Review: “Shovelware Adventure!” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”)

Well, it’s been an entire month since I last reviewed any “Doom II” WADs. So, I thought that I’d take a look at a WAD from 2016 called “Shovelware Adventure!“.

Although I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, it will apparently even work with the original DOS version of “Doom II” since the Zip file for this WAD also includes a dehacked file too.

So, let’s take a look at “Shovelware Adventure!”:

“Shovelware Adventure!” is a single level (well, technically a two-level) WAD that contains new weapon sprites/animations, monsters, music, sounds and item sprites. In terms of length, it is a fairly large level that took me about one and a half hours to complete.

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it certainly isn’t shovelware! Despite the sarcastic title, this is an intense, enjoyably challenging level that is an interesting mixture of more “traditional” level design and modern “slaughtermap”-style level design. This level is filled with fast-paced and challenging combat – like any FPS game level should be.

Yes, this isn’t a level for fans of easy modern FPS games.

One thing that really adds to the challenge is the addition of a few new monsters. Although they’re nothing especially new (eg: plasma zombies, rocket zombies, several types of imps, new sprites for several monsters etc..) they force the player to think up new strategies when deciding which monsters that they should fight first. This helps to keep the gameplay fresh, not to mention that the plasma and rocket zombies are just as powerful as you would expect too.

Which is to say that they’ll obliterate you in a matter of seconds if you aren’t careful. Plus, the plasma zombies look like Duke Nukem too.

The challenge in this level is also increased with a few mild-moderate “slaughtermap”-style segments where you are faced with a horde of monsters.

Although you can usually defeat all of them (so, it isn’t technically a “slaughtermap”) it still forces the player to play a bit more strategically. In addition to this, there are also a couple of well-placed cyberdemons, spider demons and arch-viles too.

Yay! An arch-vile 🙂 And lots of monsters too 🙂

Plus, there’s this cool homage to the original “Doom II” too 🙂

The only slight criticism I have of the difficulty in this WAD is that the difficulty curve isn’t quite right. Although there are more monsters later in the level, the earlier parts can feel slightly more difficult than the later ones due to the relative lack of ammo and weapons earlier in the level. Of course, once you find weapons like the plasma rifle (which now fires pink/light purple projectiles 🙂 ), the difficulty level drops slightly. Even so, don’t expect this to be an easy level!

In terms of the level design, it’s mostly fairly good. Not only is the level a traditional-style non-linear level that contains several different types of areas that force the player to play in slightly different ways, but there are also a few rather interesting flourishes too.

For example, when you start the level, you are facing a window with several monsters behind it. Once you’ve fought these monsters (and the other monsters nearby), you then encounter another window a bit later in the level with more monsters behind it. If you’re observant, you’ll realise that both windows are part of the same room. It’s a small detail, but it shows that the designer has put some thought into using the space available in a clever way.

Likewise, there is actually a little bit of humour in this level – since there are a couple of Doom Marines hidden throughout the level who will fart when you shoot at them. Yes, it’s incredibly puerile – but it’s also absolutely hilarious too.

I’m not sure how many of these have been hidden in the level, but I found two of them.

The only real criticism I have of the level design has to do with the level’s size. Although the level mostly flows fairly well, it is possible to end up getting stuck occasionally. Although you’ll eventually work out where to go (and where to find the keys) through backtracking and exploration, it can affect the pacing of the level slightly.

In addition to this, the way to actually finish the level is a bit complicated. Basically, it contains a “Doom II”-style ‘Romero’s Head’ ending – but this isn’t made immediately obvious to the player (and, yes, I eventually had to resort to the “IDDT” and “IDCLIP” cheats to discover that you were meant to complete the level this way). Even so, when you complete the level, you are rewarded with one of the coolest level completion screens I’ve ever seen – not to mention a small novelty level too.

Seriously, WHY wasn’t this in the original “Doom II” ?

The second “level” in this WAD is just a credits level, but with a little bit of a twist….

The new music and sounds are really cool too. Not only does the level begin with some really cool ominous-sounding MIDI music, but the weapon sound effects have also been replaced with slightly better ones too. The best of the new weapons sounds are probably those for the plasma rifle and chaingun, both of which sound slightly more powerful than usual.

All in all, “Shovelware Adventure!” is a really solid, fast-paced, intense and enjoyably challenging WAD. The new stuff helps to keep the gameplay fresh and – for the most part – the level is really well-designed too. If you want a thrilling level that will also make you think strategically, then this one is certainly worth checking out.

