Mini Review: “Doom Christmas – For Doom II & Final Doom” (Mod for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”)

Although I still plan to write more book reviews, I was determined to review something else “Doom II”-related before Christmas. So, I thought that I’d quickly check out a rather interesting little mod called “Doom Christmas – For Doom II & Final Doom“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this mod. However, it seems to have been designed to work in pretty much any source port (eg: the readme text states that no advanced engine is needed and that it will run with “Chocolate Doom”). Plus, for the sake of time, I also used cheat codes whilst looking at the stuff in this mod.

So, let’s take a quick look at “Doom Christmas – For Doom II & Final Doom”:

“Doom Christmas – For Doom II & Final Doom” is a Christmas-themed mod that includes new music, sounds, skyboxes, menu text, end level screens and textures.

Although most of these are things that I’ve seen in Christmas-themed WADs before, it’s absolutely great to see so many of them within the same WAD 🙂

Yay! Nostalgia 🙂 Both for the 1990s and for other Christmas-themed WADs too 🙂

This mod gives “Doom II” an absolutely wonderful “1990s Christmas” kind of atmosphere 🙂 One cool feature is that several of the wall/floor textures and skyboxes have been replaced with more festive ones, which gives familiar levels much more of a “Christmassy” atmosphere. Likewise, many of the item sprites are now covered with snow too.

Merry Doom-mas 🙂

The changes to the weapons are fairly subtle, but they work really well. Whilst the basic shotgun now has a bow on it, the super shotgun has a slightly more “frosty” grey texture and the plasma rifle now fires sparkly red/green projectiles, the best weapon change has to be to the fist – which is replaced by a candy cane.

The monster sprite replacements are pretty cool, with the basic “zombie” monsters being replaced with Santa Clauses. In addition to this, lots of other familiar festive monster sprites also make an appearance here too.Not to mention that the cyberdemon now has a cool green/grey colour scheme too.

It isn’t that festive, but it looks really cool nonetheless 🙂

Although the Arch-vile, Spider Mastermind and Mancubus don’t receive any graphical changes, one cool feature is that several of the monsters now have new sound effects (and will say various festive things, which is hilarious).

In terms of music, each level of “Doom II” has a new Christmas-themed MIDI file – with a full list available in the readme text for the mod. Seriously, there is something wonderfully nostalgic about Christmas MIDI music and it’s great to see such a large selection here 🙂 Although, annoyingly “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” isn’t included though.

All in all, this mod is absolutely brilliant 🙂 Yes, there isn’t that much in the way of truly new stuff here, but this doesn’t matter. If you want a distillation of everything wonderful about Christmas-themed “Doom II” stuff, or you just want to add a bit of amusement and variety to the vanilla versions of “Doom II” and “Final Doom”, then this mod is well worth checking out.

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

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[OLD VERSION] Mini Review: “Swanky Moppets” (Mod/TC For “Ultimate Doom”/ “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017 Artwork Swanky Moppets Doom mod review sketch

[Note: I write these articles fairly far in advance of publication. And, between writing and posting this review/first impressions article, an updated version of this mod (now called “Gloom Busters”) has apparently been released. So, this review is more of a historical curio, and it is NOT a review of the mod in it’s current state.]

Well, it’s been a while since I reviewed anything “Doom”-related, so I thought that I’d take a quick look at a very unique mod/TC for all of the classic “Doom” games called “Swanky Moppets“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this mod. Likewise, at the time of writing, I’ve only had the chance to play this mod for 2-4 hours at most -so, this is more of a “first impressions” article than anything else.

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

Screenshot_Doom_20160821_121604

The besy way to describe “Swanky Moppets” is that it’s kind of like a cross between those “Purple Ronnie” cartoons that were inexplicably popular during the 1990s, “Chex Quest” and the old “Commander Keen” games. It’s also literally the polar opposite of “Brutal Doom“. But, at the same time, it’s also it’s own unique thing as well. And it’s hilarious! Here’s the story for the game:

The "Don't cark it!" part still makes me laugh :)

The “Don’t cark it!” part still makes me laugh 🙂

Seriously, I can’t overstate how funny this mod is. Yes, most of the humour is on the subtle side – but it’s always great to see a modern “Doom” mod that doesn’t try to be gritty or serious. This is a mod that’s about classic 1990s style fun, humour, personality and innovation. It’s totally and utterly silly in the best sense of the word.

For example, you’ll find a disposable camera (anyone remember those?), which you can use to take selfie photos with. Although this is a fun novelty, after taking about 10-20 photos, you’ll find that you’ve somehow broken the space-time continuum and have frozen time for about 30 seconds or so (possibly more). You’ll also have goth-vision too!

