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

The evening before I wrote this review, I had a couple of hours to spare – so, I thought that I’d check out another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD. In the end, I found one called “End Point” that looked like it could be interesting.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, it will probably work on most other modern source ports too.

So, let’s take a quick look at “End Point”:

screenshot_doom_20161029_163507

“End Point” is a seven-level WAD that contains new textures and music. One of the very first things that I will say about this WAD is that you shouldn’t let the very beginning of level one lull you into a false sense of security. Although it starts out like an old-school ‘ Doom 1’ level, the difficulty level of almost all of this WAD is probably closer to “Final Doom”.

Whilst I was glad that this WAD wouldn’t be too easy, one thing that really surprised me is exactly how this WAD makes itself enjoyably challenging. Unlike many other challenging WADs that throw large numbers of Revenants, Barons etc… at you, quite a lot of the challenge in this WAD comes from the clever use of chaingun zombies.

Yes, you don't always see too many of THESE in 'challenging' Doom II WADs.

Yes, you don’t always see too many of THESE in ‘challenging’ Doom II WADs.

Sure, each level contains at least one arch-vile and there are also a fair number of mid-level monsters, but “End Point” is a showcase for how much of a formidable foe the chaingun zombie can be. After all, he often tends to be a slightly under-used monster in modern WADs.

In fact, in the final level, a long-distance encounter with a group of about ten chaingun zombies is actually more challenging than the obligatory cyberdemon encounter later in the level – since the cyberdemon’s rockets can be easily dodged, but the chaingunners can shoot accurately at long distances. So, you are forced to actually fight them.. and as quickly as possible!

Yes, believe it or not, this is MORE challenging than....

Yes, believe it or not, this is MORE challenging than….

 .... THIS!

…. THIS!

In terms of the level design, it’s really good. As you would expect, each level is very non-linear and each level walks a fine line between requiring the player to explore and being self-explanatory/streamlined enough to stop the player from getting stuck.

In terms of pure design, these are “Doom II” levels done right. They’re thrilling and they’re challenging, but they aren’t needlessly frustrating. There’s also a good balance between corridor-like areas and larger areas, which sometimes include cool set-pieces too.

Like this "graveyard" in level two that spawns lots of zombies when you find the key at the end of it.

Like this “graveyard” in level two that spawns lots of zombies when you find the key at the end of it.

Likewise, the length of each level is just about right too. This WAD probably took me something like 2-3 hours in total to complete and none of the levels really outstayed their welcome or felt too rushed.

Visually, this WAD is really good. Each level has a very slightly different ‘look’ to it, whilst also being fairly consistent with the general 1990s-style look of “Final Doom”. This is especially surprising, since the WAD actually includes a few new textures. Although one or two cool-looking textures are immediately noticeably, many of them are surprisingly consistent with the look of classic “Doom”:

 I don't know if this is a new texture or not, but the lighting in this part of level four is AMAZING!

I don’t know if this is a new texture or not, but the lighting in this part of level four is AMAZING!

Dammit! WHY didn't the old "Doom" games include rooms that look like THIS?

Dammit! WHY didn’t the old “Doom” games include rooms that look like THIS?

 Don't ask me why, but I really love this blue version of the classic 'Doom' switch.

Don’t ask me why, but I really love this blue version of the classic ‘Doom’ switch.

In terms of the music, it’s something of a mixed bag. Some of the music, like a brilliantly gothic percussion track in level two and the end screen music after each level, sounds really cool. But, some of the music in a couple of the levels can sound a little bit annoying and/or repetitive.

All in all, “End Point” is a really good classic-style WAD, which also shows off how criminally under-used the chaingun zombie is in a lot of other WADs. If you enjoy “Final Doom”, then you will enjoy this WAD. It’s mildly-moderately challenging, the level design is of a professional standard and it’s just a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

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

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

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Before I begin, I should probably point out that this will be more of a “first impressions” article than a full review of “VeryHard“. I’ll explain more later in the article, but I felt like this was important to point out first.

As usual, I played (some of) this WAD using the “ZDoom” source port. Interestingly, this WAD actually requires version 2.8.1 of “ZDoom” – which, by delightful coincidence, is fairly similar to the version (a slightly old experimental version that was obviously a precursor to version 2.8.1) that I use.

