Review: “Marbellous” [WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”GZDoom”]

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“The Apprentice” by Tess Gerritsen), I thought that I’d take a quick look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD.

And, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /Idgames Archive a few times, I found myself looking at a WAD from 2012 called “Marbellous“.

However, I should point out that this WAD uses the level 25 slot (for some bizarre reason). So, when playing it, you’ll have to type “IDCLEV25” during gameplay to jump to this level.

I also ended up using an older version (1-8-06) of the “GZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, since the list of ports in the readme file didn’t mention ZDoom and I wasn’t sure if it contained any port-specific features. However, upon actually seeing the level, it will probably work with pretty much any limit-removing source port (including my favourite, ZDoom).

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

“Marbellous” is a medium-length single level WAD that, as mentioned earlier, uses the level 25 slot. Although the readme file states that the WAD also includes a new texture, I didn’t really notice it and the overall look of the WAD is fairly “classic” (with an emphasis on marble textures, hence the name).

In terms of the level design, “Marbellous” is really good. This is an old-school style non-linear level that contains a really good mixture of corridors, arena-like areas, simple switch/combat puzzles, cool-looking areas and clever design (eg: parts of the level loop back on themselves).

Seriously, this area looks really cool 🙂

Likewise, this arena near the end of the level looks pretty cool too 🙂

Seriously, the level design is complex enough to force you to think and explore, but simple enough that – on the rare occasions where you don’t know where to go next – it won’t usually take you too long to work it out 🙂

In terms of the gameplay, it is enjoyably challenging 🙂 Whilst this probably isn’t a level for novice players who haven’t learnt all of the usual tactics and strategies, experienced players will probably find this level moderately challenging.

This challenge is achieved in the early parts of the level via careful rationing of ammo and weapons, with the best moment being when you have to fight an Arch-vile using just the pistol and the basic shotgun. Needless to say, this is a fairly good combat-based puzzle where you’ll have to use tactics and strategy 🙂

Ah, with many of the easier levels I’ve been playing recently, I’d almost forgotten how awesome THESE are 🙂

Later on in the level, the challenge is achieved through the use of monster placement. This is a level that contains a lot of low-level monsters, a reasonable number of mid-level monsters and a few well-placed high-level monsters.

In other words, a fun traditional-style level 🙂

The best example of this is probably the level’s Cyberdemon arena, which you’ll first encounter when you don’t really have enough weaponry for it. Like the best “Doom II” levels, this area is something of a combat-based puzzle, where clever strategy, lateral thinking and experimentation are required 🙂 The arena is also laid out in a way where it won’t take you too long to work out what you’re supposed to do to progress.

And, yes, getting to this point is a bit more complex – and fun – than you might initially think 🙂

All in all, this level is a really fun way to spend an hour or so. The level design is really good, not to mention that the combat remains enjoyably challenging throughout the level too 🙂

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

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

Before I begin, I should probably point out that I’ve only played about four -fifths of this WAD (for reasons I’ll explain later). So, whilst this is more than just a “first impressions” article, it isn’t quite a full review either.

Anyway, a few days before I wrote this article, I was determined that there would be more than one “Doom II” WAD review posted here this month. Since I was in the mood for something wintery, I decided to search online for Christmas-themed WADs. But, after a while, I ended up discovering an interesting winter-themed WAD called “Whitemare” instead.

Unusually, I ended up using a slightly older version of the “GZDoom” source port (rather than “ZDoom”) whilst playing this WAD, mostly because GZDoom was one of the recommended source ports in the text file that accompanies the WAD.

So, let’s take a look at “Whitemare”:

“Whitemare” is a 19-level WAD from 2011 which contains new textures, new music and (according to the readme) a new sound effect too. As you may have guessed from the name, this WAD mostly contains icy, snow-covered levels of various types.

Yay! Cold weather 🙂

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it is one of those WADs that is fairly enjoyable overall but which, when actually playing it, can vary between brilliantly fun and incredibly frustrating. In other words, this WAD is something of a mixed bag.

This variety is both one of the WADs greatest strengths and one of the WADs greatest weaknesses.

On the plus side, the variety between location types (eg: vast open areas, claustrophobic tunnels, sci-themed areas, gothic areas long levels, shorter levels etc..) helps to keep things fresh and interesting. Likewise, the variety in gameplay styles (eg: everything from frenetic “slaughtermap”-style arena battles to slow-paced puzzle solving) also helps to keep this WAD interestingly unpredictable.

Seriously, there’s a lot of variety in the level design etc..

There’s also a small “Blood“-style hedge maze too 🙂

However, this also means that some elements of the WAD are better than others. Basically, the good parts of this WAD feel especially good because they are contrasted with annoying, frustrating and/or dull stuff.

