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.

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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.

Mini Review: “Xmas Doom 2015” [WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom” (?)]

Well, in keeping with tradition, I thought that I’d review a Christmas-themed WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”. The surprising thing was that, when I was preparing this review, finding a Christmas WAD that I hadn’t played was surprisingly difficult. There really don’t seem to be that many of them out there.

Still, I eventually found a WAD called “Xmas Doom 2015[Note: Unfortunately, the only place this WAD could be found was on Dropbox.], which seems to be an updated and expanded version of the classic “Xmas Doom” WAD.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port when playing this WAD. Since the download of “Xmas Doom 2015” doesn’t come with a text file, I’m not sure if this is the right source port for it. But, whilst playing, I noticed a few graphical glitches (eg: missing skybox textures, strange-looking floors etc.). So, it might be worth trying this WAD with a different source port.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Xmas Doom 2015”:

“Xmas Doom 2015” is a ten-level WAD (well, technically eleven) that includes new weapons, monsters, textures, sounds, music and sprites. Although the WAD includes an episode selection screen, the second episode seems to be unfinished at the time of writing (and the first level of it is literally just an empty room). So, I’ll only be reviewing the first episode.

One of the first things that I will say about “Xmas Doom 2015” is that it’s something of a mixed bag. There’s some great stuff in this WAD and there’s some… less than great... stuff too. So, I’ll start with the good stuff and then move on to all of the problems with this WAD.

First of all, some of the new levels are amazing 🙂 My favourite levels, by far, have to be the third and fifth levels. The third level is set in a busy shopping street and it just oozes 1990s Christmas nostalgia – complete with brightly-coloured textures, falling snow and the kind of silly 90s-style humour that used to be common in computer games.

Go away.. hur hur.. we’re, like, closed.

And there’s a festive Arch-vile too 🙂 It’s a Christmas miracle 🙂

Likewise, the fifth level is set within a giant cinema and it is a joy to behold 🙂 Not only are there lots of 90s movie references but, if you grew up in that decade, then it will almost certainly evoke lots of nostalgia.

“2012”! Gasp! What kind of a strange temporal anomaly is this?!?!?

But, hey, at least there’s a Super Turbo Turkey Puncher 3 machine 🙂

The fourth level probably deserves an honourable mention too. It’s set within an American-style shopping centre and it contains the same goofy humour and 90s nostalgia as the third and fifth levels, although I preferred those two levels.

Even though I preferred levels three and five, this sarcastic sign about “Quake” in level four made me laugh though.

Likewise, some of the new weapons and monsters in this WAD are fairly good. The best new weapon, by far, is the pistol – which features a new sprite and a simply epic new sound effect. It’s also a slightly more powerful weapon, although this is balanced out by the fact that a short reloading animation plays after every ten shots or so.

The BFG has also been replaced with a sniper rifle (with a telescopic scope) and the plasma cannon has been replaced with a Duke Nukem 3D-style freeze gun.

And, in “Duke Nukem” style, the chainsaw has been replaced with a snow blower. This is hilariously silly!

The new sounds and music in this WAD are also fairly decent too, with MIDI renditions of many classic Christmas carols -as well as some hilariously cheesy new voice-acting too (for some of the monsters and the final boss).

As for the new monsters, they’re mostly good too. There’s a mixture between the monsters from the original “Xmas Doom”, silly 1990s-style cartoon monsters, some “traditional monsters” and a couple of new monsters in the style of classic custom monsters. The best one of the new monsters has to be the new version of the Pain Elemental, who has been reimagined in the same style as the “cacobauble” monsters from this WAD and other Christmas WADs:

Unfortunately, there’s only one of these monsters in the entire WAD though 😦

So, that was the good stuff. What about the bad stuff?

