Review: “Twisted Metal 1024” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“A Canticle For Liebowitz” by Walter M. Miller Jr ), because it has been nearly a month since my last “Doom II” WAD review and because there hasn’t really been much gaming-related stuff on here recently (I’d planned to finish and review either “Braid” and/or “Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure”, but got distracted by playing “Devil Daggers” again) – I thought it was time to review a “Doom II” WAD.

And, after clicking the “random file” button on the /idgames Archive a few times, I eventually found an interesting-looking WAD from 2006 called “Twisted Metal 1024“.

As usual, I used the GZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD – although I guess that it will probably work on pretty much any source port. It might even possibly work on the original DOS/Windows 95-8 versions of “Doom II” or “Final Doom”, but I haven’t tested this.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Twisted Metal 1024”:

“Twisted Metal 1024” is a small single-level WAD that also contains new MIDI background music too.

From everything I’ve read about it, it was created for a map-making contest where every map had to be no more than 1024 x 1024 (not sure of the exact units) in size. In other words, it is a fairly small level.

Not that you’ll really notice this all the time.

The main reason for limitations like this is to force level designers to be creative – and this WAD absolutely excels here πŸ™‚ Seriously, if you want an example of well-planned, compact level design that makes the absolute most of the space available, then play this level.

It is filled with carefully-placed passages and walkways that intersect or even – sort of- pass above each other (thanks to the running jump feature of the original “Doom” engine), which not only make the level feel significantly larger than it actually is, but also allow for some really good level progression too.

This is also helped by some well-placed enemy spawns in previously-visited areas.

Progress through the level is achieved by pressing switches to open doors and/or finding skull keys. Although this adds a certain amount of linearity to the level, the fact that you often have to backtrack to find doors lends the level a feeling of non-linearity, whilst the compact size of the level also means that you don’t have to worry about getting lost or stuck in the way that you might do in larger levels πŸ™‚

There are also a few other cool level design tricks that add length to the level whilst keeping the map size down, such as a fast-paced and claustrophobic corridor segment involving switches, walls and monster closets. Seriously, I cannot praise the design of this level highly enough πŸ™‚

In terms of difficulty, this is a mildly-moderately challenging level that mostly features low-level enemies and a couple of mid-level enemies. Whilst this might not sound like much of a challenge, the claustrophobic rooms and corridors mean there is relatively little cover when encountering monsters, and the careful placement of several chaingun zombies can whittle your health down fairly quickly if you aren’t careful (and there are just enough health power-ups, but don’t expect loads of them here. Likewise, there’s no super-shotgun to make things easier). This results in a fun, and sometimes frantic, level that is more reminiscent of classic 1990s “Doom II” levels than more modern WADs.

And, yes, this was a bit of a surprise πŸ™‚

As for the new music, it is the kind of fast-paced classic-style music that you’d expect to hear in a level like this. It really helps to add a bit of retro atmosphere to the level, although it probably isn’t quite as memorable as some of the music from the original games.

All in all, this is a really fun little level πŸ™‚ If you want a short, classic-style level that also contains some excellent level design and planning, then this one is well worth checking out πŸ™‚

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “WARm Welcome 2” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”)

Well, since I was still reading the next book I plan to review (“Survivor” by Chuck Palahniuk) and I wanted to make sure that at least one “Doom II” WAD review appeared here this month, I decided to take a quick look at a level from 2005 (?) called “WARm Welcome 2” which I found after clicking the “Random File” button on the /idgames Archive a few times.

Although I used the GZDoom source port whilst playing this level, it will probably work with pretty much any modern source port (and may possibly even work with the original DOS/ Windows versions of “Doom II” or “Final Doom”, although I haven’t tested it).

So, let’s take a look at “WARm Welcome 2”:

This is a fairly short single-level “vanilla” WAD (eg: it only uses the standard textures, monsters, music etc..) and, for what it is, it is actually fairly impressive. Although, with only low-mid level monsters, it isn’t too challenging (even if, like me, you’re very slightly out of practice) it contains some really cool set pieces and level design moments that make it stand out a little bit.