My whole life is a darkroom... one, big, dark room.

My whole life is a darkroom… one, big, dark room.

Plus, one of the other weapons is a badass motorbike with flames painted on it! Yes! Just yes!

Born to be wild!

Born to be wild!

Likewise, all of the well-animated weapons in this mod have a really cartoonish look to them and they’ll often cause large, sparkly explosions when fired. Seriously, this is one of those things that has to be seen to be believed – but the whole screen will often literally be filled with sparkles during firefights:

Yay! Remember when weapons in computer games used to be this joyous and whimsical? Yes, I miss those days too!

Yay! Remember when weapons in computer games used to be this joyous and whimsical? Yes, I miss those days too!

Another cool thing about this mod is the sheer number of weapons on offer – I’ve played it for a couple of hours and I still haven’t seen all of them. Yes, many of them are various types of cartoonish laser guns, but they also often include alternative fire modes too – which is a really cool touch.

However, the visual changes included in this mod are something of a mixed bag. Although the replacements for many of the in-game objects are quirky, funny and interesting – the wall textures can sometimes include clashing colours and/or look slightly too bright.

I guess that this is part of the “look” of the mod, but I’d have preferred it if the mod had stuck to one or two basic colour palettes and had included a balanced mixture of light and dark wall textures in order to give the levels more visual contrast. Still, the visual effects that appear when using certain power-ups make up for this:

Yes, WHY didn't the original "Doom II" look more like this?

Yes, WHY didn’t the original “Doom II” look more like this?

Yes, it might make your eyes bleed if you look at it too long. But, palm trees, sparkles and 1980s colours!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Yes, it might make your eyes bleed if you look at it too long. But, palm trees, sparkles and 1980s colours!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

Plus, if you play “Ultimate Doom” with this mod, then you’ll be treated to a really cool animated screen when you finish each level (in the first episode at least, I haven’t looked at the others with this mod).

Although “Doom II” and “Final Doom” just display a static image at the end of each level, it’s still really cool to see an animated completion screen in “Doom”. Seriously, I don’t think that I’ve seen one of these before!

The enemy design in this mod is, in a word, superb! All of the other characters have a distinctive, cartoonish aesthetic – and you’ll actually feel kind of bad about shooting at the adorable cast of characters and creatures that you’ll encounter.

This mod is wonderfully cartoonish.

This mod is wonderfully cartoonish.

Still, in classic “Commander Keen” fashion – the other characters don’t actually die when you shoot them, they just kind of sit down and grin at you. The creatures, on the other hand, explode into a delightful shower of sparkles.

Awww... Aren't they adorable? Now, let's turn them into sparkles!

Awww… Aren’t they adorable? Now, let’s turn them into sparkles!

As for the music and sound design, it’s surprisingly good. A lot of the music seems to consist of cool remixes of the classic “Doom” music and they can actually sound surprisingly dramatic.

As for the sound design, this mod is filled with precisely the kind of “Commander Keen”-style bleeping and zapping sounds that you would expect.

Yes, this sounds pretty much EXACTLY like you'd expect it to sound.

Yes, this sounds pretty much EXACTLY like you’d expect it to sound.

All in all, this mod is fun, unique and very 1990s in the best possible way. It hearkens back to a time when games were joyously silly and even tried to make the player laugh sometimes. It reminds me of a time when games each had their own unique “personality” and aesthetic.

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

Review: “Infestation In Time Revisited TC” (Mod/Levels For “Duke Nukem 3D”)

2017 Artwork Duke 3D infestation in time mod review

Well, I still seem to be in a “Duke Nukem 3D” kind of mood at the moment, so I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting set of levels called “Infestation In Time Revisited TC“.

Although, at the time of writing, the ModDB page refers to an earlier version of “Infestation In Time”, the download page only includes the new version – which I will be reviewing.

In order to play “Infestation In Time Revisited TC”, you’ll need to download the “eDuke32” source port for “Duke Nukem 3D”. Then copy the ‘Duke3D.grp’ and ‘Duke.rts’ files from your copy of “Duke Nukem 3D” into the “eDuke 32” folder. After this, just follow the instructions that are included in the readme file for “Infestation In Time Revisited TC”. Once you’ve done this, use the dedicated “IITC” batch file to start the game (don’t just use the default “eDuke32” launcher!)

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Infestation In Time Revisited TC”:

infestation in time episode select

“Infestation In Time Revisited TC” contains 14 levels (spread over two episodes), some secret & multiplayer levels, new monsters, new weapons, new textures, 3D models, new gameplay mechanics, new music and new sounds.

As the title suggests, it’s a total conversion – and yet it still looks very much like a “Duke Nukem” game, albeit with a hint of “Serious Sam”.

