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

Well, after finishing “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV“, almost all of my “Doom II” playing over the past couple of weeks has been restricted to an awesome mod called “Reelism Gold” (seriously, play it!). But I thought that I should probably play something new – so, I decided to check out a WAD from 2016 called “Outland Industries“.

I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Interestingly, from what I read about it on Doomworld, this WAD pretty much requires “ZDoom” and can apparently cause errors in some other source ports. So, make sure that you use “ZDoom”.

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

“Outland Industries” is a single-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”. It is a ‘vanilla’ WAD (eg: it features no custom content) and it is apparently the very first WAD created by it’s designer (Professor Bucket). And, surprisingly, it’s actually quite good.

The WAD begins in a wonderfully gloomy area that makes expert use of “classic”-style lighting effects. There’s a really good balance between ominous gloom and muted lighting here, which really helps to give this area some atmosphere. There are also a few low-level monsters and a shotgun nearby. But, don’t get too comfortable! This easy opening segment is designed to lull you into a false sense of security!

Initially, I thought that I’d finish this level in five minutes…..

….. It took me closer to 20-30 minutes!

If there’s one thing to be said about this level, it is that it has a fairly good difficulty curve. If you’ve completed “Doom II” and you want to step into the exciting world of modern “Doom” WADs (or even if you’re just in between “Doom II” and “Final Doom”), then “Outland Industries” is a good starter level to help you prepare for the increase in difficulty you’ll encounter.

Although the creator of this WAD was aiming for something similar to a traditional “Doom II” level, the difficulty and style of this level is probably more like a mixture of a milder version of “Final Doom” and a toned-down version of a modern “Slaughtermap” WAD.

Seriously, there might not be THAT many monsters here, but thanks to the small size of the room, this segment of the level is at least mildly challenging. It’s also good practice if you’re new to “Doom II” WADs too.

What I mean by this is that you’ll be encountering small-medium size hordes of low-mid level monsters occasionally. These segments are also spread out quite well throughout the level (seriously, I cannot praise the pacing enough). Compared to, say, “Stardate 20X6” or “VeryHard” – these segments are extremely easy. But, they’re handled very well and are a great introduction to the more strategic playing style (where retreating/running is sometimes the best option) required in many modern WADs.

Still, even though this WAD isn’t exactly super difficult, it is still mildly – but enjoyably- challenging for more experienced players. The stand-out moments have to be a battle with a group of monsters in a relatively small room, the segment with the rocket launcher and the brilliantly epic (if somewhat small-scale) final segment of the level. This final segment is a brilliant mixture of “Final Doom” and “Slaughtermap”-style level design.

Yay! Projectiles 🙂

You’ll be dodging a small hail of projectiles, a fair number of lost souls and a few well-placed spider demons, mancubi and chaingunners as you try to work out how to get the “exit” door open. Although this area is fairly small (and the key isn’t too hard to find), it manages to cram in some really cool fast-paced non-linear gameplay into a relatively small area.

The level design in the rest of the level is really good too. Seriously, for a first WAD, this is spectacular!

Seriously, even this little part near the beginning of the level is kind of cool.

The level is non-linear enough to be interesting, and both the level’s size and design also mean that you’ll never get stuck when playing it. In other words, you get to explore and backtrack, but you’ll never really be uncertain about where to go next. Likewise, although it just uses the standard textures, monsters etc… the variety of areas (from claustrophobic corridors and rooms, to larger outdoor areas) and some clever monster placement means that the gameplay never gets monotonous.

For example, this room looks quiet… Suspiciously quiet.

– And THIS area is really cool. It’s a jump that overhangs an earlier part of the level. Now, THIS is good level design!

And there’s a good mixture between claustrophobic corridors and larger outdoor areas too.

The only real criticism I have of this level is that it doesn’t seem to include any arch-viles! A well-placed arch-vile or two would really help to add a little bit of extra suspense, challenge and drama to the level. And, yes, I’m one of those weird players who actually likes arch-viles.

All in all, this is a really good level that is almost up to the standard of an “official” level. The level design helps to keep the gameplay flowing at a fast pace, the combat is enjoyably challenging and the monster placement is superb. It’s an enjoyably fun and relaxing level for experienced players, and it’s a good “starter” level for people who are new to “Doom” WADs. For the designer’s first level, it is really something!

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

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Mini Review: “Altar Of Evil” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017-artwork-altar-of-evil-wad-review-sketch

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting one called “Altar Of Evil” which was one of the runners-up for a Cacoward in 2005.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD.

