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

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Well, it’s been at least a couple of weeks since I last played a “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d take a look for one called “Miasma” that won a Cacoward in 2016.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD. From what I’ve read, it will work on most other modern limit-removing source ports, although it apparently might cause problems if you’re using ZDaemon. But, if – like me – you’re using an older computer, expect a little bit of slowdown in a couple of the more monster-filled areas of the level. Whilst this didn’t render the game unplayable, it was slightly annoying nonetheless.

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

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“Miasma” is a large single-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” which contains new music and textures. One of the first things that you will notice when you play this WAD is it’s very distinctive green/brown colour scheme. Whilst this adds some atmosphere to the WAD, it isn’t really as distinctive as the blue colour scheme in “Swim With The Whales” or the purple/brown colour scheme in “Stardate 20X6“.

You’ll notice that I’ve just mentioned two fiendishly difficult “slaughtermap” WADs and there’s a reason for this. “Miasma” is vaguely reminiscent of both of these WADs but, whilst it’s a good WAD, it doesn’t quite reach their high standards for a number of reasons. Whilst the distinctive colour scheme, the challenging gameplay and the slightly eerie music wouldn’t be too out of place in those other WADs, there are some significant gameplay differences.

Well, sort of...

Well, sort of…

The main difference is that, in some ways, this level seems to be too large and too complex for it’s own good. Although this is something of a change from the more linear nature of many “slaughtermap”-style WADs and it’s a sign that the level’s creator spent a lot of time making the level, it also means that you’ll spend quite a while wandering around in circles whilst completely and utterly lost. This is also compounded by the fact that many of the level’s locked doors are…. completely optional.

I spent quite a while searching for keys and new parts of the level and only happened to stumble across the exit by accident whilst revisiting a monster-filled area I’d barely managed to escape from earlier. There was no real sense of achievement or logical progression to this, just a sense of “Oh, there it is! At least I don’t have to go round in circles again“.

How... Serendipitous.

How… Serendipitous.

This extreme non-linearity occasionally makes some of the level’s more dramatic set pieces feel somewhat cheap. You can spend quite a while fighting your way through a horde of monsters or trying to escape one of the level’s fiendish set pieces, only to find that all of your effort has been for nothing.

Sometimes all you’ll recieve for your efforts is a new way to return to an area you’ve already visited. Generally speaking, highly-challenging areas of a level should reward the player with some kind of genuine progression (eg: access to a totally new part of the level) – and this seems to be missing in some parts of this level.

After a lot of searching, I found this place. And, after several attempts, I managed to escape from this monster-filled pit and... ended up near the beginning of the level. Well, THAT was a waste of time!

After a lot of searching, I found this place. And, after several attempts, I managed to escape from this monster-filled pit and… ended up near the beginning of the level. Well, THAT was a waste of time!

As bizarre, heretical and counter-intuitive as it might sound, this level would have probably benefitted from a little bit of linearity.

No, I’m not saying that it should be a boring “Call Of Duty”-style corridor level. But, whilst there should be explorable areas and a few short alternative paths, there should be a slightly clearer sense of where the player should go next. Most great non-linear FPS game levels achieve this by making the level just small enough that the player will find where they’re supposed to go after a few minutes of searching. But, with a level of this size, you often don’t even know where to start looking.

Fun fact, this isn't an essential part of the level. It's a ledge that you can jump onto that will allow you to reach two monster-filled areas that aren't hugely relevant to the level.

Fun fact, this isn’t an essential part of the level. It’s a ledge that you can jump onto that will allow you to reach two monster-filled areas that aren’t hugely relevant to the level.

That said, this is a good level. It’s the kind of level that requires perseverence, skill and a good knowledge of the “rules” of “Doom II” to complete. Plus, whilst there are some reasonably good set pieces where you’ll have to use tactics to fight or escape large numbers of monsters in claustrophobic areas, there are also a few more “traditional” parts of the level (in terms of monster numbers and placement) that help to add some variety to the gameplay.

The beginning of the level is more like a traditional "Doom II" level in some ways.

The beginning of the level is more like a traditional “Doom II” level in some ways.

The set pieces are thrilling and well-made, but they are rarely that surprising. They’re just slaughtermap set pieces that require you to dodge or fight ludicrious numbers of monsters until you can find a switch of some kind. They’re really solid but, if you’ve played a few slaughtermaps before, there’s rarely any kind of serious “wow” factor to these parts of the level. They’re often just good, ordinary slaughtermap set pieces.

