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Rifle Infantry

An Ode To The Zombieman

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Here's some writing about my favorite monster in the bestiary (if I'm right to spell it that way).

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DOOM's bestiary is a varied one.

From stalking Imps, to waddling Mancubi, to stomping Cyberdemons, there's pretty much everything Hell needs to bring death to a Marine.

The map-maker's devious hand can bring Arch-Viles to teach the player what happens to the foolishly brave. They can bring hordes of Demons to chase down an unlucky human and tear them to so much raw meat. They can fill dark, flickering corridors with Imps and Cacodemons.

Among the varied, powerful stock of hellions, it's easy to forget the first one, however.

The Zombieman.

His introduction is in the very same breath as yours. You spawn, a little black pistol gripped in your sweating fist. Fifty 10mm bullets in your pack.

Ahead of you, what looks like another human stands, his back turned. But something is wrong. His clothing is bloody, his hair green with nukage stain.

You decide that it's better to be safe, and fire off a shot. The "human" turns around, and you see your first inkling of the eldritch horrors of Hell.

His eyes, burning red with possessed intensity. Blood-stained mouth and shirt indicate that he has found kills before. And in a few seconds, his rifle levels- and Hell fires back for the first time.

And misses.

As you put down this ex-human with a few more shots, you're taught a few critical things about Doom. One- Hell will kill you if you let them. Two- Hellions bleed. And what a beautiful revelation Two is.

You notice something sitting among the bloody corpse. A clip of extra bullets- that should be enough to make up for your wasted shots. As you trot over to collect it, another zombie rounds the corner. This time, you aren't so shaky- a few shots into its rotless mass and the thing drops down with an animalistic groan.

Combat seems to become a rush as Doom progresses. When you find the Shotgun, an anachronism for 2145- sitting in a corridor, awaiting you- you feel like you have the power of Zeus in your hands, flinging thunderbolts of buckshot at hapless demons. Imps become a non-issue, and even the Sergeants- packing the same lead as you- fall quickly. Among these, the zombieman becomes inconsequential. His role of starting your adventure off with a bang has since passed.

It seems like the zombieman is almost left out in this situation. His marksmanship is terrible, he takes naught but a few shots to deal with, and he marches slowly, even more so than the Sergeants, making him the easiest target in the world. His single shot only troubles you if you are close to death- where a close encounter with a Sergeant as you round the corner would make you panic and fumble to get him before he can get you, a zombieman confronting you is no need to hurry up.

You begin seeing these things with a predatory eye as your Doom skills improve across countless levels, custom WADs, and replaying. Eventually, the zombieman becomes naught more than a walking clip of bullets to many, something they should focus their attention on for one second, then move on.

Yet in the face of this adversity, in the face of his complete obsolescence, the zombieman seems to persevere. Even right up to the final strongholds, you see his bloody, tan-shirted silhouette march alongside Barons of Hell and Arch-Viles. Here, he is no more of a threat than in that crucial first level- but certainly in far greater number.

Of all the monsters in Doom, the zombieman is the weakest. Paradoxically, this makes him the most fun to fight. Even your lowly shotgun feels powerful as it rips through crowds of zombiemen, and shredding entire armies with your bullet-spitting chaingun is perhaps one of the most fun things you can do.

He is like an Imperial stormtrooper to your Han Solo. He pops up everywhere- in corridors, on sniper's perches, in great open atriums. He exists to fire off one shot, perhaps two if he is lucky or undetected, to make you jump slightly as a bullet puff kicks up on the wall close to your head, then to fall in dramatic fashion as you blast him with a super-shotgun, or to come apart into satisfying giblets when he makes the mistake of crowding into a mass of Demons about to meet your BFG-9000.

