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

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

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

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

Seriously, even the intro movie is absolutely epic!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yay! Awesome lighting 🙂

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

And just look at the textures here too 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

Such as this epic battle beside a pyramid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, although I’d vaguely planned to play and review a strategy game called “Eador: Genesis”, I seem to be more in the mood for FPS gaming at the moment.

So, since it’s been a couple of weeks since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD, I decided to use the ‘random file’ feature on the “/idgames Archive” again and, after a couple of goes, I found a rather interesting-looking level from 1997 or 1999 called “Woodburn“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port [v 2.7.9999.0 ] whilst playing this WAD. The notation that comes with the WAD seems to suggest that it might have problems if you use “Legacy”. However, it will probably work on most modern limit-removing source ports.

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

“Woodburn” is a single short “vanilla” level (eg: no new textures, monsters etc…) for “Doom II” and “Final Doom”. But, what it lacks in length, it certainly makes up for with fast-paced and challenging gameplay.

Ok, it’s mostly “challenging by late 1990s standards” challenging, but still….

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it contains a lot of imps. Whilst large numbers of monsters are nothing new in “Doom II” WADs, “Woodburn” is somewhat different to more modern “slaughtermap“-style levels for the simple reason that it consists of lots of claustrophobic corridors and balconies, many of which are within view of other imps and/or other projectile-firing monsters (in fact, there isn’t a single hitscan monster in this level!).

Yay! Projectile dodging!

What this means is that the difficulty in this level is less “strategy-based slaughtermap gameplay” and more “difficult, and occasionally cheap, traditional-style ‘Doom II’ gameplay“. Because you often don’t have a lot of room to move or dodge, this forces you to play in a much more aggressive way than in many other monster-filled levels (which often favour strategy, retreating, circlestrafing etc..).

Although this would be an interesting change of pace, it is let down slightly by the ammo distribution throughout the level. Although you’ll have enough shotgun and plasma rifle ammo to deal with the many imps (and one arachnotron) in the first half of the level, expect to start running a bit low later in the level. This is especially annoying since it is at this point that the level begins to introduce more mid-level monsters.

Yes, good ammo management matters more than you might think. Running away can also work too…

Even though you get a chaingun and several large boxes of bullets during this part of the level, it is too little too late. This is especially true considering that you’ll also be facing narrow walkways filled with revenants. Luckily, all of these segments of the level can be dodged in various ways.

Yes, you probably don’t want to stay on this walkway for very long…

As for the level design itself, it’s surprisingly good. The level is a small, but complicated, multi-layered maze that is well within the tradition of classic non-linear “Doom II” levels.

The claustrophobic corridors and platforms also help to add extra challenge to the level too (even though this can veer into “cheap difficulty” territory sometimes). Likewise, there is one clever segment where you have to cross a large slime-covered area, whilst avoiding teleporters that will transport you into an inescapable tower that is surrounded by monsters.

However, if you have jumping enabled, then it’s more escapable. Which brings me on to…

… I am not sure if this level is meant to be played with jumping enabled (if your source port allows jumping). Theoretically, this level can probably be completed without jumping. But, the level is somewhat more forgiving if you use jumping occasionally. So, choosing whether to jump or not probably allows you to vary the difficulty slightly.

For example, to get the yellow key, you have to stand in the middle of a large area of radioactive sludge and wait for a platform to descend. Whilst this normally wouldn’t be an issue, it’s very likely that you’ll only have a few health points remaining at that point. So, jumping onto the platform as early as you can might not be a bad decision.

All in all, this is a fun, furious and challenging level that will probably provide you with 15-30 minutes of entertainment. Yes, the difficulty can sometimes feel a little cheap and the ammo distribution isn’t perfect, but it’s still a fun and reasonably well-designed little level.

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

Mini Review: “HighWire (Rocket Jones Vol. II)” [WAD For “Ultimate Doom”]

Well, although I plan to review a game called “Deus Ex: Invisible War” at some point in the future, I realised that it had been a while since I last reviewed any “Doom” WADs. So, not sure what to review, I ended up using the “Random File” feature on the “/idgames archive” until I found a WAD from 1994 called “HighWire (Rocket Jones Vol. II)“.

Note: This WAD will only work with “Ultimate Doom” or possibly old copies of the original three-episode version of “Doom”. Since it takes up the E1M1 level slot, it is NOT compatible with “Doom II” or “Final Doom”. However, given the age of the WAD, it is not only compatible with literally any source port [I used “ZDoom”] but also probably the original DOS version of “Doom” too.