Visually speaking, this WAD looks pretty cool. Although most of the WAD just looks a little bit like a slightly more gothic/cyberpunk version of “standard” Doom II, there are some brilliantly designed areas that look a bit more atmospheric and dramatic. Plus, one cool touch is that the chaingun zombies now have green sprites instead of red ones. I love WADs that have a distinctive colour scheme (Ancient Aliens” truly excels at this) and this WAD doesn’t disappoint here.

 This part of the level looks really cool. I wish more of the level looked like this :)

This part of the level looks really cool. I wish more of the level looked like this 🙂

Plus, this slight adjustment to the chaingun zombie sprites fits in with the aesthetic of the level really well too 🙂

Another cool thing about this level is the music. The main background music in the level is simultaneously eerie, relaxing and slightly retro. Whilst it doesn’t always complement the fast-paced thrills of some areas of the level, it helps to add a bit of extra atmosphere to the level. Plus, another cool touch is that the safe room music from the original “Resident Evil” plays during the stats screen at the end of the level.

All in all, this is a good “Doom II” WAD, but I don’t know if I’d call it a “great” one. Yes, the extreme non-linearity and size of this level probably took a lot of effort to make and it’s probably an interesting design experiment. But, strange as it sounds, this level could have probably benefitted from being just a little bit more focused and compact.

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

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Mini Review: “Mutiny (A Doomworld Community Project)” [WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/”ZDoom”]

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A few days before I wrote this review, I was in the mood for playing another “Doom II” WAD. In particular, I was in the mood for a cyberpunk-themed WAD and, after a bit of searching, I found this WAD from 2016 called “Mutiny (A Doomworld Community Project)“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, it will probably work on any modern limit-removing source port that allows jumping. Interestingly, this WAD also comes with a Dehacked file too. Looking in the text file, this file only affects the story text screens and map names or something like that. I used it nontheless, but it isn’t strictly necessary.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Mutiny (A Doomworld Community Project)”:

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“Mutiny” is a 16-level WAD that contains new textures and new music. This WAD is described in it’s text file as being inspired by “late 90’s cyberpunk-themed wads” and some areas of the WAD certainly have a fairly “industrial”/gothic/post-apocalyptic 1990s-style cyberpunk look to them (thanks to the new textures and some clever design decisions).

Whilst I’m slightly more of a fan of “Blade Runner“-style 1980s cyberpunk, there are still lots of cool-looking cyberpunk areas in this WAD.

Like this gothic futuristic corridor and post-apocalyptic skybox in the first level...

Like this gothic futuristic corridor and post-apocalyptic skybox in the first level…

....Or this brilliantly retro room that almost looks like something from "Blade Runner".

….Or this brilliantly retro room that almost looks like something from “Blade Runner”.

Seriously, the cyberpunk parts of this WAD look really cool :)

Seriously, the cyberpunk parts of this WAD look really cool 🙂

Whilst there are some brilliant cyberpunk levels and areas in this WAD, there are also at least a few areas that just look a bit like “standard” Doom II. Even so, there are some brilliantly creative flourishes here – such as a giant door in the final level that is made by tiling the standard door textures:

Plus, if you squint when it is opening, it looks a little bit like the Tyrell building from "Blade Runner".

Plus, if you squint when it is opening, it looks a little bit like the Tyrell building from “Blade Runner”.

But, what about the gameplay? Well, for the most part, “Mutiny” does this really well. As you would expect from a modern WAD, it is aimed at experienced “Doom II” players and offers quite an enjoyable challenge.

Most of the time, this is achieved in the traditional way (albeit with slightly more chaingunn zombies than in many WADs) but there are also a few “slaughtermap” style areas (such as the final level) which help to add some variety to the gameplay too.

But, don't worry, you'll encounter the occasional giant horde of monsters in earlier levels, like this one.

But, don’t worry, you’ll encounter the occasional giant horde of monsters in earlier levels, like this one.

One slight problem with this WAD being a collaborative project is that it occasionally doesn’t have a consistent difficulty curve.

For example, one of the easiest (relatively speaking) and shortest levels in the WAD is level fourteen. Yes, this offers a bit of a respite from the longer and more challenging levels, but it seems a bit unusual to place a level like this near the end of the WAD.

Yes, even the cyberdemon in level 14 can be easily dodged.

Yes, even the cyberdemon in level 14 can be easily dodged.