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

Advertisements

Mini Review: “Outland Industries” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

Well, after finishing “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV“, almost all of my “Doom II” playing over the past couple of weeks has been restricted to an awesome mod called “Reelism Gold” (seriously, play it!). But I thought that I should probably play something new – so, I decided to check out a WAD from 2016 called “Outland Industries“.

I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Interestingly, from what I read about it on Doomworld, this WAD pretty much requires “ZDoom” and can apparently cause errors in some other source ports. So, make sure that you use “ZDoom”.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Outland Industries”:

“Outland Industries” is a single-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”. It is a ‘vanilla’ WAD (eg: it features no custom content) and it is apparently the very first WAD created by it’s designer (Professor Bucket). And, surprisingly, it’s actually quite good.

The WAD begins in a wonderfully gloomy area that makes expert use of “classic”-style lighting effects. There’s a really good balance between ominous gloom and muted lighting here, which really helps to give this area some atmosphere. There are also a few low-level monsters and a shotgun nearby. But, don’t get too comfortable! This easy opening segment is designed to lull you into a false sense of security!

Initially, I thought that I’d finish this level in five minutes…..

….. It took me closer to 20-30 minutes!

If there’s one thing to be said about this level, it is that it has a fairly good difficulty curve. If you’ve completed “Doom II” and you want to step into the exciting world of modern “Doom” WADs (or even if you’re just in between “Doom II” and “Final Doom”), then “Outland Industries” is a good starter level to help you prepare for the increase in difficulty you’ll encounter.

Although the creator of this WAD was aiming for something similar to a traditional “Doom II” level, the difficulty and style of this level is probably more like a mixture of a milder version of “Final Doom” and a toned-down version of a modern “Slaughtermap” WAD.

Seriously, there might not be THAT many monsters here, but thanks to the small size of the room, this segment of the level is at least mildly challenging. It’s also good practice if you’re new to “Doom II” WADs too.

What I mean by this is that you’ll be encountering small-medium size hordes of low-mid level monsters occasionally. These segments are also spread out quite well throughout the level (seriously, I cannot praise the pacing enough). Compared to, say, “Stardate 20X6” or “VeryHard” – these segments are extremely easy. But, they’re handled very well and are a great introduction to the more strategic playing style (where retreating/running is sometimes the best option) required in many modern WADs.

Still, even though this WAD isn’t exactly super difficult, it is still mildly – but enjoyably- challenging for more experienced players. The stand-out moments have to be a battle with a group of monsters in a relatively small room, the segment with the rocket launcher and the brilliantly epic (if somewhat small-scale) final segment of the level. This final segment is a brilliant mixture of “Final Doom” and “Slaughtermap”-style level design.

Yay! Projectiles 🙂

You’ll be dodging a small hail of projectiles, a fair number of lost souls and a few well-placed spider demons, mancubi and chaingunners as you try to work out how to get the “exit” door open. Although this area is fairly small (and the key isn’t too hard to find), it manages to cram in some really cool fast-paced non-linear gameplay into a relatively small area.

The level design in the rest of the level is really good too. Seriously, for a first WAD, this is spectacular!

Seriously, even this little part near the beginning of the level is kind of cool.

The level is non-linear enough to be interesting, and both the level’s size and design also mean that you’ll never get stuck when playing it. In other words, you get to explore and backtrack, but you’ll never really be uncertain about where to go next. Likewise, although it just uses the standard textures, monsters etc… the variety of areas (from claustrophobic corridors and rooms, to larger outdoor areas) and some clever monster placement means that the gameplay never gets monotonous.

For example, this room looks quiet… Suspiciously quiet.

– And THIS area is really cool. It’s a jump that overhangs an earlier part of the level. Now, THIS is good level design!

And there’s a good mixture between claustrophobic corridors and larger outdoor areas too.

The only real criticism I have of this level is that it doesn’t seem to include any arch-viles! A well-placed arch-vile or two would really help to add a little bit of extra suspense, challenge and drama to the level. And, yes, I’m one of those weird players who actually likes arch-viles.

All in all, this is a really good level that is almost up to the standard of an “official” level. The level design helps to keep the gameplay flowing at a fast pace, the combat is enjoyably challenging and the monster placement is superb. It’s an enjoyably fun and relaxing level for experienced players, and it’s a good “starter” level for people who are new to “Doom” WADs. For the designer’s first level, it is really something!