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

“HighWire” consists of a single short level. Although this vintage level doesn’t feature any new textures, weapons, monsters or music, the level has a couple of interesting features that help to prevent it from becoming monotonous or boring.

The main gameplay innovation in this level is that, for the most part, the only weapon available to you is the rocket launcher. Not only that, large portions of the level take place on narrow catwalks above pits of radioactive sludge.

Yes, it’s a 90s level for a 90s FPS game, so expect some inventiveness and creativity 🙂

Although this might sound like a cheap trick, it actually makes the level surprisingly enjoyable. Since you also still have a pistol (with fifty bullets, plus the ten in the backpack at the beginning of the level), this makes some parts of the level a little bit more forgiving – especially given that you often have barely any room to run away from monsters if they get too close. But, the limited ammo supply for the pistol also helps to prevent players from relying on it too often. However, this is a level which requires perseverance and strategy in order to beat.

Basically, when you enter an area, you have to start firing rockets almost immediately. Not only that, you also have to work out which monsters you need to shoot first, lest any get too close to you. This allows a short level with a relatively low number of weak to medium strength monsters (eg: imps, lost souls and cacodemons) to include the kind of challenging, strategy-based gameplay that is only usually found in modern “slaughtermap” levels (that contain hundreds or thousands of more powerful monsters). The strict rationing and relative scarcity of health pickups also helps in this regard too.

This is perhaps the first time in the history of “Doom” that a small number of lost souls on the other side of a room is actually a serious challenge to the player!

As for the level design, it’s surprisingly good. Even though this tiny level is basically a progression through about 4-5 rooms of varying sizes, there are a few clever tricks that help to prevent the level design from appearing too linear.

For example, after beating the first series of catwalks, you enter a room with a narrow path surrounded by lava. This helps to provide a little bit of variety to the room design. But, after you’ve fought all of the monsters in this room and pressed the switch, you actually have to go back across the previous room (via a different path) to get to the next room.

Aside from the very beginning and very end of the level, this is the only room without platforms. Yet, the path-based design helps to keep the room thematically consistent, whilst also providing some variety for the player.

Likewise, the next room (a large area with catwalks) is also fairly innovative for the simple reason that you have to fight two “waves” of monsters.

First of all, you have to defeat several lost souls with a rocket launcher. Then ,after you’ve pressed a button, some raised platforms lower and a number of cacodemons appear. This requires a change in strategy, since you can’t really fight all of them. So, you actually have to fight a couple and work out a way to grab two keys before they swarm you.

As I said, in some ways, this level is similar to a modern-style “slaughtermap” level in terms of strategic gameplay – even though it contains relatively few monsters.

Although the level doesn’t contain any new music, one cool feature is that – because it takes up the E1M1 level slot – it features the classic “E1M1” background music. Given that this is an absolutely epic piece of music which is pretty much symbolic of the classic “Doom” games, it really helps to add some extra drama to the level.

All in all, for a tiny level made in 1994, this is actually surprisingly good! Even with a relatively small number of weaker monsters, the clever level and gameplay design here helps to ensure that even experienced players will find it enjoyably challenging.

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

Mini Review: “Brown And Red” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”ZDoom”/”Boom”)

Well, although I’d planned to finish and review a classic computer game called “Riven“, I seem to have drifted away from that game a bit. So, instead, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a level for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” called “Brown And Red” because it’s been about a month or so since I last played any new fan-made levels for these awesome games.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD and encountered no technical problems with it. However, it was apparently designed for “Boom-compatible” source ports (and I’m not sure if ZDoom falls under this category). As usual, I also used the medium difficulty setting [the “Hurt Me Plenty” setting].

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Brown And Red”:

“Brown And Red” is a short, single-level “slaughtermap” WAD. If you’ve never heard of this type of level before, it’s a level that contains many more monsters than you can actually fight. What this means is that, contrary to the macabre name, the emphasis of the game shifts from mindless combat to something more like fast-paced puzzle-solving.

In a good “slaughtermap” level, knowing when to run or hide instead of fight is part of the challenge. Having a dogged sense of perseverence and trying to avoid too much combat are essential elements of winning. It’s a type of level that rewards experienced players who have an intuitive understanding of the “rules” of “Doom” and can turn them to their advantage. And, when done well, it is one of the most thrilling FPS gaming experiences it is possible to have.

Unfortunately, this isn’t really the case in “Brown And Red”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really fun level – but, as a “slaughtermap” level, it fails for the simple reason that it’s far too easy. And, before anyone says anything, I almost always use medium difficulty – so I’m saying that it’s easy compared to other slaughtermaps I’ve played on medium.