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

screenshot_doom_20161021_125138

“VeryHard” is a set of seven “Doom II” levels. As the name suggests, these levels are meant to be evilly, fiendishly, diabolically difficult.

This is a WAD for people like myself who find borderline-unfair levels to be somewhere between absolutely hilarious and brilliantly fun. If you’re a new “Doom II” player, don’t even think about playing these levels. But, if you enjoy WADs like “Stardate 20X6“, “XXXI Cybersky“, “Swim With The Whales” or “Infernal Fortress” then you might enjoy this one.

From my experiences with this WAD, level one is actually beatable but level two appears to be (probably) impossible – not because of the quantity of monsters, but because an essential key seems to be nowhere to be found. Hence why this is a “first impressions” review, rather than a full review.

So, let’s start with level one. This level begins outside a giant underground train station and, once you are trapped in the station, the monsters start pouring towards you:

So far, so easy.....

So far, so easy…..

Of course, you’ll soon find yourself in a larger room that is filled with more monsters and several small kiosk-like rooms, which contain buttons that you need to press. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Oh, I forgot, these rooms are filled with Arch-viles..... and you'll need a blue key for one of the switches.

Oh, I forgot, these rooms are filled with Arch-viles….. and you’ll need a blue key for one of the switches.

Once you’ve managed to run, dodge and fight your way through this room and press the required switch, it’s time to get the blue key. This key is at the end of another corridor that contains, you guessed it, three arch-viles and virtually no cover!

Oh, hey there :)

Oh, hey there 🙂

When you’ve managed to press the button and hide behind the pillar, you might notice that – between cautious pot shots at the arch-viles – the pillar is descending. Once it’s descended fully, you’ll be able to grab the blue key.

The only problem is, of course, you won’t have any cover left. Likewise, the corridor takes more than three seconds to run away from. And, as any “Doom II” player will tell you, three seconds is about the amount of time it takes for an arch-vile to incinerate you.

So, after dying and restarting more times than you can remember, you’ll end up waiting for that one lucky moment when the arch-viles are too distracted by the monsters from the room you left earlier (and vice versa with the monsters) to bother attacking you.

But, when you’ve sneaked out of the corridor, you’ll be faced with a choice. You can either go back to the room with the blue switch the way you came from, or you can take advantage of a newly-opened shortcut near the station entrance….

 ...Which is also filled with monsters.

…Which is also filled with monsters.

After a lot of trial and error, plus some clever strategy, you’ll finally use the blue key on the blue switch and open a gate behind the room. Wow, what an exciting level! What? It isn’t over yet? That was only…. the easy introductory segment?

Oh yes! *Grins evilly* We haven't even STARTED the difficult part of the level yet!

Oh yes! *Grins evilly* We haven’t even STARTED the difficult part of the level yet!

Yes, the rest of the level is significantly more difficult. It’s a little bit reminiscent of the train station level from “Painkiller“, but with literal armies of revenants, tens of arch-viles and more than five times your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C(yberdemon).

I wasn't exaggerating about the revenants, there must be at least 200 of them in this part of the level.

I wasn’t exaggerating about the revenants, there must be at least 200 of them in this part of the level.

Yes, luckily there's an invulnerability sphere hidden somewhere vaugely near here. You DID remember to find it, right?

Yes, luckily there’s an invulnerability sphere hidden somewhere vaugely near here. You DID remember to find it, right?

Yes, even this deadly close-quarters duel with a cyberdemon at the very end of the level is beatable if you are sneaky about it. You actually have to use the chaingun to ... wait a minute, you should probably work this out for yourself

Yes, even this deadly close-quarters duel with a cyberdemon at the very end of the level is beatable if you are sneaky about it. You actually have to use the chaingun to … wait a minute, you should probably work this out for yourself

Interestingly, this part of the level is also beatable. But, you’ll need a lot of determination, a willingness to experiment with different strategies, a habit of saving very often, a good knowledge of the “rules” of “Doom II” and perhaps a bit of luck too.

All in all, the first level is an absolute blast. It’s just about fair, despite looking extremely unfair at first glance. It’s an example of modern “slaughtermap” level design at it’s finest.

This level contains so many areas where good strategy and fast reflexes are more important than whatever weapons you happen to be carrying at any one time. Despite the often claustrophobic locations and the generic standard textures, it’s an utterly epic level that will have you quite literally cheering with joy when you finally manage to beat it.

