The /newstuff Chronicles #379
Classic Doom - Posted by Bloodshedder
- 19 Comments
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Infernal Doomers Deathmatch - [idt]RevenantX, [idt]nrM, [idt]Bloodiness, [idt]3VisT
Boom Compatible - Deathmatch - 1216702 bytes -
Reviewed by: Planky
This is an updated version of Infernal Doomers Deathmatch, reviewed by 40oz back last year. Unfortunately I don't know what changes have been made since the last review, but as I haven't played it before I'll write a fresh review.
I'll be honest: my initial impression didn't inspire much confidence. The texture choices, architecture and level design looked great, but they could also be small and cramped, various obstacles frequently getting in the way, and WR doors that would give the Doom guy a massive headache each time he cracked his head on them going through. That said, only a few levels suffered from this (MAP08 springs to mind). The majority had easy flow from room to room, architecture that didn't get in the way and looked great. I largely dueled with my brother; we both found there were too many weapons/items available to us, and it became a matter of whoever grabbed them all first won out - this would not be an issue with 3-4 players, though.
Final thoughts: I enjoyed all 18 levels provided - I wish I had been in the position to play against more players. A few things need tidying up (hitting my head on the WR doors for example), but don't let that influence your decision to play this fantastic DM set. Recommended.
Note: As per the txt file, the levels cover slots 01-14 and 29-32.
Revenge of last marine's spirit (version 3.3) - bed.intruder
GZDoom - Solo Play - 1299482 bytes -
Reviewed by: ultimatecarl
This is a cute little mod (yes, I just used the word "cute" to describe a game about a space marine's ghost killing demons) but one that obviously wasn't very well thought out. No new maps here, just a gameplay mod that you can slap on top of vanilla WADs.
Basically, Revenge is an RPG mod with a little twist: you're a ghost as well! It's kind of a neat concept (and being able to fly everywhere is kind of cool) but it just doesn't really flow well. For starters, you have to bind new (and separate) keys for raising your stats, which is a bit confusing, and you can't see what your current stats are. Ammo (or "mana" as it's called here) is consumed just far too quickly by even your most basic of weapons, even after upgrading your "mana economy".
Not only are there new enemy types introduced that are more powerful (they are basically just upgraded versions of normal Doom enemies and will replace existing equivalents at random), but even on the easiest difficulty (I forgot to mention, there are SEVEN difficulty settings for some reason) normal enemies have been given insane buffs, making things pretty much impossible on the higher difficulties. You can't even use your flight abilities to speedrun (speedfly?) through the levels, because there is an arbitrary kill count you have to exceed on each level before moving on to the next.
Overall the idea is unique but the execution is just unpolished and sloppy. Everything about the mod just feels "off" somehow, and the readme is woefully sparse as well. I understand that English is probably not the creator's first language, but that doesn't excuse poor organization or insufficient explanation.
Maybe if this one gets reworked considerably and with a set of maps tailored to the new play style it'll be a real gem, but as is? Ehhh.
Spire - Matthew "Foodles" Edwards
ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 5974420 bytes -
Reviewed by: Planky
Spire is a excellent five map hub for ZDoom/GZDoom, with a heavy gothic theme (using textures from GothicDM and Gothic2). The basic premise is to unlock/open the spire, done by completing each hub, taking you to the final map. The architecture is something to be proud of; it flowed nicely throughout the set. The custom monsters had me running more than a few times for health - your first encounter with one of them will surprise you, forcing one to change tactic fairly quickly. Fortunately there is plenty of ammo around to help even an average player like myself. The last level is a unique one, which I had the most fun in, despite multiple deaths.
Overall, the touch of scripting, surprising traps, aforementioned custom monsters, textures and sounds all enhance an already great hub set. Big thumbs up from me, I recommend everyone give this one a go - I hope there is a sequel in the works.
Stronghold - Various
GZDoom/Skulltag - SP/Co-op - 154717831 bytes -
Reviewed by: st.alfonzo
Stronghold: On the Edge of Chaos is a colossal 39 map hub-based megawad and partial conversion that first introduces the player to then builds extensively upon a unique brand of gameplay called "Stronghold", as the title most stringently implies. And like the temperamental, acerbic sandstorms of the African mainland, as well as so many other projects to bear the alias of one Daniel Gimmer, this particular storm seems to have already come and gone, whipping up a vast cloud of controversy and flamewar, coasting fiercely over the undulations and dotted islands in the enveloping cyberspace, and resting finally after many miles of perpetual up-draught upon some nondescript stretch of water where it sits, endlessly, until some irascible bastard decides to review it.