The basic plot is that Duke is relaxing at home when *shock horror* the aliens decide to invade again. After battling them in Los Angeles, he travels to an EDF base in the Antarctic where he learns that the aliens are using a time machine of some kind….

Yes, Duke REALLY will get medieval on their asses. Literally!

Yes, Duke REALLY will get medieval on their asses. Literally!

This is my BOOMSTICK!

This is my BOOMSTICK!

Although this mod tells a story, it mostly contains the kind of classic non-linear level design that you would expect from a real FPS game, even in the obligatory train level.

In fact, the only truly linear level in the game is still surprisingly interesting for the simple reason that you spend literally all of it trying to outrun a series of fast-moving explosions.

This level does what it says on the tin.

This level does what it says on the tin.

One really cool thing about the level design in this mod is that there’s a large variety of locations to explore – from a secret Russian base, to the streets of LA, to the middle ages, to Ancient Egyptian catacombs, to – my personal favourite – a gothic realm that exists beyond the limits of space and time:

Complete with "Harry Potter"-style dementors too :) This is so cool :) ... Well, apart from the puzzle near the end of the level.

Complete with “Harry Potter”-style dementors too 🙂 This is so cool 🙂 … Well, apart from the puzzle near the end of the level.

Yay! This is just like "Stargate" and "Serious Sam" :)

Yay! This is just like “Stargate” and “Serious Sam” 🙂

The maker of this mod is also a huge fan of switch puzzles too and, although most of them aren’t too bad – the first level contains a puzzle with nine switches! Yes, there’s probably a solution hidden somewhere in the level but, after a lot of trial, error and fruitless searching, I had to resort to cheats in order to progress:

Of course, the REAL code you need to use here is "DNCLIP" (or typing "noclip" in the eDuke32 command prompt).

Of course, the REAL code you need to use here is “DNCLIP” (or typing “noclip” in the eDuke32 command prompt).

Likewise, level five of the first episode contains a switch puzzle… where the switches are spread out across a large level! Again, for the sake of my sanity, I had to use a cheat code or two.

There's fun difficulty and then there's cheap difficulty. Cheats are useful for the latter.

There’s fun difficulty and then there’s cheap difficulty. Cheats are useful for the latter.

Still, the mod includes some rather innovative new gameplay features. One of these is a cash system where Duke can find $5 bills lying around levels that can be used to buy weapons in several weapon shops that are spread out around the game. There are also ladders that Duke can climb and a rudimentary physics system that has to be used to solve several puzzles:

This isn't actually the solution to the puzzle in question, but it was fun to do.

This isn’t actually the solution to the puzzle in question, but it was fun to do.

As for the weapons, “Infestation In Time Revisited TC” includes some fairly cool ones. Some of the guns now even have 3D models too.

Interestingly, Duke now has two pistols – a “Golden pistol” which is fairly similar to the standard “Duke 3D” pistol and a “realistic” pistol which fires more rapidly (and uses a different ammo type). The shotgun, RPG and tripmines also have new textures, but are basically the same. There’s a slightly useless grenade launcher, a Devastator-style plasma weapon and a flamethrower too 🙂

It's like the freezethrower... but with FIRE!

It’s like the freezethrower… but with FIRE!

As for the new monsters, there are almost too many to mention. This is one of those really cool mods where you’ll never get bored with the monsters for the simple reason that there are just so many different types! But, most surprisingly of all, this game also includes an unused monster from the original “Duke 3D” too:

During my limited experiments with the Build editor when I was a kid, I saw these things in the sprite files and I could never work out what they were supposed to be. But, now I know!

During my limited experiments with the Build editor when I was a kid, I saw these things in the sprite files and I could never work out what they were supposed to be. But, now I know!

Musically, this mod includes both traditional 1990s style music (in the medieval levels) and a classic rock/hard rock soundtrack. Personally, I’ve always thought that Duke would be more of a heavy metal fan, but it’s cool nonetheless. Plus, in true “Serious Sam” fashion, the final boss battle in the second episode does include some epic metal music in the background:

The music is really cool, but this boss battle is actually easier than the episode one boss battle for the simple reason that there's a circular arena and no extra monsters.

The music is really cool, but this boss battle is actually easier than the episode one boss battle for the simple reason that there’s a circular arena and no extra monsters.

