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I don’t think I’ve ever heard the words “Doom” and “tactical shooter” used in the same sentence until I discovered the mod called Hideous Destructor. It’s been around since 2007 and it turns Doom into a tactical shooter focusing on realism. And I use the term “realism” loosely because this is Doom after all. Honestly, I don’t care for the name “Hideous Destructor”. It doesn’t really highlight what this mod is all about. It’s all about realistic movement, realistic damage, taking your time, managing your inventory, and learning how to stay alive in hostile environments. Now I know what you might be thinking. “Why the fuck would I want to play a tactical slow-paced Doom?”. Well because you can. It’s something different. It is just a mod after all and you don’t have to play it. I’ve seen it referenced on some popular websites and after playing with it, I really feel it deserves more attention. Hideous Destructor can be played solo and it does support multiplayer. For this review, I played it using the GZDoom source port but it can also be played with Zandronum.
Right off the bat I want to talk about an issue you’ll probably run into at some point if you don’t do any research. You can play Hideous Destructor with the vanilla maps and almost any custom map or megawad but because of Doom’s fast-paced, run and gun, circle strafing, action-packed nature, it may be impossible to progress through certain maps. The ZDoom thread for the mod actually states “this mod was never designed to actually allow the player to win anything and may make it literally impossible to advance through some maps”. Certain Doom maps work better than others but Hideous Destructor is the kind of mod that benefits from maps specifically designed for it. I tried the mod with several maps and the OBLIGE random map generator which actually works pretty well for this since it allows you to customize different aspects of the maps. The mod’s thread and Github site do recommend several maps as well as add-ons to modify the experience.
Hideous Destructor is not your typical Doom experience. In fact, the gameplay is basically the antithesis of what you’re probably used to. The executive summary for the mod sates “Ghost Recon meets Ghosts & Goblins. In Doom.” The first thing you should do after downloading the mod is open the file and extract the manual and then read through it. There is a lot to take in and the mod can feel overwhelming which is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome. It’s all or nothing. There are options that allow you to configure certain aspects of the mod but it would have been nice if there was a lite version or options to disable specific elements like weapon jamming or the detailed reloading mechanics. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate or like these elements, I’m saying I wish the mod was a bit more accessible. It needs to provide a better way to ease you into the experience. By default, tips and information will pop-up on the screen as you play but there’s so much you have to know that it just isn’t enough. If you don’t take the time to learn the mechanics, you’ll end up struggling with basic things resulting in frustration. When you fire up the mod for the first time, you should configure the controls, tweak any of the mod’s options if need be, and then jump into the Firing Range. This is where you can just mess around and learn the basics.
If you enjoy the original Ghost Recon or the old Rainbow Six games, you’ll probably get a kick out of Hideous Destructor. Running into rooms all guns blazing will get you killed. Trying to jump and strafe all over the place will also get you killed. You need move slow, take your time, and be alert. You can walk, run, sprint, jump, crouch, climb obstacles, lean left and right, yell at enemies to attract them, and play dead to fool them. Weapons do have their own sights and scopes and there’s more to the combat than just aiming and shooting. Weapons can jam. You need to manually pump the shotgun, depending on the fire mode. The chainsaw requires cells for power. Weapons have multiple fire modes and reload functions. You have to be aware of recoil. Your aim is more accurate when you’re crouching or if there’s map geometry underneath where your weapon is pointing. Yeah, it’s involved. You have to pick up things manually and you have to be mindful of encumbrance and fatigue. There is an inventory system and you need to manage it properly.
The mod has an in-depth damage system. You can be blown away, burned alive, bleed to death, and overdose on stimpacks. You’re fragile and can die very easily. You’ll slowly heal from all wounds except aggravated damage which is long-term damage. This type of damage can only be healed by supernatural means like through the use of a Soul Sphere or blue potions. Armor not only blocks damage but also reduces bleeding. It would be wise to look down every now and then to make sure you’re not injured and leaving a blood trail. Only medikits can stop bleeding but if you don’t have one, you can bandage yourself to buy some time. As you can probably tell, Hideous Destructor focuses on realism to an excessive degree. You’ll need to press and in some cases hold down the right keys to perform certain actions and it’s just another reason why I think options to strip away some of the excessive detailed realism would be welcome for newcomers. The mod can be very overwhelming and I often found myself having to pause the game to look over the controls and read the manual so I know how to do something properly even though I did it several times before. If you give the mod some time, you’ll certainly get the hang of things but you need to have patience.