The second level, on the other hand, isn’t so sophisticated. Sure, you’ll get to hear the soul-shaking sound of 10-20 cyberdemons roaring simultaneously. Sure, you’ll get to use the BFG a lot. You’ll even get to crowdsurf over six different armies of Hell Knights and Barons…

 Woo hoo!! This is awesome!

Woo hoo!! This is awesome!

And, yes, these sorts of epic things happen too. BUT....

And, yes, these sorts of epic things happen too. BUT….

.. In order to progress past the starting area of level two, you need to find a red skull key. Despite repeated replays of this area, using different strategies and lots of careful searching, I still haven’t been able to find this skull key. It might be there somewhere, but I certainly haven’t found it. In fact, it even eventually made me abandon this WAD out of pure frustration.

All in all, I’ve only played maybe just under a quarter of this WAD and, yet, the first level is absolutely spectacular. Yes, it certainly isn’t for everyone. But if ludicrously “unfair” levels make you laugh, or if you want a real challenge, then the first level of this WAD is absolutely perfect! It’s just a shame about the second level though.

If I had to give what I’d played so far a score out of five, it would get five for the first level and two for the second.

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

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Well, I was in the mood for playing another “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting-looking one called “Foursite“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD – although it will probably work on any limit-removing source port that also allows jumping too.

So, let’s take a look at “Foursite”:

screenshot_doom_20161019_134835

“Foursite” is a large single-level WAD which is also the first WAD that it’s creator finished. The WAD itself took something like 200-300 hours to make, according to the documentation. And it shows! Seriously, although this is a “vanilla” WAD, it displays more intricacy and creativity than even some WADs with custom content do.

I did NOT know that the standard "Doom II" textures could look THIS cool!

I did NOT know that the standard “Doom II” textures could look THIS cool!

Plus, I'm sure that this is a "Silent Hill" reference too :)

Plus, I’m sure that this is a “Silent Hill” reference too 🙂

The level itself begins with an eerily quiet trek through several buildings and outdoor areas until you eventually reach a long corridor with four sealed doors, which can only be opened and explored in a particular order. Once all four have been explored, you can leave the corridor and fight the final boss.

As you may have guessed, each of these four doors leads to a themed area that is pretty much a small level in it’s own right. Yes, it’s like “The Crystal Maze“, but in “Doom II”:

Obviously, this contestant wasn't so lucky...

Obviously, this contestant wasn’t so lucky…

The level design is, quite simply, stunning. Since the main level is split into four segments, it is able to be non-linear without being confusing. In other words, there are lots of places to explore but, unlike many ultra-large levels, you’re unlikely to get lost or stuck for too long.

As you would expect from a modern “Doom II” map, there are quite a few dramatic set pieces here and, for the most part, they work really well. There’s a small maze you have to navigate, there are some truly epic-looking areas you have to traverse, there’s even a (surprisingly good/non-frustrating) first-person platforming segment. Seriously, there are so many cool set pieces in this level.

Yes, this is actually first-person platforming done right! The platforms are actually large enough and closely-placed enough to be easily jumped to and from.

Yes, this is actually first-person platforming done right! The platforms are actually large enough and closely-placed enough to be easily jumped to and from.

And THIS! Seriously, this area is really amazing :)

And THIS! Seriously, this area is really amazing 🙂

In fact, the only set piece which may get frustrating is the lift segment. This is where you have to raise a (really cool-looking) platform by running around it and pressing several buttons. Of course, whilst you are doing this, you are constantly bombarded by lost souls and the occasional pain elemental. It’s chaotic, it’s occasionally annoying, but it’s far from being completely unfair.

Of course, the fact that you have to cross a narrow bridge, and jump soon afterwards, when pressing the buttons just adds to the fun.

Of course, the fact that you have to cross a narrow bridge, and jump soon afterwards, when pressing the buttons just adds to the fun.

One set piece that could have been more well-designed is probably the battle near the end of the fourth area. Yes, there’s supposed to be an epic confrontation with two cyberdemons and lots of other monsters. But, this can be easily bypassed by just jumping over a few small bars and pressing a switch.

In fact, it’s actually less intuitive to actually trigger the epic battle you’re supposed to have (in order to do this, you have to understand that switches in “Doom” can often be pressed regardless of height).