Well, the first thing to mention is that – if you’re using an older computer- the second level is pretty much unplayable. Seriously, it slowed down to a single-digit frame rate as soon as I started playing it. In the end, I was forced to use cheat codes (eg: ZDoom’s “freeze” command and the no clipping cheat) to move on to the third level. This is a real shame since the second level looked like it would be really cool:

For a 1990s-inspired WAD, why is it that my mid-2000s computer will only allow this level to run at a decent speed if I use the “freeze” cheat. And, yes, the skybox is missing – although this might be a “ZDoom” thing.

Likewise, strange as it sounds, this WAD would have been better off without the original “Xmas Doom” levels near the end.

Yes, they’ve received a few improvements (eg: there’s a text explanation for the final puzzle, there are some texture changes etc..) and a few “improvements” (eg: the annoying addition of dense fog to a monster-filled area). But the style of gameplay in these levels is so jarringly different from the earlier levels and it doesn’t really go well with the rest of the WAD. In a way, these levels almost feel like padding more than anything else:

Yes, “Xmas Doom” is a good WAD. But, it works better on it’s own!

This WAD would have been a lot more fun and streamlined if it’s creators had just kept the first 5-6 levels and the new final boss level and left out the original “Xmas Doom” levels. Seriously, this would have worked so much better as a completely original WAD.

In addition to this, some of the new weapons aren’t that great. The super shotgun replacement alternates between acting like a super shotgun and like a rapid-fire shotgun seemingly at random, which can waste ammo quickly. Likewise, the chaingun seems to be no more powerful than usual, but it has a short “spinning up” delay between clicking the mouse and the gun actually firing.

Likewise, one of the new monsters is perhaps a bit too creepy for a fun Christmas WAD. Basically, the pinkie demons have been replaced by enemies who look like short balaclava-clad terrorists. At first, I thought that they were just evil elves but, if you’re killed by one of them then the ZDoom death text states that they are… possessed children. WTF!?!? (the monster name is a “bewitched boy” or something like that, I think). For a “goofy” Christmas WAD, this seems a little bit too dark.

Yeah, dark humour is an essential part of classic FPS gaming. But, this is perhaps a bit too dark.

All in all, this WAD is a really strange mixture of good and bad. At it’s best, it sums up the brilliant “so bad that it’s good” silliness of the 1990s whilst providing mildly-moderately challenging gameplay and lots of wonderful 1990s Christmas nostalgia. But, some elements of this WAD don’t work that well.

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

Mini Review: “Altar Of Evil” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017-artwork-altar-of-evil-wad-review-sketch

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting one called “Altar Of Evil” which was one of the runners-up for a Cacoward in 2005.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD.

So, let’s take a look at “Altar Of Evil”:

screenshot_doom_20170302_133245

“Altar Of Evil” is a single-level WAD that contains new sounds, textures and sprites.

The first thing that I will say about this WAD is that it looks really cool, since it has a fairly consistent green/orange/black colour scheme and some wonderfully ominous lighting too. Although many of the new textures aren’t really that obvious, it still looks like a better version of something you would expect to find in the “standard” game.

Seriously, I love the lighting in this level :)

Seriously, I love the lighting in this level 🙂

The interesting visual design of this WAD also extends to the monster sprites, some of which have been altered in various ways.

Most notably, the imps now use a variant of the “Dark Imp” sprite used by various other WADs. They also fire green projectiles, which compliment the red projectiles that the Barons and Hell Knights now throw at you. Other notable monster sprite changes include a dark grey mancubus and three types of pinkie demons (eg: dark pink, blue and dark grey).

The blue pinkie demons are really cool, and they seem to be a replacement for the "spectre" monsters. So, WHAT are the dark grey pinkie demons?

The blue pinkie demons are really cool, and they seem to be a replacement for the “spectre” monsters. So, WHAT are the dark grey pinkie demons?

Yes, dark imps are nothing new. But, the green projectiles are really neat though.

Yes, dark imps are nothing new. But, the green projectiles are really neat though.