All in all, this is a really fun mod. Yes, it might be a bit too puzzle-heavy and some parts of it may be a little clunky, but it’s still ridiculously impressive when you consider that it’s based on a game from 1996 🙂 If you’re a “Duke 3D” fan, this mod is well worth checking out 🙂

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

Mini Review: “Super Nukem Bros.” (Mod For “Duke Nukem 3D”)

2017 Artwork Super Nukem Bros mini review

Well, it has been ages since I last reviewed any levels for “Duke Nukem 3D”, so I thought that I’d look at a rather strange mod called “Super Nukem Bros.” that is based on the old NES “Super Mario” games. At the time of writing this review, I’ve played about two thirds of the mod, so this review will only reflect my experiences so far.

Since the first “Mario” game I ever played was on the SNES, the NES “Mario” games are slightly before my time – but, after playing a “Doom II” WAD called “Doom: The Golden Souls“, I’m always curious about “Mario”-style FPS games.

As usual, you’ll need the ‘eDuke 32’ source port and a copy of the full version of “Duke 3D” in order to run this mod. [Edit: If you’ve got the modern “World Tour” edition, then this community patch might be helpful in getting the game to run with eDuke 32. I’ve got an older version of the game, so I haven’t tested this patch (with or without the mod) though.]

Just copy the ‘Duke3d.grp’ and ‘Duke.rts’ files from your full version of the game into the ‘eDuke32’ directory. Then create a folder called “autoload” in that directory and copy the mod’s ZIP file into it. Then, when you start ‘eDuke32’, click the box that says ‘Enable Autoload Folder’.

Anyway, let’s take a look at ‘Super Nukem Bros.’:

Super nukem bros - title screen

The game is split into three short episodes, the first two are a re-creation of the very first ‘Super Mario’ game. The third one is entitled ‘An Alternate World’ and I’ll discuss my limited experiences with it later.

One of the first things that I will say is that “Super Nukem Bros.” takes a very literal approach to recreating the original “Mario” game. Each level is quite literally a thin, linear corridor with all of the usual platforms and pipes that you would expect from a “Mario”-style game. Although the game only features “Duke 3D” monsters, it does include a new ‘fire flower’ weapon that replaces the chaingun and/or rocket launcher:

Although it has limited ammo, it can gib virtually any monster with a single shot.

Although it has limited ammo, it can gib virtually any monster with a single shot.

The most amusing part of this mod is the fact that the steroids have been replaced with ‘Staroids’ instead. And, yes, they even play the classic ‘golden star’ music from “Mario” when you use them:

[Insert controversial joke about Russia and the 2016 Olympics here]

[Insert controversial joke about Russia and the 2016 Olympics here]

As for the gameplay and level design, the first two episodes are fairly good when you consider that they’re trying to be an accurate reproduction of a 2D platform game.

...And, yet, it's probably STILL less linear than many modern "AAA" FPS games are..

…And, yet, it’s probably STILL less linear than many modern “AAA” FPS games are..

Personally, I’d have preferred it if the designer of these levels had gone for more traditional FPS levels with a “Mario” style look (like in “Doom: The Golden Souls”), but I can understand that this mod was going for historical accuracy more than anything else.

Although first-person platforming is the bane of many a classic FPS gamer’s existence, it’s handled fairly well in the first two episodes – with generously-sized platforms and a large jump height. In fact, the first two episodes are actually fairly easy. Apart from a frustrating section involving cannons and occasional ammo shortages, of course.

Yes, this is probably the most difficult part of the first two episodes.

Yes, this is probably the most difficult part of the first two episodes.

However, I should probably talk about what little I’ve played of the third episode.

Although I initially thought that this episode contained better and more non-linear level design – the first level alone commits one of the cardinal sins of first-person platforming, which renders it almost unplayable (and led to me abandoning the third episode halfway through the first level!):

 Tiny platforms are ok in 2D platform games. In first-person games, they're nearly impossible! Even without monsters!

Tiny platforms are ok in 2D platform games. In first-person games, they’re nearly impossible! Even without monsters!

As for the music, it’s surprisingly good. All of the music in “Super Nukem Bros” is based on music from the classic “Mario” games, although it has a slightly richer and more complex sound if I remember rightly. The music from the title screen is probably the best track in the entire mod 🙂

All in all, the concept behind this mod is pretty cool and I have to applaud the fact that someone has managed to re-create the first “Mario” game in “Duke Nukem 3D”. However, this mod isn’t without flaws and – if you’ve got a copy of “Doom II” – then I’d recommend checking out “Doom: The Golden Souls” instead if you want a “Mario”-style FPS game.

If I had to give “Super Nukem Bros” a rating out of five, it would get three.

Mini Review: “Death Wish” (Mod For “Blood”/ “One Unit Whole Blood”)

2016 Artwork Death Wish Blood Review sketch

It’s nearly Christmas so, in keeping with tradition, I’ve decided to play a large mod for a Build Engine game called “Blood“. I don’t know why, but the Build Engine always makes me think of Christmas 🙂

The mod is called “Death Wish” and I first heard about it in this video review on Youtube.