This is a challenging fight that looks more difficult than the actual boss battle in the final area of the game!

This is a challenging fight that looks more difficult than the actual boss battle in the final area of the game!

But, you can skip it just by jumping over this pathetically inadequate barrier, pressing the switch and leaving the room.

But, you can skip it just by jumping over this pathetically inadequate barrier, pressing the switch and leaving the room.

In terms of the actual gameplay, I’d say that the difficulty level was probably fairly similar to that of “Final Doom”. Although there are a couple of parts that hint at modern-style “slaughtermap” gameplay, it’s mostly just a souped-up version of old-school “Final Doom”-style gameplay. Even though I really love modern “slaughtermap” levels, “Final Doom” is probably my favourite official Doom game. So, I’m not complaining 🙂

In other words, if you can complete “Final Doom”, then you’ll enjoy this WAD. But, even if you can’t, then this level still actually has a proper difficulty curve to it too (which is something you don’t always see in modern “Doom II” levels). Surprisingly though, I didn’t see a single arch-vile during the 1 1/2 hours it took me to complete the level!

Hmmm.... SOMETHING's missing...

Hmmm…. SOMETHING’s missing…

Although most of the combat is very enjoyable, one rather devious trick that the creator of this WAD likes to use is to throw several spectres at you when you are traversing the level’s gloomier areas. Yes, this is supposed to be scary and suspenseful. But, fighting nearly-invisible monsters in the dark can get a bit frustrating sometimes.

One of the things that I really love about this level is how timeless it feels. Seriously, when I was playing part of it, I felt like I could have been playing this level in 2015, 2014, 2013, or even in 2006. Because it does so many clever things with the classic “Doom II” textures, it feels both old and modern at the same time. It’s different and exciting enough to feel new, but familiar enough to feel reassuringly classic.

All in all, this is an absolutely amazing WAD 🙂 Whilst “Foursite” may not have any custom textures, monsters, weapons or music, it more than makes up for this with astonishingly imaginative, complex and fun level design. It’s very easy to see why a level like this may have taken more than 200 hours to make and, for it’s creator’s first level, it’s absolutely amazing.

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

Mini Review: “Back To The Thunder Road” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”/”ZDoom”/”Boom”)

2017-artwork-return-to-thunder-road-wad-review-sketch

Well, it’s been a while since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD and, since it seems to be some kind of informal rule of mine that I review at least one per month, I thought that I’d check out a WAD called “Back To The Thunder Road“. I should probably point out that I was fairly tired when I wrote this review and played the WAD, so this may affect the review.

Likewise, I accidentally used the”ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, looking at the text file, “GZDoom” is recommended. But “Boom” is mentioned on the “New Stuff” review that introduced me to this WAD, which recommends “ZDoom”. The only side-effect I found with using “ZDoom” was that there were quite a few ‘hall of mirrors’ glitches, especially near the end of the WAD. However, technically speaking, you probably just need a modern source port that allows jumping.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at “Back To The Thunder Road”:

screenshot_doom_20161015_090308

“Back To The Thunder Road” is a six-level WAD (with a small ending level) that features new music and new level completion screen backgrounds. For the most part, it is a “vanilla” WAD that only features the standard “Doom II” monsters, textures and weapons. But, don’t let this put you off.

Although the six levels in this WAD are relatively short, they are surprisingly well-designed. This is a WAD that is aimed at experienced intermediate players, and it walks a very fine line between using difficult “traditional” levels and more strategy-based modern “slaughtermap”-style gameplay. In other words, there are times when it makes sense to fight every monster you see and there are times when it doesn’t.

However, some of the difficulty in this WAD is achieved through occasionally giving the player a relatively limited supply of ammo. Whilst I didn’t find this to be too bad or too extreme, some players might not like this type of difficulty.

For the most part, the gameplay in this WAD is fast and thrilling. Some of the levels include clever set pieces, such as placing several doors around a lift shaft – meaning that the player has to pretty much run through the door whilst the lift is moving. Naturally, there sometimes isn’t much space – and a mid-level monster or two lurking behind the door.

Getting through that door is more challenging than it looks...

Getting through that door is more challenging than it looks…

... Especially when there's a revenant eager to greet you AND an Arch-vile waiting for you to walk more than a couple of paces through the door.