But, the main thing that gives this WAD it’s atmosphere has to be the new sounds.

Seriously, I cannot praise the sound design in this WAD highly enough – all of the weapon sounds and monster noises sound a little bit like a heavier and like a more “realistic” version of the kind of sound effects that you’d expect to hear in the original “Quake”.

The stand-out sound effects have to be the new super shotgun noise and the epic, thunderous roar of the BFG:

There's a reason why you'll run out of BFG ammo fairly quickly in this level. The new sound effect is just THAT epic!

There’s a reason why you’ll run out of BFG ammo fairly quickly in this level. The new sound effect is just THAT epic!

But, although this WAD has a lot of atmosphere, is the gameplay and level design any good? In a word, yes.

“Altar Of Evil” is an old-school non-linear level which still manages to be “streamlined” enough that you’ll rarely wonder where you’re supposed to go next. The level manages to be reasonably large without being too large (eg: you won’t really get lost when playing this level). There are a couple of cool little elements to this level, such as a pit in the corner of one room which Cacodemons rise out of and which you have to jump into in order to progress to the next part of the level.

As for the gameplay, this WAD contains a mixture of traditional-style gameplay and some mild slaughtermap elements. Throughout the very early stages of the level, you’ll be fighting reasonable numbers of monsters in relatively spacious areas. But, in later parts of the level, you’ll be fighting larger numbers of monsters in more confined spaces. This really helps to add some variety and challenge to the level, which keeps things interesting.

Yes, there are more monsters in this area than shown in the screenshot. Still, most of them are fairly low-level ones.

Yes, there are more monsters in this area than shown in the screenshot. Still, most of them are fairly low-level ones.

However, in terms of difficulty, experienced players will only find this level to be moderately challenging at most. Although there are a decent number of mid-level monsters (and the obligatory arch-vile too), many of the larger groups of monsters you will encounter in this level are mostly composed of imps, pinkie demons and/or cacodemons.

Yes, there's only one arch-vile here. Still, one arch-vile is objectively better than no arch-viles.

Yes, there’s only one arch-vile here. Still, one arch-vile is objectively better than no arch-viles.

Even so, thanks to the cramped corridors and claustrophobic chambers you’ll encounter in some parts of the level, even low-level monsters can pose more of a threat than you might initially think.

All in all, this is a really cool WAD. It’s extremely atmospheric, it manages to be both “new” and “traditional” at the same time, the gameplay is enjoyably challenging and some of the new weapon sounds are absolutely epic. It’s kind of like the original “Quake”, but with the much cooler aesthetic of the classic “Doom” games.

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

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

2017-artwork-miasma-wad-review-sketch

Well, it’s been at least a couple of weeks since I last played a “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d take a look for one called “Miasma” that won a Cacoward in 2016.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD. From what I’ve read, it will work on most other modern limit-removing source ports, although it apparently might cause problems if you’re using ZDaemon. But, if – like me – you’re using an older computer, expect a little bit of slowdown in a couple of the more monster-filled areas of the level. Whilst this didn’t render the game unplayable, it was slightly annoying nonetheless.

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

screenshot_doom_20170214_201920

“Miasma” is a large single-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” which contains new music and textures. One of the first things that you will notice when you play this WAD is it’s very distinctive green/brown colour scheme. Whilst this adds some atmosphere to the WAD, it isn’t really as distinctive as the blue colour scheme in “Swim With The Whales” or the purple/brown colour scheme in “Stardate 20X6“.

You’ll notice that I’ve just mentioned two fiendishly difficult “slaughtermap” WADs and there’s a reason for this. “Miasma” is vaguely reminiscent of both of these WADs but, whilst it’s a good WAD, it doesn’t quite reach their high standards for a number of reasons. Whilst the distinctive colour scheme, the challenging gameplay and the slightly eerie music wouldn’t be too out of place in those other WADs, there are some significant gameplay differences.

Well, sort of...