In addition to using a different theme for the textures in each area, the level also has a bit of a medieval theme – with a pitched battle against a small crowd of imps hiding behind a wall or a part of the level where you are fighting from the battlements of a castle against monsters on another set of battlements, this level looks really cool for a “vanilla” level πŸ™‚

This battle against a group of imps hiding behind a wall is fairly small-scale but still seems more epic than it looks.

Woo hoo! This castle-like area is like “Game Of Thrones” πŸ™‚

The level design is really good too, with the basic design of the level a very short – but mildly non-linear – trip through a few themed rooms that contain walls, bridges, stairs and other cool stuff like that. But, the most interesting thing about this level’s design is that you probably won’t see the best parts of the level during your first playthrough.

In other words, whilst it’s possible to complete the level in about five minutes whilst only seeing about four or five areas, this is a level that rewards exploration πŸ™‚ And this is where the level design really shines. The level will give you tantalising glimpses of areas that aren’t immediately accessible (like the moat between the battlements, the space behind the wall etc…) and it is up to you to work out how to get there. Although this isn’t too difficult, these optional exploration segments add a bit of extra interest and life to this tiny level.

Yes, this area isn’t even a secret, but can be easy to miss if you don’t look for it.

They also have an interesting effect on the difficulty of the level. If, like me, you don’t bother looking for them on your first playthrough then the level’s combat is made mildly more challenging thanks to the fact that you’ll only have the pistol, basic shotgun and – later – chaingun at your disposal to fight the level’s 114 low-mid level monsters.

Which is about the only way to make a battle like this anything close to a challenge.

However, if you look for these areas, then you’ll find a few more powerful weapons that make the level an absolute breeze to complete. So, the difficulty level depends on how willing you are to explore – which is a really cool touch.

All in all, whilst this is a rather short and easy “vanilla” level, it is a reasonably fun one – with some cool-looking areas, a bit of interesting design and a welcome focus on exploration πŸ™‚

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would just about get a four.

Review: “Terror!” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“The Rosewater Insurrection” by Tade Thompson) and because I wanted to make sure that at least one “Doom II” WAD review appeared here this month, I decided to click on the “Random File” button on the /idgames Archive until something interesting appeared. And, after a while, I found a rather amusing WAD from either 1995 or 2005 (the information is a little ambiguous/contradictory, but I’m guessing it’s from 1995) called “Terror!“.

As usual, I used the GZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD. However, it’ll probably work with almost every source port (and possibly even the original DOS/Win 95 versions of “Doom II” and “Final Doom” too).

So, let’s take a look at “Terror!”:

“Terror!” is a fairly small and fairly “vanilla” (eg: it uses standard textures, monsters etc…) level that also contains some custom MIDI music too. The basic premise of the level is that you are visiting an ancient Greek temple and have to fight some monsters there.

Interestingly, this is the kind of single-player level that would probably work well (or even better) in co-op and/or deathmatch – given that it takes place in a single arena-like room with a simple temple-like structure in the middle.

The text file accompanying the WAD points out that the design of the level took inspiration from level 7 of “Doom II” and, whilst it is easy to see the influence and it is cool that the mapper has done something a bit different with the idea, don’t expect the same level of complexity or level design here.

In terms of the level design, this level is a hilariously fun “so bad that it is good” level. In addition to starting the level with two Cyberdemons in sight, the level exit switch can literally be found within less than a minute of starting the level. This is a level that, theoretically, you can probably complete in less than ten seconds and without firing a single shot. But, where is the fun in that?

Yes, THIS is literally right around the corner.

If you refuse to press the exit switch until you’ve defeated all of the monsters, then this is actually a rather enjoyable little arena level that – if it was made in 1995 – was something of a precursor to the “slaughter map” WADs that would become popular during the ’00s onwards. Although it doesn’t contain a huge number of monsters, it makes up for this by including nothing but mid-high level monsters. In addition to about four Cyberdemons, there are also two Arch-Viles, a Pain Elemental, a Mancubus and a couple of chaingun zombies and Arachnotrons too.

