20/02/2016

THE DEMONS OF DOOM

You know, I've wanted to write about Doom for a long time but I never knew how to come at it. It's one of the most discussed and dissected games of all time, (and rightly so,) and there's little I could add to the vast swathes of information available about its impact, its development history and the huge influence it had on the future of computer and video games. My usual method of playing through the game and covering as much of it as possible would never work, because I'd just end up playing Doom instead of writing about Doom. However, my desire to immerse myself in id Software's genre-defining classic has become too strong to ignore, so here's an extremely self-indulgent article about the many and various demons from Doom and Doom II that want to see you, the player, dead. I've spent so much time with them over the years that they're like family, except better than family: when there's back-biting it's because they're literally biting you in the back and not engaging in petty verbal sniping, and the former is much easier to deal with. A Cyberdemon never ruined Christmas dinner by loudly proclaiming that all immigrants should be shoved back into the sea, you know?

Former Human


The weakest of all the denizens of Doom, the Former Humans are soldiers that have either been possessed by a demonic force or killed and then raised from the dead as zombies. As per Doom's insistence on ignoring everything that isn't shooting monsters, the difference is never explained. I suppose it's academic, really. I lean towards the "killed then revived" angle myself, because it explains why the powers of Hell don't just possess the Doom Guy, although maybe that's because the Doom Guy is the only soldier on Mars sensible enough to wear a helmet.
With barely any health and only attacking by firing weak pistol rounds from what appears to be a length of steel pipe, the Former Humans offer little threat and aren't that interesting apart from one detail: why do they have green hair? So they can be better camouflaged against the verdant lawns of Mars? Is an overwhelming desire to dye your hair like a fourteen-year-old who's just discovered punk music a by-product of demonic resurrection? I have no answers to these questions. I'm pretty sure there are no answers to these questions, but you know what? Now that I've taken a really good look at the Former Human's face close-up, I realise that he has fangs and would probably talk with an extremely unthreatening lisp.

Sergeant


A step up from the Former Human while still being former humans, the Sergeants carry more powerful weaponry in the form of shotguns as well as possessing slightly more health than their green-haired compatriots. That's how it works in the military: the higher your rank, the more powerful guns you're allowed to use, which is why only generals get to drive tanks. With their shaven heads and hands coated in what I like to think of as "gore mittens," the Sergeants aren't much of a threat when tackled from a distance or in small numbers, although having a bunch of then appear right next to you can be punishing. But hey, free shotguns!

Commando


The last and largest formerly human monster is the Commando, a chunky chap whose large physique is necessary for lugging around his weapon of choice - the chaingun. Oh, how they love their chainguns, and how the makers of Doom levels love to pack their maps with Commandos, hidden away in alcoves and perched atop sniper nests, raining down death on the reckless and unwary. Because they've got hitscan weapons, if they can see you, they can shoot you, and their presence in a level generally requires a cautious approach lest their chainguns quickly drain away your health. On the plus side, the volume of bullets that they can output means they're great for causing infighting between Doom's other enemies. Doom is a game where the action is studded with intensely satisfying moments - a point-blank super-shotgun blast to the face of your opponent, lesser enemies exploding into a red paste at the gentle touch of your rocket launcher - but few are quite as satisfying as getting a Commando to shoot a big enemy and then watching as said big enemy turns around and reduces the Commando to a former former human.
Also, a close inspection of the Commando's sprite reveals that he is suffering from a very severe nosebleed. As a fellow sufferer of sinus problems, he has my sympathies.

Imp


The first and most common of Doom's true demons is the Imp, a snarling, fireball-flinging creature formed by hammering railroad spikes through a pillar of doner kebab meat. They are to Doom as the Goomba is to Super Mario: numerous, ubiquitous and more of a hindrance than a deadly threat until you lose concentration. They are also both brown. Given that one of id Software's pre-Doom projects was an attempt to port Super Mario Bros. 3 to the PC, I think we can safely conclude that Goombas were, in fact, the main inspiration for the Imp.
Imps are everywhere in Doom, vast numbers of them embarking on Hell's crusade to subjugate the world of man, and as such I have probably killed more Imps than any other videogame enemy. Well, any other specific videogame enemy; zombies don't count, because they're more of a concept than a set type. There are many different zombies but only one kind of Imp, unless you're playing Doom 64 in which case surprise, there's a differently-coloured and more powerful kind of Imp. Forget about those, though - this Imp is the original, an icon of videogaming, the easily-perforated vanguard of Hell's assault and best of all they make the sound of a camel when they die.

