Review: “Christmas Tree” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next horror novel I plan to review (“The Vampire Armand” by Anne Rice), I thought that I’d take the chance to review 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 2011 called “Christmas Tree“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. According to the text file accompanying the WAD, it is designed for ports (ZDoom and GZDoom are listed as examples) that support 3D floors.

So, let’s take a look at “Christmas Tree”:

“Christmas Tree” is a rather cool little single-level WAD that also possibly includes new music (or it could be one of the standard pieces of music that I don’t remember).

The premise of this WAD is that you have to defeat most of the monsters in the level in order to complete it. So, like a trimmed-down “Slaughtermap” level, this level is something of an arena. But, the level does some rather innovative stuff that sets it apart from a traditional “Slaughtermap” level.

Yes, this is a clever twist on a familiar style of level 🙂

For starters, the difficulty level is something that practiced players will find moderately challenging, rather than fiendishly difficult. Unlike a slaughtermap, where there are too many enemies to fight (thus turning the level into a challenging fast-paced puzzle), you actually have to defeat almost all of the enemies here.

As such, the difficulty level is a little bit more forgiving, with a large arena and lots of weapons, health etc… scattered around to give you a fighting chance. This also makes the gameplay feel a little bit like the classic “Serious Sam” games too 🙂

One interesting way that this level adds some challenge is via the use of pain elementals. Although the large arena means that there is plenty of room to duck, dodge and circlestrafe, this is a level where the sky will quickly become orange with lost souls that will zip at you from every direction. Interestingly though, at least some of these don’t count towards the number of monsters you have to defeat before the level ends.

Yes, these little monsters become more of threat than you think during this level.

The level design is also really good too. Although you might be a bit confused about what to do (and the relative lack of weapons) at the very start of the level, it won’t take you long to find the teleporter that drops you on top of the Christmas tree. The tree is made out of four platforms of varying sizes that mostly serve as brilliantly-balanced mini-arenas 🙂

Although you’ve got the constant threat of lost souls to contend with, the difficulty in these mini-arenas is handled really well. Although the top of the tree is just there to give you a few items, the smaller circles of the tree contain fewer monsters but also fewer items and less room to dodge/strafe (and vice versa with the larger circles). Plus, the tension between staying on the tree and jumping off it to the relative safety of the arena below also adds a bit more depth to the gameplay too 🙂

Yes, this level is kind of like four micro levels in one 🙂

All in all, this is a really fun and well-designed little level 🙂 It’s thrilling, complex and really well-balanced 🙂 If you’re an experienced player and want to enjoy yourself for 20-30 minutes, then this level might be worth checking out 🙂

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

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Review: “Rienzi (Release 6)” [WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”ZDoom”]

Well, since I’m still reading the next horror novel that I plan to review (“The Ritual” by Adam Nevill), I thought that I’d take a quick look at a “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD today. After all, it’s been almost a month since my last WAD review.

And, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /Idgames Archive a few times, I found myself looking at a WAD from 2011 called “Rienzi (Release 6)“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, although it will probably work with GZDoom etc.. too. However, according to the readme file, it may not run with vanilla “Doom II”/”Final Doom” or the Chocolate Doom source port. Likewise, be sure to enable jumping in whichever source port you use.

So, let’s take a look at “Rienzi (Release 6)”:

“Rienzi (Release 6)” is a short to medium length single-level WAD that also contains a couple of new textures/animations too.

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it has a really good difficulty curve and weapon progression. In the early parts of the level, you’ll be fighting zombies and imps with the pistol before gradually encountering better weapons and more powerful monsters.

If, like me, you’re slightly out of practice with “Doom II” then this level is a good way to reintroduce yourself to it. It’s challenging enough to be fun, but forgiving enough not to be frustrating. In other words, it’s a mildly-moderately challenging level.