The level starts off in a small claustophobic series of corridors where you’ll have to fight a few mid-low level monsters. The lighting and shadows in this part of the level are really excellent and they help to add a bit of atmosphere to the level.

Although it’s not particularly scary, it certainly fits into the classic ‘Scary, dark and fast’ quote about the original “Doom”.

After this, you find yourself somewhere that will be familiar to anyone who has played a “slaughtermap” level before – a large arena-like area that is suspiciously empty…

Filled with gigantic hordes of monsters? Ha! What would give you that idea?

Of course, after you’ve explored a bit and thought about picking up the rocket launcher, the monsters start appearing. Although I expected this to happen, this moment was spectacularly dramatic enough to actually take me by surprise.

With an inhuman roar, a swarm of cacodemons and a small crowd of pinkie demons is violently disgorged from the building at the other end of the arena. Whilst this is going on, the air is filled with the distinctive screeching of multiple Revenants teleporting in. It’s a really cool moment:

Seriously, this screenshot really doesn’t do it justice.

But, since you’ve got a fully-loaded rocket launcher, since the monsters you’re fighting are slow and relatively weak, since the arena is fairly large and since the most dangerous monsters in the arena (the Revenants) are contained within alcoves that have pillars right next to them that you can hide behind, it really isn’t anywhere near as challenging as it should be. Add to that the surprising abundance of health items in the area, and it really isn’t a proper “slaughtermap”.

After you’ve wiped out literally all of the monsters at a fairly leisurely pace, it might take you a couple of minutes to work out how to open the door at the other end of the arena. Once you’ve opened it, you find yourself in a medium-sized rectangular room with a button in the middle of it.

Hmm… Should I press this button? Maybe something nice will happen?

Needless to say, once you press the button – the room locks itself and monsters start teleporting in. This part of the level is, at least, moderately challenging. Thanks to the size and shape of the room and the fact that some parts of the floor will damage you if you stand on them for too long, there’s a bit of a challenge here.

I’m still puzzled by the random face in the background though.

Yet, like earlier in the level, this part of the level is let down by a couple of poor design choices. The first is that this area contains enough plasma rifle ammunition for you to fight literally all of the monsters (especially when you take monster infighting into account) and still have some power cells left over afterwards. Given that this is one of the most powerful weapons in the game, there’s a good reason why ammunition for it is usually fairly scarce in most challenging “Doom II” levels.

Secondly, there aren’t any seriously threatening monsters. This area would be vastly improved by the inclusion of even a single arch-vile. Having a monster with an extremely powerful attack and the ability to resurrect other monsters forces the player to think fast and to play more tactically. Without an arch-vile or two, the main strategy for this area is just “run around and hold down the fire button”.

After this area, you walk down a rather cool-looking series of corridors and then…. the level’s over.

Which is a shame, because this part of the level makes it seem like the rest of the level has been lulling you into a false sense of security.

One thing that helps to make this level a bit more interesting is the music. Even though the gameplay is a bit on the easy side of things, the gloomy and vaguely “Resident Evil”-like instrumental music in the background helps to add a sense of ominous dread to the level.

All in all, despite my criticisms, this isn’t exactly a “bad” level. It’s a fun way to spend twenty minutes or so. But, I guess that this is one of the few “slaughtermap” levels that probably should be played on higher difficulty settings. Still, if you’re new to the genre or are less experienced with “Doom II”, then it’s probably a fairly gentle way to introduce yourself to this type of level.

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

Mini Review: “Black Magnetic” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

Well, I was in the mood for another “Doom II” level, so I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting-looking cyberpunk WAD from 2015 called “Black Magnetic“.

Surprisingly, I actually returned to the “GZDoom” source port for this WAD, since – unlike a lot of other modern WADs – it’s actually compatible with a version of GZDoom that will actually run on my computer (version 1.8.10, if anyone is curious. Normally, I just use “ZDoom” these days though).

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

Not to be confused with Metallica’s “Black Album” or their “Death Magnetic” album.

“Black Magnetic” is a single-level WAD that includes new music, sounds, voice-acting (for several monsters), monsters, textures, item sprites and weapons.

The easiest way to describe this WAD is that it’s almost kind of like a mixture of “Quake II”, “Quake” and various 90s cyberpunk games. But, at the same time, it’s also it’s own thing as well.

Seriously, the lighting in this level is gloriously gothic and wonderfully cyberpunk 🙂 And, yes, this is probably a GZDoom-specific thing.

And just look at this awesome skybox from the beginning of the level 🙂

Even though it contains a fair amount of sounds, health item sprites etc.. from the classic “Quake” games, this level sets itself apart because of the way that it handles difficulty.

