If you’re a law enforcement officer, don’t arrest me or anything, because I totally played Doom when I was a kid.
Yep, that’s right. I was under legal age, and I totally prowled those pixellated hallways, wasting undead soldiers with a pump-action shotgun. And look at me now! Functioning in society and everything!
But honestly, the real problem with playing Doom as a kid is that the game can get pretty fucking tough.
The game quickly teaches you that for every action, there’s a reaction — and it’s usually in the form of hordes of enemies. Press a switch, and a hidden panel whines open, followed by the unmistakable hiss of Imps as they pour out. Pick up a rocket launcher sitting beneath a single spotlight, and suddenly you’re surrounded by Mancubuses, spewing firey balls of death at you.
While it’s not quite on the same level as Dark Souls, it’s still enough to build up a healthy sense of paranoia.
As a kid, I found myself getting tired of barely surviving every ambush with only a handful of bullets to show for it. And just like anyone else, I used the standard tools of the trade: IDDQD and IDKFA, with a bit of IDBEHOLD if I was really stuck. But I never got to the end of the game, anyway. Maybe I lost my way one too many times, or maybe I just grew tired of seeing a never ending stream of plasma balls.
Brutal Doom was my chance to redeem myself. The mod comes with a graphical overhaul, with new animations and interactions. Enemies can be incapacitated, trying to keep their guts from spilling out as they howl in pain, and sometimes drawing a sidearm in an attempt to keep fighting. Doom Guy is able to tear his enemies apart with his bare hands, or splatter them against the walls with a well-aimed rocket, or turn their corpses into smouldering husks after a barrage of plasma.
Gunplay is enhanced with mouse look, gun reloads, and even iron sights. The lowly pistol is replaced with a much more impressive assault rifle that is perfect for long distances. The double-barreled shotgun minces enemies into bloody chunks. The chaingun now sounds and acts like a chaingun, chewing through rounds as quickly as it chews up enemies, spewing shell casings everywhere.
There are times when the game does get ahead of itself. There’s a dedicated hot key for insulting your enemies, and special animations showing your character perform fatalities. What really got my attention was getting health rewards for executing enemies — I know that my government has straight up banned games…for less.
All that aside, the changes are enough to make the nostalgia trip feel extremely fresh, and it’s all so…satisfying. It was enough to keep me going, and see through all 25 levels of death, destruction, pagan symbolism, and Pinky ambush after Pinky ambush.
And if a mod could bring me back to play a 20+ year old game, and hold my attention long enough to finally finish it, that’s a pretty damned good job.