All of this is completely optional, but rather enjoyable nonetheless.

This is balanced out by the level’s wide-open layout (with lots of cover and space for dodging/strafing) and the fact that there is a decent amount of health and ammo scattered around the level. Whilst experienced players will probably find this level to be mildly-moderately challenging at most, I imagine that it’d probably pose more of a challenge to novice players. Still, it is a fun way to waste 10-20 minutes if you stick around and actually fight the monsters.

As I mentioned earlier, this WAD also contains some custom MIDI music and this is also part of the level’s charm. In classic 1990s fashion, a simple MIDI cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” plays in the background. In addition to being hilariously incongruous with the fast-paced action of the level (in a gloriously amateurish “isn’t this cool?” way) , this also made me very nostalgic for the days when finding MIDI covers of songs on the internet was the coolest thing ever. Seriously, if you grew up in the 1990s/early-mid 2000s, then this level is worth playing for the hilarious internet nostalgia alone πŸ™‚

All in all, this level is “so bad that it’s good”. If you want a bit of 1990s nostalgia or a wonderfully silly level that you can mess about in without too much pressure (since, if it gets too challenging, you can just press the “exit” button), then this level will provide 10-20 minutes of amusement. Still, I imagine that it is probably even more enjoyable in co-op or deathmatch, if only because of the sheer silliness of the four Cyberdemons that you’ll also be sharing the level with.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get about a three.

Review: “Behead The Undead (v1.2)” (WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ Zandronum)

Well, since I’m still reading the next book I plan to review and because, at the time of writing, I’d been obsessively playing the early access preview for “Ion Maiden Fury” (rather than any new full games. EDIT: Yes, I write these reviews very far in advance), I thought that I’d take a quick look at a really interesting “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD from 2019 called “Behead The Undead (v1.2)“.

Although this WAD (technically a “.pk3”) will apparently work on other source ports if you have the right spawner files, it works “out of the box” with the Zandronum source port. So, out of laziness, I used this instead of GZDoom.

So, let’s take a look at “Behead The Undead (v 1.2)”:

“Behead The Undead (v1.2)” is a nine-level co-op/single player WAD that includes new monsters, levels, weapons, player sprites, sounds etc.. and (despite apparently being inspired by “Timesplitters 2” and one of the “Call Of Duty” zombie modes) also seems to takes heavy inspiration from the “Left 4 Dead” games.

And, yes, it’s always great to see “Left 4 Dead” stuff in Doom II WADs πŸ™‚ The only other example I can think of is “Aeons Of Death (v 6.06.1)

Since I have very nostalgic memories of playing the “Left 4 Dead” games during the early 2010s (back when I didn’t mind Steam’s always-online DRM and before they stuck their middle finger up at Windows XP users – of which I was one until several months before preparing this review) and since I enjoyed the “Timesplitters” games when I was a teenager, I was intrigued.

Although there are some “Timesplitters” references, this mod doesn’t have the precision aiming needed to copy the “Behead The Undead” mode from “Timesplitters 2” (which is probably a good thing, given how frustrating that game mode could be). So, it is more like Left 4 Dead 2’s “survival” mode, where you choose a level and then have to fight wave after wave of monsters for as long as possible. You get a ten-second break between rounds and ammo/health/weapons will also respawn too.

In terms of the gameplay, this is a challenging WAD (on single-player, at least. Unlike L4D2, there are no AI companions here) that can be enjoyed in either short bursts or for longer gaming sessions. Even on the middle difficulty setting, you won’t last more than a few seconds if you get surrounded by zombies. So, just like in games such as “Alien Shooter“, the best strategy is to never let yourself get surrounded – either by constantly running/shooting or by finding an area that the zombies can’t get to easily.

Of course, if you’re playing co-op, then you probably stand slightly more of a chance against the zombie hordes.