Like this annoying area! It contains both a mild example of first-person platforming and one of the more annoying puzzles…

The combat design in this WAD is a brilliant example of this. This WAD not only contains some brilliantly epic set pieces which include everything from thrillingly dramatic large-scale outdoor battles to claustrophobic cyberdemon encounters, but it also contains some enjoyable “classic-style” challenging combat segments featuring reasonable quantities of low-mid level monsters.

The highlights include things like an area where you lay siege to a ruined castle, a rather fast-paced combat encounter on a large boat, a frenetic scene set in an ice-pit, and an epic scene where you discover a Christmas tree that is surrounded by lots of weapons and health items (needless to say, there’s a reason why all that stuff is there…).

Seriously, I’d be freaked out if lots of monsters DIDN’T appear here…

This segment set in a ruined castle is pretty awesome too 🙂

However, one annoying theme (especially in the earlier levels) is setting combat encounters within dark, claustrophobic tunnels. Although this adds some suspense to the gameplay, it can get annoying after a while. Not only that, the use of spectres in these segments is especially annoying. Likewise, this WAD sometimes tends to be slightly generous in it’s use of chaingun zombies too.

Still, given the cramped nature of many of these segments, the chainsaw is actually useful for once!

Plus, as awesome as some of the game’s large-scale battles are – if you’re using an older computer – then they can sometimes cause issues.

Basically, I stopped playing during an early part of level sixteen – and almost stopped playing during a later part of level fifteen- because the game crashed whenever I tried to save, presumably due to the number of monsters or something like that (or possibly the ridiculous number of save files I have in GZDoom).

Yes, it seems like this is too awesome for my computer!

In terms of the level design, it’s fairly good. All of the levels are the kind of complex, non-linear levels that you would expect to find in “Doom II”. They also occasionally include some rather cool things like a destructible wall, a pyramid of glowing skulls, a level where you “chase” a key etc.. too.

Yay! I want one!

However, some areas can sometimes be a little bit too large – whilst this can sometimes make the levels feel epic and dramatic, it can also occasionally make them seem a little bit “empty”, even when there are lots of monsters.

Ok, this is the first level. But, still, it’s way too easy to dodge these monsters.

This WAD takes a rather traditionalist attitude towards the subject of jumping, with the ability to jump being disabled by default. However, the WAD is designed with this limitation in mind – so, the lack of jumping rarely feels like a problem. Still, there are some non-jumping platforming segments – which can be a little bit annoying.

One unusual thing about this WAD is that it includes puzzles. Most of the time, these are reasonably fun.

Some good examples include a large outdoor area where you have to find lots of hidden switches, a part where you have to find two keys in a giant tree-filled area and a rather inventive maze-based pressure pad puzzle that requires you to use the in-game map. Likewise, the very beginning of level sixteen contains a rather clever puzzle that is fiendishly evil but won’t take you that long to solve.

Yes, the in-game map is very useful here!

However, one annoying puzzle -involving 16 switches- near the end of level fourteen was so confusing and frustrating that I eventually had to resort to using the “level skip” cheat! Plus, there’s an annoying area in level twelve where I ended up completely and utterly stuck for at least half an hour until I eventually worked out the “obvious in retrospect” solution to it.

Hmmm… It turns out that the solution to this puzzle is “IDCLEV15”.

The new textures on offer in this WAD are pretty cool and, although they mostly consist of various snow/ice textures, there’s also a really cool sci-fi style skybox that appears occasionally too.

Yay! It reminds me of the old “Apogee” logo 🙂

In terms of the new music, it’s also a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst it includes cool stuff like an epic heavy metal-style MIDI and a surprisingly dramatic version of a classical Christmas tune (either “The Nutcracker” or “The Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy”), some of the in-game music is either a bit too understated, random or generic.

All in all, what I’ve played of this WAD has been somewhat varied. Yes, it is a good WAD overall. But, although there are some amazingly epic moments, some wonderfully wintery locations, some really solid levels, some dramatic music and some enjoyable puzzles – there are also some dull, annoying and/or frustrating moments. Plus, if you’re playing this on an older computer, you may possibly have some problems in later levels.

If I had to give what I’ve played a rating out of five, it might just about get a four.

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

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

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

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

Seriously, even the intro movie is absolutely epic!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yay! Awesome lighting 🙂

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

And just look at the textures here too 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

Such as this epic battle beside a pyramid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Artwork Tenebrae WAD review

Well, once again, I found myself in the mood for reviewing a “Doom” WAD, so I thought that I’d check out a very interesting horror-themed WAD called “Tenebrae“.