At the time of writing, I’m slightly over two-thirds of the way through this mod (I’m on E3M1, if anyone is curious ). So, this “mini review” article will only reflect my opinions so far.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that since the source code to “Blood” was never released (bad Monolith!), “Death Wish” is an absolute pain to get running. It’s totally worth it, but expect to put in a lot of effort just to get it to run.

The best way to get “Death Wish” to run was something I eventually found in comment #10 on this page of the Steam forums (ironic for a GOG fan like myself), where someone suggested re-naming your normal “BLOOD” configuration file to something other than “BLOOD” and then naming the equivalent Death Wish file “BLOOD” instead. Even then, this took a bit of trial and error to get right.

Plus, it goes without saying (considering that the game is called “Blood”), but this review may contain some GRUESOME IMAGES.

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

 Yes, like many classic FPS games, it has an episodic structure :) The second episode is also called "Scar Trek" too. Yay! Geekiness!

Yes, like many classic FPS games, it has an episodic structure 🙂 The second episode is also called “Scar Trek” too. Yay! Geekiness!

“Death Wish” is a full-game sized mod for “Blood” which was released in 2011. It contains about thirty new levels, in addition to some new sound effects, voice acting and cutscenes.

Yes, this mod actually includes cutscenes (both at the beginning and end of each episode, along with some small animated in-game cutscenes too). Even though the video-based cutscenes only have limited animation, they feature a really cool art style and voice-overs.

Dammit! For the last time! WHAT does "Crudox Cruo" mean??

Dammit! For the last time! WHAT does “Crudox Cruo” mean??

The story of “Death Wish” is fairly simple. Sometime between the events of both “Blood” games, Tchernobog makes another attempt to rise from the grave and seek dominion over Earth. Once again, it is up to Caleb to stop him…. with extreme force!

Although the general tone of this game is thankfully a lot closer to the original “Blood”, there’s at least one “Blood II: The Chosen” reference in here:

CabalCo? Well, at least THIS time round, they have PROPER evil minons rather than those generic soldiers...

CabalCo? Well, at least THIS time round, they have PROPER evil minons rather than those generic soldiers…

The game’s story is also told through “tomes” that you can pick up, which will display some story text at the top of the screen. In addition to this, the ghost of Tchernobog will appear sometimes to taunt you (in a suitably creepy/dramatic voice), attack you with fireballs and/or give you an occasional jump scare.

Hmmm... he looks friendly. I should say hello.

Hmmm… he looks friendly. I should say hello.

One of the best ways to describe the style of this mod is that it is what “Blood” would look like if it was made today.

As well as having all of the qualities of an old-school FPS game, some of the movie/game references that made the original game such a classic have been updated slightly:

Oh my god! This level is based on the first "Saw" movie! Duh DUH DUH!!! Duh Duh DUM!! *Keeps humming the "Saw" music*

Oh my god! This level is based on the first “Saw” movie! Duh DUH DUH!!! Duh Duh DUM!! *Keeps humming the “Saw” music*

And Silent Hill! SILENT HILL!!!!!!!!

And Silent Hill! SILENT HILL!!!!!!!!

As well as lots of cool movie and game references, the level design is absolutely superb! Not only is there a good variety of locations on offer here, but all of the levels are the kind of challenging, imaginative and non-linear 1990s-style levels that FPS games regularly included when the genre was at it’s peak.

This mod was released in 2011 and the level design is probably ten times better than most “AAA” FPS games that were released in that year!

In fact, the creator of this mod does all sorts of cool things with the limited technology of the Build Engine. As well as lots of cool-looking locations (using nothing more than the basic “Blood” textures!), the mod also includes things like short in-game cutscenes, a ghost ship, an invisible path (that is illuminated by a moving light) and all sorts of other cool stuff:

Not only does this blue light look like something from "Blade Runner", but it also moves around too!

Not only does this blue light look like something from “Blade Runner”, but it also moves around too!

A ghost ship! An actual ghost ship, with ghosts floating above it! Best of all, you actually get to explore it too!

A ghost ship! An actual ghost ship, with ghosts floating above it! Best of all, you actually get to explore it too!

If you want to relax, you can always enjoy some ice skating with the locals too.

If you want to relax, you can always enjoy some ice skating with the locals too.

In fact, the only faults I found with the level design was the fact that I couldn’t find one of the keys in the very first level (and reluctantly had to resort to using the “give keys” cheat) and the fact that several of the game’s buttons and switches were nearly impossible to press unless I hammered both the “crouch” and “use” keys at the same time.

