Fair warning, this is 2011 In Review so I'm not going to be reviewing the Jan 30th 2012 release. Spazztik may've already fixed the stuff I'm going to bitch about, so don't let me turn you off.
Of all the games from 2011, this is the one I've been dreading the most. No offense to thespazztikone, who's been in IRC and is a pretty cool guy, but when I heard that his first project was going to be a remake of the 90's first-person shooter "Doom" I assumed it was going to be terrible. Then, when I learned not only was he converting "Doom" into an RPG, that he was also incorporating elements of the sequel AND elements of the original Doom Bible design document, I started assuming even more. "This poor naive guy! He's going to fuck this up and shatter into a million tiny sad pieces." I thought. This isn't the sentence where I tell you I was wrong, and that "Doom: Evil Unleashed" is the best game of the year, nor where I tell you I was right and it's the worst.
Things get started quick. A friendly game of cards amongst soldiers turns into a demonic invasion and Flynn Taggart (aka The Doom Guy) starts killin' zombies. Unlike the original "Doom", he's not alone. He's joined by John Pietrovich, Lorelei Chen, Dimitri Paramo and Buddy Dacote, whose name was a secret spoiler in the original design doc. I didn't make it far enough to find out if that holds true here. Sadly, they aren't much help. Only Lorelei joins your party, and I almost missed her entirely. This is where the troubles start.
One of the cool features of "Evil Unleashed" is that Flynn's general health is displayed on screen at all times using the HUD portrait from the original "Doom". Wandering around with low HP is intense when your bloody face is right there to remind you just how near death you are. When Lorelei joins the party, no attempt is made to show her health. I realize this is probably because there aren't easily swipable resources for her, but it's distracting and makes her presence seem shoehorned. I also think spazztik should go a step further, and show what weapon is equipped and how much ammo is left. Having to open my item menu to see how many bullets I have after a battle and then going to my equipment menu to change to a different weapon is slow. The original game made it easy to see this information and I can't imagine it'd be too hard to work something out with slices. This would also give him an excuse to add a backing to the picture of Doomguy so it's not just hovering over the map all the time which also feels shoehorned.
On the topic of health and ammo, powerups are obtained by walking on the appropriate kind of box, the same way you did in "Doom". Spazztik uses textboxes for this so the action is paused until you hit enter. This can make rooms with a lot of items a drag and I wish he'd use plotscripting and text slices to make these pickups less intrusive. There's also numerous typos, and a lot of textboxes that explain things that aren't really important, but got mentioned once in the Doombible so Spazz feels he has to repeat them. We didn't see Buddy's hat, so we don't need to know what the letters on it stand for. He even bounces back and forth as to where the game is taking place, going from the fictional planet Tei Tenga as in the "Doom" design documents to a base on Mars' moon Phobos like in the commercial release. It's like he's trying to be 100% faithful to both *and* incorporate an RPG without knowing what elements to leave in and what to leave out.
Combat, for example. In "Doom" you can hear enemies moving around and opening doors. When one of them sees you, he makes a distinctive noise to let you know and you can prepare for combat by finding a corner or running away. All of their voices are unique, so when you hear something in the distance you can sort of appraise whether or not you can deal with it. You usually didn't have enough ammo to kill everything, so you had to make use of exploding barrels and the monsters inclination towards infighting to thin out the horde.
In "Evil Unleashed" battles pop up without warning. They have their own music that breaks the atmosphere the level music had set. If you're out of pistol bullets, you don't find out till you're already in the battle and then it's too late to change to a shotgun. Good thing you can run away from most of them, including a few mini-bosses. I know playing an OHR port of a first person shooter is always going to lose something in translation, but maybe Spazztik could do something where instead of instantly getting a random battle, there'd be a "Monster sees you" kind of sound effect, and then a few steps later you actually get attacked. That way, you'd have a chance to switch away from your BFG9000 for a puny zombie.
The loss of infighting really bugs me. In my opinion, circle-strafing and making the monsters fight each other were the two most iconic game mechanics of "Doom". I admit it'd be tricky to translate to an RPG, but maybe it'd help buff melee weapons. Enemies would counter a melee attack with something roulette targetted, making a clear distinction between ranged and melee. In groups, melee might be advantageous but one on one it'd mean you get hit more often. Maybe that's retarded. I don't know.
What I do know is that the current battles are fairly bland. Tactics boil down to holding enter or escape. I'm always on the lookout for neat little tricks and there are a lot of 'em in "Evil Unleashed". Dead enemies leave a corpse, though sometimes this doesn't work right. I'd bet there's a way to do it with transmogrification rather than enemy spawning. Some of the enemies are from "Doom 2" or games I've never seen before and I like that Spazztik is willing to bring new elements into the fold and not just blindly adapt. I also like the ammo system, but enemies drop guns rather than bullets. You can sell a few kinds of weapons to buy supplies, but almost everything you pick up from the enemies is worthless. That could put a crimp on your bullet supply, though I mostly used a nailboard so it wasn't an issue.
There's a box of chaingun ammo that can be used as many times as you want, and that's where I got the strength I needed to see what I believe is the end of the demo. I picked up a blue keycard, tried to leave the room and was ambushed by an army of demons. Laying waste to them with a stream of ammo from both characters chainguns, I was then confronted with a much bigger demon. Five times the "Oh no, another demon!" textbox came up, and five times I kicked his ass. After that I assumed that maybe it was like the end of the first episode of "Doom" where you use a teleporter and quite literally get shot to hell. I let this big demon kill me and got the standard game over. Damnit. I'd already used all my good "Doom 3" jokes so I didn't even try to go back through the terrible twisted dark maze that is Level 2 again.
I could pick on little things for days. It's hard to tell where you're supposed to be going. They try to have variety in their maptiles, but it just clutters the things you can actually interact with. Sometimes you can climb ladders and sometimes they're just for show. Some of the walls look like floors. I wish the maps were smaller or the hero was faster. Even with all of these problems, I don't hate this. It's a demo, and it's got its share of demo problems but nothing that can't be polished up. "Doom: Evil Unleashed" is a flawed, but ultimately fixable effort by a guy with a hell of a lot of enthusiasm and that's what amateur game making is all about.
2011 Score (Per Jul 17th): 79/100
Part of Gomey's 2011 Year In Review