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

Review: “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

Well, it’s time for this month’s “Doom II” WAD review and I’ve got a real treat for you! Today, I will be reviewing the fourth instalment in Alando1’s excellent “Temple Of The Lizard Men” series (you can check out my review of the third one here).

Surprisingly, this is a modern “Doom II” WAD [technically a “.pk3” file] that will (mostly) run on older computers 🙂 As such, I was able to use a slightly older version of the “GZDoom” source port to play it (rather than the “ZDoom” source port I usually use these days). However, “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” requires GZDoom. So, make sure you use this source port! Still, kudos to Alando1 for making a modern WAD that actually runs on older computers 🙂

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV”:

Seriously, even the intro movie is absolutely epic!

“Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” is a set of 36 new levels for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” that were released in 2017. However, you will only actually play about 20 of these levels during a playthrough of the game, since this WAD uses a rather interesting branching path system where some levels have multiple exits. What this means is that the levels you play will actually be different depending on how you complete previous levels.

In addition to this branching path system, “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” also includes new music, textures, monsters, weapons, items, skyboxes, voice-acting etc… And, in keeping with tradition, it also includes multiple playable characters too. Interestingly, there are actually a couple of new characters here too.

Ok, I played as Beka again, but there are a couple of new characters too. Interestingly, each character now also has stats too.

The story to the game is fairly similar to previous “Lizard Men” WADs. Basically, you play as an Interpol agent who has to investigate reports of mysterious attacks on researchers, soldiers etc.. by lizard creatures in an Aztec/Mayan temple in South America.

Personally, I absolutely love WADs that include Aztec/Mayan-style locations (like the amazingly brilliant “Ancient Aliens” and one part of “Skulldash), so it’s always cool to see this 🙂

However, this game is a lot less story-based than the previous instalment in the series (and it contains fewer horror elements too). Yes, you’ll occasionally find PDAs that give you some story text, you get to rescue some civilians at one point and there will be short text screens between some levels. But, I got the sense that I was playing a set of cool levels rather than experiencing a story.

So, it’s a lot more like a “normal” Doom II WAD in this regard, with the emphasis being more on the gameplay than the story. Which isn’t a bad thing 🙂

…unless you happen to be a reptile, that is.

In terms of visual design, this WAD is absolutely stunning! The WAD makes full use of GZDoom’s additional lighting effects to create some wonderfully atmospheric locations. Not only that, the many new textures on display here really help to make the locations look like ancient temples, evil underworlds etc… Seriously, this WAD looks really, really cool:

Yay! Awesome lighting 🙂

And there are more traditional gothic/ medieval locations as well as the cool Aztec/Mayan-style ones 🙂

And just look at the textures here too 🙂

Plus, like in the previous “Lizard Men” WAD, you actually get a torch too! This seems like a trivial thing, but it’s one of the best ways to stop “atmospherically gloomy” locations from becoming “frustratingly dark” locations. However, unless you look through the “controls” menu, you might not realise that you have it.

In terms of the level design, it’s really good. There’s a good mixture between fast-paced levels, arena-like areas and quite a few “traditional” style levels that require exploration. Although there’s the obligatory sewer level and an underwater level, one cool thing is that a couple of the levels include a slight hat tip to the original “Doom” games too:

For example, this area is a bit like the beginning of E1M3 (?) in “Ultimate Doom”

In terms of the actual gameplay, “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” is 1990s-style FPS gaming at it’s finest. There’s challenging combat and non-linear levels aplenty here! However, the style of the gameplay is much more in keeping with classic 1990s FPS games like “Blood“, “Heretic” and “Doom II” than it is with the previous instalment of the “Lizard Men” series.

In other words, there’s much less of an emphasis on nerve-wrackingly intense claustrophobic combat and more emphasis on ordinary “Doom II”-style combat (with the occasional boss battle and “Serious Sam“-style monster filled area keep things interesting).

Such as this epic battle beside a pyramid.

This combat is kept enjoyably challenging through the careful placement of ammunition (the game doesn’t starve you of ammo, but it doesn’t give you too much either) and through variations in the quantity, placement and strength of the monsters you fight.