But, I’m not exaggerating when I say that “Death Wish” is challenging. Even on medium difficulty, this game is significantly more challenging than all of the “official” Build Engine games were (eg: “Duke Nukem 3D”, “Shadow Warrior”, “Blood” etc..).

If you’re a fan of classic 1990s FPS games, then you will probably find the ridiculous difficulty both hilarious and enjoyable. You’ll also feel like an absolute badass when you beat each level too 🙂

However, if you’ve grown up on easy, simplified modern FPS games, then expect to start shouting loudly about how the game is “unfair”, before throwing your keyboard across the room. “Death Wish” is thankfully about as far from “Call Of Duty” as you can get!

Yes, this is level two. Yes, THAT is a hellhound. Yes, they have lots of health, run very quickly and can incinerate you in about three seconds. No, you DON'T have regenerating health. Have fun :)

Yes, this is level two. Yes, THAT is a hellhound. Yes, they have lots of health, run very quickly and can incinerate you in about three seconds. No, you DON’T have regenerating health. Have fun 🙂

This is a game that demands persistence, that requires you to use your brain and which will punish you mercilessly for any mistakes. God, I miss the days when FPS games were like this!

But, unlike the original “Blood”, the difficulty here is cranked up even further by the fact that health and ammo can sometimes be very scarce. Likewise, expect to run into more than a few modern-style hordes of zombies. Yes, literal hordes:

Yay! I always found it odd how you'd often only see maybe one or two zombies at a time in the original game. Zombies are herd animals!

Yay! I always found it odd how you’d often only see maybe one or two zombies at a time in the original game. Zombies are herd animals!

Don't let this screenshot fool you, 99% of the levels I've played AREN'T this generous with weapons!

Don’t let this screenshot fool you, 99% of the levels I’ve played AREN’T this generous with weapons!

“Death Wish” also includes it’s fair share of puzzles, switches and hidden keys too. Although most of these can be found with careful searching (except for one key in E1M1), the game also includes a walkthrough if you get stuck.

Normally, I’d consider looking at the walkthrough to be cheating (it’s a FPS game, not a point-and-click adventure!) but, given how sneakily some things are hidden (eg: certain monsters you’d normally avoid have to be killed before doors open etc..), expect to look at it at least a few times.

However, be wary of the walkthrough! It claims that the third level of episode one is the easiest level of the episode. It isn’t….

On the plus side, this hilariously unfair part of the level showed me that, yes, "Blood" DOES include monster infighting! However, it is significantly harder to get it to happen than it is in "Doom" or "Quake"!

On the plus side, this hilariously unfair part of the level showed me that, yes, “Blood” DOES include monster infighting! However, it is significantly harder to get it to happen than it is in “Doom” or “Quake”!

In terms of length, this is a full game. This is a full 1990s-length game (back when FPS games actually included more than just a few measly hours of gameplay). Although I am only two-thirds of the way through the game, this is the result of playing this game a lot for several days.

All in all, “Death Wish” is easily as good as (if not better than) the original “Blood” was. Not only does it include (mostly) excellently-designed levels and cool movie references, but it also includes the kind of amazingly fun and enjoyably challenging/ hilariously unfair gameplay that you only see in 1990s FPS games. This is a mod both by and for classic FPS gamers. And it is awesome!

If I had to give what I’d played so far a rating out of five, it would just about get a five.

Mini Review: “Brutalist Doom” (Mod For “Doom”/ “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”… And Maybe “Heretic”… Well, Sort Of)

2016 Artwork Brutalist Doom mini review sketch

Well, shortly after writing yesterday’s article, I was looking at random pictures of Brutalist architecture in Google Images when I happened to see a screenshot from “Doom II” hidden amongst all of the cool-looking buildings.

Intrigued, I clicked on it and I was led to this absolutely fascinating article about a mod for “Doom” called “Brutalist Doom”. Even if you aren’t interested in the mod, the article itself is worth checking out.

Since Doomworld’s archives didn’t seem to be working properly at the time of writing (earlier this year – they seem to be working now though), I had to download this mod via a fairly circuitous route (eg: using the Google cache of the mod’s archive page to get a link to the German download mirror).

I also only had a chance to try this mod out briefly on “Ultimate Doom”, “Doom II”, “The Plutonia Experiment” (from “Final Doom”) and “Heretic” (just for the hell of it) using the “ZDoom” source port. So, this will be more of a “first impressions” article than anything else.

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

Yay! Dystopian concrete :)

Yay! Concrete 🙂

“Brutalist Doom” is a mod which tries to make “Doom” levels look a bit more like Brutalist architecture, mostly by changing many of the wall textures and some of the skybox textures. From what I’ve seen, it both succeeds and fails at this.

