Doors! Whether you’re trying to keep wildlife out of your home or just want to isolate yourself from loved ones, doors have always provided security and safety. Naturally, they found their way into video games, often blocking a players progression or hiding rewards behind their bolts. Not all games treat doors with the respect that they deserve, adding up to more than the sum of their parts. Here are five games in which doors are imperative to the player’s survival and if ignored, or underutilized, can have dastardly ramifications.
1. Hotline Miami 1 & 2
There’s nothing more adrenaline pumping than bashing mobsters to death with a pipe while wearing an owl mask. Hold on. I can explain. Released in 2012, Hotline Miami made an immediate impact with it’s frantic and hyper-violent gameplay to the tune of a pulsating 80’s soundtrack. A top-down shooter that prioritized speed overall, as death could come from a single blow or shot from enemies. Its story was convoluted as hell, but developer Dennaton Games made killing mobsters so intoxicating that the why of the player’s actions took a backseat to the act of performing them. At the player’s disposal is a number of melee and ranged weapons, all of which in addition to their primary use, could be thrown at enemies to stagger them. The most vital weapon of all was also the least likely:
Doors can not only conceal the player’s position from patrolling enemies but can be used for both offensive and defensive capabilities. A common strategy I utilize is to hide behind a door only to emerge once the enemie’s back is turned and I can deliver a killing blow. In a game where death is quick and constant, this strategy provides a better alternative to attacking enemies head-on using traditional weapons.
Much like when an enemy is struck by a thrown weapon, when a door collides with an enemy it will momentarily knock them over. This allows the player enough time to perform an execution, which gives even an unarmed player an opening to quickly and quietly dispatch enemies.
Doors make impossible situations plausible. Doors empower the player whether they wish to be on the offensive or defensive. Doors have even inspired me to try fist and door only playthroughs. Given the emphasis on fluidity of combat, Hotline Miami would be immensely more difficult had its door mechanics not played a pivotal role in how the player traverses levels and eliminates enemies.
2. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
There’s nothing quite like your first kill in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, even if that kill doesn’t come during your first few matches. Equal parts enjoyable and damning PUBG scratches an itch that many multiplayer shooters fail to do, by making every kill memorable. In my 60+ hours with the game, I still remember my first double kill at School, yet remain haunted by the memory of being in the top 10 and accidentally jumping out of a moving car and killing myself. PUBG is all about memorable moments, and to ensure these moments aren’t filled with memorable deaths, door management better be at the top of the player’s priorities.
Above all else, a player’s awareness of their surroundings is the key to survival. Before entering buildings, open doors are the most apparent indication that someone has been there. This is a heads up that, “hey someone has, and might still be here,” that makes me now approach with caution. When I see an open door, it makes me scan buildings and windows more carefully. Keeping track of open doors, but also remembering to close doors is vital to cover the player’s tracks.
Closing doors are also imperative for those that are going to camp inside buildings, as the sound of a door opening will alert the player to the presence of an enemy. Countless times the only reason I won a firefight was that the opening of a door warned me, giving me the upper hand even when I had inadequate weapons.
Sometimes the area the player lands in is sparse in loot. Maybe you only found a handgun with one clip? Having the drop on an enemy due to your management of doors can make even the worse weapons the most effective ones. Given the intense and heart pumping nature of PUBG, panic quickly takes hold of a majority of players. Pair good door management with the element of surprise and you’ll rarely fail to kill an unsuspecting enemy.
PUBG is a notoriously difficult game, but by creating a mental checklist of survival strategies, including door management, you can make surviving just a tad easier.
3. Left 4 Dead 1 & 2
Ah, 2008, a simpler time when developer Valve was still committed to developing games instead of developing cosmetic loot based economies within their pre-existing IP’s. 2008 gave us the timeless squad-based First Person Shooter Left 4 Dead, which pitted four players against hordes of both traditional and unique zombie types. While there were only a handful of levels, the games re-playability came from L4D’s AI. Depending on the player’s progress determines the scale of the zombie hordes and which types of special infected would appear.