In other words, this is a frantic, fast-paced WAD that is a lot of fun to play. The new weapons help out here a lot, with a balance between power, rate of fire, rarity and ammo supply that keeps you constantly feeling vulnerable. About half of the weapons are powerful enough to actually give you a fighting chance (eg: the dual pistols, double-barelled shotgun, sniper rifle, minigun and nuke launcher), but have some kind of disadvantage to balance them. For example, the double-barelled shotgun’s manual reload takes a second or two, the ammo-guzzling minigun has a “spinning up” delay, the nuke launcher appears very rarely and only has three shots (plus, a blast radius you can easily get caught in) etc….

This weapon is ridiculously powerful, but you can only use it three times…. on the rare occasions that it appears in the first place.

Likewise, this minigun is literally the only truly useful rapid-fire weapon in the game. But, it guzzles about ten units of ammo every second.

This feeling of vulnerability works surprisingly well because this is actually a vaguely scary horror game too. In addition to some ominously gloomy locations (which allow for lots of jump scares when screeching zombies rush out of the darkness towards you), some creepy ambient music and the eerie item pickup sound effects from “Silent Hill”, several of this WAD’s levels also have a very grey and desaturated look to them which really helps to add a bleak, hopeless atmosphere to the gameplay πŸ™‚ Seriously, it’s a “Doom II” WAD about shooting zombies that is actually mildly scary πŸ™‚

Yes, there’s actual horror in this WAD πŸ™‚

As for the monsters, there’s a good – if limited – variety. In addition to hordes of fast, weak “Left 4 Dead 2” zombies, there is also the “Spitter” monster from that game (who is weak, but can fire projectiles) and then the game uses an enlarged version of the mummy monster from “Heretic” as the equivalent of L4D2’s “Tank” monster. These large, slow-moving projectile-firing monsters are absolute bullet sponges, which is both a good and a bad thing. On the plus side, they provide a formidable challenge that also adds variety to the gameplay. On the downside, the game will sometimes throw 5-10 of them at you during a wave, which can almost border on unfair.

Although only three of them can be seen in this screenshot, this level will often throw 5-10 of these giant monsters at you during the later waves.

In terms of the level design, it’s fairly good. The nine levels you can choose from are a good mixture between wide open arenas, claustrophobic smaller levels and sprawling corridor mazes. Each level type has it’s own set of advantages and disadvantages that really help to add some variety to the gameplay.

For example, it’s easier to find ammo, health and new weapons in the smaller levels, but you’re more likely to get surrounded by zombies. It’s easier to run away and circlestrafe in arena levels, but more zombies/monsters tend to appear. Zombies tend to be more spread out in corridor mazes, but there are more “jump” moments and finding the last zombie of a wave can also be a challenge (even with the in-game radar). So, the level design is fairly good.

Interestingly, some levels also have “safe areas” which can’t be reached by the monsters. This doesn’t feel like too much of a cheat thanks to some clever design and balancing. Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1: The monsters can’t get into this building in the “City” level, but don’t expect to find much ammo in here….

Example 2: In the “Docks” level, hiding behind this crate will keep you safe during the earlier waves. But, when projectile-firing monsters start appearing, you’ll be trapped with little to no cover.

Yes, there are the dreaded invisible walls in some levels – but these double up as spawn points for the monsters, so this isn’t too bad. And, yes, some levels feature atmospheric custom textures whilst some others just use the ordinary standard textures (with maybe a new skybox), but the actual design of the levels is fairly good.

Likewise, I cannot praise the variety of sprites/textures in this game highly enough – in addition from being able to choose between about twelve player sprites (mostly from the “Timesplitters” games), the game also features graphics from several other games (eg: Left 4 Dead 2, Shadow Warrior [1997], Silent Hill 2, Blood, Heretic etc..) which helps to make everything feel a bit more unique. Yes, the styles of some of these textures clash with each other a bit, but I absolutely love it when modders convert stuff from 3D games into the 2.5D “Doom” engine πŸ™‚

All in all, this WAD is a lot of fun and a is a bit like a trimmed-down version of “Left 4 Dead 2” for the “Doom” engine. Yes, it’s limited and the difficulty level can almost border on unfair in single-player mode – but, if you want a challenging, fairly well-balanced, fast-paced WAD with some genuinely creepy horror elements that can be enjoyed for both shorter and longer gaming sessions, then this one is well worth checking out πŸ™‚

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “Diabolus Ex 1.1” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D. H. Lawrence), I thought that I’d take the chance to review another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD. And, after a bit of searching online for cyberpunk-themed WADs, I happened to find a really cool one called “Diabolus Ex 1.1“.