So, yes, if you’re out of practice with “Doom II”, then this is a rather fun level 🙂

In terms of the level design, it’s really good. The level contains a really good mixture of gloomy claustrophobic areas and large bright arena-like areas, which help to keep things interesting. Plus, although the early parts of the level seem to be fairly linear, the level quickly turns into the kind of proper non-linear level you’d expect from a real FPS game like “Doom II”.

One strange thing about this level is the keys. Although there are three skull keys hidden throughout the level, the door that they open doesn’t seem to be clearly marked. Still, they encourage the player to search the level thoroughly – which is important because, in the classic fashion, progression at one point depends on finding an unobtrusive passage. Likewise, if you want the plasma rifle, then prepare to look for secret areas.

Yes, this gun is actually a secret item in the level.

In terms of the textures and visual design, this level is really good 🙂 The new textures consist of some animated flames and a suitably fiery teleportation animation when the Cyberdemon appears:

Yes, THIS is “Doom II” 🙂

For the most part, the level uses the standard textures – but thanks to some wonderful lighting and a cool-looking tower in the later part of the level, everything looks really cool 🙂

There is some really awesome lighting here 🙂

Seriously, this looks wonderfully ’90s in the best way possible 🙂

All in all, this is a well-designed level that will provide half an hour or so of fun 🙂 There’s a good difficulty curve, some cool-looking areas and a decent amount of variety too.

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

Review: “Butcher” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”)

[Well, due to a scheduling mishap, enjoy this bonus review today. Apologies in advance if there’s an article/review missing on any day in the future (and I’m still not sure why there were two scheduled for today).]
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Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“The Deep” by Nick Cutter), I thought that I’d take the chance to look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD. After all, it’s been about three weeks or so since my last WAD review.

And, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /Idgames Archive, I found myself looking at a WAD from 1995 called “Butcher” by none other than Milo Casali, of “Final Doom” fame 🙂

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, given the level’s age, it will probably run on pretty much any source port. In fact, it’ll probably run on the original DOS version of “Doom II” too.

So, let’s take a look at “Butcher”:

As you may have already guessed, this is an earlier “work in progress” version of level nine from Final Doom’s “The Plutonia Experiment” episode. Given that this is my favourite ‘official’ Doom II episode (especially the twenty-ninth level, “Odyssey Of Noises”) and it is an episode that I’ll replay every now and then, it was really cool to see an earlier version of part of it 🙂

For the most part, the level is pretty much identical to level nine of “The Plutonia Experiment”. In other words, it is a reasonably challenging and slightly non-linear medium-length level that contains a few small arena-style battles, some well-placed monster closets and a few moments of more claustrophobic combat.

So, yes, it’s the same traditional – but challenging – type of “Doom II” level that you would expect 🙂

Given how amazingly fun, well-designed and re-playable “The Plutonia Experiment” is, playing this level was an absolute joy – even if I already knew where everything was and how to complete it. But, I suppose that I should probably talk about the differences between this level and the final commercial version of it.

In short, there aren’t many. Although the comments on the web page for the level tipped me off to the fact that the very final room of the level is smaller, easier and more primitive than the final version, the only other difference I was able to spot was the fact that the items in the secret area in the blue key room were slightly different.

Yes, the level is a lot more generous here, compared to the finished version.

The most noticeable difference is this final room. Not only is it smaller and less complex, but there are also far fewer monsters too.

All in all, there isn’t that much to say about this level. If you’re a fan of “The Plutonia Experiment”, then it is an interesting curio. If you’ve never played “Final Doom”, then this level will give you a taste of what to expect from the best official “Doom” game. Yes, the official version of this level is marginally better than this earlier “work in progress” version, but it is still an incredibly fun level 🙂

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

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

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Linesman” by S. K. Dunstall), I thought that I’d take the chance to take a quick look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD.

So, after clicking the “random file” button on the /idgames Archive a couple of times, I ended up with a single-level WAD from 2017 called “Impact“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this level. However, since this is a “vanilla” level (eg: it only uses the standard textures, monsters etc..), it will probably work with pretty much any source port and/or mods that you want (although, obviously, I didn’t use mods in this review).