First of all, the idea behind this mod is a really cool one. Brutalist architecture is one of the most fascinating types of architecture out there and it’s awesome to actually be able to play a computer game that includes this type of architecture.

Most of the mod’s visual changes are fairly simple ones, but they seriously change the whole atmosphere of the game. Many wall textures are replaced with foreboding grey concrete and most of the skybox textures have been changed to something much gloomier. It’s wonderfully ominous, gothic and bleak. However, the skyboxes in the first level (and possibly more) of episode four of “Ultimate Doom” haven’t been changed.

Not that this really matters, given how dramatic this sunset looks :)

Not that this really matters, given how dramatic this sunset looks 🙂

But, most of the time, the sky is this wonderfully ominous shade of grey.

But, most of the time, the sky is this wonderfully ominous shade of grey.

It might just be the lack of visual contrast, but even the monster sprites appear slightly more faded when you use this mod. Having a blank canvas as a background is a really interesting idea and it both does and doesn’t work. On the one hand, it means that there are fewer distractions, allowing you to focus on combat and exploration a lot more. Not to mention that there’s Brutalist architecture – in “Doom”!

But, on the other hand, it can get very slightly monotonous after a while. Brutalist architecture itself is interesting because large Brutalist buildings look absolutely fascinating from the outside.

However, many official “Doom” levels take place inside buildings, so this visual effect can sometimes be lost when using this mod. However, if you’re playing a level and/or a WAD with lots of large outdoor structures or areas, then I imagine that this mod would make them look twice as cool.

You can sort of see this slightly in the first level of "The Plutonia Experiment".

You can sort of see this slightly in the first level of “The Plutonia Experiment”.

Not only that, some of the texture changes don’t always work that well. Sometimes doors will be replaced with identical wall textures, or with nothing more than a plain black texture. Unless you’re playing a level that you already know by heart, this can sometimes get a bit confusing and disorientating.

If this door didn't happen to be at the end of E1M1, the most well-known "Doom" level of all time, it might have been easy to miss.

If this door didn’t happen to be at the end of E1M1, the most well-known “Doom” level of all time, it might have been easy to miss.

Interestingly, when I tried to play “Doom II” and “The Plutonia Experiment” using this mod, there was literally no music whatsoever. The levels were filled with an eerie silence, which just seemed to add to the wonderfully foreboding dystopian atmosphere that the mod tries to create. However, when I played “Ultimate Doom”, the music worked perfectly.

 I like to think that this is because the "E1M1" music is so awesome that it just HAD to appear :)

I like to think that this is because the “E1M1” music is so awesome that it just HAD to appear 🙂

However, when you try to play “Heretic” using this mod and “ZDoom”, something interesting happens….

Although “Heretic” is still playable, the graphics glitch out in a really interesting way. Many of the levels suddenly take on a wonderfully cool black and gold colour scheme, the HUD is an interesting shade of purple and many of the monsters have an odd solarised “glow” to them. Like this:

This mod may not be intended for use with "Heretic" but it certainly makes "Heretic" look cooler.

This mod may not be intended for use with “Heretic” but it certainly makes “Heretic” look cooler.

Ok, the monsters don't exactly "glow", but they certainly look solarised.

Ok, the monsters don’t exactly “glow”, but they certainly look solarised.

This may not be the way that this mod was originally intended to be used but, wow, it looks cool 🙂

All in all, despite it’s flaws, this is a really interesting mod. If you like your architecture to be gloomy and dystopian, then you’ll love this mod. Yes, it has it’s issues, but I still absolutely love the idea behind it. Not to mention that it also (unintentionally) makes “Heretic” look really cool too.

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

Review: “Skulldash” (Mod/WAD for Doom II/ Final Doom/ Zandronum)

2016 Artwork Skulldash WAD review

Well, although I’d originally planned to review another “Doom II” WAD for today, I eventually ended up looking at a Cacoward-winning WAD (well, techncially, a “PK3”)/ mod called “Skulldash” instead.

For some reason, “Skulldash” only works with the Zandronum source port (I’m usually more of a ZDoom/ GZDoom kind of person). However, you can download a version of “Skulldash” form the developer’s website which also includes the Zandronum source port. All you then have to do is copy your “Doom II”, “Plutonia Experiment” or “TNT Evilution” IWAD into the folder and then click on the “PLAY SKULLDASH” batch file.

So, let’s take a look at “Skulldash”:

Screenshot_Doom_20151231_142705

“Skulldash” is a 30-level WAD (including five secret levels, which I couldn’t find without resorting to cheating) that includes some fairly extensive gameplay modifications – as well as new monsters, weapons, textures, power-ups and music too.

