Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Unaided Eye (ENNUI.WAD)

by Christian Hansen

Chris Hansen thought he was done with Doom as early as 1999, but its siren sectors lured him back. After the very short quasi-deathmatch level, That Urban Sence, he published The Unaided Eye, a MAP10 replacement for TNT: Evilution. He'd previously worked with Evilution for his remake of his tribute to Star Trek: Voyager, Antithesis. ENNUI is far more grounded in the story and architecture of Doom, however, and its presentation makes it feel like the longest of Hansen's levels up to this point, on top of the fact that it's furnished with what is the most detailed authorial backstory... up to this point.

You managed to survive the stress of being the world's sole savior during the events of Doom II. What you couldn't handle was the unstoppable barrage of positive press. I guess reconstruction rebounded pretty quickly if Earth can already sustain a new cult of personality. You beg the UAC to put you somewhere remote, where pretty much no one knows your name, and find serenity doing grunt work in some non-descript mines. Of course, you start to notice some suspicious behavior involving guarded keys and secret doors, but it's not until All Hell Breaks Loose Again do you remember, during the celebration of your victory over the demons a drunk security officer telling you that the UAC was STILL doing gateway experiments, the installation in particular described as being located in the mountains. Looks like your two weeks of solitude were part of another UAC contingency plan.

ENNUI is a highly claustrophobic adventure level that takes you through a secret UAC installation built into a mountain mine. The opening, with the cart track, auger, and fenced-in starting area is very DoomCute and pretty good at building tension and atmosphere since you have but a handful of zombies to fight before making it to the meat of the map, through the first teleporter. The main fortress has some fun architecture and some decent firefights, as long as you don't mind at least one moment of false wall windows obscuring chaingun snipers. Hansen has a fairly old school sensibility about combat in this level, tending toward the larger original Doom monsters with everyone's favorite Doom II baddies - the revenant, the arch-vile, and the pain elemental - appearing at the end.

These guys are really easy to smite as they appear, though, since Hansen's tight layouts favor the player on these occasions with choke points which render them mostly harmless. The battles with the twin Barons are far more threatening, a prime example of claustrophobia. The first feels like an advancing wall of meat that you need to grind down, requiring some deft maneuvering, but not nearly as much as the guardians in the exit room. Not that you'll be hurting for very long if you got the cleverly hidden plasma gun, which I failed to notice on my initial run through. Another memorable moment is the crowd of cacodemons in the nukage area toward the end of your stint, a nice confounding factor.

The Unaided Eye feels like Hansen's biggest production to date, and as an adventure map, it's a pretty fun action-packed gauntlet fronted with a little atmosphere that closes with - interestingly - an exit that leads into the opening of Evilution's MAP11, "Storage Facility". As long as the claustrophobia and handful of cheap shots don't get to you, I'd recommend it.


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