Interestingly, this WAD also includes an episodic structure (with an episode selection screen similar to those in “Ultimate Doom” and “Duke Nukem 3D”). However, if you start from the first episode, then the game will just play through subsequent episodes seamlessly, with no loss of weapons or items at the beginning of each episode. This is the best of both worlds 🙂

However, unlike classic 1990s FPS games, the puzzle-solving elements of this WAD have been scaled back a bit. Yes, you still have to find keys and switches. But I only encountered two relatively easy puzzles – a simple combination puzzle and a path-based puzzle (with a map/solution nearby).

Still, as long as you have a pen and paper handy, this path-based puzzle isn’t too difficult. Especially since the game literally gives you the solution 🙂

Yes, you might get stuck occasionally (eg: there was one level where it took me a while to find an underwater corridor I needed to explore to find a key). But, for the most part, the game flows really well – with the emphasis being firmly on exploration and action.

In terms of the new weapons, they all look and sound suitably powerful. Not only is the basic knife a genuinely useful weapon, but you can also find upgrades for some of the weapons too (eg: accuracy and reload speed upgrades for one of the shotguns, a laser sight for the assault rifle, an upgrade for the rocket launcher etc..).

The laser sight doesn’t seem to do that much, given that the game already includes a crosshair.

The game also includes a slight mixture of “realistic” weapons and magic-based weapons too, which help to keep things interesting. Plus, although some of the weapon sprites are borrowed from other games, the weapons still “work” in a unique way.

However, many of the weapons require to you manually reload them by pressing the right mouse button. Whilst manual reloading systems might add “authenticity” to modern militaristic FPS games, they have no place in old school-style games where the emphasis is on fast-paced combat. This is why the original “Doom” doesn’t include much in the way of reloading mechanics. Having to reload might be “realistic”, but it gets in the way of the action slightly.

Ok, double-barelled shotguns are the ONE exception to this rule. But, apart from this, reloading animations have no place in classic-style FPS games!

The array of new monsters on offer here is really cool too. Yes, I’ve seen pretty much all of them in other “Doom II” WADs and/or old FPS games before, but they really help to add some variety to the gameplay. The game also includes several bosses too, although some of these are just variations on the same minotaur monster from “Heretic”.

Interestingly though, the final boss battle is the easiest one in the game. Probably because he isn’t a giant minotaur.

However, if you’re using an older computer, then one of the new monsters will quite literally crash your game!

In the “Bowels Of The Shadow World” level, you will encounter nude demons who shoot flames at you (and, yes, this WAD contains nudity – albeit less than in the previous instalment). If you’re using an older PC, your game will probably start slowing down as soon as the first few flame effects appear, before unceremoniously crashing to the desktop a few seconds later. In fact, the only way I was able to finish this level was by using the “freeze” cheat in the GZ Doom console. Still, these game-crashing monsters only seem to appear in one level.

In terms of the music, voice-acting and sound design, “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” is outstanding! Not only is the music that plays when you start the game absolutely overwhelmingly epic, but the game also occasionally includes things like heavy metal music, more ambient music and even a gothic rock song (with lyrics). Plus, although there is much less voice-acting than there was in the previous WAD in the series, the voice actor for Beka sounds a lot better than she did in “Temple Of The Lizard Men III”. Plus, one of the level bosses actually gives you a short ominous-sounding speech when you first encounter him too!

Not only does this level LOOK really metal, but the background music is heavy metal and the boss even gives a really badass speech near the beginning of the level!

The sound design is also absolutely stunning too, with the monsters sounding suitably menacing and the weapons sounding suitably loud.

In addition to this, there are some cool background effects in some levels, such as the occasional screeching of an eagle during the earlier levels of the game. However, some of the low-level lizard monsters still use a sound effect from one of the more powerful monsters from “Shadow Warrior” – which can be confusing since this monster (with a different sound effect) is also included in the game too!

All in all, this instalment in the “Temple Of The Lizard Men” series is brilliantly fun. Although it moves away from the claustrophobic intensity, disturbing horror and more focused storytelling of the third instalment in this series slightly, it’s an incredibly fun set of levels. The branching path system gives it some replay value, the level design is really good, the locations look really cool, the music is epic and the combat is enjoyable. If you miss the days when FPS games were FPS games, then this WAD is well worth checking out.

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

Mini Review: “Hanging Gardens” [WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”]

Well, although I’ve got a couple of retro and/or indie games that I plan to review at some point, I was also worried that there might not be a “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD review this month.