Demon


With elements of pig, bull and humanoid physiology, capped off with the rosy pink glow of something freshly shaved, the Demon is melange of brute force and raw muscle, designed by the forces of Hell as the most efficient bite-delivery system possible. Well, maybe not the most efficient. They could probably do their job just as well without arms, as long as they retained at least a small nub on either side to help them keep their balance.
I love Demons, and for one simple reason: they love running face-first into your chainsaw, and once they're being chainsawed there's very little else they can do. A swarm of angry Demons, especially when there's a convenient corridor nearby that you can funnel them down, is your ticket to a conga line of ammo-preserving chainsaw death. If there's one thing all Doom play sessions should contain, it's a conga line of chainsaw death. If you ever go to see a band called Chainsaw Death - I'm sure there's one out there somewhere - make sure you start a conga line during the gig. They'll probably love it.

Hell Knight and Baron of Hell


Towering, bestial goat-legged demons in the classic fiend-of-the-underworld mould, the Knights are the beige-coloured versions and have half the health but the same attacking power as the Barons, who are very pink. The Barons originally appeared as a pair to make up the boss battle at the end of Doom's first episode, where they emerged from what I think were supposed to be teleporter pods but which always put me in mind of porta-potties. Maybe that's why they're so pink, they're flushed (no pun intended) with embarrassment at being caught coming out of a portable toilet.
Like most demonic enemies in Doom, the Knights and Barons can attack both in melee range and from a distance by either punching the player or launching balls of magical green fire from their hands. Apparently their fireballs are fairly easy to dodge, although I wouldn't know because I'm always intent on getting my shotgun as close to their face as possible.

Cacodemon


It can't all be rippling muscles and rending limbs in Hell's army, of course, and that's where the Cacodemons come in. No limbs at all and not much of anything else, either. A mouth, one eyeball, the odd horn here and there and viola, you've got the Cacodemon - capable of flight and capable of vomiting balls of lightning at the player, not so capable at playing Twister. One of my favourite things in Doom is when a map designer places a Cacodemon below the player, because there's something charming about the dopey way they float up into view, and in general there's a sedateness to the Cacodemon's movements that suggests they're not really into this whole "destruction of mankind" thing. A clue to their behaviour might be found in their name: Cacodemon comes from the Greek word "kakos," meaning bad. The Cacodemon is a Bad Demon. Always forgetting to torture sinners, never cleaning out the sacrificial altar after he's used it, that kind of thing. The Cacodemon really needs to pull its (strictly metaphorical) socks up if it wants to make an impression here at Hell, Inc.

Lost Soul


A flaming skull that attacks only by the admittedly pretty metal means of the fiery flying headbutt, the Lost Souls tend to clog up the skies and zip around being difficult to hit. There's really not much more to them than that: they're kamikaze creatures that unfortunately don't die on impact, returning once and again to headbutt you like the accumulated psychic energy of all the world's drunken Scotsmen on a Saturday night. They're the hyperactive Beavis to the more laid-back Butt-Head of the Cacodemon, then, although I think their violent ways might not just be a result of them wanting the player dead. Being Lost Souls, they're probably looking for a warm body to inhabit and the Doom Guy offers an ideal candidate... except, as mentioned before, he's wearing a helmet and so they can't get in via his head. This leaves only one other major orifice through which they might enter, and even the Lost Souls, lowliest of all Hell's minions, have more pride than that.

Mancubus


They're squat and they're hot, it's the Mancubus! Wait, I don't mean they're hot as in attractive, I mean because they've got flamethrowers instead of arms. Mind you, I don't doubt that somewhere out in the darker wilds of the internet there are pictures of the Mancubus engaged in a variety of amorous exploits even if the phrase "erotic Mancubus" seems like it should stop the world turning when uttered. Erm, I've rather lost my train of thought now. Where was I? Oh yes, the Mancubus. As it says in Doom II's manual, the saving grace of the Mancubus is that at least he's a nice big target, and while he's got a lot of health he's not rocket-proof now is he? No, I didn't think so. His large girth also means he can serve as a surprisingly effective shield when there are lots of enemies present, and because demons have no compunctions about shooting one of their own in an attempt to get to you they might even kill the Mancubus on your behalf. Have I mentioned that I really love enemy in-fighting? I hope it's in the new Doom and the time that could have been spent implementing it wasn't wasted on creating flashy kill animations that quickly become repetitive.