Hordes are different than the handful of zombies that are usually milling around environments. Hordes are fast and plentiful, generally encompassing around 30 zombies running full speed at the player. This made the game very unpredictable giving it a seemingly infinite amount of re-playability when coupled with competitive modes and a full-fledged sequel in 2009.
Left 4 Dead had an iconic sound effect indicating that a horde was about to rush to their exact location. The music not only added dread and tension but told the player it was time to formulate an on the fly defensive strategy. Time and time again, I found that being mindful of doors and ensuring their closure played a large role in surviving hordes. Doors will stall hordes, as they require a few seconds to break down, and these few seconds can make or break a squad. A horde attempting to break down a door is very audible and gives players an indication of the direction the attack is coming from.
Just before a door is destroyed, sections of it begin to fall off which players can shoot through to weaken the horde. Being able to pare down a horde, by even just a handful, can place the odds back into players favor. Given the numerous close-quarter environments of Left 4 Dead, door management plays a crucial role in the survival of your squad. Don’t be “that” teammate who neglects their door management.
4. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Doors and stealth have always gone hand in hand. They act as both a barrier and a means to conceal what lurks behind. And if the thing lurking behind wants to kill you, that can make doors terrifying. 2010’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent was an excellent example of blending spooky atmosphere, an engaging narrative, and puzzles to craft a remarkable horror experience. Rather than relying solely on jump scares, developer Fractional Games focused on crafting an unsettling atmosphere that filled the turning of every corner with tension.
As the player had no means to defend themselves, they had to rely on crouch walking throughout environments, taking shelter behind doors when enemies approached. Careless movements lead to little else other than death in Amnesia.
Being mindful of the amount of noise the player is making is crucial to avoid garnering the attention of nearby enemies. To avoid being spotted, the player often relies on peaking through various doors of the mansion. Enemies patrol corridors, so timing is everything because once detected, enemies will charge at the player. On the other hand, the player can use doors as a barrier to avoid detection, having to decide when to wait for enemies to pass. Given a lack of combat in Amnesia, doors serve as another strategy for survival at their disposal.
Usually, the lack of combat would be a nuisance, but in Amnesia, it fits the world. You aren’t a warrior. You are a scared, defenseless person in a terrifying place. Despite the enemies resembling Pillsbury Doughboys with teeth, the atmosphere and sound design ultimately make the world of Amnesia more frightening than the things that inhabit it. At times a player’s survival is utterly reliant on the many doors that are found in the mansion.
5. Resident Evil 4
Collecting insignia keys and loading screens of doors creepily creaking open have always played a pivotal role in the Resident Evil series. Though it wasn’t until the revolutionary Resident Evil 4 that forever altered the player’s relationship with doors and the way they were able to interact with them.
Players now have the option of opening doors within a level without triggering a loading screen. In fact, the player can use these doors as a means of survival and ammo conservation. The player can either slowly push open a door, which makes less noise and will not alert enemies, or kick it open, which is faster but will alert enemies to their presence. Kicking is not only quicker but can be used offensively as well. If the player kicks open a door that enemies were standing behind, the door will knock them over giving them precious seconds to line up headshots. In a game where every bullet counts, this is a must-use strategy.
Players can also use doors as a means of funneling large groups of enemies into a cluster, ideal for conserving ammo or ensuring multiple grenade kills. Later in the game, when enemies are plentiful, and ammo is scarce, this can be a constant fallback strategy.
Rarer in its implementation, but equally as valuable, is using doors as barriers between enemies and the player. Periodically players will have the option of pushing a shelf in front of a door to briefly stop enemies from entering a building where they have sought refuge. During an enemy’s attempts to break down doors, pieces of its frame will fall off revealing the enemies on the other side. This allows the player to fire through the broken section, weakening or killing targets before they completely break through.
Despite RE4’s more action-oriented focus, this new facet of doors supports its survival horror roots, as doors have become another means with which the player can defend themselves.