But, not wanting to play yet another “vanilla” WAD from the 1990s (sorry about all of those recently, many interesting new WADs these days seem to have higher system requirements than they probably should), I decided to search for WADs/TCs from 2011. These would be modern enough to be interesting, but old enough to be guaranteed to work on my classic mid-2000s computer.

After a while, I ended up finding a rather interesting-looking WAD called “Hanging Gardens” by none other than Skillsaw. If you’ve never heard of him before, I have two words for you – “Ancient Aliens” (seriously, play it!). Another WAD by Skillsaw that is also well worth checking out is a somewhat shorter one called “Lunatic” (or possibly one called “Valiant).

Unusually, I ended up returning to the GZDoom source port [version 1.8.10.0 ] whilst playing this WAD, since it apparently only works with GZDoom. Plus, despite the text file’s warning that the WAD is fairly system-intensive, it played fairly smoothly on my vintage mid-2000s computer [1.8 ghz single core, 2gb RAM and GeForce 6100], with the game only crashing once due to an error of some kind.

So, let’s take a look at “Hanging Gardens”:

“Hanging Gardens” is a single-level WAD from 2011 that includes new textures, effects, music and monsters. From what I’ve read, this level was originally going to be part of a larger project (that was abandoned for some reason). This is a shame because this level, short as it is, looks really really cool – even if it is missing Skillsaw’s usual sci-fi flourishes:

If anything, this level probably takes more inspiration from the classic “Serious Sam” games. But, wow, it looks really cool 🙂

The level is, as the title suggests, set within a large Ancient Babylon/Ancient Egypt-style outdoor area that is filled with a reasonably large quantity of monsters.

In keeping with the “Serious Sam” influence, one of the two new monsters that can be found here is a Doom-style version of the infamous ‘Beheaded Bomber’ monsters from the first two “Serious Sam” games (who also turn up in Skillsaw’s “Valiant” WAD). As you would expect, these monsters scream loudly and run towards you, before exploding as soon as they hit you.

And, yes, they even have the familiar “Aaaarrrghhh!” sound effect 🙂

The other new monsters are these two level bosses who, if you have the BFG, aren’t as tough as they perhaps should be.

Plus, in true Skillsaw fashion, the level also takes a rather traditionalist attitude towards the controls. What this means is that both crouching and jumping are disabled by default. Still, given that the emphasis of the level is on running, exploring and fighting, this doesn’t really get in the way of the gameplay.

Another interesting change is that the level features new gore effects. Whilst these don’t reach the excesses of “Brutal Doom“, they result in an oddly satisfying explosion of red, green or blue blood (depending on the monster) whenever you shoot at one of the monsters.

Yes! THIS is how to do “gruesome” Doom properly! These new blood effects make the gameplay a bit more visceral, without veering into the cruel sadism of mods like “Brutal Doom”.

But, despite Skillsaw’s reputation for challenging “slaughtermap”-style levels and the fact that he’s taken influence from the game that spawned this sub-genre of “Doom II” levels, this level is surprisingly… easy (relatively speaking, of course).

Yes, there’s a fairly large number of monsters (including an arch-vile or two) and the level is a lot of fun – but the vast outdoor areas and the generous quantity of health items means that dodging, fighting and surviving is a bit easier than you might expect if you’re an experienced “Doom II” player.

Literally, all you have to do is to keep running and dodging. There’s lots of room and a surprising number of megaspheres/ soulspheres. Still, it’s probably a good level for people who are new to this sub-genre of “Doom II” levels.

In fact, the most difficult part of the entire level is getting the red key. Surprisingly, despite going round in circles for at least ten minutes looking for a switch or an accessible ledge, I couldn’t find any way to get to it. And, reluctantly, I eventually resorted to briefly using the “no clipping” cheat.

I’m still not sure how you’re supposed to get up there legitimately. The only ledge overlooking this platform is blocked by several tree sprites.

In terms of the music, it’s a fairly cool piece of 1980s-style synth music. Still, it’s a little bit quiet and understated (to the point that I barely noticed it most of the time when I was playing). Although it’s still cool, I think that more of an Ancient Egypt-style piece of background music would have been a better fit with this level.

