if you just happen to get lucky and get a decent amount of ammo for all your guns and not just ones you don't have.

All in all, AOD is an acquired taste. Maybe I haven't given it enough time, who knows. Maybe it would be nice if you could decide what appears in the game and what doesn't and change it around your next play-through. Its variety is great, but it's ultimately a luck of the draw on whether or not it becomes balanced, as it has way too much to draw from.


So there you go: four Doom mods to keep you Dooming forever. There's far more mods out there, ranging from incredibly awesome to incredibly weird. Some even have their own storylines. It's a shame none of these enhancements provide high quality 3-D models like Doomsday, but sprites are no doubt better to make and use than 3-D models, which explains why there's so much out there. So take a dive into the old world of Doom; it's changed for the better.

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