So, let’s take a look at “Impact”:

“Impact” is a short single-level WAD that, according to the accompanying text file, is both the mapper’s first map and an attempt to create an introductory level for new players that also follows John Romero’s design principles. And, when viewed with these things in mind, the level actually works reasonably well.

Needless to say, this is a very easy level. But, whilst experienced players will blaze through it in less than five minutes, the moderate number of low-level monsters will probably present a bit of an enjoyable challenge for inexperienced players.

It’s probably more challenging than the original “E1M1”, but reasonably easy compared to most other levels.

For an easy introductory level, this level actually has a fairly good monster progression, weapon progression and difficulty curve, since the level initially starts by throwing smaller groups of zombies and imps at the player, before a rather cool set-piece featuring a room lined with zombies (where the player is given a chaingun) and a short final segment that also includes a pink “demon” monster too.

If you’re a new player, then I imagine that this set piece will probably be a lot more intense/dramatic.

In terms of level design, this level is very short and very linear…. just like E1M1 from the original “Doom”, which seems to be one of it’s inspirations. There are a couple of very small side areas to explore at the beginning, but the level progresses along a single, focused path. Given that this is meant to be an easy level for new players, this is probably a good design choice.

Still, there are a good variety of areas here (including a cracked floor that reminded me a little of Romero’s modern WADs, like “Tech Gone Bad) that keep the level visually interesting and help to create a sense of progression.

This cracked floor looks really cool, plus the raised area is a tantalisingly visible part of a secret area too.

Likewise, one cool feature of this level is that several secret areas are clearly visible, but difficult to get to – which provides a little bit of extra challenge and/or replay value. Not only that, this sort of thing is also a cool homage to the level design of the original “Doom” too.

All in all, this level fulfils it’s goals really well – it is a forgivingly easy and short introductory level that is also a bit of a homage to the original “Doom” too. Yes, if you’re an experienced player, then this level will just be three minutes of mindlessly easy fun. But, I can imagine that it will probably be a lot more enjoyable and a bit more challenging for the novice players that it is aimed at.

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

Review: “Frost Bitten” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “MBF Engine” [?]/ “ZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel that I plan to review (a Lovecraftian “Scooby Doo” parody called “Meddling Kids” By Edgar Cantero), I thought that I’d take a look at a “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD. After all, it has been a little under a month since my last WAD review and, well, tradition is tradition.

So, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /idgames Archive a few times, I ended up with a level from 1999 called “Frost Bitten“.

Although this WAD was apparently designed for a source port I’d never even heard of before called “MBF Engine”, it was mostly functional with the “ZDoom” source port that I usually use. However, one feature mentioned in the readme file (friendly monsters) didn’t work with ZDoom.

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

“Frost Bitten” is a single-level WAD that also includes some new textures and features. It’s a short to medium-length level with some cool lighting, cool area design and a reasonably good variety of gameplay styles too.

Seriously, the lighting here is really awesome 🙂

As for the level design, the level is non-linear enough to be interesting but it flows really well enough that you won’t really get lost. The level design is also used to add challenge to the level in a few interesting ways, some of which are cool and some of which are a little bit cheap.

On the plus side, the level features this wonderfully tense segment where you have to explore a dark and claustrophobic air vent maze (which doesn’t show up on the in-game map) that is patrolled by spectres. Since you can usually hear the monsters, but can’t see them, and since you’ll probably also have relatively limited health and weapons, this segment of the level is surprisingly suspenseful and even borders on scary at times 🙂

Yes, this part of the level is actually scary 🙂

On the downside, there are a couple of cheap moments. Whether it is a (relatively) close-quarters Cyberdemon fight or a segment where you have to jump into a fast-flowing stream of blue radioactive waste and then stop moving at exactly the right moment to avoid certain death (and, yes, it’ll require a bit of trial and error), the level does occasionally include some cheap difficulty.