There are multiple difficulties which determine how much damage you take and how the monsters spawn or respawn. There are multiple classes or loadouts to choose from, each with their own weapons and gear. You can also customize your own loadout which is pretty cool. Each weapon looks and feels different and some are better for certain situations. The manual goes over the reloading instructions for each one and I would highly suggest you read over them. Many enemies will drop weapons when killed and you have to pick up weapons, ammo, and items manually. You can bring up the mag manager during gameplay to put mags in your backpack or take them out and fill up some mags/clips for later. The amount of detail put into this mod is impressive but the controls can feel cumbersome especially at first. You can set up key bindings to quickly perform many of the mod’s functions which can be helpful but then you have to remember what all the keys do. Understanding everything this mod has to offer will take time.
Weapons are not the only things you can carry and use during combat. There’s all sorts of items that you can utilize including medikits, stimpacks, armor, and synthetic blood, among others. Some items require resources to be used like the DERP Bot which utilizes cells for power and mags in order to actually fire. Yes, you can deploy bots to assist you. You’re going to have to know what you pick up, know what you have, and learn to micromanage. There are supernatural items, armor comes in different types, the radiation shielding suit doubles as a fire-retardant suit, and you can deploy a ladder to reach higher elevations.
The enemies are very deadly. The manual or readme file goes into great detail about each one, including the new types. It mentions enemies like Technospider, Dark Soldier, Ninja Pirate, and for the most part, I have no idea which enemies correspond to what names. I can tell you there are tiny variants of existing enemies, there’s an additional marine type, you’ll have to watch out for bots or turrets or whatever they are, and enemies can kill you quickly up close and from afar. Projectiles will come at you fast, some fly wildly, and you need to take things slow and utilize cover. The enemies you encounter will depend on the map or megawad and I played through several. Any maps that start you in a spot where enemies are already in your line of sight can be problematic because you can be killed only seconds after starting. Enemies can easily pick you off from a distance so cover is extremely important. Tight spaces can also be problematic if you have to deal with more than one enemy. Because of the nature of the mod, you really don’t want to get too close to foes. Any ambushes in small areas can result in frustration and any maps where you have to deal with swarms upon swarms of foes can also be frustrating.
From a visual standpoint, there are some new sprites and visual effects but most of the presentation will depend on the megawad or any other mods you have installed. Out of all the maps I downloaded and tried, I spent the most of my time with the OBLIGE maps which really don’t offer anything groundbreaking in terms of visuals. The new weapon sprites look good and the scope and/or sights that appear above your weapon look pretty cool. The only visual effect I don’t really care for is the fire but it does get the job done. Fire and explosions will fill the air with smoke which can reduce visibility, making some firefights feel really intense. The audio work is pretty good. Many of the weapons include new sound effects which sound great and the music, like the visuals, will depend on the megawad or other mods. On the technical side, I have no complaints.
Hideous Destructor is really incredible. I won’t deny it can be tedious and frustrating, but it’s still incredible. I had a great time with this and most of my frustrations came from the level designs and lack of understanding. It’s very easy to fumble around with the controls and even after weeks of playing, I still had to reference the manual often because I would forget what buttons did what or what I needed to do just to perform certain tasks. The mod focuses on realism. That means it’s slow-paced and you have to think and always be alert. Mistakes result in taking damage or death. Taking damage is a big deal and you need to patch yourself or you will slowly die. Unfortunately, many megawads and custom maps will not be a good fit for Hideous Destructor and that’s because the gameplay is not suited for fast-paced action. Everything is dangerous, you’re extremely fragile, and you need to take it slow. The mod works best with maps that contain a lot of cover and not a lot of demon hordes. Unless the megawad is specifically designed for the mod, you may find yourself skipping maps, only playing through the ones that are better suited for the gameplay. The mod’s GitHub site will not only recommend megawads but tell you which maps work best. Hideous Destructor is popular enough that it has its own addons. So if you want extra gameplay features, more monsters, alternate sprites, different effects, then you’re in luck because there’s addons for all of these things and it even works with several other mods. Furthermore, Hideous Destructor can be played online with friends. I would recommend the OBLIGE random map generator especially for first-time players. Mainly because you can basically customize the type of map, and dictate enemy, weapon, ammo, and item spawns. The maps may look and feel repetitive after a while but I think it’s a great starting point.
If you like slow-paced tactical games, I would absolutely recommend you check out Hideous Destructor. It’s an impressive mod that requires practice, patience, and appropriate level design. If you think you’re going to jump into this and immediately master the gameplay, you’re going to be in for a big surprise. If you don’t read the manual and experiment with things, you’ll never learn anything and just get frustrated. And you have to try out different maps and megawads to see what level designs work best and what don’t. If you play any megawads not designed for the mod, you’re going to end up in maps that will kick your ass. If you take the time to learn the mechanics, weapons, and style of gameplay, you’ll be in for a challenging but rewarding experience. Hideous Destructor is easily one of the best gameplay mods for classic Doom but it’s not going to be for everyone.