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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Find Some Meat! Ranking the Classic Doom Monsters

 20 years ago, a software company known as Id unleashed a title onto the video game world which would forever change the face of gaming. Through the use of Shareware and trading amongst friends, DOOM captivated players and lowered productivity everywhere with its never before seen gore and disturbing satanic imagery. And of course, the game was pretty fun, too. But who can forget the cornerstone of the game's appeal - the monsters. Over the years, surely all Doomers have picked their favorite hellspawn to encounter amidst the death and mayhem, and the same is true for us as well. Here, we honor two decades of floating heads, goat legs, and horns of all shapes and sizes with our list ranking the greatness of all* of the classic DOOM monsters.

18. Former Human:

The weakest and generally most boring enemy in the game, these guys do a fine job of their cannon fodder duties but not much else. Their high point pretty much comes in the form of the ammo clips they drop.

17. Imp:

These brown pointy lumps are a staple of the corridors between important rooms, and also one of the most annoying enemies to get hit by if you consider yourself a skilled Doomsman. But their close range attacks cannot be underestimated. I once watched one of these guys take on a cacodemon one on one and win, with his claws alone. Needless to say various theme songs from Rocky came to mind seconds before I shot him in the face.

16. Revenant:

While skinny here can be a challenging monster and pack quite a punch (pun partially intended), something about a rocket vest thing on a skeleton seems more silly than cool. It doesn't help that his blood soaked legs have always and will always just look like really ridiculous, ultra-thin red pants to me.

15. Lost Soul:

 I've often thought of these guys as Hell's take on the common mosquito, and for good reason. Between the high pitched screaming and the "swarms" they are often found in, getting bit by these flying nuisances is almost annoying as the two shotgun shells you have to blow on them.

14. Chaingunner:

 The sheer number of these guys found in the Final DOOM episodes has taught me to sort of hate them, which prevents these bullet-spewing baldies from being the highest ranking former humans on this list. Still, a tougher zombie which uses and drops a chaingun was a welcome addition to the series' first sequel and added a new dose of challenge to the early "Space Station" levels. Their non-stop volly of shots even from huge distances makes the Chaingunners a genuine threat as well as hair-rippingly annoying at times.

13. Former Sergeant:

 For my money, this is the top of the line when it comes to zomies in DOOM. And I don't mind admitting that it's largely because they drop shotguns when felled, arguably the most valuable ammunition in the game. But with that said, I have to appreciate that if given the opportunity, these boys can take a good sized chunk out of your health and face, especially if you're not wearing armor.

12. Demon:

 Sometimes called Demons, Pinkies, or Pig Demons, but you'd better decide on a name for them quick because you're going to be seeing a lot of them. What makes these guys so effective is that even if they don't touch you, their toughness and numbers do a terrific job of eating away at your ammo reserves. And if you do let them get too close, their devestating jaws clamp down on your health percentage like the Playstation 3 clamped down on general quality assurance (which means, it'll hurt a lot). And let's not forget that these brutes are deceptively fast on their three-clawed feet. The invisible variant of this monster, known as Spectres, is basically the same deal in most levels but when placed in dark areas is when they become truly spooky....

11. Hell Knight:

 In my opinion, Hell Knights are just sort of a throwaway monster to create the illusion of monster diversity, a social issue that has plagued the surface of Hell for many years. Essentially just a weaker version of the Baron of Hell, these guys take enough ammo to make you regret having to waste it on them, but not so much that you feel as if you were in a real fight. They are at least a nice bridge between weaker monsters and serious monsters, and it's not to say that they can't hurt you when given the chance, earning them their spot near the center of this list.

10. Nazi SS:

A delightful throwback for the fans of Wolfenstein or an ample mind fuck for those unfamiliar with DOOM's predecessor, the Nazi SS make the two secret levels of DOOM II possibly the most memorable secret in the history of the FPS. Thankfully, this particular batch of anti-semitics aren't as deadly or comically large as their Wolfenstein incarnations, but on higher skill levels they appear in large numbers. Due to the fact that their attack sprite is only drawn from one angle, facing the player, you may enjoy the graphical glitch that occurs when one SS tries to attack another. Their position on his list is bolstered largely by their retro appeal.

9. Pain Elemental:

 Affectionately referred to as "meatballs" in our little circle, the Pain Elemental is a great monster in that it's extremely annoying but admittedly effective. Boasting no attack of its own, Meatball here overstays his welcome by quickly filling a room with Lost Souls which he spews from his mouth. Their passive agressive attack can be the difference maker in a lot of situations and with exception to the Arch Vile, is commonly public enemy #1 in most cases. Of course if you don't mind an exuberant amount of flaming skulls accenting the room, stop to appreciate the Pain Elemental's silly look and itsy-bitsy little arms which constantly pump as he putters along. The way he blows up in death is also amusing the first several times you see it, and the way he almost literally says "Ow!" when you shoot him makes you feel almost as if you owe him an explanation. "Listen buddy, I'm sorry but I'm already inexplicably unable to jump over demons 50 feet below me, I don't need a million of those damn things around."