Another thing that might be a bonus or a problem (depending on your tastes) is that the levels in this WAD are occasionally on the large and labyrinthine side of things.

Whilst it’s always great to see old-school non-linear levels, there were at least a few times where I got completely stuck and/or lost, and had to actually stop playing the WAD for a while (only to work out where I was supposed to go after seeing the level afresh the next day). Whilst this made me nostalgic for the golden age of FPS gaming, having slightly smaller levels and/or a few more shortcuts to locked doors wouldn’t have gone amiss either.

There are also a few cool set-pieces here too. For example, at the beginning of level ten, you are offered a choice between a super-shotgun or a rocket launcher. You can only choose one of them. So, if you are playing from a pistol start (which I wasn’t. Seriously, why do people do this?), then it probably adds an extra level of challenge and strategy to the level.

 Or, option three, a plasma cannon found in an earlier level :)

Or, option three, a plasma cannon found in an earlier level 🙂

Another innovative set piece can be found in level four, where you have to solve a simple puzzle that involves raising and lowering two platforms in order to form a bridge.

These platforms are raised and lowered by either standing on or not standing on two large buttons on the floor. Although it might take you a few seconds to work out what you’re supposed to do, this puzzle is technically impressive (for “Doom II”, at least) and it doesn’t really get in the way of the gameplay either.

 It's also much less annoying than the "one-third of a puzzle" puzzles from a certain official Doom-engine game :)

It’s also much less annoying than the “one-third of a puzzle” puzzles from a certain official Doom-engine game 🙂

The music in this WAD is really good from what I can remember. The most memorable pieces of background music were futuristic-sounding 90s-style MIDI tunes that fit in especially well with the cyberpunk theme of the WAD. The best piece of background music can probably be found in the final level, since not only does it quickly build up into a suitably epic piece of background music, it’s also vaguely reminiscent of the music from the original “System Shock” too.

All in all, this is a fun retro-futuristic WAD that will provide several evenings of enjoyment. In addition to the thrillingly challenging gameplay, there are also a few interesting set pieces and slaughtermap-style segments that add some variety to the gameplay, but expect to get stuck and/or lost at least once or twice. It isn’t quite a perfect WAD, but it’s still a really good one.

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

Mini Review: “Preacher (V.05)” [WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”]

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Well, it’s been a little under a month since I last reviewed any WADs for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”. Although this is partially because I’ve been busy with other projects and other games, it’s also because (at the time of writing) finding WADs that will actually run on my computer is somewhat more difficult than it used to be.

Before writing this review, I looked at a few other interesting-looking WADs on the ZDoom forums, only to discover that they all required the absolute lastest ultra-fast high-graphics version of GZDoom to run!

Still, I refused to give up my search and I was eventually rewarded by finding a rather cool little WAD called “Preacher (V.05)“. There seem to be multiple versions of the WAD available, and I played the one that can be found in the post by Arch from the 12th May 2015 (10:43pm).

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port (v2.7.9999.0). From what I’ve read, this WAD is also compatible with PRBoom and, if it’s compatible with ZDoom, then it’s probably compatible with both old and new versions of GZDoom too.

So, let’s take a look at “Preacher (V.05)”:

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“Preacher (V.05)” is a five-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” that includes new textures, music, sounds items and weapons. This is a gothic horror-themed WAD that is loosely-based on another awesome FPS game from the 1990s called “Blood“. In fact, you actually get to play as one of the evil cultists from that game – which is amazing!

And, even cooler, he'll actually shout random gibberish during fights too. Crudox Cruo!!! Pallax!!!

And, even cooler, he’ll actually shout random gibberish during fights too. Crudox Cruo!!! Pallax!!!

The level design in this WAD is really good. All of the levels are reasonably large, non-linear exploration-based levels, and there is a decent amount of variety between the locations that you visit.

Even though a fair amount of the WAD uses “gothic cathedral/castle”-type locations, there is also a “wild west”/”ancient Egypt”-style level and a gothic level that reminded me a lot of the ‘pale realm’ levels from “American McGee’s Alice”:

 *Whistles the theme tune from 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly' *

*Whistles the theme tune from ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ *

Curiouser and curiouser! Best of all, the background music in this level actually sounds a bit like something from "American McGee's Alice" too :)

Curiouser and curiouser! Best of all, the background music in this level actually sounds a bit like something from “American McGee’s Alice” too 🙂

One interesting piece of level design in this WAD is that each level requires you to collect all three skull keys in order to open a locked door that leads to the exit. These are the only locked doors that you will find in every level. This has the effect of streamlining the gameplay during the earlier parts of each level, whilst also forcing you to explore later (when you’ve got rid of most of the monsters).

