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I normally don’t play mods that try to replicate the gameplay of other games. Usually because it’s not going to be the same and I could just play the other game. I’ve seen several Doom mods that try to replicate Doom 2016 or just take assets directly from it. Doom 2016 is interesting because despite it being different than the classics, the gameplay is still very similar. Doom 4 Vanilla is a gameplay mod inspired by Doom 2016 and I’ll just quote the description. It’s “made to be compatible with any source-port” which actually makes it quite attractive. For this review, I played through it using the GZDoom source-port. What really attracted me to this mod is that it looks clean. By that I mean, it doesn’t look like the content from Doom 2016 was just copied and pasted.
As of this review, there’s two versions or editions of the mod – the Regular Edition and MS-DOS Edition. These are well put together packages for people who want to just download and start playing. I downloaded the Regular Edition which is packed with two source-ports – Chocolate Doom and Crispy Doom – and three excellent megawads – Kssht, Scythe, and Baculus. I played through Scythe and as of this review, there is an issue with the MAP07 slot in the mod but it comes with fixes for certain megawads. From what I understand, because the issue lies with the map slot, each megawad needs its own fix and while there’s already several fixes available, if you play a megawad that hasn’t been addressed, you could run into an issue.
The gameplay is basically vanilla Doom with a Doom 2016 coat of paint. But there are some differences. As far as classic Doom goes, there’s new enemies, existing enemies were modified, and existing weapons were modified – all of which reflect what you would see in Doom 2016. The brutal and bloody glory kills are absent and there’s no Praetor Suit upgrades or weapon mods. You’ll see Field Drones in the maps that hold backpacks and many of the powerups and item pickups have all been visually changed. There’s a Rip and Tear power-up which is just Berserk and the Mega Doll is the mega sphere. If you’ve played classic Doom or even Doom 2016, everything should feel familiar. The gameplay is action-packed and fast-paced. I would say the biggest changes were made to the enemies and presentation.
Most of the weapons from Doom 2016 are present, although some didn’t make the cut like the Gauss Cannon, Heavy Assault Rifle, and Grenades. The pistol does require ammo, the chainsaw does not require fuel, and all of the existing Doom weapons were changed visually to reflect their Doom 2016 counterparts. There’s no alternate fire modes and you cannot stagger enemies. It’s unfortunate you can’t obtain weapon mods or upgrade weapons in any way but the gameplay is still fun nonetheless. You can beat enemies to death with your fists but I would only recommend that after obtaining the Rip and Tear power-up. I would say the enemies are more dangerous than the vanilla foes and they are the real meat of the mod in terms of the gameplay.
You’ll get to battle some Doom 2016 enemies and many of the existing foes look like their Doom 2016 counterparts and their attacks and behavior were modified. Some classic Doom enemies are not present and you’ll only see enemies that appear in Doom 2016. Possessed enemies seem to replace the zombie types, Cacodemons feel almost unchanged, Pinkies and Spectres will charge at you, Hell Razers fire energy beams, and Summoners are quick-moving foes that can resurrect enemies and launch a barrage of projectiles in your direction. Mancubus will not only launch fireballs but it’s also equipped with flamethrowers. Then there’s the Cyber-Mancubus which can be a more dangerous threat. It can unleash a ground blast and fire explosive plasma that sits on the ground for a little while before exploding. Gore Nests are present and I suppose they could be considered enemies here. They pretty much behave like the Pain Elementals except they’re stationary. They spawn Lost Souls. Revenants can hover thanks to their jetpacks and Hell Knights and Barons can move quickly and lunge in your direction. Hell Knights can punch and perform a ground pound and Barons will hurl explosive projectiles. Because of the new and modified enemies, some encounters are actually made easier. For example, because the Hell Knight no longer utilizes a ranged attack, you never have to worry about them picking you off from a distance. The Cyberdemon can fire missiles, perform a blade attack, and rush you. He’s actually quite dangerous and fights against him in small areas can sometimes be frustrating. The Spider Mastermind also saw some changes. It will shoot you, it can fire some kind of spread shot, and it can utilize a telekinesis attack.