Well, sort of…

The main difference is that, in some ways, this level seems to be too large and too complex for it’s own good. Although this is something of a change from the more linear nature of many “slaughtermap”-style WADs and it’s a sign that the level’s creator spent a lot of time making the level, it also means that you’ll spend quite a while wandering around in circles whilst completely and utterly lost. This is also compounded by the fact that many of the level’s locked doors are…. completely optional.

I spent quite a while searching for keys and new parts of the level and only happened to stumble across the exit by accident whilst revisiting a monster-filled area I’d barely managed to escape from earlier. There was no real sense of achievement or logical progression to this, just a sense of “Oh, there it is! At least I don’t have to go round in circles again“.

How... Serendipitous.

How… Serendipitous.

This extreme non-linearity occasionally makes some of the level’s more dramatic set pieces feel somewhat cheap. You can spend quite a while fighting your way through a horde of monsters or trying to escape one of the level’s fiendish set pieces, only to find that all of your effort has been for nothing.

Sometimes all you’ll recieve for your efforts is a new way to return to an area you’ve already visited. Generally speaking, highly-challenging areas of a level should reward the player with some kind of genuine progression (eg: access to a totally new part of the level) – and this seems to be missing in some parts of this level.

After a lot of searching, I found this place. And, after several attempts, I managed to escape from this monster-filled pit and... ended up near the beginning of the level. Well, THAT was a waste of time!

After a lot of searching, I found this place. And, after several attempts, I managed to escape from this monster-filled pit and… ended up near the beginning of the level. Well, THAT was a waste of time!

As bizarre, heretical and counter-intuitive as it might sound, this level would have probably benefitted from a little bit of linearity.

No, I’m not saying that it should be a boring “Call Of Duty”-style corridor level. But, whilst there should be explorable areas and a few short alternative paths, there should be a slightly clearer sense of where the player should go next. Most great non-linear FPS game levels achieve this by making the level just small enough that the player will find where they’re supposed to go after a few minutes of searching. But, with a level of this size, you often don’t even know where to start looking.

Fun fact, this isn't an essential part of the level. It's a ledge that you can jump onto that will allow you to reach two monster-filled areas that aren't hugely relevant to the level.

Fun fact, this isn’t an essential part of the level. It’s a ledge that you can jump onto that will allow you to reach two monster-filled areas that aren’t hugely relevant to the level.

That said, this is a good level. It’s the kind of level that requires perseverence, skill and a good knowledge of the “rules” of “Doom II” to complete. Plus, whilst there are some reasonably good set pieces where you’ll have to use tactics to fight or escape large numbers of monsters in claustrophobic areas, there are also a few more “traditional” parts of the level (in terms of monster numbers and placement) that help to add some variety to the gameplay.

The beginning of the level is more like a traditional "Doom II" level in some ways.

The beginning of the level is more like a traditional “Doom II” level in some ways.

The set pieces are thrilling and well-made, but they are rarely that surprising. They’re just slaughtermap set pieces that require you to dodge or fight ludicrious numbers of monsters until you can find a switch of some kind. They’re really solid but, if you’ve played a few slaughtermaps before, there’s rarely any kind of serious “wow” factor to these parts of the level. They’re often just good, ordinary slaughtermap set pieces.

Visually speaking, this WAD looks pretty cool. Although most of the WAD just looks a little bit like a slightly more gothic/cyberpunk version of “standard” Doom II, there are some brilliantly designed areas that look a bit more atmospheric and dramatic. Plus, one cool touch is that the chaingun zombies now have green sprites instead of red ones. I love WADs that have a distinctive colour scheme (Ancient Aliens” truly excels at this) and this WAD doesn’t disappoint here.

