Review: “Brother’s Temple” (WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”ZDoom”/”GZDoom”)

Well, it’s been about a month or so since my last “Doom II” WAD review and I suddenly remembered that I should probably carry on this hallowed monthly tradition. So, after clicking on the “Random File” button on the /idgames Archive a few times, I ended up finding a WAD from 2011 called “Brother’s Temple“.

As usual, I used the “GZ Doom” source port (version 3.4.1) whilst playing this WAD, although it will also apparently work with version 2 or higher of ZDoom too.

So, let’s take a look at “Brother’s Temple”:

“Brother’s Temple” is a short-medium length single level “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD which includes a skybox from “Final Doom” too πŸ™‚ The WAD’s creator describes it as being “Plutonia-feeling” and since The Plutonia Experiment is my favourite “Official” Doom episode, I was instantly intrigued.

In essence, the WAD has an atmosphere and visual style that is reminiscent of the best parts of “Final Doom”, but differs somewhat in terms of difficulty, level design and gameplay.

Still, for something that pretty much just uses the default graphics, it looks really cool. Thanks to the red sky and stone textures, it really does look like some kind of abandoned ancient temple – complete with the kind of walkways that you’d expect from a “Plutonia” level, in addition to some really cool flourishes – such as broken stones floating in lava and ominous red mist effects – that surpass what you’d expect to see in “Final Doom” πŸ™‚

This covered outdoor walkway reminds me a lot of something from “Plutonia”.

However, this level does some cool new stuff too πŸ™‚

But although this is a cool-looking and atmospheric WAD, the gameplay differs a little from “Final Doom”. The most noticeable example of this is how the level handles difficulty. Unlike “Final Doom”, this level doesn’t challenge the player by throwing lots of mid-level monsters at them. Instead, this level achieves most of it’s challenge through the use of weapon progression and claustrophobic set pieces.

For a lot of the level, you’ll be using the basic shotgun (with the super shotgun only being found in an optional area that you can miss completely) and the chaingun. Chaingun ammo is relatively limited, so the basic shotgun automatically makes each battle twice as difficult. In addition to this, expect to find yourself trapped in claustrophobic areas with several monsters and relatively little room to dodge.

Yes, this is technically “cheap difficulty”, but it both looks and feels really cool πŸ™‚

Although both of these things aren’t the best way to challenge the player, they are handled fairly well – with lots of lower-level monsters meaning that the shotgun doesn’t feel underpowered for most of the level and the claustrophobic set pieces often making use of a really cool-looking red mist effect that adds a lot of awesomeness to these otherwise slightly cheap segments. Experienced players will find this level to be mildly-moderately challenging and the level never really feels unfair either. Still, it feels relatively easy compared to “Plutonia”.

Interestingly, this WAD also seems to take a rather traditionalist attitude towards jumping. Although, given that the level has been designed with the traditional “no jumping” limitations in mind, this is barely noticeable.

In terms of the level design, it’s better than I’d initially expected πŸ™‚ Although it gets off to a slightly linear start, the level quickly becomes a lot more non-linear – with a good mixture of corridors, outdoor walkways and other such things to keep everything interesting. As mentioned earlier, there’s even an optional area (which I only found when I was looking for more health to get through an upcoming claustrophobic set piece) that rewards exploration by the player πŸ™‚

Seriously, you can totally miss this cool little part of the level if you don’t bother exploring.

I love how there are multiple ways to get to different parts of the level (eg: you can approach the blue door from either side) and how the level is large enough to encourage exploration, but small enough that you’ll never really get lost. It’s a really well-designed level but, although there are a few moments that reminded me of “Plutonia”, the style of design here is intriguingly different and kind of it’s own thing too. This is kind of hard to describe well, but the level felt a bit “wider” and larger than a typical densely-designed “Plutonia” level. Still, this fits in well with the ancient temple theme and really helps to give the level a bit of a unique atmosphere.

All in all, even though this level has slightly more style than substance, it’s still a really fun level. Although it is nowhere near as difficult as a typical “Plutonia” level, it not only captures the atmosphere of that episode but also adds some intriguing new stuff to it too πŸ™‚ It’s a cool-looking, but mildly-moderately challenging level that was fun to explore and play for the 15-20 minutes it took me to complete it πŸ™‚

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

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

Well, due to a combination of hot weather and the fact that I’d been feeling less motivated to read than usual, I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Practical Magic” by Alice Hoffman πŸ™‚ ). As such, this seemed like the perfect time to make sure that at least one “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD appeared here this month, given that I almost broke this hallowed tradition (thanks to playing some Build Engine games recently).

So, after clicking on the “Random File” button on the /idgames Archive, I ended up finding a WAD from 2017 called “Greymood“.

As usual, I used the “GZ Doom” source port (version 3.4.1) whilst playing this WAD, although it will also apparently work with Prboom+ 2.5.1.4 and Zandronum 2.1.2 (and presumably later versions of these ports too).