As usual, I used version 3.4.1 of the “GZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Interestingly, this WAD actually comes with it’s own launcher/batch file – which tells GZDoom to use a custom config file that comes with the WAD (and, yes, I know this because I opened the file in Notepad to take a look at it after Windows flashed a security warning when I first tried to open it). So, it pretty much requires GZDoom to run.

So, let’s take a look at “Diabolus Ex 1.1”:

Woo hoo! Cyberpunk πŸ™‚

“Diabolus Ex 1.1” is a single-level WAD that contains new textures, new music and a new skybox and is inspired by the more modern “Deus Ex” games. Although I’ve only played the older games in this series, you don’t really have to have played the games to enjoy this WAD – it’s a cyberpunk level set within a giant skyscraper which you need to reach the top of.

Like with the game series that inspired it, there are multiple ways to complete the level and an emphasis on exploration too. Interestingly, the WAD also includes some limited stealth elements – where you can sometimes dodge monster fights if you’re willing to either be sneaky or to look carefully.

For example, if you walk through a set of sensor beams, these monsters will be released.

But, if you find a hidden switch nearby, then you can bypass the sensor beams and avoid the monster fight.

So, yes, the gameplay itself is also “Deus Ex” inspired too. Not only is this really cool, but it also lends the level a certain amount of replay value too (for example, I only discovered the way to bypass some monster battles after I’d fought the monsters etc…).

Even so, this is still very much a traditional “Doom II” level, where the emphasis is on fast-paced combat. Thanks to careful rationing of health items and the many claustrophobic corridors and rooms that you’ll encounter (plus a few arena-style areas for variety πŸ™‚ ), this WAD’s combat is enjoyably suspenseful.

Whilst it’s probably theoretically possible to do a pacifist run of this level, it is very much a traditional FPS level too πŸ™‚

But, although the level contains an arch-vile and two boss battles, experienced players will probably find this level is to be slightly on the easier side of things (thanks to lots of low-level monsters and only a few mid-level ones), whilst still being just about challenging enough to still be fun πŸ™‚

Although there’s only one of them here, it’s always fun to see an Arch-vile πŸ™‚

However, the level’s combat is only half of the fun. As I mentioned earlier, this level places quite a bit of emphasis on exploration and this is really fun. Not only will there be interesting areas that you’ll probably miss on your first playthrough of the level – but there are numerous secret areas and passages (including an entirely optional part of the level, that I only found on my second playthrough) that can be found if you’re willing to look for them.

Not only that, the level itself just looks really amazing too. The new textures and skybox really help to add a lot to it πŸ™‚ Although the aesthetic is slightly more “modern cyberpunk” than “traditonal cyberpunk”, there’s still plenty of neon lights, cool cityscapes and other awesome locations. Plus, in true cyberpunk fashion, a segment of the level also takes place in cyberspace too πŸ™‚ Seriously, this is a really cool-looking level πŸ™‚

For example, it has this awesome “Blade Runner”-style skybox πŸ™‚

And what cyberpunk level would be complete without a quick trip to cyberspace πŸ™‚

As for the music, it is the kind of dramatic electronic music that you’d expect from something inspired by “Deus Ex”. Since I haven’t played any of the modern games in this series, I can’t be certain whether or not the music comes from one of these games, but it certainly sounds like the kind of music you’d expect from anything “Deus Ex”-related πŸ™‚

All in all, this is a really great level πŸ™‚ Not only does it look really cool, but it also contains a focus on exploration, an awesome cyberpunk atmosphere and some gameplay inspiration from the “Deus Ex” games πŸ™‚ Yes, experienced players won’t find it to be too much of a challenge, but it’s still a really fun level that – thanks to the design – also has some replay value too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

Review: “Doom: The Golden Souls 2 Portable” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel (“Idoru” by William Gibson) and playing the next full-length game (“Dex”) that I plan to review, I thought that I’d take a very quick look at an absolutely awesome joke WAD (well, technically a “.pk3” file) for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” that was released on April Fools’ Day in 2016, but which I somehow only discovered recently. I am, of course talking about “Doom: The Golden Souls 2 Portable“.

