Although “Tech Gone Bad” was released in mid-January, I didn’t hear about it until sometime in February for some bizarre reason, and I’m somewhat late to the party when it comes to reviewing it.
I should probably point out what makes this WAD so noteworthy. It was made by none other than John Romero himself!
Yes, the designer of the greatest FPS game ever created (I’m more of a “Doom II” fan, but “Doom II” wouldn’t exist if not for “Doom”) and the possible inventor of the FPS genre itself has created a new level for “Doom”. In 2016. Words cannot describe how cool this is.
This level requires the “ZDoom” source port and a copy of “Ultimate Doom” in order to run (it won’t work on “Doom II” or “Final Doom”). In addition to this, if you want to skip straight to the new level, then just start the first episode of “Ultimate Doom” and then type IDCLEV18 to skip to the level.
Anyway, let’s take a look at “Tech Gone Bad”:
“Tech Gone Bad” is a replacement for the final level of “Knee-Deep In The Dead” for the original “Doom”. It takes advantage of modern source ports to include more monsters and more complexity than the team at ID Software could produce back in 1993.
This level is a large, sprawling thing that took me about half an hour to complete. Like in all good FPS games, the level is a complex, non-linear thing that will require a fair amount of exploration in order to complete. When I started playing this, I originally thought “It’s for the first ‘Doom’, it’ll be an easy level. I’ll finish it in ten minutes” , only to end up completely and utterly lost about twenty minutes later.
Although the design of this level is fairly complex, it is never unfair and – with careful searching – you can usually work out where you’re supposed to go next. The part where I got lost was near the end of the level where there’s a small (and easily missable) corridor hidden in one corner of what initially appears to be a self-contained room at first glance. So, it’s good to know that John Romero can still challenge players through level design alone over twenty years later.
Visually, the level is pretty spectacular when compared to the original game. Although Romero only uses the default textures, he uses them in a variety of creative and inventive ways. And, given that he was part of the team that created the default textures, it wouldn’t exactly be fair to bemoan the lack of new textures.
Likewise, it goes without saying but this level has a very classic “Doom” look to it, in the best possible way. There are vast, sweeping outdoor areas and there are cramped, claustrophobic corridor mazes. This variety in design helps to keep the gameplay interesting.
In terms of the gameplay difficulty, this level was a bit more challenging than I expected. Yes, it isn’t close to being as fiendishly difficult as many modern WADs are but, compared to the original “Doom”, it’s surprisingly challenging. Thanks to modern source ports, there’s no limit on the number of monsters that a level can contain and John Romero makes full use of this here.
Although you shouldn’t expect chaotic “slaughtermap”-style areas here, there is at least one awesome set piece where you find yourself fighting a constantly-spawning horde of monsters in a confined area. This took me totally by surprise and, well, it’s good to see that “Doom” can still do this 🙂
The only minor criticism I have is of the final battle. Whilst it’s an expert updating of the original E1M8 ending, it still feels a little bit anticlimactic in some ways. Even though the difficulty is increased slightly by groups of low-level monsters that spawn around the two Barons Of Hell, anyone who has ever played “Doom II” (and the many modern WADs for it) probably won’t see two Barons as anything too challenging.
Personally, I’d have preferred it if two cyberdemons appeared at the end of the level. Still, I can see why Romero kept the two Barons for the sake of historical accuracy.
All in all, this is a new “Doom” level by one of the designers of “Doom” and one of the inventors of the FPS genre itself. If you’re a “Doom” player, then it goes without saying that you should play this level. Hell, if you’re a FPS gamer, you should play this level.
If I had to go through the formality of giving this level a rating out of five, it would get a solid five.