 This part of the level looks really cool. I wish more of the level looked like this :)

This part of the level looks really cool. I wish more of the level looked like this 🙂

Plus, this slight adjustment to the chaingun zombie sprites fits in with the aesthetic of the level really well too 🙂

Another cool thing about this level is the music. The main background music in the level is simultaneously eerie, relaxing and slightly retro. Whilst it doesn’t always complement the fast-paced thrills of some areas of the level, it helps to add a bit of extra atmosphere to the level. Plus, another cool touch is that the safe room music from the original “Resident Evil” plays during the stats screen at the end of the level.

All in all, this is a good “Doom II” WAD, but I don’t know if I’d call it a “great” one. Yes, the extreme non-linearity and size of this level probably took a lot of effort to make and it’s probably an interesting design experiment. But, strange as it sounds, this level could have probably benefitted from being just a little bit more focused and compact.

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

Mini Review: “Mutiny (A Doomworld Community Project)” [WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/”ZDoom”]

2017-artwork-mutiny-wad-review-sketch

A few days before I wrote this review, I was in the mood for playing another “Doom II” WAD. In particular, I was in the mood for a cyberpunk-themed WAD and, after a bit of searching, I found this WAD from 2016 called “Mutiny (A Doomworld Community Project)“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, it will probably work on any modern limit-removing source port that allows jumping. Interestingly, this WAD also comes with a Dehacked file too. Looking in the text file, this file only affects the story text screens and map names or something like that. I used it nontheless, but it isn’t strictly necessary.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Mutiny (A Doomworld Community Project)”:

screenshot_doom_20170122_155131

“Mutiny” is a 16-level WAD that contains new textures and new music. This WAD is described in it’s text file as being inspired by “late 90’s cyberpunk-themed wads” and some areas of the WAD certainly have a fairly “industrial”/gothic/post-apocalyptic 1990s-style cyberpunk look to them (thanks to the new textures and some clever design decisions).

Whilst I’m slightly more of a fan of “Blade Runner“-style 1980s cyberpunk, there are still lots of cool-looking cyberpunk areas in this WAD.

Like this gothic futuristic corridor and post-apocalyptic skybox in the first level...

Like this gothic futuristic corridor and post-apocalyptic skybox in the first level…

....Or this brilliantly retro room that almost looks like something from "Blade Runner".

….Or this brilliantly retro room that almost looks like something from “Blade Runner”.

Seriously, the cyberpunk parts of this WAD look really cool :)

Seriously, the cyberpunk parts of this WAD look really cool 🙂

Whilst there are some brilliant cyberpunk levels and areas in this WAD, there are also at least a few areas that just look a bit like “standard” Doom II. Even so, there are some brilliantly creative flourishes here – such as a giant door in the final level that is made by tiling the standard door textures:

Plus, if you squint when it is opening, it looks a little bit like the Tyrell building from "Blade Runner".

Plus, if you squint when it is opening, it looks a little bit like the Tyrell building from “Blade Runner”.

But, what about the gameplay? Well, for the most part, “Mutiny” does this really well. As you would expect from a modern WAD, it is aimed at experienced “Doom II” players and offers quite an enjoyable challenge.

Most of the time, this is achieved in the traditional way (albeit with slightly more chaingunn zombies than in many WADs) but there are also a few “slaughtermap” style areas (such as the final level) which help to add some variety to the gameplay too.

But, don't worry, you'll encounter the occasional giant horde of monsters in earlier levels, like this one.

But, don’t worry, you’ll encounter the occasional giant horde of monsters in earlier levels, like this one.

One slight problem with this WAD being a collaborative project is that it occasionally doesn’t have a consistent difficulty curve.

For example, one of the easiest (relatively speaking) and shortest levels in the WAD is level fourteen. Yes, this offers a bit of a respite from the longer and more challenging levels, but it seems a bit unusual to place a level like this near the end of the WAD.

Yes, even the cyberdemon in level 14 can be easily dodged.

Yes, even the cyberdemon in level 14 can be easily dodged.

Another thing that might be a bonus or a problem (depending on your tastes) is that the levels in this WAD are occasionally on the large and labyrinthine side of things.