In terms of difficulty, this WAD is enjoyably challenging and it is aimed at moderately experienced players. Whilst it isn’t really a “slaughtermap” WAD, there are still a decent number of mid-level and high-level monsters in each level (it’s on par with many modern “Doom II” WADs when it comes to the monster count, I guess).

This is one of the easier parts of level five. Then again, if you're still playing "Doom II" in 2017, then you've probably had at least a few years of practice anyway..

This is one of the easier parts of level five. Then again, if you’re still playing “Doom II” in 2017, then you’ve probably had at least a few years of practice anyway..

If you have fast reflexes, a good understanding of “Doom II” tactics and a sense of determination, then you can finish this WAD within a couple of hours. And you’ll have a lot of fun in the process 🙂

In the spirit of 90s-style FPS gaming, this WAD takes a rather traditionalist approach to the gameplay. In other words, jumping is disabled by default. Not only that, each level is played from a pistol start thanks to some strategically-placed exploding barrels that appear after you step into the teleporter at the end of each level (and, yes, it takes a while to remember not to reflexively load your last save when you die at the end of every level).

Yes, I can see why the creator of this WAD did this – in order to ensure that each level has it’s own difficulty curve, and to make weapon placement matter more – but it does get annoying after a while. Even so, the new pistol texture makes up for this slightly.

I don't know why, but I really love it when FPS games include revolvers.

I don’t know why, but I really love it when FPS games include revolvers.

And tommyguns too!

And tommyguns too!

Although many of the new weapons in this WAD are simple sprite/sound replacements (for the fist, chaingun, rocket launcher, plasma cannon and BFG), they all look amazing. The best new weapon is probably the replacement for the BFG, which is this cool-looking staff with a skull on top of it.

But I was only able to find it in level one for some strange reason.

But I was only able to find it in level one for some strange reason.

In terms of the sound and music design, this WAD is really cool. Not only does the main character regularly use both Caleb’s laugh and the cultist dialogue from “Blood”, but the music for each level is suitably gothic and dramatic. However, the version that I played just had instrumental music playing during each level, rather than the music that is mentioned in earlier parts of the WAD’s thread in the ZDoom forums.

The best background music can be found in the third level, and it is very reminiscent of “American McGee’s Alice”. In addition to this, an excerpt from Handel’s “Messiah” plays whenever you pick up certain in-game items. Plus, when you complete each level, you are treated to some wonderfully creepy artwork, which is hilariously counterpointed with audio excerpts from a rather joyous religious sermon:

Hallelujah! I've completed the level!

Hallelujah! I’ve completed the level!

The only minor criticism I have of the sound design is that the tommygun sounds a little bit feeble. Yes, it still sounds like a machingun, but it seems a bit muted and muffled. Even so, it’s still fairly cool.

All in all, this is a really good WAD. It has a wonderfully gothic atmosphere, the levels are thrilling and you get to play as one of the cultists from “Blood”. Whilst it probably isn’t a “perfect” WAD in every way, it’s 1-2 hours of pure fun that will remind you why “Doom II” is still one of the best FPS games out there. And, unlike some modern WADs, it’ll actually run on old computers too 🙂

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

Mini Review: “Dead.Air [Beta V.1 (old version)]” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

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As regular readers of this site know, I tend to write these articles ridiculously far in advance. Likewise, I try to include at least one “Doom II” WAD review/mini review here every month.

I’m mentioning this because, on Christmas morning last year, I was greeted with a really cool surprise – an early beta of a WAD called “Dead. Air” , which is the sequel to a really cool cyberpunk WAD I reviewed last year called “Dead.Wire” 🙂 And, yes, I know that I’ve still got to finish and review “Shadowrun: Dragonfall” too.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Likewise, there’s probably an even better updated version of “Dead.Air” out there by the time that this article eventually goes out. Still, for historical reasons if nothing else, I’ll be looking at this earlier version.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Dead. Air [Beta V.1]”:

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Like with it’s predecessor, “Dead.Air” is a single-level cyberpunk horror WAD that includes new weapons, sounds, textures, monsters etc… One of the first things that I will say about “Dead. Air” is that it is much more of a horror-themed WAD than it’s predecessor was.