8. Icon of Sin/Romero's Head:

The best artistically designed monster in all of DOOM is unfortunately merely a series of flat wall graphics. The true target of DOOM II's final boss, John Romero's head, is cleverly tucked behind and below the brain graphic which is what dictates the "rockets only" ultimatum for those who don't take advantage of No Clipping Mode.The monster's attack involves spewing skull-bedazzled boxes from its brain, which spawn a random demon once they hit the ground. Although these boxes aren't aimed directly at you, they do possess the power to instantly kill the player, even if God Mode is on so you still don't want to get too close to one. Still, realizing that you are in fact trying to destroy the face of one of the game's head programmers is amusing at first but has a way of diminishing the seemingly gargantuan monster's mystique, somewhat hindering higher ascension for him on this list.

7. Mancubus:

If you want to put your fancy footwork to the test, just enter a room with a few of these tubby terrors and get ready to dance. They fire endless volleys of fireballs from what one would think would be a rather finite source, and it only takes one to make a room feel like it's just too gosh darn crowded. Pretty much every sound these guys make is amusing in its own right and their death animation is arguably the best there is.

6. Arachnotron:

 When I first laid eyes on DOOM II, these guys are what stood out to me the most. The constant clank of their cybernetic legs keeps you sufficiently on edge until they come into sight. What makes Arachnotrons so great, besides being a cute, mini Spiderdemon, is that their attack is dangerous enough to hurt you but a fun challenge to try and avoid while you attempt to blast your shells into their brainy heads. And unlike Hell Knights, these creepy crawlies may look like their larger progenitor, but their utilization of a plasma gun rather than a super chaingun makes it a completely new and intriguing battle.

5. Arch Vile:

 The manual said it best when it described these nasty bastards as "The worst of a bad lot." Their attacks are second only to the Cyberdemon's rockets in power and temporarily blind you, and they resurrect enemies you already spent precious bullets on putting down. Tack on a creepy way of moving and that chilling, evil laugh they emit while lurking about, and you've got a monster whose "bosshood" escapes him only on hitpoints. In an area with no cover, they are the stuff of nightmares. But you can't argue with results, which is why the Arch Vile ranks highly on a list of greatness.

4. Spider Mastermind:

The final Boss of the original DOOM has dealt with years of scrutiny and criticism from the DOOM community. This comes largely as a result of its low hitpoints and attack which at first appears weak. However the Spider Mastermind's strengths are undeniable under the proper circumstances. First of all, it never stops shooting at you until you can find cover. Second, it fires three bullets per shot, essentially making its weapon a gatling shotgun, and even from huge distances, this deadly spider is insanely accurate. And if you're caught at close range, forget about it, game over. Any Doomer who claims that the Spider Mastermind hasn't been responsible for a few early graves is most likely Fabricating the story of their encounters.

3. Baron of Hell:

The boss at the end of the shareware episode of DOOM, "Knee Deep in the Dead," comes in the form of a pair of these behemoths, also known as the "Bruiser Brothers." The original "oh, crap" demon of the DOOM world, what made these guys such an iconic part of the game was their terrifying roar, fast and powerfull fireballs, and marble warning signs that let you know you were getting far too close to a bad situation. Their classic design of black horns, huge fangs, and goat legs was a potent little reminder that oh yeah, this is hell. Many players were squirelling away all their rockets and BFG shots especially for when this big boy made his entrance. The perfect embodiment of what DOOM is all about, it's a no brainer that the Baron ranks high on the list.

2. Cyberdemon:

 Perhaps the Cyberdemon's success within this list and the DOOM community in general can be credited towards a host of factors beyond the monster itself, such as the awesome, arena-like level in which he dwells, and the superb accordion-driven musical track which accents this intense boss encounter. Of course, being equipped with what is essentially a one hit kill never hurt, either. Players got their first taste of a true boss when they unwittingly shot at the Lost Souls which dot the level, awakening the beast. The stomps of his hooved feet (one made out of steel) echo in the distance, telling you that something big is nearby, and your first glimpse of him is likely to be interrupted by a rocket straight to the face, effectively ending your encounter just like that. Doomers that are good with the strafe key may eventually learn to take the mammoth demon on toe-to-toe, but the fact remains that a single wrong move may bring this dance to a sudden and decisive close.

1. Cacodemon: 

 Of all the hellspawn you will encounter in the firey underworld, only one of them shows up to work with a smile, ready to take on the day. The loveable grin across the face of the demon we most closely associate with history's greatest first person shooter is just one of many features that make the adorable Cacodemon a fan favorite. The spherical body, the crown of horns, the single, green eye, it's all just a wonderful medley of a demon gone so completely right. They are the perfect balance in an enemy, strong enough to keep you focused but relaxed enough to let you enjoy your time together. Their loud, startling will make you nearly jump out of your swivel chair at times as they emerge from their dark corners, but soon you calm down and say "Oh, it's just you, Cacey," and proceed a friendly sparring session. Or sure, you'll have to kill him eventually, and he'll seemingly melt out of the air and make that most amusing sound which sounds like what something which melts out of the air would sound like, and if you're anything like us you'll feel bad about it. But soon enough, the demon will make its return in some capacity, maybe even in a pair or trio and the good times will keep on rollin'. In essence, everything about this red ball of fun is perfect and seats him comfortably at the top of our list of classic DOOM monsters.

Of course, whatever your favorite demon may be, one incontrovertible fact is that they are all great in their own, special way and are all worthy of celebration for their contributions to the most iconic First Person Shooter of all time.

Thanks for reading!

*We did not forget about Commander Keen, but he could not be reached for comment.

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