So, let’s take a look at “Greymood”:

“Greymood” is a medium-size single-level WAD that also contains new textures, skyboxes and music. Given that the WAD’s text file points out that it was inspired by a depressive mood, you should expect a level that is more on the gloomy and gothic side of things. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

On the plus side, this WAD is very atmospheric and contains a good mixture of wintery segments, “hell”-style segments and segments that reminded me a little of a game like “Quake”. In addition to some wonderful dirge-like music and a few new textures (eg: a grey skybox, new switches etc…) that really adds to the atmosphere, some segments of this WAD also have really cool-looking lighting that is an absolute joy to look at.

I especially love how these ominous iron bars break up the grey sky texture, whilst also lending a vaguely industrial look to this part of the level.

And the minimal wall-based lighting in this “hell” area also reminds me a lot of the original “Quake” too πŸ™‚

On the downside, this WAD’s visual gloom can sometimes go a little bit too far – with some areas consisting of almost impenetrable darkness that can make it difficult to find switches and/or where to go next. Although this is probably a visual metaphor for the mood that inspired the level, expect to rely on either trial and error or the in-game map in order to navigate a few parts of the level.

Yes, darkness looks cool. But, you really can have too much of a good thing.

But, enough about the visual design, what about the actual gameplay? Well, this level is one that experienced players will probably find at least moderately challenging and is also a relatively mild introduction to the “slaughtermap” genre of WADs for newer players. In other words, although a lot of the level plays out like a fairly traditional “Doom II” level, expect a couple of segments where you are trapped in small-medium sized arena areas with more monsters than you can fight.

And there are Arch-Viles too πŸ™‚

These are reasonably fun, since you have to rely on things like tactics, hiding behind cover, circlestrafing and running past monsters to find switches. Even so, they are on the relatively easy side of things with – for example – the final “Icon Of Sin”-style segment containing a couple of invulnerability spheres. Even so, the WAD adds challenge in a couple of unexpected ways.

On the plus side, these spheres add some much-needed lighting to the gloom here πŸ™‚

A lot of these consist of things that seem “frustrating” at first, until you notice all of the clever design choices. For example, you are given a BFG before the final battle, but it’s very easy to miss due to all of the shadows surrounding it. Likewise, whilst I won’t spoil too many details, the set piece you have to go through to get the red key is actually a very basic puzzle in disguise πŸ™‚

This brings me on to the fact that this WAD takes a rather “traditional” attitude towards jumping, with the ability to jump being disabled by default. However, given that the level is designed around this limitation, it never really feels too much like a limitation.

As for the actual design of the level, it’s really good πŸ™‚ It’s has enough non-linearity to require exploration, whilst also being laid out in a way that ensures that you’ll usually know where you’re supposed to go next. It also contains a good mixture of traditional-style segments and small-medium sized arena battles, that help to keep the gameplay feeling varied.

All in all, this is a rather fun level. Yes, the lighting can sometimes be a little bit too gloomy and a couple of moments might seem a little frustrating at first, but this is a fairly solid, atmospheric and moderately challenging level that will provide 30-60 minutes of fun for experienced players πŸ™‚

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

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.

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

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“England Expects” By Sara Sheridan), I thought that I’d finally review a “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD (well, technically, a “.pk3”) that I’ve wanted to play for at least a year or two.

I am, of course, talking about the Cacoward-Winning WAD “Doom: The Golden Souls 2“, sequel to the excellent “Doom: The Golden Souls“.

As regular readers of this site will know, I got a vaguely modern refurbished computer a week or two earlier. This computer can actually run version 3.4.1 of the GZDoom source port (v 3.6.0 had problems recognising my USB keyboard and mouse), which is the minimum needed to play “Golden Souls 2”.

Yes, it’s a sad state of affairs when a mod for a game from 1994 actually has system requirements and demands a modern computer (and why I didn’t review this WAD a year or two ago, because I couldn’t play it on the vintage mid-2000s computer I was using). But, I can finally play it now πŸ™‚

So, let’s take a look at “Doom: The Golden Souls 2” πŸ™‚ However, I probably should warn you that part one of the industrial levels contains a flickering/strobing lighting effect (either that or it was some kind of glitch) that may or may not cause problems for some players.

Finally! I’ve wanted to play this for ages πŸ™‚

Following on from the events of “Doom: The Golden Souls”, the Doomguy’s pet rabbit has been kidnapped by demons and it is up to him to get the rabbit back before it is used in an evil ritual. Thus begins a full-length megawad (with at least 20-30 levels) that contains new textures, weapons, monsters, sounds/music, gameplay mechanics etc…

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it deserves it’s Cacoward πŸ™‚ It is one of the most creative, detailed and generally innovative WADs that I’ve seen in quite a while.

Yes, this isn’t your average “Doom II” WAD….

Like with it’s predecessor, this WAD is heavily inspired by the “Mario” games, whilst still being both very recognisably a “Doom” WAD and it’s own thing at the same time. It’s a gleefully cartoonish, ’90s nostalgia-filled thrill ride of a WAD that will make the many hours it will guzzle up feel like time well wasted πŸ™‚

Seriously, this is one of those “just one more level” kind of WADs that will keep you coming back for more. So, Expect to end up playing this one for at least an hour or four every day until you finish it. It’s that good.

