Do you remember Doom? Gorescript remembers Doom; it remembers the 1993 original, and the sequel, and it remembers them well. To call it “homage” is to understate the similarity of the play experience. But let’s start from the top, and pretend for a moment that we’re encountering Gorescript in a vacuum, devoid of any knowledge of Doom. Gorescript is a title that forgoes visual splendor for the vicious speed and viscera of gameplay that has been slowly weeded out of like-genre titles. It melds a punchy electronic soundtrack with frenetic, simple gameplay and a pared-down voxel aesthetic. It would be difficult to more thoroughly boil a shooter down to its core concepts.
Yu run, and you shoot. You move, or you die.
You can pick up armor, ammo, different weapons, and special items, but none alter the basic formula. Gorescript is the simple, high-octane thrill of the early nineties. You can choose your difficulty and it alters how strong the monsters are, how much damage you do — what one might expect. Changing the difficulty also changes how your score tallies up for the leaderboard after each level.
I chose the medium difficulty and the enemies hit hard enough to kill in two-to-three shots. I lost track of how many times I replayed level two. The first time I almost beat it, I died because I flubbed a strafe-run-jump to reach the level exit (there was another way, but I was too blind to see it). If you weren’t already familiar with this trick from the original ID Software games, Gorescript teaches you how to do it earlier in the level, rewarding you with a rocket launcher. Still, the death felt cheap. Anecdotal, true, but this illustrates a point: the title doesn’t hold your hand. It’s aggressive from the get-go, with little room for slower, more methodical approaches once you’ve engaged the monsters; Gorescript doesn’t go out of its way to give you hints about where you should go or what you should do.
Paint a room with your enemies’ remains
Gorescript is strong enough in level design that I never felt lost, though. The levels get larger as you progress, and there are elements of backtracking or looping back through the levels, but you get a map in your inventory screen, and by designing around the simple-but-effective player guidance of locking doors and hinting at keys, your objective and exploration become intuitive, if non-linear. Texturing and furnishings are absent, but the architecture was varied and offered unique mechanical options for dealing with foes. The only qualm I had with the level design is that the texture palette was sparse, which served to dampen the otherwise memorable architecture.
Perhaps that’s unavoidable though, given Gorescript’s intentionally minimalist visual approach. Your weapons are easily the most elaborate models in the game, and they’re still modest in terms of visual complexity. Further, the enemies are plainer still: a red sphere with a white mouth, a blue triangle with a bright white eye, a three-eyed green slug. Unadorned, they’re immediately distinguishable at a distance, which is all the better for the high-speed target prioritization required for success. And yet — despite the liberal application of form following function — Gorescript does allow itself one graphical extravagance, in the titular gore, which comes spraying onto walls and floors as you mow down beasts left and right, their shattered corpses collapsing into piles where they fell. Of course, this ‘blood’ is effectively just monochrome, pixelated paint, colored after whatever unfortunate beast shed it, and the ‘gore’ is the same model for each type of mob, but it’s a sight to see none the less, as you paint a room with your enemies’ remains.
Gorescript’s handling is decidedly Doom,and then some
Doom had this too, of course, with sprite corpses littering the floors as you went. It didn’t have the blood decals, but I’m confident it would have, were such complex decals reasonable in those bygone days. And this is where I have to come back to Doom: Though I’ve put it off for a bit to give Gorescript a fair evaluation as its own entity, this title is a Doom-like — there are no two ways about it. It’s faster paced, with snappier, more modern control schemes, and proper 3D instead of sprites, but the sensation I got diving into this release was immediately familiar — like an old shirt you forgot about that still fits [EN: Or this]. The way the enemies move, their attack patterns, your weapons, the dim and dingy environment, everything screams homage to ID Software's classic shooter. Sergiu Bucur, Gorescript’s creator, has even gone so far as to throw some direct references into the level design, here and there. You begin the first level, for instance, standing behind three mobs in a scene that instantly evokes memories of the first level of Doom II. There’s another level where you walk into a room and a giant cylinder lowers into the ground, revealing itself to be a massive pentagram as it lets loose a horde of monsters.
It would be hard for Gorescript to be more obviously referential without actually having you fighting demons, and in some instances that might be a negative. You might call it derivative, or uninspired, say. Likewise, you might see that there doesn’t appear to be any discernible story and count that against it too, but I think these facts work in tandem to do something interesting: make this title an homage not so much in theme or aesthetic but in feel. Gorescript’s handling is decidedly Doom,and then some. What worked mechanically has been understood, distilled, and refined to leave an experience that captures in new skin the essence of what made — and still makes — ID Software’s games so great.
While intrinsically referential, Gorescript has a lot going for it on its own. With sparse environments that burst into color as the action unfolds, solid level design, and a low hand-holding, high-satisfaction difficulty curve, it’s already a title worth picking up. But, add the fast-paced, visceral combat of its early nineties inspirations and the tight, responsive controls of a modern engine, and Sergiu Bucur has demonstrated a keen understanding of both what made the arcade FPS of yesteryear great, and what could make it better: a rare homage in spirit over form.