Revenant


Oh Christ, this guy. The bane of my Doom-playing experiences, the cause of thousands of digital deaths - a skeleton with rocket launchers. Not just any rocket launchers, either: the Revenant can fire regular rockets and homing missiles, and if you get close enough it will punch you in the head. The punch is definitely their most aggravating attack because it feels like, well, a slap in the face. Like, come on, man, you've got two kinds of rockets and you throw a mean right hook? Give me a break. How can you even punch that hard when you don't have any muscles? But the Revenants will not give you a break, and from Doom II onwards they seem to be densely packed into every Doom level ever made, filling the hallways and clattering around like an avalanche in the stock room of a coat-hanger factory. They are imposing foes, then, with the terror they exude being only slightly diminished by the coating of red gore on their lower bodies making it look like the Revenant is wearing lycra shorts.
Having spent so much time playing Doom, the word "revenant" has become inexorably linked in my mind to a skeleton wearing a rocket launcher, so naturally the first time I saw a poster for the movie The Revenant I instinctively started looking for a pillar to hide behind. The internet didn't disappoint me, either, and the next day I saw a poster for The Revenant edited to replace Leonardo Di Caprio with a Doom Revenant. Good job, internet. I can't help but think Leo would have won that Oscar by now if he'd taken on the challenging yet rewarding role of a skinless murder-demon. He would have to lose quite a lot of weight for the part, mind.

Pain Elemental


Meatballs of the Damned, the Pain Elemental - a more nurturing demon than most, seeing as it exists solely to puke up Lost Souls. A lumpy matryoshka of evil that wouldn't look out of place atop a pile of spaghetti, Pain Elementals don't really have much more to them other than the ability to create new enemies, although that's plenty bad enough.
You remember earlier when I said that Demons could probably do away with their big, muscular arms and make do with stumps? Yeah, I've changed my mind. Looking at the Pain Elemental, I don't think the gain in efficiency is worth the trade-off of looking like a dork. Now I think about it, it is a little strange that a flying monster with horns, a huge mouth filled with jagged teeth and a single bloodshot eye manages to look so completely unthreatening.

Arch-Vile



One thing you can say about the Arch-Vile is that in a game where most of the monsters are naked, he somehow manages to look more naked than the rest. I suspect this is a personal thing, as I share a similar pallid skin-tone with the Arch-Vile.
Envisioned by id as a demon healer, one of the Arch-Vile's trademark skills is its ability to bring dead monsters back to life. As such, writing this article has afforded me a rare chance to see the Arch-Vile up close, because when I encounter them in-game I'm always intent on killing them as quickly and from as far away as possible. That doesn't leave much time for a detailed physical analysis, but now I can see that they're a little plain, as demons go, their anonymity masking their deadly abilities. They're the kind of demon you wouldn't look twice at on a tour of Hell, until they use their other attack on you: a fiery explosion that will cause huge damage to the player if the Arch-Vile can see you. That's another reason I've never got a close look at one before - each battle with an Arch-Vile becomes the world's most lethal game of peek-a-boo.

The Spider Mastermind


Spider-brain, spider-brain,
He only wishes to cause you pain,
Robot legs, a massive gun,
He eats babies just for fun,
Look out, here comes the spider-brain!
Spider Mastermind, huh? I have to take issue with that name. You built yourself a set of mechanical legs but didn't include a protective dome to encase your delicate brain-meats? That doesn't sound very intelligent to me. I suppose it's all relative: when every other demon is a ravening, bloodthirsty berserker, being handy with a soldering iron is enough to see you elevated to the position of "mastermind."
I shouldn't be too harsh on the Spider Mastermind, because he's been deal a rough hand. Despite being Doom's original final boss, the Mastermind has been overshadowed by the Cyberdemon. It must be a bitter pill to swallow when everyone prefers a walking cow.

Arachnotron


The Spider Mastermind also comes in a Fun-Sized version known as the Arachnotron, who possess a plasma rifle instead of their larger relative's super-chaingun as well as some of the deepest, most piercing blue eyes I've ever seen. It uses those eyes to placate the other monsters when they become enraged by the annoying whirring sound that the Arachnotron makes as it walks. Honestly, could you look into those eyes and stay angry at the Archnotron? No, I didn't think so.