Whilst it’s always great to see old-school non-linear levels, there were at least a few times where I got completely stuck and/or lost, and had to actually stop playing the WAD for a while (only to work out where I was supposed to go after seeing the level afresh the next day). Whilst this made me nostalgic for the golden age of FPS gaming, having slightly smaller levels and/or a few more shortcuts to locked doors wouldn’t have gone amiss either.

There are also a few cool set-pieces here too. For example, at the beginning of level ten, you are offered a choice between a super-shotgun or a rocket launcher. You can only choose one of them. So, if you are playing from a pistol start (which I wasn’t. Seriously, why do people do this?), then it probably adds an extra level of challenge and strategy to the level.

 Or, option three, a plasma cannon found in an earlier level :)

Or, option three, a plasma cannon found in an earlier level 🙂

Another innovative set piece can be found in level four, where you have to solve a simple puzzle that involves raising and lowering two platforms in order to form a bridge.

These platforms are raised and lowered by either standing on or not standing on two large buttons on the floor. Although it might take you a few seconds to work out what you’re supposed to do, this puzzle is technically impressive (for “Doom II”, at least) and it doesn’t really get in the way of the gameplay either.

 It's also much less annoying than the "one-third of a puzzle" puzzles from a certain official Doom-engine game :)

It’s also much less annoying than the “one-third of a puzzle” puzzles from a certain official Doom-engine game 🙂

The music in this WAD is really good from what I can remember. The most memorable pieces of background music were futuristic-sounding 90s-style MIDI tunes that fit in especially well with the cyberpunk theme of the WAD. The best piece of background music can probably be found in the final level, since not only does it quickly build up into a suitably epic piece of background music, it’s also vaguely reminiscent of the music from the original “System Shock” too.

All in all, this is a fun retro-futuristic WAD that will provide several evenings of enjoyment. In addition to the thrillingly challenging gameplay, there are also a few interesting set pieces and slaughtermap-style segments that add some variety to the gameplay, but expect to get stuck and/or lost at least once or twice. It isn’t quite a perfect WAD, but it’s still a really good one.

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

Mini Review: “Preacher (V.05)” [WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”]

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Well, it’s been a little under a month since I last reviewed any WADs for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”. Although this is partially because I’ve been busy with other projects and other games, it’s also because (at the time of writing) finding WADs that will actually run on my computer is somewhat more difficult than it used to be.

Before writing this review, I looked at a few other interesting-looking WADs on the ZDoom forums, only to discover that they all required the absolute lastest ultra-fast high-graphics version of GZDoom to run!

Still, I refused to give up my search and I was eventually rewarded by finding a rather cool little WAD called “Preacher (V.05)“. There seem to be multiple versions of the WAD available, and I played the one that can be found in the post by Arch from the 12th May 2015 (10:43pm).

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port (v2.7.9999.0). From what I’ve read, this WAD is also compatible with PRBoom and, if it’s compatible with ZDoom, then it’s probably compatible with both old and new versions of GZDoom too.

So, let’s take a look at “Preacher (V.05)”:

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“Preacher (V.05)” is a five-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” that includes new textures, music, sounds items and weapons. This is a gothic horror-themed WAD that is loosely-based on another awesome FPS game from the 1990s called “Blood“. In fact, you actually get to play as one of the evil cultists from that game – which is amazing!

And, even cooler, he'll actually shout random gibberish during fights too. Crudox Cruo!!! Pallax!!!

And, even cooler, he’ll actually shout random gibberish during fights too. Crudox Cruo!!! Pallax!!!

The level design in this WAD is really good. All of the levels are reasonably large, non-linear exploration-based levels, and there is a decent amount of variety between the locations that you visit.