… Especially when there’s a revenant eager to greet you AND an Arch-vile waiting for you to walk more than a couple of paces through the door.

The best level in the WAD is probably the sixth level. Although the earlier parts of it might not be to everyone’s taste since, apart from a cool vertically-sliding pit area, most of the level sits somewhere between “thrillingly streamlined” and “fairly linear”. However, the last part of the level is either extremely clever or extremely evil, depending on how you look at it.

In the final part of the level, you’ll find a large tower with a thin spiral staircase that runs around the edge. In addition to this, there is a literal swarm of cacodemons heading right at you. So far, so easy…

Yes, you've probably seen something like this before in other "Doom II" WADs. But, keep reading, THIS time, it's different...

Yes, you’ve probably seen something like this before in other “Doom II” WADs. But, keep reading, THIS time, it’s different…

You obviously can’t fight all of the cacodemons, so your instinct will probably be to run up the stairs. Of course, your path is blocked by a few low-level monsters that are standing on the stairs. No problem? Well, in the few seconds you’ve taken blasting these monsters into smithereens, the swarm of cacodemons has started flying upwards towards you and has started to block your path. In level design terms, it’s either absolutely evil or absolutely genius.

Of course, there is a way to beat the level – if you’re willing to realise that both trial-and-error and the usual “Doom II” tactics have their limits, and outside-the-box thinking is required sometimes. But, when you do work out what you need to do in order to complete this part of the level, it is absolutely epic. I’m not going to tell you the solution, but I will give you a hint – look closely at the ammo types you find on the stairs and whether they all match the weapons you’re currently holding.

In terms of music, this WAD is filled with some absolutely awesome 1980s/90s style synth music that gives the game a wonderfully retro atmosphere 🙂 Seriously, I love the music in this WAD.

All in all, “Back To The Thunder Road” is a relatively short, but fun, WAD that will give even experienced “Doom II” players a bit of a challenge. The levels are small, but what they lack in quantity, they often make up for in quality.

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

Mini Review: “Hell’s Revenge” (Demo Version) (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

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Well, I was in the mood for playing another “Doom II” WAD and, this time, I was a bit luckier. After a quick look on ModDB, I found a rather entertaining little WAD called “Hell’s Revenge“. However, I think that it’s a demo version of the WAD, so there may or may not be a larger version by the time this review goes out – since I write these mini reviews/reviews ridiculously far in advance.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD (although it took longer to load, due to a texture error message that seemed to have little or no effect on the actual game itself). However, this WAD will probably work on any modern source port that allows jumping.

Anyway, let’s take a look at it:

screenshot_doom_20160929_000104

The demo version of “Hell’s Revenge” is a two-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”, which is meant to take place after the events of “The Plutonia Experiment”. Despite the screenshots on the ModDB page at the time of writing (late September 2016), the demo seems to be a ‘vanilla’ WAD (with no new textures, monsters, weapons etc..). However, this may well change in later versions of the WAD.

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that although it claims to follow on from “The Plutonia Experiment”, the gameplay style is at least slightly different to that of “Final Doom”. In many ways, this WAD is slightly closer to modern ‘slaughtermap’-style WADs than to “Final Doom”. I’m not complaining though 🙂

Yes, this is a WAD for experienced players and, as always, it is a joy to behold. Whilst it may not contain the gigantic armies of monsters that are common in the slaughtermap genre, it uses medium-large groups of monsters to great effect. Most of the time, the monsters are spread out slightly more.

 This is probably the largest "army" of monsters you'll encounter and this is only near the end of the second level.

This is probably the largest “army” of monsters you’ll encounter and this is only near the end of the second level.

Most of the time, something like this is a bit more typical.

Most of the time, something like this is a bit more typical.

This isn’t to say that this WAD is “easy” though. Like in any slaughtermap-style WAD, the emphasis is firmly on fast-paced strategy, having a good knowledge of the “rules” of “Doom” and on trial-and-error. You’ll find at least a few situations where the best course of action isn’t to fight all of the monsters, but to find a clever way to either bypass some of them or trick some of them into fighting each other.

Of course, sometimes, the best strategy is just to RUN!!!!!

Of course, sometimes, the best strategy is just to RUN!!!!!

