Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I last reviewed anything “Doom”-related. So, I decided to take a quick look at a single-level “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD called “Dead.Wire” that won a Cacoward in 2015.
As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port when playing this WAD, but it’ll probably work on most other modern source ports too.
Anyway, let’s take a quick look at “Dead.Wire”:
“Dead.Wire” is a single-level cyberpunk/horror- themed WAD featuring new graphics, music, weapons and new enemies (well, sort of).
This level took me about forty five minutes to complete and I have a lot of things, both good and bad, to say about it. I’ll start with the good things.
One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it’s one of the most atmospheric “Doom II” levels that I’ve played in quite a while.
The best way to describe the look of this level is probably “‘Blade Runner’ meets ‘Quake II’, meets H.R. Giger meets H.P.Lovecraft“.
There are lots of new textures here and the level itself is suspended in a giant void of grey William Gibson-style static (that could have been taken straight from the opening sentence of “Neuromancer”).
There are also creepy dark caverns and all sorts of other cool, yet incredibly creepy, areas too. Seriously, this is the first time that a “Doom” level has been even vaguely scary for a long time.
All of this cool atmosphere and excellent visual design is augmented by an astonishingly good soundtrack – which mostly consists of “Blade Runner”-style ambient sounds, ominous whispers and the occasional musical note too.
This level also features some really cool new weapons too. The rocket launcher has been replaced with a flamethrower (with an alternate fire that allows you to make fuel trails) and the pistol has been replaced by the Doom alpha rifle (which now has a shotgun-like alternate fire).
In addition to this, the plasma rifle has been replaced by a much more powerful laser rifle (albeit at the cost of a reduced ammo capacity), the chaingun has been replaced by an assault rifle and the BFG has been replaced by a rapid-firing plasma burst gun of some kind.
I love the new weapons in this WAD. They all look and feel really cool and they help to keep the gameplay fresh and interesting. However, this is where I start talking about the bad elements of this WAD. The first of these is that there is no super shotgun in this level.
This may sound like a small thing, but given that you’ll soon find yourself fighting lots of mid-level enemies with nothing more powerful than the “basic” shotgun near the beginning of the level, the lack of a super shotgun is a fairly significant omission.
In terms of the gameplay, this level is fairly challenging – but often in frustrating and/or cheaply unfair ways, rather than enjoyable ways.
For example, in order to progress to the last part of the level – you must light three torches, by discovering various parts of the level. This is put there to ensure that you explore everywhere. In itself, this isn’t a bad thing, but one of the required areas you have to find is almost a secret area.
Likewise, when you find the flamethrower, you have to battle your way through a large darkened arena filled with pinky demons and arch-viles. In itself, this isn’t too bad. However, thanks to the lack of the super shotgun, the only really effective weapon here is the laser rifle.
Of course, since you get the laser rifle earlier in the level (and because there’s no super shotgun) you’ll probably need it to deal with several of the earlier monsters. But, if you don’t conserve your laser ammo in these early parts of the level – then you’re pretty much screwed during this arch-vile arena battle.
Then there’s the monsters themselves. Although there are no new new monsters, many of the traditional “Doom II” monsters now come in invisible form (like the “spectre” monsters).
Although this is a really cool idea, it ends up being more frustrating than enjoyable in practice since, in the early parts of the level, you’ll find yourself against invisible Barons and Cacodemons, with nothing more than the basic shotgun at your disposal. But, that’s not the worst part.
At the very end of the level, you have to battle three waves of invisible monsters in a small arena. The first wave consists of invisible imps. The second wave consists of invisible Barons. Now, this is annoying, but it’s just about within the limits of what you might expect from a vaguely fair “Doom II” level.
This part is amusingly tricky, because the game gives you the new BFG a few seconds before you enter the arena. Your instinct is to try out this new gun, but it isn’t a close-range weapon – so, it’s fairly useless when you’re surrounded by monsters in a small arena. Use the laser rifle instead.
However, after you’ve had fun vanquishing the invisible Barons and imps, it’s time for the third wave and this is where the game gets unfair.
The third wave consists of two invisible cyberdemons. In a small arena. Yes, you heard me correctly. I just about managed to beat this part of the level without cheating (I think I just waited for the timer on the exit to count down) but, even by my standards, this crosses the line from enjoyably challenging to frustratingly unfair.
All in all, this is one of the most atmospheric and visually stunning WADs that I’ve seen in a long time. However, it is let down by some incredibly frustrating gameplay.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get six for atmosphere/visual design and two for gameplay.