Woooo....

Woooo….

At the beginning of the level, you start out in an ominously quiet area, consisting of a darkened room and several gloomy grey corridors. Not only are you partially invisible, but the automap is clouded too. You have no weapon.

Soon, you find a weak “Quake II”-style infinite ammo laser pistol. Then you hear the howls of monsters. But, for a second, you can see nothing. Then it dawns on you – the monsters are partially invisible just like you…..

 So much for having an advantage!

So much for having an advantage!

After exploring this mysterious area for a while and fighting some monsters, you’ll reach the main part of the level and this is cyberpunk horror FPS gaming at it’s finest. The main level takes place within a giant city-like area, with several large futuristic side areas that you’ll visit at various points.

One of the first things that you’ll notice is that the monsters both look, and sound, a lot creepier than usual. But, somehow, the new cacodemons still manage to be adorable though 🙂

Oh, you! :)

Oh, you! 🙂

Not only do the monsters look creepier, but some been tweaked slightly too. For example, the new version of the pinky demon has a significantly more powerful attack than usual. So, keeping your distance from them becomes much more essential than it normally is in “Doom II”. Although it sounds like a small difference, it transforms a mildly annoying creature into a formidable foe that will force you to use new tactics.

Despite not having a functional mouth, they'll still eat you significantly faster than conventional pinky demons.

Despite not having a functional mouth, they’ll still eat you significantly faster than conventional pinky demons.

When confronted with a horde of these creatures, you're basically screwed... unless you can find something to hide behind that they can't get through...

When confronted with a horde of these creatures, you’re basically screwed… unless you can find something to hide behind that they can’t get through…

Another cool change is the fact that all of the weapons have been replaced. The pistol has been replaced with a suitably awesome machinegun. The super shotgun has been replaced by something that is like a cross between the shotgun from “Painkiller” and the flak cannon from “Unreal Tournament”.

The chaingun has been replaced with a nailgun. The rocket launcher has been replaced by a *meh* grenade launcher. The plasma cannon has been replaced by something a bit more powerful. And the BFG has been replaced by… this:

So many explosions :)

So many explosions 🙂

But, best of all, that weak “Quake II”-style infinite ammo pistol I mentioned earlier can be upgraded! You’ll find upgrades for it hidden throughout the level (I found about four or five of them) and they will gradually turn it into a weapon that is actually useful. Seriously, I love the new weapons in this WAD 🙂

In terms of the level design, it’s really good. Yes, the level channels you towards various arena-like set pieces, but large parts of it still manage to be fairly non-linear. There’s also a good variety of ominously gothic areas, futuristic city areas and awesome 1980s/90s-style cyberpunk areas (which have really cool red/green/blue and black colour schemes):

 For example, in this red area, you have to get rid of all of the monsters before you can leave. Plus, if you fall off the platforms, you'll lose 20 health - but won't die instantly (unless you have less than 20 health, which you soon will - given the number of monsters that appear). Now, THIS is good design!]

For example, in this red area, you have to get rid of all of the monsters before you can leave. Plus, if you fall off the platforms, you’ll lose 20 health – but won’t die instantly (unless you have less than 20 health, which you soon will – given the number of monsters that appear). Now, THIS is good design!]

 Likewise, you can choose which themed area you visit first :)

Likewise, you can choose which themed area you visit first 🙂

The only fault I could find with the level design was the fact that the epic final battle (featuring about 8 cyberdemons!) has so much stuff happening in it that if, like me, you’re using an old computer then it will slow down to an absolute crawl.

Fun fact: This screenshot is only marginally slower than the gameplay was on my (old) computer.

Fun fact: This screenshot is only marginally slower than the gameplay was on my (old) computer.

Since this slowdown rendered this part of the level unplayable, I was forced to use cheats to get through it. Still, if you’ve got a more modern machine, then it’s probably a lot more awesome. The ending to this level is really cool too, and actually includes a small cutscene (of sorts).

Yay! Retro horror 1980s CRT monitor goodness :)

Yay! Retro horror 1980s CRT monitor goodness 🙂

As for the gameplay, it’s as challenging as you would expect for a modern “Doom II” level. That is, to say, it isn’t for beginners! If, like me, you’re a moderately experienced player then it will probably take you 1-2 hours to complete this level on medium difficulty.