Apart from of some of the boss battles (except the final one), every level of “Skulldash” is a timed challenge where you have to collect at least 75% of the coins scattered around the level and then reach the exit within a time limit. There’s a tutorial level that explains the new gameplay mechanics in more detail than I have done here.

Yes, the gameplay modifications are so extensive that they actually merit a tutorial level at the beginning of the game.

Yes, the gameplay modifications are so extensive that they actually merit a tutorial level at the beginning of the game.

Although I’m not usually keen on the idea of time limits in computer games, the time limits for each level are generous enough to be fair, but short enough to make the levels more challenging. It must have taken a lot of playtesting, but they got the time limits just about right.

As for the coin-based gameplay, this is a lot more exciting than it sounds. Not only does it force you to actually explore each level, but it adds an extra dimension of suspense and strategy to the combat in each level too. Since the main goal of each level is to collect enough coins to activate the exit (within the time limit), deciding whether to fight or flee from any monsters you encounter is a much more significant decision.

The challenge is also increased by the fact that, with one exception, all of the levels are played from a pistol start. In other words, you’ll never know which weapons will be available to you when you start a new level.

Yes, you don't even get a super shotgun on every level.

Yes, you don’t even get a super shotgun in every level.

The coin collecting mechanic is one of the most innovative FPS gameplay modifications that I’ve seen and it kind of reminds me of mainstream gaming in the 1990s, back when major games actually used to include things like innovation and creativity. I’d expected “Skulldash” to be mildly frustrating, but it was actually extremely enjoyable.

“Skulldash” also uses a hub system, which gives you some limited degree of choice about which order you play the levels in. However, you have to complete a group of four levels (in any order), before you can move on to the next group of four levels.

The only problem with this is that you always return to the same part of the hub after completing a level, which can mean that you may have to regularly traipse across the entire hub level in later parts of the game.

The hub level is fairly large and you always re-enter it here, even if the group of levels you're playing is on the other side of the hub.

The hub level is fairly large and you always re-enter it here, even if the group of levels you’re playing is on the other side of the hub.

Another cool thing about this WAD are the levels themselves. Near the beginning of the WAD, you’re dazzled with a plethora of wildly different levels that help to get you interested in playing more. There are Aztec temples, ice caves, moon bases etc…..

Yay! This level looks really cool :)

Yay! This level looks really cool 🙂

And so does this one too :)

And so does this one too 🙂

However, as the WAD progresses, many of the levels start to have a bit of a generic “Doom”/”Quake”-style look to them. However, there are at least a few interesting-looking levels later in the WAD – such as this sci-fi level which includes low gravity and a really cool skybox.

Seriously, this is one of the best skyboxes that I've seen in a while!

Seriously, this is one of the best skyboxes that I’ve seen in a while!

But, even though some of the levels may look a bit bland, the level design itself is absolutely top notch.

There are levels with a smaller number of well-hidden coins and there are levels with hundreds of coins that you have to rush through as quickly as you can. There are levels where all of the monsters are frozen until you’ve walked to the other side of the level. There are slightly puzzle-based levels. There are action-based levels. There are smaller levels and there are larger levels.

Seriously, the level design in this WAD is pretty much professional quality.

As for the new monsters – if you’ve played a few other “Doom” WADs, then you’ll recognise many of them. There are dark imps, super shotgun zombies, modified cacodemons etc… Even though there (mostly) isn’t anything significantly new here, it’s always great to see a WAD that contains more than just the standard monsters.

On the plus side, some of the bosses (like this one) seem to be totally new. However, one of them is a modified boss from "Duke Nukem 3D"

On the plus side, some of the bosses (like this one) seem to be totally new. However, one of them is a modified boss from “Duke Nukem 3D”

The new power-ups are fairly interesting and they include things like a “strength” power-up (whatever that does), a terror sphere, damage reflection etc… However, these new power-ups are extremely rare, which probably explains why I don’t remember a huge amount about them.

There are about three new weapons too. You can find a railgun, an enhanced version of the chaingun and a grenade launcher. The grenade launcher is probably the most innovative of the new weapons, for the simple reason that it functions a lot like a rocket launcher (but with a more limited range and slightly bouncier rockets).

 I'm still not sure whether I prefer this to the "ordinary" rocket launcher or not.

I’m still not sure whether I prefer this to the “ordinary” rocket launcher or not.

The music is, quite simply, amazingly cool. Each song goes really well with each level and the soundtrack contains some really outstanding tracks.

But, all of the new monsters, new weapons and awesome music are nothing more than the icing on the cake. As well as the excellent level design, the thing that truly makes “Skulldash” stand out from the crowd are the innovative gameplay modifications.

If I had to give “Skulldash” a rating out of five, it would just about get a five.