So, let’s take a look at “Altar Of Evil”:

screenshot_doom_20170302_133245

“Altar Of Evil” is a single-level WAD that contains new sounds, textures and sprites.

The first thing that I will say about this WAD is that it looks really cool, since it has a fairly consistent green/orange/black colour scheme and some wonderfully ominous lighting too. Although many of the new textures aren’t really that obvious, it still looks like a better version of something you would expect to find in the “standard” game.

Seriously, I love the lighting in this level :)

Seriously, I love the lighting in this level 🙂

The interesting visual design of this WAD also extends to the monster sprites, some of which have been altered in various ways.

Most notably, the imps now use a variant of the “Dark Imp” sprite used by various other WADs. They also fire green projectiles, which compliment the red projectiles that the Barons and Hell Knights now throw at you. Other notable monster sprite changes include a dark grey mancubus and three types of pinkie demons (eg: dark pink, blue and dark grey).

The blue pinkie demons are really cool, and they seem to be a replacement for the "spectre" monsters. So, WHAT are the dark grey pinkie demons?

The blue pinkie demons are really cool, and they seem to be a replacement for the “spectre” monsters. So, WHAT are the dark grey pinkie demons?

Yes, dark imps are nothing new. But, the green projectiles are really neat though.

Yes, dark imps are nothing new. But, the green projectiles are really neat though.

But, the main thing that gives this WAD it’s atmosphere has to be the new sounds.

Seriously, I cannot praise the sound design in this WAD highly enough – all of the weapon sounds and monster noises sound a little bit like a heavier and like a more “realistic” version of the kind of sound effects that you’d expect to hear in the original “Quake”.

The stand-out sound effects have to be the new super shotgun noise and the epic, thunderous roar of the BFG:

There's a reason why you'll run out of BFG ammo fairly quickly in this level. The new sound effect is just THAT epic!

There’s a reason why you’ll run out of BFG ammo fairly quickly in this level. The new sound effect is just THAT epic!

But, although this WAD has a lot of atmosphere, is the gameplay and level design any good? In a word, yes.

“Altar Of Evil” is an old-school non-linear level which still manages to be “streamlined” enough that you’ll rarely wonder where you’re supposed to go next. The level manages to be reasonably large without being too large (eg: you won’t really get lost when playing this level). There are a couple of cool little elements to this level, such as a pit in the corner of one room which Cacodemons rise out of and which you have to jump into in order to progress to the next part of the level.

As for the gameplay, this WAD contains a mixture of traditional-style gameplay and some mild slaughtermap elements. Throughout the very early stages of the level, you’ll be fighting reasonable numbers of monsters in relatively spacious areas. But, in later parts of the level, you’ll be fighting larger numbers of monsters in more confined spaces. This really helps to add some variety and challenge to the level, which keeps things interesting.

Yes, there are more monsters in this area than shown in the screenshot. Still, most of them are fairly low-level ones.

Yes, there are more monsters in this area than shown in the screenshot. Still, most of them are fairly low-level ones.

However, in terms of difficulty, experienced players will only find this level to be moderately challenging at most. Although there are a decent number of mid-level monsters (and the obligatory arch-vile too), many of the larger groups of monsters you will encounter in this level are mostly composed of imps, pinkie demons and/or cacodemons.

Yes, there's only one arch-vile here. Still, one arch-vile is objectively better than no arch-viles.

Yes, there’s only one arch-vile here. Still, one arch-vile is objectively better than no arch-viles.

Even so, thanks to the cramped corridors and claustrophobic chambers you’ll encounter in some parts of the level, even low-level monsters can pose more of a threat than you might initially think.

All in all, this is a really cool WAD. It’s extremely atmospheric, it manages to be both “new” and “traditional” at the same time, the gameplay is enjoyably challenging and some of the new weapon sounds are absolutely epic. It’s kind of like the original “Quake”, but with the much cooler aesthetic of the classic “Doom” games.

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

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

2017-artwork-miasma-wad-review-sketch

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”:

screenshot_doom_20170214_201920

“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.

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

2017-artwork-interloper-wad-review-sketch

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

2017 Artwork Infuscomus WAD mini review

Well, I suddenly realised that it’s been almost a month since I reviewed a “Doom II” WAD. So, I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting level called “Infuscomus“.

As usual, I used one of the slightly more modern versions of the “ZDoom” source port to play this WAD. I’m not sure how well it will work with other source ports, but it seemed to work very well on “ZDoom”.

