Well, it’s been a while since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD and, since it seems to be some kind of informal rule of mine that I review at least one per month, I thought that I’d check out a WAD called “Back To The Thunder Road“. I should probably point out that I was fairly tired when I wrote this review and played the WAD, so this may affect the review.
Likewise, I accidentally used the”ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, looking at the text file, “GZDoom” is recommended. But “Boom” is mentioned on the “New Stuff” review that introduced me to this WAD, which recommends “ZDoom”. The only side-effect I found with using “ZDoom” was that there were quite a few ‘hall of mirrors’ glitches, especially near the end of the WAD. However, technically speaking, you probably just need a modern source port that allows jumping.
Anyway, let’s take a quick look at “Back To The Thunder Road”:
“Back To The Thunder Road” is a six-level WAD (with a small ending level) that features new music and new level completion screen backgrounds. For the most part, it is a “vanilla” WAD that only features the standard “Doom II” monsters, textures and weapons. But, don’t let this put you off.
Although the six levels in this WAD are relatively short, they are surprisingly well-designed. This is a WAD that is aimed at experienced intermediate players, and it walks a very fine line between using difficult “traditional” levels and more strategy-based modern “slaughtermap”-style gameplay. In other words, there are times when it makes sense to fight every monster you see and there are times when it doesn’t.
However, some of the difficulty in this WAD is achieved through occasionally giving the player a relatively limited supply of ammo. Whilst I didn’t find this to be too bad or too extreme, some players might not like this type of difficulty.
For the most part, the gameplay in this WAD is fast and thrilling. Some of the levels include clever set pieces, such as placing several doors around a lift shaft – meaning that the player has to pretty much run through the door whilst the lift is moving. Naturally, there sometimes isn’t much space – and a mid-level monster or two lurking behind the door.
The best level in the WAD is probably the sixth level. Although the earlier parts of it might not be to everyone’s taste since, apart from a cool vertically-sliding pit area, most of the level sits somewhere between “thrillingly streamlined” and “fairly linear”. However, the last part of the level is either extremely clever or extremely evil, depending on how you look at it.
In the final part of the level, you’ll find a large tower with a thin spiral staircase that runs around the edge. In addition to this, there is a literal swarm of cacodemons heading right at you. So far, so easy…
You obviously can’t fight all of the cacodemons, so your instinct will probably be to run up the stairs. Of course, your path is blocked by a few low-level monsters that are standing on the stairs. No problem? Well, in the few seconds you’ve taken blasting these monsters into smithereens, the swarm of cacodemons has started flying upwards towards you and has started to block your path. In level design terms, it’s either absolutely evil or absolutely genius.
Of course, there is a way to beat the level – if you’re willing to realise that both trial-and-error and the usual “Doom II” tactics have their limits, and outside-the-box thinking is required sometimes. But, when you do work out what you need to do in order to complete this part of the level, it is absolutely epic. I’m not going to tell you the solution, but I will give you a hint – look closely at the ammo types you find on the stairs and whether they all match the weapons you’re currently holding.
In terms of music, this WAD is filled with some absolutely awesome 1980s/90s style synth music that gives the game a wonderfully retro atmosphere 🙂 Seriously, I love the music in this WAD.
All in all, “Back To The Thunder Road” is a relatively short, but fun, WAD that will give even experienced “Doom II” players a bit of a challenge. The levels are small, but what they lack in quantity, they often make up for in quality.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.