Well, since I’m still reading the next book I plan to review (“Heresy” by S.J.Parris), I thought that I’d take the chance to review another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD. And, after clicking on the “Random File” button on the /idgames Archive a few times, I ended up finding a WAD from 2004 called “Xmas 2004“.
Since the weather was annoyingly hot again, I was in the mood for something wintery and, since Christmas 2004 was one of my favourite Christmases, I decided to take a look at this WAD.
Although the WAD’s attached text file recommends using the “GLBoom” source port (which is part of “PRBoom”), I couldn’t get this to work on my computer. So, instead, I ended up using the “ZDoom” source port (after having issues with using the WAD with an older version of “GZDoom”). As such, the lighting in the screenshots in this review may not reflect the intended experience.
Likewise, since the “Wolf 3D” enemies from Doom II’s secret level are used as the basis for the “elf” enemies, this WAD may have issues when played with versions of “Doom II” that do not include this secret level.
Anyway, let’s take a look at “Xmas 2004”:
“Xmas 2004” is a seven-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” that contains new sprites, textures, end level screens and music. One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that, whilst it does have a few cool elements, it really isn’t that great overall (for several reasons).
I suppose that I should start with the good parts of this WAD, which are the location design, the music and the hub system.
Although the hub system means that, out of the seven levels, only two of them are actual full-length levels, the fact that the Doomguy returns to his apartment (and checks his e-mails) between levels is kind of a cool touch. In addition to this, the new music (a mixture of easy listening, Jingle Bells and relaxing Christmas music) really helps to add a festive atmosphere to the levels too.
Plus, another good thing about this WAD is the location design. Seriously, I absolutely love both the level of visual detail in this WAD and the wonderfully gloomy festive locations too. Yes, this WAD does include a few annoying invisible walls, but there are some really cool-looking locations here:
But, these are the only good things I can say about this WAD. Everything else about it really isn’t that great. I should probably start with the actual gameplay, which is pretty much the dictionary definition of badly-handled difficulty.
Not only is there a paucity of health power-ups here (I only found about four stimpacks in the entire WAD and actually had to use the “Give Health” cheat at one point!), but it is also one of those WADs that includes wide open areas with lots of hitscan enemies who can snipe you from a distance. This is further compounded by the fact that the “elf” enemies in one level are absolutely tiny and therefore more difficult to hit.
Then, there are this WAD’s “comedy” elements. It makes unsophisticated, clumsy and/or imperfect attempts at the “edgy” humour that was more popular in the 1990s/early 2000s – with little to none of the depth, creativity and/or thought that can be found in these older works.
There’s no intelligent social satire here, no creatively-expressed irreverent criticisms – just a few cringe-worthy “politically incorrect” elements (eg: stereotypical “gang member” enemies in one level etc…) which seem to be there for the sake of shock value and some crude jokes, random drug references etc…
In addition to this, the level design is a little bit annoying. Whilst the levels are thankfully non-linear, the combination of wide open spaces, numerous doors that cannot be opened and some slightly hidden level-critical areas means that the levels can be a bit annoying sometimes. Yes, if you explore a bit, then you’ll be able to work out where to go next, but a few elements of the level design seem a little bit obtuse at times.
All in all, whilst this WAD contains some cool-looking areas, it really isn’t that much fun to play. This is a WAD with badly-handled difficulty, occasionally frustrating level design and some cringe-worthy elements, which really isn’t as enjoyable to play as other Christmas-themed WADs like “Mori Christmas” and “Xmas Doom 2015“.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a two.