The zombieman meets his end from his allies nearly as much as from you. His inaccurate hitscan attack means that a squad of zombies will often whittle down to a lone, wounded survivor- purely through their own infighting- and he will lose to essentially any enemy in an infight. He takes on the role of Doom's court jester in some levels, making the mistake of annoying a Baron of Hell, only to violently explode once he is hit with greenish Hellfire.

All of these innumerable factors combine to make an unchallenging Goomba of an enemy- a stepping stone, as it would see. But overconfidence is the death of many a player- nothing is more frustrating than seeing a lowly zombieman fire the killing shot, bringing an abrupt end to a tight situation, a massive firefight, or a train of ripping and tearing in berserk rage.

He is weakness personified.

He is a backdrop among his comrades.

He is the Goomba of Doom.

He is the Zombieman, and I think he's the best monster out of the bestiary.

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I hope that wasn't horrifically long and overblown.

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Grain of Salt said:

  • The first monster you meet is a sergeant.
  • FH and sergeants have the same walking speed.
  • Any hitscanner is more of a threat than an imp.
6/10


1. Only on UV Doom. HMP, it's the zombieman, and Doom 2 on all difficulties (plus most custom WADs, hence why I opted for the intro I did) as well.
2. They don't, actually, or at least not in ZDoom. They both have a Speed value of 8 in ZScript, but zombiemen have a 4-tic delay between A_Chase intervals, while sergeants have 3- making them very slightly faster.
3. Imps are much more threatening than zombiemen, though I'd say they're equivalent or less than sergeants. They can do up to 26 or so damage with fireballs IIRC, and when they surround you in closed-in environments claw attacks are quite deadly.

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I should've double-checked the frame durations in WhackEd I guess.

I will fight you to the death about imp/FH threat, though. When you enter a room, you kill FH before imps. Putting imps on the same level as shotgunners is just plain wrong. Imps are only dangerous if your space is very limited. Shotgunners are dangerous all the time.

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Rifle Infantry said:

...and even the Sergeants- packing the same lead as you- fall quickly.


Uhhh...they don't: their shotguns only fire three pellets at a time, and each pellet's minimum damage (3) is less than the player's (5). That's why they are so angry and mean and feel the need to assert their manliness by pumping Doomguy full of their hot, manly magnum lead ;-) The Zombieman, with its single shot, wouldn't make a convincing argument, while a Sergeant ripping Doomguy a new one with 45 HP of damage makes a pretty darn convincing one.

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damn, that was really freakin' good, dude! it wasn't overblown or long, so don't worry. it was perfect, and gives the reason as to why the zombiemen are used within the maps. it really is great, and i think that you should do more stuff like this - it's amazing!

although, i think you have a bit of a fetish for them.

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Dammit guys why are you so nitpicky go write a better one

Excellently written, Rifle Infantry. So overlooked, but at the same time he never loses his confidence and never stops trying. We should look up to the Zombieman.

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Maes said:

Uhhh...they don't: their shotguns only fire three pellets at a time, and each pellet's minimum damage (3) is less than the player's (5). That's why they are so angry and mean and feel the need to assert their manliness by pumping Doomguy full of their hot, manly magnum lead ;-) The Zombieman, with its single shot, wouldn't make a convincing argument, while a Sergeant ripping Doomguy a new one with 45 HP of damage makes a pretty darn convincing one.


The bit on the sergeant's lead was meant to show off their power, even if they do less damage for whatever in-universe reason; as you said, sergeants are something that makes you jump if you run into them around a corner. Truth be told, Doomguy is a glass cannon- many of the "weak" monsters, like Sergeants and Imps, actually do a respectable amount of damage, just that you tend to very quickly kill them. Zombiemen are the only "true" weak monster in Doom, one that you can safely ignore most of the time until you're done dealing with the bigger threats in a room.

Grain of Salt said:

I should've double-checked the frame durations in WhackEd I guess.

I will fight you to the death about imp/FH threat, though. When you enter a room, you kill FH before imps. Putting imps on the same level as shotgunners is just plain wrong. Imps are only dangerous if your space is very limited. Shotgunners are dangerous all the time.