This WAD is, as you may have guessed, from the creator of the excellent “Doom: The Golden Souls 2” – and, it is well worth playing that WAD before playing this one.

Like with some of my recent WAD reviews, I used the GZDoom 3.4.1 source port whilst playing this WAD since the original “Golden Souls 2” requires a relatively modern version of GZDoom and the forum post for this WAD suggests something similar. However, there is no accompanying text file for this WAD (since it is downloadable from Mediafire rather than the traditional /IDgames Archive download you’d expect).

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Doom: The Golden Souls 2 Portable”. Needless to say, this review will contain some joke SPOILERS.

Oh my god, the nostalgia πŸ™‚

This is a single-level joke WAD that shows what “Doom: The Golden Souls 2” (a “Doom II” WAD inspired by the classic SNES game “Super Mario World), would look like if it was ported to the original Game Boy. In keeping with this theme, the level’s music and menu are based on the classic “Super Mario Land 2” Game Boy game. And, if you ever played this game back in the day, then it is a nostalgia overload.

Once again, oh my god the nostalgia πŸ™‚

During my childhood, I sometimes used to wonder what a FPS game would look like on the original Game Boy and when I found the closest thing to this that was available in the local second-hand shop (a submarine/battleship-themed game that used a side-scrolling first person perspective), I thought that it was really cool. Almost as cool as when I first saw that the Game Boy version of “Chessmaster” had a spoken intro.

What I’m trying to say is that, if you grew up in the 1990s, then this WAD is like a cool Game Boy cartridge that you heard rumours (actual traditional rumours, none of this modern internet nonsense) about, but could never find anywhere.

Seriously, if only this actually existed in 1996….

Anyway, the WAD itself is a Game Boy style version of the first level of “Golden Souls 2”. However, in addition to new graphics, sound effects and music, there are also a couple of interesting gameplay changes too. The most notable of these is that both the pistol and shotgun now fire projectiles (which make them better long-range weapons, albeit balanced out slightly by the spread of the shotgun’s projectiles) and thanks to the slight scarcity of ammo in this version of the level, the Doomguy’s fists are also slightly more powerful too.

Plus, like in “Doom II”, the shotgun only seems to fire both barrels at once. This is also a really cool nod to the limitations of the original Game Boy too.

Another cool thing about this WAD is the fact that the background music is similar to “Super Mario Land 2” (seriously, so much nostalgia!) and the monster sprites have also been redesigned in order to look like actual Game Boy sprites too. Seriously, this is so cool.

Seriously, it’s so cool to see low-res versions of all the familiar monsters πŸ™‚

In terms of the actual gameplay, the level is a mildly challenging one that involves a decent amount of rather forgiving first-person platforming. If you’ve played “Golden Souls 2”, then it will be very familiar. However, in a really hilarious touch, the game actually “runs out of battery” just before you finish the level. If you ever played an original Game Boy back in the day, this will both make you roll your eyes and laugh at the same time.

I’m not going to spoil the rest of the ending, but this alone should bring back lots of nostalgia.

All in all, this WAD is a really fun, creative and funny piece of modern 1990s nostalgia. If you grew up in the 90s, then you’ll have a lot of fun with it. But, as well as being an awesome joke, it’s also a fascinating glimpse into what could have been if someone had somehow managed to make a FPS game for the Game Boy in the 1990s. Yes, it’s short and silly, but it is also one of the best joke WADs I’ve ever seen πŸ™‚

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “Man On The Moon” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ GZDoom)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Origin” by Dan Brown) and because it’s been almost a month since I reviewed anything “Doom II”-related, I thought that I’d take a look at a runner-up in the 2018 Cacowards (chosen by none other than Major Arlene) called “Man On The Moon” by Yugiboy85.