So, yes, don’t expect to get anything productive done in the days after installing this WAD.

I should probably start by talking about the level design. In addition to featuring an absolutely stunning “Super Mario World”-style worldmap that allows you to revisit previous levels and stock up on items/health between missions (using coins you find in-game), the level design here is brilliant. There’s a really good mixture of more linear platform game style levels, traditional-style levels, boss levels and a few more puzzle/exploration-based “ghost house” levels.

Seriously, the world map is absolutely giant and will fill you with nostalgia for “Super Mario World” too πŸ™‚

Plus, there’s a good mixture between platforming…

And more traditional level design too πŸ™‚

Not only that, there are so many cool level design tricks. Whether it is a dormant mini-boss that you don’t fight until later in the level, a level that can be turned upside-down, an easter egg or two, some clever switch puzzles, segments involving flying, a few destructible walls etc… this is one of those WADs where the levels can surprise you in all sorts of ways. Not only that, the levels are all a reasonably consistent length and the game as a whole has a fairly good difficulty curve too.

In addition to this, the visual design of the levels can be really brilliant. Yes, there are a few generic-looking “industrial”, “hell”, “gothic mansion” etc.. style levels, but many of the levels are absolute works of art πŸ™‚ Whether it is ancient Egyptian-style areas, snowy fields, a Lovecraftian world of mists, an ancient Japan-style level, caves filled with glowing stuff, a “Sonic”-inspired level, tropical island style levels, a cyberpunk level or even a really beautiful 1960s-style Beatles-inspired level, the visual design here is absolutely brilliant.

Groovy!

Seriously, I love Ancient Egpyt-themed levels in games πŸ™‚

Literally the only criticism I have to make of the level design is that one “ghost house” level in the version I played (v1.3) contained an organ-like switch that didn’t seem to work and the only way I was able to progress was via cheat codes.

The gameplay itself is really good too. Although this WAD includes a lot of first-person platforming, this isn’t as annoying as it sounds – mostly because of the excellent jumping mechanics (eg: you can jump higher and move around in the air) that actually make these segments fun. Likewise, the combat (which, in true platform game style, focuses almost entirely on projectile-dodging) and monster placement is tough enough to be enjoyably challenging, whilst also being forgiving enough that you’ll probably be able to get through each level in an hour or two.

Still, if you’re new to the classic “Doom” games, get some practice with “Final Doom” before playing this WAD.

As for the monsters, they’re also excellent. Not only is there a brilliant variety of monsters that are introduced throughout the game, but there’s also a good mix of traditional “Doom II” monsters (plus one from “Heretic” too πŸ™‚ ), monsters from the first “Golden Souls” WAD, several new boss monsters and quite a few all-new monsters.

Plus, several of the monsters also do innovative things too. Whether it is monsters that can resurrect other monsters of their type, a clever twist on the “Pain Elemental” monster, squids that cover the screen with ink, monsters that can only be harmed with certain weapons etc… the monster design and variety in this WAD is brilliant.

Splat! Luckily the visor of the Doomguy’s helmet is self-cleaning!

In terms of the weapons, they’re fairly creative too. In addition to some traditional FPS staples (which include modern reloading mechanics), there are some eccentric ’90s-style weird weapons too πŸ™‚ Whether it is a rapid-fire star launcher, a trumpet-shaped blunderbuss or a cupid-themed laser sniper rifle, the weapons are a brilliant mix of whimsical 1990s-style silliness and FPS tradition. Likewise, at one early point in the game, you might find a seemingly “weak” infinite ammo/recharging laser pistol… only to discover that it’s a really useful long-range weapon later in the game.

It’s a sniper rifle! How romantic!

And, yes, this gun makes silly trumpet noises when you fire it πŸ™‚

However, one annoying thing about the weapons is that they sometimes feel a little underpowered. This has been done deliberately, since one of the many additional features of this game is that weapon upgrades can be unlocked if you find enough “big coins” hidden throughout the game.

The upgrades also turn your weapons gold, but don’t expect to get more than one or two of them unless you spend ages searching.

Given that these can often be really difficult to find and that many also seem to require hidden items from other levels (eg: skull keys) to reach, don’t expect to get many upgrades unless you put about twice as much time into this long game than you might otherwise do.

As for music and sound design, this WAD absolutely excels. In addition to lots of wonderfully cartoonish and/or adorable monster sounds, there is also lots of awesome 1990s platform game music and even a Beatles-based MIDI tune in one level too. Not only that, at least one of the game’s cool easter eggs is sound-based too (eg: press “use” near the red AC/DC-style guitar in the “Strawberry Fields” level).

“Thunderstruck” AND “Doom II”? This is AMAZING πŸ™‚

All in all, this WAD is excellent πŸ™‚ Not only is it basically a full-length game, but it also sums up everything excellent about 1990s-style games πŸ™‚ Whether it is the whimsical atmosphere, the nostalgia, the humour, the creativity or how both the platforming and FPS elements feel really well-designed, this is an amazing follow-up to “Doom: The Golden Souls”. Yes, there are a couple of small flaws, but for a fan-made WAD created by one person, it is better than some actual “proper” computer games πŸ™‚

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