Instead of throwing large numbers of monsters at you, this level contains a slightly smaller number of more powerful monsters. In other words, the zombie soldiers and cyborgs you’ll be fighting are pretty much as powerful and well-armoured as you are (or, in some cases, more!). Even the creator’s description of the WAD tells you that you’ll need to take cover a lot.

Yes, this battle isn’t as ridiculously easy as it might appear at first glance. Yes, it’s techically a cover-based shooter, but a good one WITHOUT regenerating health!

And, yes, the imps now want to add your technological and cultural distinctiveness to their own. Resistance is futile.

Likewise, some of the new monsters in this level have a rather fiendish trick up their sleeves. When certain types of cyborg enemies die, they release a few “Heretic”-style metal spheres which roll around randomly. When these spheres stop rolling, they explode and spray nails in all directions. Needless to say, as soon as one of these enemies dies, it’s usually a good idea to run or to find something to hide behind.

Yes, once you see these, then RUN!!

The level’s weapons help to add to the difficulty too. For starters, you don’t have any melee weapons whatsoever (although ammo for weaker weapons isn’t exactly in short supply). Likewise, you don’t really gain any seriously powerful weapons until relatively late into the level. What this means is that you’ll spend quite a lot of time using a pistol, shotgun and/or assault rifle that feels slightly under-powered when used against the level’s well-armoured monsters.

Yes, you’ll get a Super Shotgun (with a new sprite) and the devastator from “Duke Nukem 3D” a bit later on but even these don’t make the game as easy as you might think.

Yes, the Super Shotgun can kill some types of enemies with a single close-range shot, but the reloading animation seems to be very slightly longer than in “Doom II”. Likewise, the devastator is suitably powerful, but ammo for it is fairly scarce. Plus, it’s worth saving some devastator rockets for the final boss battle too.

Yes, these are the Cyber-Baron monsters that you may have seen in other WADs, rather than ordinary Barons.

In terms of the level design, it’s pretty much what you would expect. The level is complex, non-linear and of medium-sized. It’s a good example of mid-late 1990s-style level design and it is wonderful to see here. In terms of length, this level will probably take an experienced player about an hour to complete (although a lot of this is due to the added difficulty from the new monsters and weapons).

In terms of background music, this level uses one of the more dramatic pieces of background music from “Quake 2”. It’s basically heavy metal and it sounds awesome 🙂 The only annoying thing is that it also includes the radio messages from “Quake 2”, which can sometimes make you think that there are monsters nearby when there aren’t.

All in all, this is a surprisingly challenging and inventive level that has a really cool mid-late 90s cyberpunk look and atmosphere to it. It’s dark, it’s futuristic and it’s industrial. Yes, this level borrows quite a bit from the first two “Quake” games, but it’s very much it’s own thing at the same time. Whilst the way that the level achieves it’s difficulty may seem slightly frustrating at times, it’s a great example of 90s-style innovation in the modern day.

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

Mini Review: “Xmas Doom 2015” [WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom” (?)]

Well, in keeping with tradition, I thought that I’d review a Christmas-themed WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”. The surprising thing was that, when I was preparing this review, finding a Christmas WAD that I hadn’t played was surprisingly difficult. There really don’t seem to be that many of them out there.

Still, I eventually found a WAD called “Xmas Doom 2015[Note: Unfortunately, the only place this WAD could be found was on Dropbox.], which seems to be an updated and expanded version of the classic “Xmas Doom” WAD.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port when playing this WAD. Since the download of “Xmas Doom 2015” doesn’t come with a text file, I’m not sure if this is the right source port for it. But, whilst playing, I noticed a few graphical glitches (eg: missing skybox textures, strange-looking floors etc.). So, it might be worth trying this WAD with a different source port.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Xmas Doom 2015”:

“Xmas Doom 2015” is a ten-level WAD (well, technically eleven) that includes new weapons, monsters, textures, sounds, music and sprites. Although the WAD includes an episode selection screen, the second episode seems to be unfinished at the time of writing (and the first level of it is literally just an empty room). So, I’ll only be reviewing the first episode.

One of the first things that I will say about “Xmas Doom 2015” is that it’s something of a mixed bag. There’s some great stuff in this WAD and there’s some… less than great... stuff too. So, I’ll start with the good stuff and then move on to all of the problems with this WAD.

First of all, some of the new levels are amazing 🙂 My favourite levels, by far, have to be the third and fifth levels. The third level is set in a busy shopping street and it just oozes 1990s Christmas nostalgia – complete with brightly-coloured textures, falling snow and the kind of silly 90s-style humour that used to be common in computer games.

