Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Escape from Phobos (EFP.WAD)

Plenty of people have tried to tell their own stories through Doom. Some of these people have dovetailed it with other worlds. Chris Christenson didn't just throw in a hot movie property, though. It's more like the world of Doom was drafted into Snake Plisskin's. Escape From Phobos is the first in a trilogy of small mapsets, followed by Escape from Deimos and Escape from Natas. This installment, released in 1997, is a three-level minisode that replaces the first three maps of Doom II. It's got a .DOC file that explains the story, and if you care to indulge in Christenson's exploitation of Carpenter's beloved anti-hero, you're more than welcome to read it in full.

Phobos occurs a long time after Escape from L. A., and according to the author, Snake's execution of the world-wide blackout code resulted in an anarchy through which one dominant force arose... The UAC, of course. The corporation that developed the satellite was intelligent enough to establish some safeguards and quickly climbed to the top of the food chain during the resulting dark age. The new world order eventually found Snake and in an uncharacteristic show of gratitude sent him to work on their Phobos project, conveniently forgetting to take him out of cold sleep. That is, until they really needed someone - anyone - to help combat the demon menace of Doom. As directed by mouthy scientist Carmack, of course.

It isn't immediately obvious, but Snake is apparently working behind Doomguy (named Flynn Taggart in the .DOC), given that MAP02 is an already-conquered E1M2. That's the only point where your routes converge, though, as Snake's ultimate path is very different, and much shorter. Snake isn't an exterminator; he's a man who gets things done, and what he is trying to do is Escape From Phobos. When it isn't openly referencing the original Doom, EFP has a pretty abstract feel. I mean, the keys are suspended in the air on pillars out in the middle of damage floors, the lab has great big rows of consoles AND a stinking pit with two arch-viles, and there's a slice of land that exists purely for a Cyberdemon / Spiderdemon showdown.

Some of it kind of makes sense given where the story ultimately ends up going, but Phobos is less an echo of Knee Deep in the Dead and more abstract PWAD with some vague E1 trappings. It's also over really, really fast. None of these levels have more than seventy enemies and while the HP count is pretty high for MAP03, you can do almost all of the work with a plasma rifle and be on your merry way. There are a few neat cheats, like the ship in the hangar, and I like the switch play. It's nothing taxing except for the few leaps of faith you'll have to do to grab the essential keys. I didn't trust the MAP02 one at first, but you gotta have faith.

I wasn't exactly impressed, but Christenson does a decent job at teasing your brain and there are a few good fights ferreted away for you to sink your teeth into. Certainly, it's amusing to pretend that you're Snake Plisskin, and that you don't give a fuck about this war. Or John Carmack. Now I kinda wanna see a HUD face that looks more like Snake's...

by Chris Christenson

Phobos LabMAP01
An odd little level that sets up the action. You don't have to have the rad suit on while exploring the outer area's upper tier, but you'll want it for the blue key grab, which is a timing puzzle involving a couple of moving parts that shouldn't be too bad. The real challenge is the red key, which is this level's (kind of obvious) mandatory secret and which has a potentially tricky battle vs. two arch-viles. It's more or less an order of operations puzzle, really, as there is a soul sphere with the left vile and a megasphere / plasma rifle to set you up for the second. If the combat shotgun fails to pain stun, though, things could get messy... The end of level ambush isn't meaty enough to be memorable but the pain elemental and commandos are kind of threatening.

MAP02Phobos Nuclear Plant
Starts out with an echo of - what else? - but E1M2 before veering into a different space entirely as you enter its enormous secret exterior. It's a side of Phobos I've never seen, and has interesting cinematic elements like hidden exploding barrels to knock out that imp shooting gallery and a pretty obvious "Gotcha!" setup that you kind of have to wait before bringing to fruition. The most action you'll get is in the initial entry of the yellow key area but it's easily solved with the plasma rifle gained from the dead end, supposing the hitscanners don't surprise you. There's a fair bit of puzzle play, but nothing that should dead-end you. Just some tricky maneuvering.

Hell HangarMAP03
by Chris Christenson and Nicol Jarvie
This level is either a complete pushover if you grab the secret plasma rifle and scads of ammo (and, later, the secret BFG) or basically begging for some pacifist-style monster herding, because you won't be able to kill hardly anything. Really, as long as you get the rifle it's a fun blast-a-thon through some corridors with the worst part dealing with two arch-viles that teleport in behind you. Actually I guess the arachnotron squad is kind of dangerous but, again, it's nothing you can't handle with all those cells. The entry ramp into the ship its a nice touch.



  1. Is this a play on Escape From New York? Looks like the actor on the title screen. :P
    I really liked that movie btw, and the music is amazing... total synth!

    The screenshots here look pretty decent actually, although I'm tied down by exams / my own projects etc. :P

    1. It is explicitly based on Escape From New York, yes

    2. I guess maybe it helps to read the first few lines before commenting, hehe. :P

  2. Dunno about HUD face but there is a Snake Plisskin skin: http://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?p=565821#p565821
    - memfis