In terms of the general difficulty of the level, it’s probably moderately challenging at the very most. Experienced players won’t have too much trouble with this level and, even the Cyberdemon fight that I mentioned isn’t exactly unfair. You’re given enough ammo and just enough cover, but expect a relatively long fight with lots of trial and error.

If you’re an experienced player, then this fight isn’t exactly difficult. But, it is kind of time-consuming….

The new textures are reasonably good and they mostly consist of small signs, vending machine logos etc.. in addition to some rather cool snowy outdoor areas too. The best one of these is probably at the beginning of the level, where there is actually animated “snow” that hangs in the air. Although the animation is relatively basic, it still looks really cool and I wish that it had been used in the other wintery parts of the level.

Seriously, why wasn’t this in the later parts of the level too?

As mentioned earlier, I couldn’t get the “friendly monsters” feature to work with the source port I used – but some of the other features still worked. These mostly include things like underwater areas, small air vents and raised passageways which the Doomguy will automatically crouch into or jump onto when you walk up to them etc… Although this stuff might not sound that impressive these days, it was probably quite a technical achievement in 1999.

All in all, this is a fairly cool level 🙂 Yes, it does have a few annoying or frustrating moments, but if you want a reasonably interesting short-medium length level that includes the kind of features you don’t see that often in 1990s Doom WADs, then this one might be worth taking a look at.

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

Review “The Phantom Of The Opera” (WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Fall Of Night” by Jonathan Maberry), I thought that I’d take the chance to look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD, since it’s been about two or three weeks since my last WAD review.

And, after clicking the “random file” button on the /idgames Archive a couple of times, I ended up with a single-level WAD from 2005 called “The Phantom Of The Opera“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port to play this WAD, although it will probably work with almost any other source port. However, since this WAD uses a couple of the WW2-themed “Wolfenstein 3D” textures and enemies from Doom II’s secret levels, this WAD may not work with censored versions of the game (eg: the BFG edition and/or the German version of the game).

So, let’s take a look at “The Phantom Of The Opera”:

The level takes place in two different areas, an opera house-style area and some underground tunnels/crypts.

Given that the level only uses the standard textures (including the “Wolf 3D” ones from the secret levels), these areas are fairly well-designed and they look reasonably close to what they are supposed to be (for example, in order to progress to part of the opera house, you have to walk through a curtain. Likewise, there’s a boat that teleports you to another part of the level etc..).

What do you mean, unsafe? It looks perfectly seaworthy to me!

And, for something made with the standard textures, this opera house looks pretty impressive, if a little small.

In addition to this, the level also tries to add a bit of visual/combat variety by using a couple of enemies and a portrait from Doom II’s WW2-themed “Wolfenstein 3D” secret levels.

But, although this WW2-related stuff adds a bit of extra content to the level, it does seem at least slightly out of place in a level that is supposed to be set in 19th century France.

The level design itself is reasonably good, with the level being a non-linear level which is also small/streamlined enough that you’ll never really get lost. Like in any classic “Doom II” level, you’ll be searching for keys in order to progress (and these are pretty easy to find). Likewise, there are a few secrets to find too. Although the very first one is pretty easy to find, there’s a well-designed secret involving a piano/organ, which was kind of cool.

The level’s difficulty is kind of interesting. Although there aren’t that many monsters, the level achieves a certain level of challenge by heavily rationing the amount of ammo available to you.

If you find the blue health sphere near the beginning of the level, then this won’t be too much of a problem – but this is one of those levels where you have to know when to fight and when to run. This is especially true in the final segment of the level, when you are faced with multiple arch viles (and have little to no ammo).

Well, it wouldn’t be a “Doom II” level without THESE!

Surprisingly, this adds a bit of extra fun to the level, since you’ll have to use all of the reflexes and tactics that you’ve learnt from playing other levels. Likewise, the sheer number of arch viles near the end means that the final segment is much more like a basic puzzle (eg: you have to work out what to do and how to do it quickly) than a combat segment, since you can’t possibly fight all of the arch viles.