Go away.. hur hur.. we’re, like, closed.

And there’s a festive Arch-vile too 🙂 It’s a Christmas miracle 🙂

Likewise, the fifth level is set within a giant cinema and it is a joy to behold 🙂 Not only are there lots of 90s movie references but, if you grew up in that decade, then it will almost certainly evoke lots of nostalgia.

“2012”! Gasp! What kind of a strange temporal anomaly is this?!?!?

But, hey, at least there’s a Super Turbo Turkey Puncher 3 machine 🙂

The fourth level probably deserves an honourable mention too. It’s set within an American-style shopping centre and it contains the same goofy humour and 90s nostalgia as the third and fifth levels, although I preferred those two levels.

Even though I preferred levels three and five, this sarcastic sign about “Quake” in level four made me laugh though.

Likewise, some of the new weapons and monsters in this WAD are fairly good. The best new weapon, by far, is the pistol – which features a new sprite and a simply epic new sound effect. It’s also a slightly more powerful weapon, although this is balanced out by the fact that a short reloading animation plays after every ten shots or so.

The BFG has also been replaced with a sniper rifle (with a telescopic scope) and the plasma cannon has been replaced with a Duke Nukem 3D-style freeze gun.

And, in “Duke Nukem” style, the chainsaw has been replaced with a snow blower. This is hilariously silly!

The new sounds and music in this WAD are also fairly decent too, with MIDI renditions of many classic Christmas carols -as well as some hilariously cheesy new voice-acting too (for some of the monsters and the final boss).

As for the new monsters, they’re mostly good too. There’s a mixture between the monsters from the original “Xmas Doom”, silly 1990s-style cartoon monsters, some “traditional monsters” and a couple of new monsters in the style of classic custom monsters. The best one of the new monsters has to be the new version of the Pain Elemental, who has been reimagined in the same style as the “cacobauble” monsters from this WAD and other Christmas WADs:

Unfortunately, there’s only one of these monsters in the entire WAD though 😦

So, that was the good stuff. What about the bad stuff?

Well, the first thing to mention is that – if you’re using an older computer- the second level is pretty much unplayable. Seriously, it slowed down to a single-digit frame rate as soon as I started playing it. In the end, I was forced to use cheat codes (eg: ZDoom’s “freeze” command and the no clipping cheat) to move on to the third level. This is a real shame since the second level looked like it would be really cool:

For a 1990s-inspired WAD, why is it that my mid-2000s computer will only allow this level to run at a decent speed if I use the “freeze” cheat. And, yes, the skybox is missing – although this might be a “ZDoom” thing.

Likewise, strange as it sounds, this WAD would have been better off without the original “Xmas Doom” levels near the end.

Yes, they’ve received a few improvements (eg: there’s a text explanation for the final puzzle, there are some texture changes etc..) and a few “improvements” (eg: the annoying addition of dense fog to a monster-filled area). But the style of gameplay in these levels is so jarringly different from the earlier levels and it doesn’t really go well with the rest of the WAD. In a way, these levels almost feel like padding more than anything else:

Yes, “Xmas Doom” is a good WAD. But, it works better on it’s own!

This WAD would have been a lot more fun and streamlined if it’s creators had just kept the first 5-6 levels and the new final boss level and left out the original “Xmas Doom” levels. Seriously, this would have worked so much better as a completely original WAD.

In addition to this, some of the new weapons aren’t that great. The super shotgun replacement alternates between acting like a super shotgun and like a rapid-fire shotgun seemingly at random, which can waste ammo quickly. Likewise, the chaingun seems to be no more powerful than usual, but it has a short “spinning up” delay between clicking the mouse and the gun actually firing.

Likewise, one of the new monsters is perhaps a bit too creepy for a fun Christmas WAD. Basically, the pinkie demons have been replaced by enemies who look like short balaclava-clad terrorists. At first, I thought that they were just evil elves but, if you’re killed by one of them then the ZDoom death text states that they are… possessed children. WTF!?!? (the monster name is a “bewitched boy” or something like that, I think). For a “goofy” Christmas WAD, this seems a little bit too dark.

Yeah, dark humour is an essential part of classic FPS gaming. But, this is perhaps a bit too dark.

All in all, this WAD is a really strange mixture of good and bad. At it’s best, it sums up the brilliant “so bad that it’s good” silliness of the 1990s whilst providing mildly-moderately challenging gameplay and lots of wonderful 1990s Christmas nostalgia. But, some elements of this WAD don’t work that well.

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