All in all, this is a reasonably good – albeit flawed – level. Yes, it looks really cool and there’s some interesting new stuff too, but the difficulty is a little on the easy side (relatively speaking) and I’m still not sure how you’re supposed to get the red key legitimately. Still, it’s certainly an enjoyable way to spend 45-60 minutes, not to mention that it’s always cool to see another Skillsaw level too.

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

Mini Review: “Woodburn” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”)

Well, although I’d vaguely planned to play and review a strategy game called “Eador: Genesis”, I seem to be more in the mood for FPS gaming at the moment.

So, since it’s been a couple of weeks since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD, I decided to use the ‘random file’ feature on the “/idgames Archive” again and, after a couple of goes, I found a rather interesting-looking level from 1997 or 1999 called “Woodburn“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port [v 2.7.9999.0 ] whilst playing this WAD. The notation that comes with the WAD seems to suggest that it might have problems if you use “Legacy”. However, it will probably work on most modern limit-removing source ports.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Woodburn”:

“Woodburn” is a single short “vanilla” level (eg: no new textures, monsters etc…) for “Doom II” and “Final Doom”. But, what it lacks in length, it certainly makes up for with fast-paced and challenging gameplay.

Ok, it’s mostly “challenging by late 1990s standards” challenging, but still….

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it contains a lot of imps. Whilst large numbers of monsters are nothing new in “Doom II” WADs, “Woodburn” is somewhat different to more modern “slaughtermap“-style levels for the simple reason that it consists of lots of claustrophobic corridors and balconies, many of which are within view of other imps and/or other projectile-firing monsters (in fact, there isn’t a single hitscan monster in this level!).

Yay! Projectile dodging!

What this means is that the difficulty in this level is less “strategy-based slaughtermap gameplay” and more “difficult, and occasionally cheap, traditional-style ‘Doom II’ gameplay“. Because you often don’t have a lot of room to move or dodge, this forces you to play in a much more aggressive way than in many other monster-filled levels (which often favour strategy, retreating, circlestrafing etc..).

Although this would be an interesting change of pace, it is let down slightly by the ammo distribution throughout the level. Although you’ll have enough shotgun and plasma rifle ammo to deal with the many imps (and one arachnotron) in the first half of the level, expect to start running a bit low later in the level. This is especially annoying since it is at this point that the level begins to introduce more mid-level monsters.

Yes, good ammo management matters more than you might think. Running away can also work too…

Even though you get a chaingun and several large boxes of bullets during this part of the level, it is too little too late. This is especially true considering that you’ll also be facing narrow walkways filled with revenants. Luckily, all of these segments of the level can be dodged in various ways.

Yes, you probably don’t want to stay on this walkway for very long…

As for the level design itself, it’s surprisingly good. The level is a small, but complicated, multi-layered maze that is well within the tradition of classic non-linear “Doom II” levels.

The claustrophobic corridors and platforms also help to add extra challenge to the level too (even though this can veer into “cheap difficulty” territory sometimes). Likewise, there is one clever segment where you have to cross a large slime-covered area, whilst avoiding teleporters that will transport you into an inescapable tower that is surrounded by monsters.

However, if you have jumping enabled, then it’s more escapable. Which brings me on to…

… I am not sure if this level is meant to be played with jumping enabled (if your source port allows jumping). Theoretically, this level can probably be completed without jumping. But, the level is somewhat more forgiving if you use jumping occasionally. So, choosing whether to jump or not probably allows you to vary the difficulty slightly.

For example, to get the yellow key, you have to stand in the middle of a large area of radioactive sludge and wait for a platform to descend. Whilst this normally wouldn’t be an issue, it’s very likely that you’ll only have a few health points remaining at that point. So, jumping onto the platform as early as you can might not be a bad decision.

All in all, this is a fun, furious and challenging level that will probably provide you with 15-30 minutes of entertainment. Yes, the difficulty can sometimes feel a little cheap and the ammo distribution isn’t perfect, but it’s still a fun and reasonably well-designed little level.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would probably get at least three and a half.

Mini Review: “Brown And Red” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”ZDoom”/”Boom”)

Well, although I’d planned to finish and review a classic computer game called “Riven“, I seem to have drifted away from that game a bit. So, instead, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a level for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” called “Brown And Red” because it’s been about a month or so since I last played any new fan-made levels for these awesome games.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD and encountered no technical problems with it. However, it was apparently designed for “Boom-compatible” source ports (and I’m not sure if ZDoom falls under this category). As usual, I also used the medium difficulty setting [the “Hurt Me Plenty” setting].