Unusually, I returned to using the “GZ Doom” source port whilst playing this WAD. This is mostly because this WAD is designed for slightly older versions of the source port that will actually run on my computer. I haven’t tried this WAD in “ZDoom”, so I don’t know if it will work with that or not.

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

And, yes, the music that plays during this screen is as metal as you would expect \m/

And, yes, the music that plays during this screen is as metal as you would expect \m/

“Tenebrae” is a four-level WAD (with an additional end credits level) that contains new textures, monsters, sounds and music. It is, I believe, named after a famous horror movie from the 1980s (that I really must watch sometime). True to it’s horror roots, this is also one of the scariest “Doom” WADs that I’ve played recently.

Most of the horror in this WAD comes from the fact that many of it’s claustrophobic corridors are shrouded in darkness, meaning that there are jump scares aplenty here when monsters rush out from the darkness towards you. Thanks to the often cramped locations and the strength of the new monsters, the combat is a lot faster and more visceral than you might expect. It more than lives up to either Romero or Carmack’s “scary, dark and fast” description of the original “Doom”!

This is one of the least scary jump scares in this WAD.

This is one of the least scary jump scares in this WAD.

But these are some of the coolest level ending screens that I've ever seen :)

But these are some of the coolest level ending screens that I’ve ever seen 🙂

As for the level design, it is – quite simply – excellent. Well, for the most part at least. Each level has it’s own distinctive “look” and many of the levels are long, complex things that will require a lot of exploration and backtracking.

Level one is a challenging level set within a large castle and it reminded me a lot of an old FPS game called “Blood“, which is never a bad thing. However, it’s very easy to get lost or stuck in some parts of this level and I’m ashamed to say that after half an hour of fruitless searching, I once had to resort to using the “show map” cheat to find a particular door.

My favourite level, by far, is level two – it is another exploration-based level that is set in a decaying old house and it features wonderfully opulent red, green and blue lighting in many locations. Not only is this level absolutely gigantic and fiendishly difficult (in a mostly enjoyable way), but it just looks amazing:

This is so cool! Why don't more games have locations like this?

This is so cool! Why don’t more games have locations like this?

 This part is ridiculously difficult, but it IS possible to beat it without cheating if you use the right tactics.

This part is ridiculously difficult, but it IS possible to beat it without cheating if you use the right tactics.

Level three is set in a large graveyard, complete with an abandoned church, several crypts and a “Blood”-style abandoned house to explore.

Once again, this level is on the extremely challenging side of things, so expect to keep running away from large groups of powerful monsters and re-loading saved games almost constantly. It’s a fast, frenetic and dramatic level that is a perfect example of how to make a cool horror-themed FPS level.

Wow! Talk about "fire and brimstone"!

Wow! Talk about “fire and brimstone”!

Level four is a slaughtermap/ “Serious Sam” style-wave shooter level. Most of the level is spent battling wave after wave of monsters within a single square room. For the most part, this level is extremely difficult- but fair.

The only exception is the final wave of monsters – where you have to fight at least four boss-level monsters in a relatively small space, with insufficient cover (to dodge their wide-ranging attacks) and no BFG. After many attempts at fighting them, I realised that this level had crossed the line from “fiendishly challenging” to “just unfair” and eventually resorted to using cheats.

Yes, the game gives you an "invincibility" power-up at the start of this section. But, it only lasts for half as long as it should and, after many failed attempts, you'll probably just shrug and use the "god mode" cheat.

Yes, the game gives you an “invincibility” power-up at the start of this section. But, it only lasts for half as long as it should and, after many failed attempts, you’ll probably just shrug and use the “god mode” cheat.

Level five is an ending text level, and you’ll either find it darkly comedic (although you’d have to have a very twisted sense of humour), eye-rollingly puerile, genuinely disturbing and/or a combination of these things. It’s not for the easily shocked. Not to mention that it doesn’t really fit into the gloomy, gothic tone of the rest of the WAD.

But, despite the final parts of this game, the levels are – on the whole- extremely well-designed and are a great example of 1990s-style FPS gaming at it’s absolute best. They contain a decent variety of gameplay types (eg: exploration, combat, suspense etc..) and a wide variety of locations.

As for the weapons, although this WAD doesn’t include any new weapons – and actually leaves out the BFG and Super Shotgun to ramp up the difficulty level – many of the traditional weapons now have new sound effects. All of these are way better than the “default” sound effects. So, although you’ll be using the weaker weapons, they’ll certainly sound a lot more powerful.

Another cool thing about this WAD is that it contains quite a few new monsters. Although many of the new monsters are based on the traditional monsters, they’re significantly more powerful than their “vanilla doom” counterparts and not only can they soak up more damage, but they also have significantly more powerful attacks.