Cyberdemon




The most iconic of all Doom's demons and one of the most famous computer game enemies ever to splatter players across a wall with a well-placed rocket, the Cyberdemon is a grotesque amalgamation of machinery and meat. But why am I telling you this? You already know about the Cyberdemon. He's the Elvis of videogame bosses. Shoot at it until it dies, etcetera. Although time and repeated encounters may have dulled the Cyberdemon's presence somewhat, I can still remember the first time I fought one in the original Doom, which is impressive recall on my part considering the battle lasted about four seconds. If I wanted to get pretentious about it, I could argue that the Cyberdemon's mix of ancient demon and modern technology is a perfect metaphor for Doom itself - taking something from the past and improving it with new technology and added lethality to create something powerful and terrifying. I won't say that, though. Instead I'll say that I like it when you kill the Cyberdemon and it explodes, leaving behind only a pair of bloody hooves, hooves being the most powerful material in the universe.
The Cyberdemon, and all the other demons with robot bits, make me wonder about the nature of Doom's Hell. Is it the literal Christian Hell, or merely another dimension filled with enough demonic horror that a casual observer would say "yep, that's Hell all right"? It's not an important distinction, of course, because this is Doom and anything that isn't shooting monsters isn't important, but I do hope it's actual Hell. The only reason is that I like to imagine Lucifer sitting on his throne and saying "I'll get my revenge against God using the one weapon the Almighty will never expect: cybernetics!" and then Lucifer builds a robot demon out of scraps. It's basically the start of the first Iron Man movie, but with more blasphemy.

Icon of Sin


Disappointing moments in the classic Doom games are few and far between, but I think the very last boss of Doom II being a wall might be one of them. Yes, it's a very spooky wall, a wall that might have adorned H. R. Giger's kitchen, but it's still just a wall. The evil wall is often called the Icon of Sin, but that's actually the name of the level it inhabits and it doesn't have a "real" name, although some call it Baphomet. To defeat the Icon of Sin - a name which has always sounded to me like the title a controversial pop star might give themselves, like the King of Pop - you have to use rockets to hit a vulnerable spot in the Icon's brain. Famously this target is the severed head of Doom creator John Romero, normally unviewable without cheat codes. I think I would have preferred it if the final boss was just Romero's head, bouncing around on the spike it's impaled on like a pogo stick.

There we have it, folks: all the demons of Doom, except for the mostly-invisible Demons called Spectres, and they're just Demons that you can't see very well. Just read the Demon section again and mentally append "plus 200 percent irritation factor." Which monster is my favourite? I'm not sure I could choose one, not when they all die in such wonderfully gory ways, but if forced I think I'd have to go with the Cacodemon. They just seem like the most chilled out, although their appear is hampered by their inability to give you a high-five.

11 comments:

  1. "I've spent so much time with them over the years that they're like family, except better than family: when there's back-biting it's because they're literally biting you in the back and not engaging in petty verbal sniping, and the former is much easier to deal with." -> my thoughts exactly :D To the point I tend to feel a bit awkward while killing them. But then again, I realize they will be revived on the next level so it is like a children play.

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    1. Yeah, don't worry about killing the demons because I'm sure an Arch-Vile will arrive as soon as you leave and bring them back to life.

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  2. Great article man, loved reliving the enemies, totally forgot about Mancubus! Who reminds me of one of the people at the end of Wall-e only with Flamethrower arms and legs that somehow support his weight

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    1. Thanks! I can only assume the Mancubus has some extra, unseen cybernetics in his legs keeping him upright.

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  3. Useless fact: i call baron of hell: Motaro (albeit lack of a pair legs and steel tail)
    Are ss guards count as doomguy's enemy? They are confronted at Doom II's secret level(s)
    Doom and Doom II are my very great childhood (at my elemental student age)
    Quite a shame that they become quite monoton/repetitive because of lack variety gameplay

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    1. Fortunately nowadays there are plenty of mods for Doom that change the gameplay around and keep things fresh!

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  4. That video everyone has already seen.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJcf0aOwmiA
    (if you decide it is not funny then skip to the archvile. That section at least is legitimately interesting)

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    1. Haha, I didn't know that about being able to hide behind very narrow objects, I wonder if there are any WADs that exploit this as a gameplay gimmick?

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  5. Great article. I love these types of peripheral articles you do since they generally cover less well documented stuff. Surely it's time for another ephemera article soon?

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    1. Thank you! I always assumed people prefer the in-depth game articles, but I do enjoy these kinds of articles so maybe I should do more. As for Ephemera, it will return... eventually.

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  6. While I was playing Doom, I'd like to call Cacodemon, Tomato Head :p

    ReplyDelete

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