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Brown And Red”:

“Brown And Red” is a short, single-level “slaughtermap” WAD. If you’ve never heard of this type of level before, it’s a level that contains many more monsters than you can actually fight. What this means is that, contrary to the macabre name, the emphasis of the game shifts from mindless combat to something more like fast-paced puzzle-solving.

In a good “slaughtermap” level, knowing when to run or hide instead of fight is part of the challenge. Having a dogged sense of perseverence and trying to avoid too much combat are essential elements of winning. It’s a type of level that rewards experienced players who have an intuitive understanding of the “rules” of “Doom” and can turn them to their advantage. And, when done well, it is one of the most thrilling FPS gaming experiences it is possible to have.

Unfortunately, this isn’t really the case in “Brown And Red”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really fun level – but, as a “slaughtermap” level, it fails for the simple reason that it’s far too easy. And, before anyone says anything, I almost always use medium difficulty – so I’m saying that it’s easy compared to other slaughtermaps I’ve played on medium.

The level starts off in a small claustophobic series of corridors where you’ll have to fight a few mid-low level monsters. The lighting and shadows in this part of the level are really excellent and they help to add a bit of atmosphere to the level.

Although it’s not particularly scary, it certainly fits into the classic ‘Scary, dark and fast’ quote about the original “Doom”.

After this, you find yourself somewhere that will be familiar to anyone who has played a “slaughtermap” level before – a large arena-like area that is suspiciously empty…

Filled with gigantic hordes of monsters? Ha! What would give you that idea?

Of course, after you’ve explored a bit and thought about picking up the rocket launcher, the monsters start appearing. Although I expected this to happen, this moment was spectacularly dramatic enough to actually take me by surprise.

With an inhuman roar, a swarm of cacodemons and a small crowd of pinkie demons is violently disgorged from the building at the other end of the arena. Whilst this is going on, the air is filled with the distinctive screeching of multiple Revenants teleporting in. It’s a really cool moment:

Seriously, this screenshot really doesn’t do it justice.

But, since you’ve got a fully-loaded rocket launcher, since the monsters you’re fighting are slow and relatively weak, since the arena is fairly large and since the most dangerous monsters in the arena (the Revenants) are contained within alcoves that have pillars right next to them that you can hide behind, it really isn’t anywhere near as challenging as it should be. Add to that the surprising abundance of health items in the area, and it really isn’t a proper “slaughtermap”.

After you’ve wiped out literally all of the monsters at a fairly leisurely pace, it might take you a couple of minutes to work out how to open the door at the other end of the arena. Once you’ve opened it, you find yourself in a medium-sized rectangular room with a button in the middle of it.

Hmm… Should I press this button? Maybe something nice will happen?

Needless to say, once you press the button – the room locks itself and monsters start teleporting in. This part of the level is, at least, moderately challenging. Thanks to the size and shape of the room and the fact that some parts of the floor will damage you if you stand on them for too long, there’s a bit of a challenge here.

I’m still puzzled by the random face in the background though.

Yet, like earlier in the level, this part of the level is let down by a couple of poor design choices. The first is that this area contains enough plasma rifle ammunition for you to fight literally all of the monsters (especially when you take monster infighting into account) and still have some power cells left over afterwards. Given that this is one of the most powerful weapons in the game, there’s a good reason why ammunition for it is usually fairly scarce in most challenging “Doom II” levels.

Secondly, there aren’t any seriously threatening monsters. This area would be vastly improved by the inclusion of even a single arch-vile. Having a monster with an extremely powerful attack and the ability to resurrect other monsters forces the player to think fast and to play more tactically. Without an arch-vile or two, the main strategy for this area is just “run around and hold down the fire button”.

After this area, you walk down a rather cool-looking series of corridors and then…. the level’s over.

Which is a shame, because this part of the level makes it seem like the rest of the level has been lulling you into a false sense of security.

One thing that helps to make this level a bit more interesting is the music. Even though the gameplay is a bit on the easy side of things, the gloomy and vaguely “Resident Evil”-like instrumental music in the background helps to add a sense of ominous dread to the level.

All in all, despite my criticisms, this isn’t exactly a “bad” level. It’s a fun way to spend twenty minutes or so. But, I guess that this is one of the few “slaughtermap” levels that probably should be played on higher difficulty settings. Still, if you’re new to the genre or are less experienced with “Doom II”, then it’s probably a fairly gentle way to introduce yourself to this type of level.