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

Screenshot_Doom_20160627_195851

“Infuscomus” is a horror-themed single-level WAD that contains new textures, sounds, monsters, music, items and a new weapon.

As you may have guessed from the title, this WAD has been heavily inspired by another classic FPS game called “Blood” and it manages to recreate that game’s gloomy, gothic atmosphere- albeit with more of a “Doom”-style twist to it.

I live... again!

I live… again!

The level itself mostly takes place within a large and gloomy mansion/castle of some kind, which is filled with claustrophobic corridors, grand halls and tiny rooms. Needless to say, the opportunities for jump scares are numerous! Although most of them aren’t particularly scary, it’s still cool to see the screen judder suddenly, as monsters suddenly teleport in beside you.

Hi there :)

Hi there 🙂

The level design itself is fairly good, although it can occasionally get a bit on the labyrinthine side of things – occasionally requiring slightly more backtracking and searching that you might expect.

For example, throughout the level, you’ll notice that several doors require a blue card (rather than a blue skull key) in order to open. It’s a good idea to memorise where these doors are, since you will later have to re-visit every single one of them in order to progress past a later part of the level.

In visual terms, this WAD is pretty spectacular. Although the WAD obviously takes heavy inspiration from “Blood” (including borrowing a few textures too), it still manages to have it’s own distinctive “Doom”-influenced look to it at the same time. The level also contains a good variety of different aesthetics and room designs, in order to keep things visually interesting.

Like this cool-looking area near the end of the level.

Like this cool-looking area near the end of the level.

Or this wonderfully gothic room.

Or this wonderfully gothic room.

One of the other outstanding things about this WAD is the fact that it contains several new monsters. Whilst I have seen a few of them in other WADs before, some seem to be totally new. In addition to this, a few of the “standard” monsters receive a couple of changes – for example, the Revenants have about half the normal amount of health, to compensate for the fact that the “ordinary” shotgun is the most powerful weapon you’ll have throughout most of the level.

As you might expect from a horror-themed level, health and ammo can sometimes be on the scarce side (although the level actually includes portable health kits to compensate for this slightly). This is especially noticeable when fighting some of the more powerful “new” monsters. However, many of them can still be beaten with the right tactics. I absolutely love challenging “Doom” WADs that force the player to play strategically, so it was great to see this in “Infuscomus”.

Fun fact: To stand a fighting chance in this part of the level, you'll need to use the table on the right-hand side of this screenshot.

Fun fact: To stand a fighting chance in this part of the level, you’ll need to use the table on the right-hand side of this screenshot.

For example, in one part of the level, you enter a small room with a low table in the middle of it. After doing a game-critical action (pressing a button or something like that), the room is quickly filled with four or five armoured knights with hammers (one of the most powerful and deadly new monsters). If you try to fight them normally, then you’ll fail fairly quickly. Instead, what you have to do is to quickly run onto the table – where they can’t attack you, then you can fight them from complete safety.

As for weaponry, most of the weapons are fairly “normal”, with the chaingun having a slightly different sound and a couple of the weapons having a slightly faster rate of fire. Even so, there’s one new weapon here – an alternative Super Shotgun. Not only does this weapon have a new sprite, but – instead of firing both barrels at once – it actually fires two shots in quick succession every time you use it.

It looks really cool and it's very well-animated, but I don't know if it's more or less powerful than the "ordinary" super shotgun though.

It looks really cool and it’s very well-animated, but I don’t know if it’s more or less powerful than the “ordinary” super shotgun though.

My only complaint about this weapon is the fact that you only find it relatively close to the end of the level, so the number of times that you get to use it is probably lower than it should have been (especially during some of the more challenging earlier parts of the level).

In terms of the music, it’s the kind of atmospherically creepy music that you’d expect in a level like this.

All in all, this is really cool WAD. It’s atmospheric, challenging and reasonably well-designed.

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

Mini Review: “The Night Train” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”)

2016 Artwork The Night Train review sketch

Well, it’s been a while since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d take a very quick look at a WAD called “The Night Train“.

Although I played this WAD using one of the more modern versions of “ZDoom“, it will probably work on GZDoom and possibly on many other modern source ports too

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Night Train”:

Oooh, it's an intro movie!

Oooh, it’s an intro movie!

“The Night Train” is a short single-level WAD that can be completed in less than twenty minutes. As the WAD’s animated intro points out, the Doomguy is taking the train home (presumably after the events of one of the official games) when he suddenly realises that the train is filled with monsters. It isn’t exactly Shakespeare, but it’s pretty cool that this WAD actually has it’s own intro movie.