Imps try to close in melee, and that gives a bit of psychological pressure. They're very easy to avoid at long range, but so are former humans' gunshots. I will concur with Sergeants- they're always a threat over Imps- but at very close range, where making a mistake or running into a wall while dodging will get you hurt, often badly- Imps are the superior threat to zombiemen.

Part of that is because of the fact that their number is legion, but also because they're both perfectly accurate, do more damage, and can actually survive a close-range shotgun blast. One of the most frustrating things in Doom is being trapped in a corner and slashed to death because your shotgun couldn't kill fifty Imps fast enough (e.g. the red key room in Darken2.wad, MAP02)

roadworx said:

although, i think you have a bit of a fetish for them.


*silently hides zombie-senpai pillow under bed*

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Hectic said:

Nice to see some love going for this guy.


Yes. Despite him being the weakest monster in Doom, that doesn't stop him from relentlessly tracking down Doomguy (or any foe, for that matter), and despite his firepower-manhood not being as powerful as that of the Sergeant, that doesn't stop him from firing it defiantly and with pride. It's as if he's saying the world "I don't care if my gun is too weak, I'm pitchin' and you're cathin' it!". And boy, sometimes do they pitch...

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Love the way he seems severely short-sighted, or at least becomes much more aggressive up close. At a distance he might meander around almost oblivious to the player. Get one right next to you though, and vacation time is over - he'll often get the first shot in.

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Grain of Salt said:

I should've double-checked the frame durations in WhackEd I guess.

I will fight you to the death about imp/FH threat, though. When you enter a room, you kill FH before imps. Putting imps on the same level as shotgunners is just plain wrong. Imps are only dangerous if your space is very limited. Shotgunners are dangerous all the time.


Yeah, Zombieman have higher priority than Imps. Anyway, I think the real fodder are the pinkies, though. They rarely are a threat, while Imps can annoy a bit more with their fireballs and strong melee.

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TBQH, the Zombieman -and any hitscanner, for that matter- could be made much more threatening/annoying by NOT attempting to get at melee range at any cost -they have no melee attack, anyway.

Especially for the Zombieman, I'd add an extra flag to A_Chase() which would keep a monster at a minimum distance away from the player, and increasing his long-range accuracy, so that he'd preferentially "peck" at the player from afar. This way he would be much more damaging/a serious threat. Shotgun sergeants and chaingunners need no change OTOH.

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That's deep. You could write a novel if you wanted to. Your vocabulary seems pretty rich to me (I'm not a native English speaker).
I prefer the Sergeant as a hitscan ,because he is more of a threat and drops shotgun shells (my favorite weapon in Doom), but the Zombieman surely looks better in my opinion and appears in the game from start to finish.

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The interesting thing about the Zombieman is, because he's an unavoidable hitscan, the threat level becomes exponentially higher when you're low on health. I have actually gotten killed by these SOB's because one got a lucky shot when I was already at near death from the other monsters. In that sense, you could say Zombieman is like the opportunist. He waits until you're vulnerable, knowing you won't take him seriously, and then he pops you from nowhere. I actually prioritize Zombiemen ahead of Barons or Imps or Cacodemons, etc for this one simple reason, you can't avoid their fire. They will wear you down if you neglect them.

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Besides low-health situations, Zombiemen become even more terrifying in double damage mode (like the infamous "Ducks" hard & fast survival maps on ZDaemon). Hearing that single pistol and seeing the puff barely missing you, while not being able to see the shooter immediately can be more nerve-wracking and paranoia-inducing than having to fight an Archvile at close quarters. How soon will that SOB fire again? Are there others? WHERE are they? HOW FAR are they? Will I be covered if I run in that direction? FUUUUUCK!!!!

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Ever wondered why their hair is green?

It's the mold. (Extra points for Maes for getting it right).

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