Personally, I absolutely love this type of gameplay. As well as being thrillingly fast-paced, the fact that you are frequently outnumbered and outgunned also means that you actually have to think about what you’re going to do. You have to use cunning, strategy and daring – rather than just mindless shooting – in order to get through each of the WAD’s many battles. Seriously, more FPS games should be like this!

As for the level design, it’s really good. Both levels start off in a well-designed “hub” area, with lots of extra rooms, locked doors and passages leading off in different directions. Like any good FPS game level, these levels are the kind of non-linear things that will require a fair amount of exploration and memorisation in order to work out where you’re supposed to go next.

My favourite of the two levels is probably the first one – since it takes place outdoors and it seems a bit more “open” than the cavern-like setting of the second level.

I especially like how this giant square corridor is used as an arena of sorts too.

I especially like how this giant square corridor is used as an arena of sorts too.

However, in terms of pure design, the second level is probably slightly better. This is mostly because of a couple of tiny design flaws in the first level.

Not only is there a small “hall of mirrors” glitch in one area (this might explain the error message I mentioned at the beginning of this mini review), but there is also a very unforgiving first-person platforming segment just before this part of the level. Yes, it’s fairly small and you only have to traverse it twice – but it still breaks up the flow of the gameplay slightly. Not to mention that it’s, well, first-person platforming!

And, for extra "fun", the platform damages you when you stand on it for too long. Then again, you need to be running and jumping fairly quickly to get the momentum needed to clear this chasm. So, I guess that I can begrudgingly understand this design decision.

And, for extra “fun”, the platform damages you when you stand on it for too long. Then again, you need to be running and jumping fairly quickly to get the momentum needed to clear this chasm. So, I guess that I can begrudgingly understand this design decision.

Although the second level is fairly well-designed, one strange thing that I noticed was the fact that you only get the plasma rifle in the very final room (after defeating the arch-vile at the end). Then again, since this is meant to be a demo of a much larger WAD, this strange weapon placement is slightly more understandable.

All in all, despite a couple of tiny flaws, this is an extremely entertaining WAD. It’s challenging, fast-paced and thrilling. Although there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly new in the demo, there doesn’t need to be. You’ll be too busy running away from monsters, working out what to do next and enjoying yourself to care.

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

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

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Well, I was in the mood for playing and reviewing another “Doom II” WAD but, after downloading two cool-looking (but non-functional), WADs from ModDB, I was about to give up in frustration when I thought “I’ll try the ‘random file’ feature on Doomworld“.

It took me a couple of tries, but I soon found an interesting-sounding single player WAD from 2010 called “Axebreaker“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Although it will probably work on pretty much any modern source port for “Doom II” or “Final Doom” that allows jumping.

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

It may not look like much in this screenshot, but this is one of the most fun parts of the level :)

It may not look like much in this screenshot, but this is one of the most fun parts of the level 🙂

“Axebreaker” is a short, single-level “vanilla” Doom II/ Final Doom WAD. The level begins in an arena-like area where you are armed with nothing more than a pistol and surrounded by a few low-level and mid-level monsters. This is, by far, the most fun part of the level.

The gameplay at the beginning of the level is fast, frenetic and strategic as you frantically dodge projectiles and search for more powerful weapons. Experienced players will probably find this to be an enjoyable, but short, challenge. However, newer players might find it to be genuinely difficult.

Well, ok it isn't exactly a "slaughtermap", but the combat is surprisingly fast-paced for "Doom II" and you'll probably spend at least the first third of the fight armed with nothing more than the basic pistol.

Well, ok it isn’t exactly a “slaughtermap”, but the combat is surprisingly fast-paced for “Doom II” and you’ll probably spend at least the first third of the fight armed with nothing more than the basic pistol.

One of the best parts of the beginning of the level is probably getting the super shotgun, which is placed on the edge of a ledge that is occupied by a mancubus.

Since you probably won’t have enough ammo to actually fight the mancubus – what you have to do is to lure it to the far end of the ledge. This gives you time to run up the stairs, dodge it’s attacks and grab the super shotgun before falling to safety. It’s moments like this that make “Doom II” such a fun game!

Yay! Strategy :)

Yay! Strategy 🙂

But, despite it’s strong start, the rest of the level isn’t quite as well-designed. The description on the WAD’s “Doomworld” page suggests that you have to spend the beginning of the level gathering weapons for an epic boss battle with a Spider Mastermind.