However, one problem with the intro movie is that – for want of a better description – it kind of spoils some of the later parts of the level by telling you exactly what you have to do.

Well, yes, I'd like to discover this for myself if you don't mind...

Well, yes, I’d like to discover this for myself if you don’t mind…

As you may have guessed by now “The Night Train” is a train level. If you play a lot of 1990s FPS games, then you’ll probably be more than familiar with this cool genre of level. It’s literally the one situation where FPS game levels can be (kind of) linear and still be really cool.

 I'm on the night train! Fill my cup!

I’m on the night train! Fill my cup!

Unfortunately, this level kind of takes the “linear” thing very seriously.

Although there are a few areas where monsters will appear behind you (and one or two times where you will need to retreat and find cover), there are virtually no real reasons to backtrack at all in this level.

In itself, this wouldn’t be a huge problem except for the fact that the level itself is absolutely tiny – seriously, the train only has about four or five carriages.

Not only that, you can’t even do the classic train level trick of carefully walking along the ledges on the side of each carriage. Yes, the carriages have large ledges but, for some bizarre reason, they’re blocked off with invisible walls.

 WHY? Just why?

WHY? Just why?

Compare this to other train levels – like the one in the first episode of another classic FPS game called “Blood” (where you have to go back and forth along the train a couple of times) or the famous “NJTrain” Doom WAD (which is considerably longer and slightly more complex) and you’ll start to see the limitations of this level.

As for the difficulty, this level is mildly challenging. Even though I was slightly out of practice, I still managed to blast my way through this level in under twenty minutes.

There are a reasonable array of low and mid-level monsters (but no Arch-viles though 😦 ) here, as well as a climactic cyberdemon battle. Most of the challenge in this level comes from the slight shortage of health power-ups in some areas and the claustrophobic areas that you fight in.

Well, it wouldn't be a REAL "Doom" WAD without at least one of THESE. But, WHERE is the obligatory Arch-vile?

Well, it wouldn’t be a REAL “Doom” WAD without at least one of THESE. But, WHERE is the obligatory Arch-vile?

Anyway, despite my criticisms, this is still a reasonably fun level. Yes, it’s hardly the best train level out there – but it’s still fairly enjoyable and, well, even mediocre train levels are still kind of cool.

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

Review: “Nerves Of Steel v1.5” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2016 Artwork Nerves Of Steel WAD review

Well, I was in a “Doom” kind of mood again, so I thought that I’d check out an interesting-looking WAD for “Doom II” called “Nerves Of Steel v1.5” for today. Plus, a week or two before I posted this review, I also learnt that this WAD was made by the creator of “Strange Aeons“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port when playing this WAD and this is actually the recommended source port for this WAD too. Plus, although I’ve played the vast majority of this WAD at the time of writing, I’m completely stuck on one part of the final boss battle.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Nerves Of Steel v1.5”:

Yay! Cheesy 80s sci-fi :)

Yay! Cheesy 80s sci-fi 🙂

“Nerves Of Steel v1.5” is an 18-level WAD for “Doom II” featuring new weapons, textures, enemies, music and sounds, as well as a few very subtle gameplay changes too. The WAD itself is apparently also a re-make of an old FPS game from the 1990s called “Nerves Of Steel”.

However, as the WAD’s manual points out, this wasn’t a loving tribute to a forgotten game. Apparently, the maker of this WAD thought that the original game was so badly-made, that he wanted to make a better version using the “Doom” engine purely out of spite. Having never even heard of the original “Nerves Of Steel”, I can’t compare the two games. So, I’m judging this WAD on it’s own merits.

The WAD’s story is classic cheesy 1980s sci-fi action movie stuff. In the distant year of 200X, Japan has been taken over by a fascist dictator who has built an army of cyborgs and monsters in order to take over the world. It is, of course, up to a team of two elite American special forces operatives to stop him.

Yay! Selectable characters :)

Yay! Selectable characters 🙂

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it actually allows you to choose a character. You can play as Gale Torrez or Bobby Storm, although this doesn’t really seem to affect the gameplay much (other than changing a few sound effects), I always love it when FPS games include multiple characters – so, it’s really cool to see it here.

Ooh, remember the days when EVERY FPS game had an episodic structure?

Ooh, remember the days when EVERY FPS game had an episodic structure?

One other interesting thing about this WAD is that it uses a traditional 1990s-style episodic structure, with the game being divided into three six-level episodes.

This comes with the usual benefits and drawbacks that episodic FPS games are known for. Yes, each episode has a distinctive aesthetic and you’ll also get a large dose of 90s nostalgia too, but it also means that you lose all of your weapons every six levels – which can get annoying.