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

Mini Review: “Black Magnetic” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

Well, I was in the mood for another “Doom II” level, so I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting-looking cyberpunk WAD from 2015 called “Black Magnetic“.

Surprisingly, I actually returned to the “GZDoom” source port for this WAD, since – unlike a lot of other modern WADs – it’s actually compatible with a version of GZDoom that will actually run on my computer (version 1.8.10, if anyone is curious. Normally, I just use “ZDoom” these days though).

So, let’s take a look at “Black Magnetic”:

Not to be confused with Metallica’s “Black Album” or their “Death Magnetic” album.

“Black Magnetic” is a single-level WAD that includes new music, sounds, voice-acting (for several monsters), monsters, textures, item sprites and weapons.

The easiest way to describe this WAD is that it’s almost kind of like a mixture of “Quake II”, “Quake” and various 90s cyberpunk games. But, at the same time, it’s also it’s own thing as well.

Seriously, the lighting in this level is gloriously gothic and wonderfully cyberpunk 🙂 And, yes, this is probably a GZDoom-specific thing.

And just look at this awesome skybox from the beginning of the level 🙂

Even though it contains a fair amount of sounds, health item sprites etc.. from the classic “Quake” games, this level sets itself apart because of the way that it handles difficulty.

Instead of throwing large numbers of monsters at you, this level contains a slightly smaller number of more powerful monsters. In other words, the zombie soldiers and cyborgs you’ll be fighting are pretty much as powerful and well-armoured as you are (or, in some cases, more!). Even the creator’s description of the WAD tells you that you’ll need to take cover a lot.

Yes, this battle isn’t as ridiculously easy as it might appear at first glance. Yes, it’s techically a cover-based shooter, but a good one WITHOUT regenerating health!

And, yes, the imps now want to add your technological and cultural distinctiveness to their own. Resistance is futile.

Likewise, some of the new monsters in this level have a rather fiendish trick up their sleeves. When certain types of cyborg enemies die, they release a few “Heretic”-style metal spheres which roll around randomly. When these spheres stop rolling, they explode and spray nails in all directions. Needless to say, as soon as one of these enemies dies, it’s usually a good idea to run or to find something to hide behind.

Yes, once you see these, then RUN!!

The level’s weapons help to add to the difficulty too. For starters, you don’t have any melee weapons whatsoever (although ammo for weaker weapons isn’t exactly in short supply). Likewise, you don’t really gain any seriously powerful weapons until relatively late into the level. What this means is that you’ll spend quite a lot of time using a pistol, shotgun and/or assault rifle that feels slightly under-powered when used against the level’s well-armoured monsters.

Yes, you’ll get a Super Shotgun (with a new sprite) and the devastator from “Duke Nukem 3D” a bit later on but even these don’t make the game as easy as you might think.

Yes, the Super Shotgun can kill some types of enemies with a single close-range shot, but the reloading animation seems to be very slightly longer than in “Doom II”. Likewise, the devastator is suitably powerful, but ammo for it is fairly scarce. Plus, it’s worth saving some devastator rockets for the final boss battle too.

Yes, these are the Cyber-Baron monsters that you may have seen in other WADs, rather than ordinary Barons.

In terms of the level design, it’s pretty much what you would expect. The level is complex, non-linear and of medium-sized. It’s a good example of mid-late 1990s-style level design and it is wonderful to see here. In terms of length, this level will probably take an experienced player about an hour to complete (although a lot of this is due to the added difficulty from the new monsters and weapons).

In terms of background music, this level uses one of the more dramatic pieces of background music from “Quake 2”. It’s basically heavy metal and it sounds awesome 🙂 The only annoying thing is that it also includes the radio messages from “Quake 2”, which can sometimes make you think that there are monsters nearby when there aren’t.

All in all, this is a surprisingly challenging and inventive level that has a really cool mid-late 90s cyberpunk look and atmosphere to it. It’s dark, it’s futuristic and it’s industrial. Yes, this level borrows quite a bit from the first two “Quake” games, but it’s very much it’s own thing at the same time. Whilst the way that the level achieves it’s difficulty may seem slightly frustrating at times, it’s a great example of 90s-style innovation in the modern day.

If I had to give this level a rating out of five, it would get at least four.