However, when I played the level, I was able to bypass the entire boss battle and complete the level with a bit of running, some careful dodging and a couple of jumps.

Once you get to the platform that the Spider Mastermind is sitting on, the button that ends the level is hidden behind a short wall. Yes, you’re supposed to press two switches on opposite ends of the platform (after defeating the boss) to lower the wall – but the wall is short enough to be easily jumped over.

Like this!  In fact, even this Arachnotron can be beaten fairly easily by just hiding behind the wall at the back of this area, which can also be jumped onto.

Like this! In fact, even this Arachnotron can be beaten fairly easily by just hiding behind the wall at the back of this area, which can also be jumped onto.

If this was a WAD made in 1994, I could understand why the ending was set up in this way. But, since it’s from 2010, it’s designer must have known that most modern source ports allow jumping by default. This is especially true since it seems like you can’t actually reach the platform that the boss is standing on without jumping onto another platform. So, the wall at the end of the level should have been slightly taller.

Still, feeling like it was too easy, I went back and tried to beat this part of the level without jumping over the wall. In the process, I was compelled to explore a bit more and actually discovered several other areas near the beginning of the level that contain extra weapons and ammunition. Not only that, the boss battle is actually quite challenging if you don’t just jump over the barrier at the end.

Especially when you start running out of health and/or ammo for your rapidly-firing weapons.

Especially when you start running out of health and/or ammo for your rapidly-firing weapons.

One thing that increases the difficulty of the boss battle is the fact that part of the area in front of the boss will actually damage you when you stand on it. Likewise, there’s relatively little cover to hide behind too.

In fact, the only way that I was able to get through this part of the level (with the amount of health I had left) was when I discovered that the area in front of the boss doesn’t actually damage you if you crouch. I don’t know if this was a programming error, or something specific to the source port I used, but it was probably borderline cheating.

All in all, this is a WAD with some fun elements – but one which is let down slightly by some poor design choices. Depending on how you play the final part of the level, it’s either laughably easily or enjoyably challenging. Even so, the beginning of the level is quite cool.

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

Mini Review: “Project Einherjar (V1.3 Beta/V.2 ?)” [WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “ZDoom” etc..]

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Well, after seeing about the first twenty minutes of this “let’s play” video/ video review last autumn, I thought that I’d check out a WAD called “Project Einherjar” that I’d heard of before but hadn’t got round to playing.

Since I write these reviews quite far in advance, the version of this WAD that I played seems to be a public beta version (version 1.3, although the file name for the WAD [“PEstuffv2”] seems to suggest that it’s actually version two). It’s possible that a newer version of this WAD may be available when this review goes out. Since the WAD is still technically a beta, this is why I have called this article a “mini review”, despite it’s length.

Likewise, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, and I guess that it will probably work on many other modern source ports. However, you will require a port that allows jumping, crouching, custom weapons etc…

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Project Einherjar:

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“Project Einherjar” is a seven-level WAD for “Doom II” and/or “Final Doom” that includes new music, textures, voice-acting, weapons, items and enemies. Interestingly, this WAD was actually made by the creator of “Nerves of Steel“, “Derceto” and “Strange Aeons” as a way of promoting an e-book that he’s written called “The Helios Legacy”.

Although I haven’t read the book, the story of this WAD seems to imply that it takes place before the events of the novel. You play as a character called Juno who lives in a dystopian icy wasteland called Midgard. In “Project Einherjar” she has to break into a fascist-controlled base in order to stop the evil scientific experiments performed by the nefarious Dr.Gaul.

The best way to describe this WAD is probably ” ‘Wolfenstein 3D’ meets ‘Rise Of The Triad: Dark War’ “. However, although the WAD often bears at least a slight visual resemblance to these two games (as well as to the original “System Shock”), it’s also very much it’s own thing at the same time.

The gameplay is, for the most part, very good. Although the first level or two are certainly on the easier side of things, this WAD soon becomes at least moderately challenging.

Although the quantity of enemies doesn’t really reach ‘slaughtermap’ levels of magnitude, the relatively large number of enemies with hitscan-based attacks combined with the relatively weaker and/or ammo-hungry weapons in this WAD helps to keep the difficulty level enjoyable.

And, yes, the people here can be absolute fascists about punctuality if you dare to show up late to a meeting!