 Unless, of course, you love the basic pistol. Although, as basic pistols go, this one is kind of cool.

Unless, of course, you love the basic pistol. Although, as basic pistols go, this one is kind of cool.

In keeping with the traditional 1990s theme, jumping is disabled by default in this WAD too.

As for the level design, it’s really good. All of the levels are classic non-linear FPS game levels that are filled with intense combat and tricky puzzles (which require methodical exploration).

Although a couple of the levels can get a little bit visually monotonous, there’s a good variety of well-designed settings on offer here – from futuristic laboratories, to train stations, to rural fortresses, to old Japanese buildings.

Unfortunately, you can't actually drive the train though.

Unfortunately, you can’t actually drive the train though.

Yay! This lab looks wonderfully gothic :)

Yay! This lab looks wonderfully gothic 🙂

In terms of the difficulty, this WAD can be surprisingly challenging. Although it’s not quite the most difficult “Doom” WAD that I’ve ever played, don’t expect it to be anything close to easy after the first couple of levels. In fact, as I said earlier, I’m still stuck on the final boss battle at the time of writing (mainly since there wasn’t quite enough ammo in the level). So if, like me, you like your FPS games to be challenging, then you’ll love this WAD 🙂

Like any good FPS game, this WAD is filled with constant, frantic combat against a wide variety of powerful enemies. You’ll have to use tactics, strategy and perseverance if you want to get through some parts of this WAD in one piece. I really love WADs that are thrilling, but also make you think strategically at the same time and “Nerves Of Steel v1.5” doesn’t disappoint here.

Although some of the new monsters that you’ll be facing are ones that I’ve seen in other WADs (eg: the scientist zombies, the octobrain-style monsters etc...), there are at least a few all-new enemies that caught me totally by surprise. These include surprisingly powerful armoured stormtroopers that are armed with assault rifles and, later, automatic shotguns.

There’s also a modified version of the arch-vile who will shoot fireballs at you. There are ferocious attack dogs. There are merciless laser turrets. There are giant green cyborgs who can destroy you in seconds if you aren’t careful. There are also four new types of bosses too (although the first and final bosses are more powerful than the others).

They may LOOK like low-level enemies, but don't underestimate these guys!

They may LOOK like low-level enemies, but don’t underestimate these guys!

You will learn to loathe these laser turrets with a passion!

You will learn to loathe these laser turrets with a passion!

These new enemies really add some extra challenge and variety to the game, since they are often significantly more dangerous than you might initially expect.

However, these powerful enemies are balanced out slightly by a surprisingly badass arsenal of new weapons that you can use. Even the basic knife and basic pistol are surprisingly powerful, and they can fell many of the enemies surprisingly quickly. You’ll also find an assault rifle quite close to the beginning of each episode too. And then there’s the shotgun:

Seriously, this shotgun is a lot more impressive than you might think!

Seriously, this shotgun is a lot more impressive than you might think!

This is probably my favourite weapon in this WAD since, if you hold the left mouse button down, it will start firing continuously! Yes, you’ll run out of ammo after a few seconds but, wow! Just wow!

There’s also a slightly more dramatic version of the plasma rifle, there are hand grenades (although they’re a little bit clunky to use) and then there’s a significantly improved version of the RPG from “Duke Nukem 3D”.

Not only does it fire heat-seeking rockets (which also have a chance of hitting you if you aren’t careful) but, it can also be used at close range during combat too – since the rocket acts like a giant bullet when it hits the first monster it finds, before turning into a rocket again. However, it also has a slower rate of fire to compensate for these new features.

I just expected this to be a copy of the RPG from "Duke Nukem 3D", but it's SO much more than that!

I just expected this to be a copy of the RPG from “Duke Nukem 3D”, but it’s SO much more than that!

As for the music in this WAD, I really liked it 🙂 There’s classic 80s heavy metal/rock music and there’s also dramatic 80s synth music. However, some of the level music can be a little bit on the generic side. Even so, there’s some surprisingly cool music in this WAD.

All in all, this is a wonderfully fun WAD which reminded me of how great FPS games can be. Yes, it has a few small flaws (eg: the final boss battle doesn’t contain enough ammo, a few of the levels can look a little monotonous etc..) but it’s a brilliantly cheesy, extremely thrilling, enjoyably challenging and just wonderfully retro WAD. If you need some convincing that 1990s-style FPS games are the very best type of FPS games, then just play this WAD.

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