You probably can't see it in this screenshot, but there are even vaguely "Duke Nukem 3D"-style 'octobrain' monsters :)

You probably can’t see it in this screenshot, but there are even vaguely “Duke Nukem 3D”-style ‘octobrain’ monsters 🙂

Combined with the lack of more powerful short-range weapons and the claustrophobic locations in many areas of this WAD, every battle is a lot more challenging and suspenseful than you might expect.

As for the music, it’s exactly what you would expect. Although the title screen has some really cool heavy metal music in the background, most of the music in this WAD is of the creepily ambient variety and it goes really well with all of the levels. Interestingly, the background music for the graveyard sounds just a little bit like the intro to “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus.

All in all, this is a really cool WAD. For the most part, it’s atmospheric, dramatic and enjoyably challenging. However, it is let down slightly by occasionally unfair difficulty in some parts.

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

Mini Review: “Infernal Fortress 2.1” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

2015 Artwork Infernal Fortress 2.1 WAD review sketch

Well, although I’d originally planned to post this review earlier in the year, I ended up rescheduling it for various reasons.

Anyway, I thought that I’d check out a single-level WAD called “Infernal Fortress 2.1” for today.

As usual, I played this level using the “GZDoom” source port although, from the documentation included with the level, it also seems to be compatible with the “Boom” source port too.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Infernal Fortress 2.1”:

Woo hoo! :)

Woo hoo! 🙂

“Infernal Fortress 2.1” is a large “slaughtermap”-style level that took me just over an hour to complete on the “hurt me plenty” difficulty setting.

If you’re new to the wonderful world of “Doom” WADs, a “slaughtermap” level typically contains way more monsters than you can actually fight. As such, you have to rely on strategy, tactics, quick reflexes and a good knowledge of the ‘rules’ of “Doom” in order to complete the level.

I absolutely love these types of challenging and almost puzzle-like levels, but they can be something of an acquired taste.

For example, here, you just need to keep this group of monsters at bay for long enough to run around them and flip a switch at the other end of the room before running away very quickly.

For example, here, you just need to keep this group of monsters at bay for long enough to run around them and flip a switch at the other end of the room before running away very quickly.

However, as “slaughtermap” levels go, this one is something of a mixed bag. Although some of the later parts of the level are enjoyably challenging, at least the first third of the level is ridiculously easy compared to other levels in this genre that I’ve played.

Of course, "easy" is a relative term. But, even this early part of the level isn't as difficult as it might look if you know what to do.

Of course, “easy” is a relative term. But, even this early part of the level isn’t as difficult as it might look if you know what to do.

Not only do you get all of the weapons fairly close to the start of the level, but health power-ups and ammo for the BFG are scattered very liberally around the level. What this means is that the BFG will probably be your primary weapon for most of the level.

In most well-designed “slaughtermap” levels, you don’t usually get these kinds of powerful weapons until later on – and ammo for them is also usually at least slightly scarce too. So, for this fact alone, this level is significantly easier than most levels in the genre.

Later in the level, this easiness is balanced out slightly by several enjoyably challenging battles that take place in claustrophobic areas – for example, you have to cross a monster-filled bridge above a pit of lava. Teams of mancubi are perched on nearby ledges and bombard you with fireballs when you’re crossing the bridge. At the end of the bridge, there is – of course – a cyberdemon.

Oh "Doom", I can't stay mad at you :)

Oh “Doom”, I can’t stay mad at you 🙂

This over-abundance of BFG ammo and health items is also balanced out slightly by the fact that you encounter a new type of “boss” monster that takes quite a few BFG shots to fell. Even so, you only encounter these monsters in two parts of the level and they’re only a serious challenge the first time you encounter them, because the battle takes place in a relatively small room with only a few small pillars to hide behind:

 Ironically, fighting two of these monsters here is FAR more difficult than fighting 6-8 of them later in the level.

Ironically, fighting two of these monsters here is FAR more difficult than fighting 6-8 of them later in the level.

Even so, the inclusion of a new “boss” monster is a really cool touch and it keeps the gameplay varied and interesting. Apart from this, the only other new monster in this level is a variant on the “hell knight” monster that I’ve seen in a few other WADs. Still, the inclusion of new monsters is always a good thing.

Musically, this WAD is pretty cool. The MIDI background music is suitably fast-paced and it has a real 80s/90s rock music feel to it too 🙂

All in all, this isn’t the best “slaughtermap” level I’ve ever played, but it’s far from the worst either. This level would probably be improved by reducing the amount of BFG ammunition (and health items) given to the player but, despite this, it’s still a rather fun level and an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it’d probably get three and a half.