First entry for the Escape series that merges the continuity of both DOOM and the conclusion to Escape from LA, introducing us to Snake after he awakens from a fifteen year cryosleep having been imprisoned by UAC. His past actions helped them gain power which has now lead them to tampering with things they shouldn’t have. CEO of the Deimos Moonbase, Carmack, gets in touch over a monitor feed demanding Snake to help. He must seek out a Blue, Yellow and Red Skull to power up the shuttle on Phobos and take it to Deimos to save him before the demons come knocking at his door.
EFD is a three level scenario that would otherwise appear like a random assortment of settings without the story context to help fill in the gaps as to what your goal here is supposed to be. Each entry contains one of the aforementioned Skulls needed to power the escape shuttle by the end of MAP03, brief excursions that involve some minor puzzles based around switch setups, used to manipulate platform levels or building staircases to help reach the required items. In practise these aren’t much hassle to solve but do expect additional inspection for switches that seemingly do nothing until another has been activated or there’s a timing element. Combat is kept light without too much out of the ordinary, despite making use of stronger foes as early as MAP01 and remains on the easier side of the scale. Any meaningful threat is typically positioned for ranged attacks across the wider distances or hitscan grunts at higher elevations. Enemy usage is otherwise quite mild that I honestly considered all the slime pits to be more troublesome hazards, only because getting back out of them is a nuisance while losing a bunch of health. For some odd reason zombiemen have had their alert grunt replaced with a thunderous boom noise and I couldn’t quite figure out what that was supposed to convey here. Christenson does take advantage of replacing enemy sounds like this again during the sequels EFD and EFN to fake ambience despite the awkward results, where as this first attempt seems like a pointless alteration.
MAP01: Phobos Lab
Deals with Snake grabbing the Blue Skull. Starting right where the story document left off inside a cyrosleep chamber housing a row of pods, some with less fortunate inhabitants, I do like how you can’t exit this room before pressing a computer by the door. That alone teaches that these will usually act as switches and should always be inspected going forward. The object in question is hidden above a massive toxic pool with an onlooking room housing control switches, where a little bit of platform manipulation and timing is then required to reach it. Getting pulled into a little hell pit offshoot is a nice touch to break up the visuals with two Archviles protecting some goods. They lack some punch as they’re easy to dispatch with corners to peek from, but the ambushing foes upon exit at least makes up for it.
MAP02: Phobos Nuclear Plant
The portal whisks us away into an alternative take on DOOM’s E1M2, it’s hallways now dark and destroyed as if we’re following behind the footsteps of Doomguy. Your only path leads outside towards a deadend until a new doorway suddenly phases into existence, an invisible force beckoning you to push on through. This level diverts quickly from its initial techbase theme to become what looks like a canal system made up primarily of brick and pipework, possibly for wastage from the plant itself. The Yellow Skull is suspended up high on a pillar in the central pool with no immediate access points for now. There’s an awkward sequence of switches, teleportation and crossing your fingers hoping that the only Hazsuit doesn’t run dry before accessing the control room. I wasn’t sold on the overall execution to progress through this level as it seemed to lack any sense of flow. The only Cyberdemon and Mastermind additions were wasted as neither of them cause much concern proceeding with the next steps. Acquiring the Red key was also an obscure tidbit, interacting directly with the platform blocking it is needed to lower the wall without much clue that this was necessary. Only found that because I have a habit of pressing my use key on anything remotely suspicious.
MAP03: Hell Hanger
Contains our last Red Skull and an escape off Phobos, a launch facility of some kind that didn’t invoke that impression on first glance, thinking I’m somewhere more suited to a demon’s inhabitat from the texturing scheme alone. There’s an emphasis on wider spaces and long hallways here that provides more of an advantage for ranged enemies, especially for those overlooking the tight walkway leading to the Red Skull platform. The key itself is an easy enough grab if you’re quick to the switch and avoid incoming fire as it lowers. Now all that remains is to head for the northern launch platform, edging along the outer corridors all packed with stronger foes that act as walls to slow you down. A massive Arachnotron onslaught stands as the final barrier which poses as one of the more tougher fights if only because of the potential mess of projectiles to watch out for. There’s more than enough cover and so long as they aren’t given an opportunity to flank around it’s easiliy doable. The shuttle itself is a nice construction though, I like the simplicity using triangular shapes and custom textures for signage and a side hatch.
First out of three releases, EFP on its own doesn’t offer much of an impression for this series so far. The levels included are average excursions with some light puzzle aspects and easy combat, but what it does do well is establish a basic storyline with an objective to pursue providing these maps with a little more context in their otherwise disjointed design. This reminded me of GALAXIA which in part attracted me to check out these levels. I much prefer the latter Escape series levels compared to Phobos, but still found it fascinating to see where Christenson developed up until the finale on Natas.