One cool thing about the gameplay in this level is that it includes both “traditional style” gameplay (eg: exploration, puzzle-solving, a moderate number of monsters) and more modern-style “slaughtermap” areas (eg: linear arenas with lots of monsters). Since I love both styles of gameplay, I really liked how this level was able to include both (albeit more of the latter) but I thought that I’d mention it nonetheless.

All in all, even though this was an early version of the level, it’s still really cool. Yes, it lacks some of the claustrophobic atmosphere that “Dead.Wire” had, but it more than makes up for this with all of the cool stuff that you will encounter when you play this level. The first part of the level is genuinely creepy and both the the monster design and weapon design is stunningly good. Yes, the last part is virtually unplayable on older computers, but it’s still a really cool level nonetheless.

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

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

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Well, I hadn’t planned to review another “Doom II” WAD quite so soon. But, due to a combination of being in a stressed mood and realising that the indie game I’d planned to review soon (“Shadowrun: Dragonfall”) might take a lot longer to complete than I thought, I was in the mood for some “Doom II”. So, I ended up playing a WAD called “Interloper“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, although it’ll probably run on any modern source port.

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

screenshot_doom_20161203_185054

“Interloper” is a five-level WAD that has apparently been inspired by the new “Doom” game that came out last year. Since I haven’t played that game, I can’t comment on any similarities. So, I’ll be looking at this WAD on it’s own merits.

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it (mostly) seems to be a “vanilla” WAD, with no new textures, weapons, monsters etc… However, during one or two parts of the game, I noticed that it contained better lighting effects than “standard” “Doom II” has. These might be the result of subtle sprite alterations (eg: adding orange highlights to the sprites), or it could be to do with the source port I’m using – but it looks really cool.

Of course, it WOULD look cooler if the surrounding environment was even gloomier. But, still, the added highlights are just about noticeable on the imp standing on the platform.

Of course, it WOULD look cooler if the surrounding environment was even gloomier. But, still, the added highlights are just about noticeable on the imp standing on the platform.

In terms of the gameplay, this WAD is reasonably good. Although this WAD probably won’t take you more than an hour or so to complete, you’ll have a lot of fun in the process. The difficulty level is high enough to be mildly challenging, but low enough to allow this WAD to function as an effective form of stress relief. In addition to this, the WAD actually includes a slight difficulty curve, with each level being slightly more challenging than the last.

As for the actual level design, it’s fairly good. The levels are non-linear enough to require exploration, but they’re also designed in such a way that you are unlikely to get “stuck” for any significant length of time. The only possible exception to this is the very beginning of level two, which features a large pit near the start of the level. This pit seems to have no “idiot proofing” whatsoever and, if you fall into it, you’ll have to re-load a saved game in order to get out of it.

 If there's a lift or a teleport here, I certainly couldn't find it!

If there’s a lift or a teleport here, I certainly couldn’t find it!

But, this aside, the level design here is really good. Some stand-out moments include a large multi-tiered room in level three which obviously required some rather creative programming and/or source port knowledge to create, since it places something like three or four platforms on top of each other in the same room.

 If this level had come out in 1994, it would be put on trial for sorcery!

If this level had come out in 1994, it would be put on trial for sorcery!

Likewise, although this WAD only really uses the “standard” textures, they are used in a way that prevents them from becoming visually monotonous. As well as using a good variety of sci-fi textures and “hell” textures, this WAD also features a few interesting-looking areas too:

Like this creepy red room...

Like this creepy red room…

...Or this ominously damaged corridor.

… Or this ominously damaged corridor.

The most enjoyable levels in this WAD are probably the final two levels. Although an arch-vile appears in level three, the difficulty level only starts to really get fun from the fourth level onwards. Yes, these levels aren’t extremely challenging, but they’re challenging enough to really be fun.

Whilst the fourth level is a fairly well-designed “standard” level, the fifth level is like a very mild version of a “slaughtermap” level, where you’ll be running along a long corridor and fighting a slightly larger number of monsters. This level also features a climactic battle against a weakened spider demon (it took a mere two BFG shots to defeat, although this could be due to prior monster infighting) and two cyberdemons.

Surprisingly, the cyberdemon battle was fairly easy, due to the abundent ammo hidden nearby, the arena-like area and the fact that there are a few low-mid level monsters nearby who will also start fighting the cyberdemons too.

Yes, this final boss battle is a little bit on the easy side, but it'll make you feel like a badass.

Yes, this final boss battle is a little bit on the easy side, but it’ll make you feel like a badass.