Even though a fair amount of the WAD uses “gothic cathedral/castle”-type locations, there is also a “wild west”/”ancient Egypt”-style level and a gothic level that reminded me a lot of the ‘pale realm’ levels from “American McGee’s Alice”:

 *Whistles the theme tune from 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly' *

*Whistles the theme tune from ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ *

Curiouser and curiouser! Best of all, the background music in this level actually sounds a bit like something from "American McGee's Alice" too :)

Curiouser and curiouser! Best of all, the background music in this level actually sounds a bit like something from “American McGee’s Alice” too 🙂

One interesting piece of level design in this WAD is that each level requires you to collect all three skull keys in order to open a locked door that leads to the exit. These are the only locked doors that you will find in every level. This has the effect of streamlining the gameplay during the earlier parts of each level, whilst also forcing you to explore later (when you’ve got rid of most of the monsters).

In terms of difficulty, this WAD is enjoyably challenging and it is aimed at moderately experienced players. Whilst it isn’t really a “slaughtermap” WAD, there are still a decent number of mid-level and high-level monsters in each level (it’s on par with many modern “Doom II” WADs when it comes to the monster count, I guess).

This is one of the easier parts of level five. Then again, if you're still playing "Doom II" in 2017, then you've probably had at least a few years of practice anyway..

This is one of the easier parts of level five. Then again, if you’re still playing “Doom II” in 2017, then you’ve probably had at least a few years of practice anyway..

If you have fast reflexes, a good understanding of “Doom II” tactics and a sense of determination, then you can finish this WAD within a couple of hours. And you’ll have a lot of fun in the process 🙂

In the spirit of 90s-style FPS gaming, this WAD takes a rather traditionalist approach to the gameplay. In other words, jumping is disabled by default. Not only that, each level is played from a pistol start thanks to some strategically-placed exploding barrels that appear after you step into the teleporter at the end of each level (and, yes, it takes a while to remember not to reflexively load your last save when you die at the end of every level).

Yes, I can see why the creator of this WAD did this – in order to ensure that each level has it’s own difficulty curve, and to make weapon placement matter more – but it does get annoying after a while. Even so, the new pistol texture makes up for this slightly.

I don't know why, but I really love it when FPS games include revolvers.

I don’t know why, but I really love it when FPS games include revolvers.

And tommyguns too!

And tommyguns too!

Although many of the new weapons in this WAD are simple sprite/sound replacements (for the fist, chaingun, rocket launcher, plasma cannon and BFG), they all look amazing. The best new weapon is probably the replacement for the BFG, which is this cool-looking staff with a skull on top of it.

But I was only able to find it in level one for some strange reason.

But I was only able to find it in level one for some strange reason.

In terms of the sound and music design, this WAD is really cool. Not only does the main character regularly use both Caleb’s laugh and the cultist dialogue from “Blood”, but the music for each level is suitably gothic and dramatic. However, the version that I played just had instrumental music playing during each level, rather than the music that is mentioned in earlier parts of the WAD’s thread in the ZDoom forums.

The best background music can be found in the third level, and it is very reminiscent of “American McGee’s Alice”. In addition to this, an excerpt from Handel’s “Messiah” plays whenever you pick up certain in-game items. Plus, when you complete each level, you are treated to some wonderfully creepy artwork, which is hilariously counterpointed with audio excerpts from a rather joyous religious sermon:

Hallelujah! I've completed the level!

Hallelujah! I’ve completed the level!

The only minor criticism I have of the sound design is that the tommygun sounds a little bit feeble. Yes, it still sounds like a machingun, but it seems a bit muted and muffled. Even so, it’s still fairly cool.

All in all, this is a really good WAD. It has a wonderfully gothic atmosphere, the levels are thrilling and you get to play as one of the cultists from “Blood”. Whilst it probably isn’t a “perfect” WAD in every way, it’s 1-2 hours of pure fun that will remind you why “Doom II” is still one of the best FPS games out there. And, unlike some modern WADs, it’ll actually run on old computers too 🙂

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