A reader recalls one of the most memorable boss encounters from the early years of FPS gaming and explains why it’s still one of his favourites.
I arise in a slimy dungeon with cadavers adorning the walls, quickly becoming wary and alert. There is a squat pillar with four buttons on each side in front of me, the room is windowless and doorless. My sweaty hand clutches at the pulse rifle instinctively. What will the buttons do? There was really only one way to find out, I circle the pillar punching each button in turn and don’t have to wait long for something to happen. Stairs emerge from the floor, rising in turn as the cadavers sink back into recesses in the wall before sliding to one side. The result is four exits, one for each point of the compass.
A sense of urgency presses me to randomly select the northern exit and I’m met with a familiar abomination, one I have met many times before now and dispatch with practised ease, the thrum of the rifle and the crackle of the balls of lightning making short work of it. I take a few steps and find myself in a wide-open space. Up until now this place has been closed in, space has been tight and hard to come by, suddenly this abundance of it is disconcerting and disorientating. Like an agoraphobic shut-in forced out their front door I feel a pang of panic and questions swirl in my head. Why have they opened it up now? What could need all this space? And how do I get out of here?
I try to get my bearings, glancing at the blood red sky with dark clouds racing across it like a celestial grand national, the thought pops into my head, ‘That can’t be good’. Pillars dot the landscape, each with a hideous face carved into their surface over and over again. I wander to the northern wall, across the waves of black sand that blanket the ground and come up against an impervious brown granite wall. ‘So, it’s an arena is it?’, I think to myself. But for what? Me, obviously but what else? As I trace the progress of the wall, I run my hands over it, looking in vain for the vestiges of a hidden door – not an impossibility since many have been peppered throughout the facility – when suddenly a deafening sound breaks the silence.
My blood runs cold, I spin round, bring up my pulse rifle and blindly fire, the rifle springing to life and belching forth chain lightning. It’s then the full horror of my situation closes in on me. Standing in front of me is a monstrosity the likes of which I’ve never seen before. I’d estimate it stands 10 to 13 foot tall, a vicious bull-like face curled into a permanent snarl, a brown bodybuilder’s torso rent in twain and joined to its mechanical legs by a series of tubes. On one of its arms is a carelessly grafted rocket launcher. So, this is a Cyberdemon, I think to myself, the majesty and horror freezes me in place until I see it move purposefully towards me and then the adrenaline hits.
I move, running pell-mell towards the nearest of the pillars, bearing what I now recognise to be the Cyberdemon’s ugly visage, and slide behind it as a trio of rockets whistle past my ears. I clumsily fumble to swap my ineffectual pulse rifle for my own rocket launcher in a hopeless attempt to make the uneven playing field a little less unbalanced, and so a dance begins.
This frantic polka involves me strafing out from behind my pillar, quickly firing off a few desperate unaimed rounds, then diving back behind the pillar to evade the flaming death tossed from that deformed left arm. The worst part of an already bad dream is looking at my pitiful ammo count flickering downwards until my supply of rockets is bone dry. Onto the chaingun for the next stanza, until it is spinning empty barrels, then the pulse rife ,and finally the shotgun – the terror of being defenceless facing that thing was manifesting before my eyes. And then it finally, gloriously fell over. The joypad tumbled out of my hands as relief flooded my body.
This was my experience of facing the Cyberdemon for the first time, an Iconic moment in gaming. Doom was 27 on 10th of December this year. Very few gaming memories can last that length of time and still bring you back to the time and place you were when you first experienced them. The depth of horror I felt that day is still palpable and can bubble to the front of my mind occasionally, completely out of nowhere, and it reminds me about how amazing this medium can be at times.
By reader Dieflemmy (gamertag/PSN ID/NN ID)
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