All in all, this is a rather fun WAD. Sure, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything like that but it’s a solid, well-designed set of levels that will provide you with about an hour or so of amusement.

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

Mini Review: “Urban 2” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”ZDoom”)

2017-artwork-urban-ii-wad-review-sketch

Well, although I plan to review an indie game called “Technobabylon” at some point in the near future, I realised that I’d been neglecting “Doom II”. After all, it’s been over a month since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD. So, in light of this sad situation, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a very short WAD called “Urban 2“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, the WAD may possibly work with the original DOS versions of “Doom II” and “Final Doom”, since it also contains an installer of some kind (although you can just use the “URBAN2” and “URBANGFX” files with ZDoom without using the installer).

So, let’s take a look at “Urban 2”:

screenshot_doom_20161129_180140

As you may have guessed from the screenshot, “Urban 2” is primarily a deathmatch level. However, it does contain a certain amount of single-player content. This includes a defined exit and several monsters to fight. This WAD also contains quite a few new textures and a couple of new item sprites too.

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it looks cool. The thing that drew me to it initially was the fact that it’s meant to look a little bit like “Blade Runner”:

Seriously, WHY are there so few cyberpunk WADs? The only other vaguely cyberpunk WADs I can think of are "Dead.Wire", "Valhalla", "Hacx", "Nerves Of Steel", "Winter's Fury" and a few levels from "Ancient Aliens".

Seriously, WHY are there so few cyberpunk WADs? The only other vaguely cyberpunk WADs I can think of are “Dead.Wire”, “Valhalla”, “Hacx”, “Nerves Of Steel”, “Winter’s Fury” and a few levels from “Ancient Aliens”.

Since it’s primarily intended for deathmatch, this WAD is very short too. You can complete the whole thing in less than ten minutes even if, like me, your “Doom II” skills have atrophied somewhat from lack of practice.

Yes, I have one health point. Since I've mostly been playing "point and click" games, platform games and isometric shooters for the month before writing this review, I even actually had to get used to using FPS controls again!

Yes, I have one health point. Since I’ve mostly been playing “point and click” games, platform games and isometric shooters for the month before writing this review, I even actually had to get used to using FPS controls again!

As a deathmatch level, I imagine that “Urban II” probably works really well. The level is divided into a small “street” arena and a subway station. The street area is a fairly simple square arena, with quite a few cool secret areas, lots of explosive barrels, a few alleyways and several low-level monsters.

The subway area consists of a platform, a track, some low-level monsters and the level exist. However the use of a slime texture for the train tracks is somewhat misleading, since it doesn’t actually damage you when you step on it.

 Yes, it's completely harmless! But, unfortunately, it doesn't also give you a healthy green glow.

Yes, it’s completely harmless! But, unfortunately, it doesn’t also give you a healthy green glow.

As a single-player level, it’s short and fairly easy (even if, as I said, you’re slightly out of practice). Even novice “Doom II” players won’t find much in the way of a challenge here. But, to be honest, there’s more to this level than than combat. Even though it might only take you a few minutes to complete it, it’s worth spending those few minutes just for all of the cool visuals on offer here.

It would have been nice to see a full-length single player level in this style, but even a short deathmatch-based level that looks like "Blade Runner" is worth playing.

It would have been nice to see a full-length single player level in this style, but even a short deathmatch-based level that looks like “Blade Runner” is worth playing.

This graffiti art looks really cool, although the lack of imps in this level is somewhat strange (seriously, there are just zombies here).

In addition to all of the enviromental textures, the level also includes a few improved item sprites too. The rocket, bullet box and super-shotgun pickup sprites all contain changes. These changes are fairly subtle, but they all help to make this WAD look a bit more distinctive. I haven’t seen these textures in any other WADs, so they also have a certain uniqueness to them too.

 This new item texture for the Super Shotgun is probably my favourite. However, the actual weapon sprite is completely unchanged.

This new item texture for the Super Shotgun is probably my favourite. However, the actual weapon sprite is completely unchanged.

All in all, this is an entertaining way to spend five minutes. It looks really cool and the new textures work fairly well too. Yes, it’s probably ten times more fun if you’re playing it multiplayer but it’s still cool to see a deathmatch level that acknowledges the existence of single-player gamers too. For what it is, “Urban II” is a pretty cool little level.

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

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

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

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

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

screenshot_doom_20161029_163507

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 .... THIS!

…. THIS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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