I played through Scythe once a long time ago and forgot how difficult it was. Regardless, I got through it on Ultra-Violence. Most of the maps are small and can be beaten in under five minutes. That is if you don’t die before you get to the end. Some of the later maps are noticeably bigger than those that preceded them but for the most part, the maps are short and sweet. The megawad gets more and more challenging the further you progress and there’s a lot of monster closets and ambushes. There’s one map that you have to beat within a time limit. Any time I spent more than ten minutes in a map, it was usually because I kept dying. On the plus side, I rarely got lost and if I did, it didn’t take long to figure out how to proceed. Most of the maps are pretty easy to navigate. Playing through Scythe with Doom 4 Vanilla can be quite challenging but it’s certainly doable on Ultra-Violence. The battles will get hectic and the later maps almost require you to keep moving at all times. The action will become very fast-paced. Many of the later maps throw armies of enemies at you from multiple directions. These types of maps normally contain power-ups to help to make the battles easier. Unfortunately, because of the enemy behavior in Doom 4 Vanilla, some encounters are more frustrating than anything. Any time you’re in a small area where you’re ambushed by numerous tough types can just be a bitch. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error, quick saving and quick loading. And it’s one of those megawads where you’ll be stripped of all your weapons at a certain point. In fact, Scythe does it to you multiple times.
One of my favorite things about Doom 4 Vanilla is the presentation. As I mentioned before, it’s got a clean look to it. The new sprites don’t look as if they were just copied and pasted into classic Doom. Each sprite is detailed and looks appropriate as in they look like they were made to fit into classic Doom naturally. Furthermore, not only do the enemies and weapons accurately reflect their Doom 2016 counterparts, many of the textures and objects were changed to reflect what you would see in Doom 2016 or at least give the maps a Doom 2016 feeling. The action is accompanied by a kick-ass soundtrack and you’ll get to hear some excellent variations of several Doom tunes. I love it. The sound effects are also well done. If you’ve played Doom 2016, the weapons and enemies should sound familiar. On the technical side, the game crashed on me once and I saw a Baron get stuck on something once but no major issues.
Have you ever played a Doom mod that takes assets from another game and it just doesn’t look right? Maybe they’re crudely placed in the game and clearly don’t visually fit in with Doom’s style and aesthetic. And maybe nothing else was modified to compliment the new assets. I’ve noticed it a lot with some mods that add new weapons from other games. I think I played one that added in Call of Duty and/or Battlefield weapons. I remember enjoying it from a gameplay standpoint but the presentation was just off because the weapons looked out of place. That’s one reason why I don’t normally gravitate towards mods that try to replicate the experience of other games. Doom 4 Vanilla doesn’t have that problem and that’s what attracted me to it. It’s one of the best mods of its kind. None of the new content looks as if they took 3D models and just cut and pasted them into Doom’s sprite-based and pixelated presentation. All of the new sprites and textures look like they were crafted specifically for this mod and fit in perfectly with Doom’s visual style. I had a great time with this and what’s really impressive is that it’s one hundred percent vanilla compatible. I’m going to assume that’s why it’s not a perfect recreation of Doom 2016’s gameplay. I won’t deny it’s kind of disappointing to see the lack of some weapons and upgrades. Maybe we’ll see fans or other modders create addons for it in the future that change things even more. The way the mod is designed, I can only see it expanding for the better. It feels like classic Doom blended with Doom 2016 and it’s excellent.
I would absolutely recommend Doom 4 Vanilla to fans of the series. It’s a Doom mod based on Doom. If you take “Classic” and “2016” out of the names, you can really confuse people. This might just be one of the best gameplay mods based on another game that I’ve ever experienced. It’s just so well put together. It’s like if id Software created a version of Doom 2016 for classic vanilla Doom, this would be the result. Doom 4 Vanilla feels like one of those games that releases on two generations of consoles and this is the older one. The significantly older one. But it’s a great version nonetheless. Definitely check it out if you’re at all interested.