Sunday, April 16, 2017
Tommie Quick made a couple of vanilla maps back in 1997, took some time to tour with TNT and their deathmatch megaWADs, and then jumped into ZDoom modding with several releases in 2001. Trust came first; it's a Doom II mapset with what technically amounts to seven levels, but the first three are pretty much just iterations of MAP01 that I assume exist due to technical limitations with ZDoom at the time. Trust shares some details with 2000's Paranoia as both of them crib some ideas from Half-Life, then still hot on the minds of FPS fans, but Trust remains much more grounded in Doom's universe.
The plot can blaze by pretty fast in the opening texts; basically you're just an ordinary drone working at the UAC when you make some accidental discoveries regarding their "genetic" experiments involving "alien" organisms. Unfortunately, seeing top secret stuff like this generally means that you either get brought in to the fold or taken out, with the latter a far more common occurrence. You try to be nonchalant, but as you'll quickly discover, the UAC wants you dead. Your only hope is a mysterious fellow marine who saves your life after the first assassination attempt and directs you in a secret maneuver to end the now out-of-control research subjects.
Paranoia was basically a TC, attempting to bring the Black Mesa facility to Doom and throwing a bunch of costumes on the monsters to erase Doom's most recognizable elements. Trust may crib some Half-Life textures, but the only monster it outright steals is the head crab, which will still occupying the Lost Soul slot is much more sensibly DeHackEd. The rest of the cast is pure Doom II with the exception of the assassins, dexterous and durable foes that serve as pretty nasty minibosses and come in both shotgun and railgun varieties. Quick also does a pretty good job at making the arch-vile itself into a decent boss encounter.
Other Half-Life elements... Well, Trust actually has NPCs that you "talk" to, though the healthy UAC guards are represented by the SS Nazi sprites. There's also a fair bit of duct crawling to endure, most perilously in MAP05, which has a pretty good cliff-face section that reminds me of a particular spot of the Black Mesa exterior minus the murderous helicopter. There are no enormously exploratory office complexes to navigate, however. In fact, the area you have to pick through is fairly frugal and never fielding more than fifty monsters, excepting the ubiquitous head crabs which do not actually count for the totals displayed on the automap, which is just as well considering that I think they infinitely respawn in a few sections.
One of the most important aspects of Trust's gameplay is that there is little to no health to be found until the final leg so every sideswipe you suffer inflicts a heavy toll on your relatively limited resources. Intrepid players should be able to get the equivalent of a megasphere for the final few showdowns, though. Ammo is also pretty limited; the chainsaw is an early pickup and should be indispensable, particularly for handling specters and stealth demons. It's not quite so effective for dealing with the head crabs since the chainsaw's action tends to drag you over them, but with a little control it should save you quite a bit of ammo.
As a Doom mini-adventure, Trust is pretty cool. The gameplay drags a little bit since Quick is kind of stingy with the ammo and it's shotgun and chaingun action until picking up the combat shotgun at the beginning of MAP07 and then later the rocket launcher. Facing down the Doom II bestiary with the lower-tier shareware weapons gives more of a survival horror feel since the monsters appear to be so much tougher; it's even worse with the prospect of wasting bullets on the headcrabs and often missing your shots on the assassins who seem tougher to pin down and more dangerous since you can't just hit them whenever they freeze since they're hitscanners.
I like the scripting, though. It's not the smoothest in the world, but this sort of interaction is a relative rarity in the Doomosphere since most PWADs are designed for a format that attempts to accentuate the action of Doom / Doom II, whether it's vanilla, limit-removing, or Boom. Friendly NPCs may take away from the absolute purity of Doom's action-horror experience, shedding some of the lonely atmosphere, but I think that it's good to push the established gameplay boundaries to see what lies beyond. Even if it can't hope to hold up to the in-game "cutscenes" of its biggest inspiration, Half-Life. Just because I don't think it can work doesn't mean that life won't, you know, find a way! Some of the best stuff is of the "blink and you'll miss it" variety, like the assassin that takes out the demon in the cargo bay with the malfunctioning electrical equipment.
Considering that Tommie's next release is one of Doomworld's Top 10 of 2001, I'm quite interested in seeing where he goes from here. Trust may not be an award-winner but it has some things definitely worth seeing, intriguing offshoots from the solid redwood trunk of the core of Doom's gameplay.
by Tommie "Fatal" Quick