Even so, experienced players will find this level to be very much on the easier side of things. Even so, it’s still fairly fun.

In terms of music, this level uses the standard “Doom II” music – which is kind of annoying, given that it is meant to be based on The Phantom Of The Opera.

All in all, this is a fun and well-designed – but rather short and relatively easy level – that is a fun way to spend 10-15 minutes. It’s interesting to see someone trying to recreate The Phantom Of The Opera (even with some anachronistic WW2-era elements).

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

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

Well, due to the hot weather, it’s taking me a bit longer to read the next book I’m planning to review (“Final Destination: Dead Reckoning” by Natasha Rhodes) than I expected. So, for the final review of the month, I thought that I’d take a quick look at another “Doom II” WAD. After all, it’s been a few weeks since my last WAD review.

So, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /idgames Archive a few times, I ended up with a single-level “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD from 2006 called “Denial“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, although it’ll probably work with most modern source ports. Likewise, since it’s a “vanilla” WAD (eg: it only uses the standard textures, monsters, weapons etc..), it’ll also work with many mods (like “Brutal Doom” etc..) too.

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

“Denial” is a medium length single-level WAD which, for some bizarre reason, takes up the level 28 slot. What this means is that, when you start the game, you’ll have to type “IDCLEV28” to skip to this level (if you don’t want to play levels 1-27). I’ve never quite understood why some WAD designers do this. If it’s a single-level WAD, then it should be level one!

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it’s a lot of fun. It’s a mildly-moderately challenging level that will probably take you an hour or so to complete. It’s a perfect level if you’re slightly out of practice, if the weather is a little bit too hot or if you don’t have too much time. Likewise, if you’re a more inexperienced player, then this level will probably be quite an enjoyable challenge.

But, if you’re a more experienced player, then you’ll get to feel like an expert when you play this mildly challenging level.

A lot of the level’s challenge is achieved through careful weapon/ammo/health placement, claustrophobic design and well-planned monster encounters. Although you’ll mostly encounter low-level monsters throughout the level, these segments still remain mildly challenging due to the number of these monsters (eg: small hordes of them), the cramped locations you fight them in and/or their hitscan attacks.

Seriously, this segment might look really easy, but there’s very little cover to hide behind…

Still, the level throws a few mid-high level monsters and/or small arena fights at you occasionally in order to keep you on your toes. Even so, don’t expect the large numbers of monsters that you’d normally see in a more challenging modern WAD. But, saying this, the level still includes the obligatory Arch-Vile too 🙂

Seriously, no “Doom II” WAD is truly complete without one of these 🙂

In terms of the level design, this WAD is reasonably good. Not only is the level an old-school non-linear level, but there’s also a good mixture of claustrophobic corridors and small-medium size arena areas too.

The bulk of the level is spent trying to find one key – which can sometimes lead to you getting lost or stuck, although this thankfully doesn’t last too long (thanks to the size of the level). But, once you’ve found the key, then the level becomes a lot more straightforward – with the other two locked doors being fairly close to the first one.

Still, it’s always awesome to see FPS game maps that look like this 🙂

The level also includes a couple of basic switch puzzles and a few fairly obvious secret areas too, which help to keep things interesting (since they’ll sometimes allow you to glimpse later parts of the level). Plus, whilst this WAD can probably be played using a more “traditionalist” approach, if you want to get the plasma rifle, then you’ll need to use a source port that allows you to jump.

Luckily, this wall of switches doesn’t seem to be a combination puzzle 🙂

I’m pretty sure that you can’t get this without jumping, although there might be a hidden teleporter or something.

All in all, this is a reasonably fun and well-designed level that will provide an hour or so of mildly-moderately challenging fun. Yes, you might get lost or stuck for a few minutes, but it’s always good to see an old-school non-linear level that requires you to explore 🙂

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