I played this WAD using the GZDoom 3.4.1 source port. According to the accompanying text file, it was tested with PRBoom+ and is also probably compatible with ZDoom too.

So, let’s take a look at “Man On The Moon”:

“Man On The Moon” is a large single-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” that contains new music, new textures, new sprites, new sounds and a new monster too.

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it reminded me a little of WADs by Skillsaw (like the excellent “Lunatic” or the even more excellent “Ancient Aliens) and not just because of the textures and sci-fi setting. Like a good Skillsaw level, this WAD is an interesting mixture of more traditional level design and more challenging “slaughtermap”-style design too.

Seriously, don’t let the relatively easy early parts of the level lull you into a false sense of security…

It’s one of these levels πŸ™‚

In other words, this WAD contains a really good mixture between more traditional level design and combat design, and a very slightly milder version of the kind of fast-paced, monster horde battles that you’d expect from something like “XXXI CyberSky” or “Infernal Fortress“.

This mixture between the two things not only helps to keep the challenging gameplay unpredictable, but is also helped by the fact that the “slaughtermap” segments are a really good mixture between large arena fights and claustrophobic crowded corridor battles.

I know it’s a bit of a clichΓ©, but you’ll quite literally be knee-deep in the dead in some parts of this level.

Like all of the best modern WADs, this is one where you’ll not only need to know the “rules” of “Doom II” but also how to use them to your advantage. Like other maps of this type, this is a level where you probably won’t have the health or ammo to fight literally all of the monsters – so, things like tactics, knowing when to fight and when to run/hide/dodge etc… are essential. This turns the gameplay into something like a fast-paced combat-based puzzle where, for example, you have to work out how to get past a horde of monsters when you’ve only got three health points left.

Yes, it requires perseverance and this level really isn’t for beginners (seriously, play “Final Doom” before even thinking about playing this level), but it makes many of the level’s challenging combat encounters really satisfying when you use your experience, tactics and knowledge to beat them. Not only that, the new monster sprites help to add some extra novelty to the level, there are a decent amount of Arch-viles and even new boss monsters near the end of the level too πŸ™‚

These two new bosses are quite literally called “Terminators” and they are as tough as the name suggests…

Not to mention that this level also contains a decent number of Arch-viles too πŸ™‚

In terms of the actual level design, it’s a mixture of good and bad. The giant, sprawling moon base level is split into several segments (each involving a switch and a keycard) that can be completed in any order and a final arena battle. Although most of the level is really well-designed and is the kind of non-linear thing that could easily have come from the 1990s, it is perhaps very slightly too large for it’s own good.

Not only did I almost miss a crucial weapon pick-up (which was hidden in one of many small corridors) but, after pressing the four switches, I spent at least an hour wandering around the level’s many halls and courtyards wondering “what the hell do I do next?” and thinking “I’m sure I saw an unlockable door somewhere ages ago“. Eventually, out of pure frustration, I ended up using the no clipping cheat to get to the final arena. Whilst it’s really cool that this level has an old-school non-linear layout, these types of old levels worked because they were small enough for the player not to get lost or stuck for too long.

Strange as it sounds, this level would have been even better if it was a bit smaller.

Interestingly, this WAD also takes a rather traditionalist attitude towards jumping too – with the ability to jump being disabled by default. Although, thanks to lots of stairs and lifts, you won’t really even notice this most of the time.

The level’s visual design is really brilliant too, with some wonderful skyboxes and some excellent use of both Skillsaw’s sci-fi textures and a few things from “Duke Nukem 3D” too πŸ™‚ Seriously, I love the 90s sci-fi look of this WAD πŸ™‚ Likewise, the new music and sound effects also help to add a bit of a sci-fi ambience to the level too.

All in all, this is an enjoyably challenging “Doom II” level that is also a cool homage to Skillsaw too πŸ™‚ Yes, it’s a little bit too large for it’s own good (and expect to get stuck at least once or twice), but it’s still a really fun level that experienced players will enjoy πŸ™‚

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.