In terms of the level design, it’s reasonably good although – due to the setting of the game – most of the levels are just “military base”-style levels. However, there’s a decent variety of textures and room types that help to keep things varied and interesting. Likewise, the levels themselves are the kind of 90s-style non-linear levels that show off the FPS genre at it’s best. However, the level design isn’t without flaws.

Although a certain level of puzzle-based gameplay can make a refreshing change from the combat, I ended up almost completely stuck on two of the later levels. Yes, the relevant keys and switches needed to solve these levels can be found with a lot of careful searching and map-reading, but expect to wander around aimlessly for at least several minutes (if not longer).

If I remember rightly, actually getting that red key involves both carefully studying the map and finding a room that, whilst not hidden, isn't immediately obvious either.

If I remember rightly, actually getting that red key involves both carefully studying the map and finding a room that, whilst not hidden, isn’t immediately obvious either.

The new weapons in “Project Einherjar” are pretty cool too. Although the game contains the knife from “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War”, it also contains a reusable ballistic knife that will defeat most low-level enemies with a single shot. The pistol in this WAD also has a new sprite and is actually useful, due to it’s fast firing speed.

Likewise, although this game contains a super shotgun-like weapon (that uses the plasma gun’s weapon slot), it’s actually a lot less useful than the WAD’s equivlant of the basic shotgun. This is mostly because the basic shotgun can be fired ridiculously quickly – which is great, except for when you either run out of ammo and/or encounter enemies that also use this weapon!

Although these shotgun-wielding enemies don't have that much health, one of the boss-level enemies also uses the shotgun too.

Although these shotgun-wielding enemies don’t have that much health, one of the boss-level enemies also uses the shotgun too.

This WAD also includes a rocket launcher (with a cool new sprite and firing animation, but a slower rate of fire) and a slow-firing, but powerful, assault rifle.

In addition to all of this, “Project Einherjar” also contains an item system with lots of cool new stuff in it. There are portable medkits, a portable beserk pack, bouncing betty mines, hazmat suits and a small automated missile turret – all of which can come in handy during various parts of the game.

As for the new enemies, they’re astonishingly good. Although many of the enemies seem to be based on enemies from “Wolfenstein 3D”, there are also monsters, attack dogs, robots and “Wolfenstein 3D”-style bosses too.

Another interesting feature is that there’s actually a mixture of male and female enemy soldiers in this game, which is something that always adds some realism to sci-fi themed games. Plus, unusually for a FPS game, there are actually more female soldiers than male ones.

In addition to this, the monster enemies in this WAD are really well-designed. Although they replace the pink “demon” enemies from “Doom II”, they have a genuinely menacing appearance and they will often rush towards you when you least expect it.

Usually, they don't even have the courtesy to form large hordes. Most of the time, you'll just hear a noise and turn around to find that one of these things is RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

Usually, they don’t even have the courtesy to form large hordes. Most of the time, you’ll just hear a noise and turn around to find that one of these things is RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

One truly outstanding part of this WAD has to be the voice acting! Yes, this WAD actually has new voice-acting and it is hilarious!

Many of the enemies will shout various insults at you and some of them will make hilarious comments. The funniest of these probably has to be the robot enemies who, whilst speaking in a creepy ‘robotic’ voice, will sometimes say ‘f**king really?‘ when destroyed. I literally laughed out loud the first time I heard this!

The comedy value is also enhanced by the fact that some of the low-level male and female soldiers sound like American frat boys/jocks and sorority girls/valley girls respectively. Seriously, as well as the robots, they also have some of the funniest dialogue in the game. However, the mid-level and high-level enemies all sound suitably menacing though.

Seriously, the voice acting for these two enemy types is absolutely hilarious!

Seriously, the voice acting for these two enemy types is absolutely hilarious!

These soldiers, on the other hand, usually make begrudging comments about how long they've had to wait to use their guns.

These soldiers, on the other hand, usually make begrudging comments about how long they’ve had to wait to use their guns.

As for the music, it’s fairly good – although the best background music has to be the background music for level five, which also incorporates some of the background music from the original “System Shock” too.

All in all, this is a really fun – and funny – WAD that has lots of fast-paced and challenging combat. Yes, you’ll probably get stuck on at least a couple of the levels, but it’s still worth playing for the inventive new weapons, dramatic gameplay and the comedy.

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