Honestly, it's like dissecting a rhinoceros. I just don't know where to start let alone figure out what tools I'm supposed to use ("what is this, a bone saw?"). Any sane individual would probably toss the carcass over a bonfire and jump safari before the rangers catch the scent, but here it is sitting in /newstuff like a lame horse waiting to dragged off to the knackers' yard. The poor bugger.
Thankfully though, a good bout of thumb twiddling revealed that the only plausible way to go about this review was to ignore any previously gathered verdict and judge it fresh off the bat, so here comes a rather massive, rather obtrusive account of one of the greatest map sets ever to hit the Doom universe. Although I do, of course, invite you to quibble over the implications of the word "great".
...There's no doubt in my small, indecisive excuse for a mind that Stronghold is an expensive looking wad. Or, to clarify, it's an expensive looking wad in the sense that it both looks and feels like something you might fork out the back of a conventional food retailer. This is to say that while it is very pretty on the sleeve (exceptionally so, in fact. Some of those outdoor areas would kill if they were given the license!), well presented and of consistently high standard, there's an almost artificial feel to the maps and layouts that you really only find customary in TV dinners. It creeps onto the screen in the form of recurring architectural motifs and a sort of consolidation of styles and concepts, as if Tormentor and his accomplices were having a metaphorical tug of war between worlds, and whether you're fending off Wickeds on the floodplains of Jailba or battling the encroaching denizens of Heloxyd, there's surprisingly little to tell most installations apart: A pretty important point considering that most of your time is spend dashing into the heart of said installations every second minute to restock on ammunition and stimpacks. On the other hand, there's still a lot of good that comes out of such a similarity, as having all the bases appear identical in design helps grant definition to the finished product which, considering the size of the bloody thing, is something of a necessity. Yes it looks quite marketed and perhaps a little indiscreet, but that's the worst that can be said of it on that front because it's altogether consistent. The screenshots should certainly convince you of everything else.
Scraping all the icing off the top of the cake however leaves you with just the cake itself. Or so I'm told to believe (the more mathematically inclined among you will be quick to tell me otherwise). For gameplay is, all things considered, what makes or breaks a Doom wad. And especially when it's a new brand of gameplay that is the wad's main selling point. Therefore, again considering the immense size of the wad, it's probably safe to say then that if you don't enjoy the first five or six maps of the set you can throw in your towel and call it quits, freeing up a good 150 megabytes of your hard drive too while you're at it.
Here it is in the shell of a nut:
Waves of monsters storm onto the map in their hundreds. Their objective is not primarily to kill you but to accomplish either one of two things. A) Cross over a line or series of lines, or B) Destroy a something or a series of somethings, usually set within the heart of a sizable UAC installation. You, of course, are to use everything at your disposable - your speed, weaponry and extensive assortment of purchasable powerups - to prevent the monsters from achieving these goals. There are six variations of game mode of which four have been covered in this very description, but the tactical approach to most of them differs only slightly. Enroute to their variable objective the monsters will fling all the colours of the rainbow at you in order to hinder your defence of the stronghold, and you, in response, attempt to stem the flow of monsters until all the waves are eradicated and the stronghold is declared safe.
Of course, a wad of this size requires more than just alternative game modes, weapons and chain-smoking voice announcers to sustain interest. The layout of the maps themselves are paramount to keeping the player challenged throughout the standard ten waves even more so than the types of monsters that pass through them. Indeed, if the shape of the map surrounding the pathway along which the monsters walk is poorly thought out either in being too thin or not accommodating for the monster's patrol points, then one or two things are typically encouraged. The player will either A) Set up camp next to the narrow/congested pathway and effortlessly dispatch the opposition as they funnel through, or B) Use the wider, slower moving monsters to prevent passage and, again, effortlessly dispatch the opposition. In this way, a Cyberdemon or Hectebus can prove to be more beneficial than anything else, and it can almost feel as though you're breaking the game by preventing most if not all the waves from advancing beyond the first doorway. All in all, a good 60% of the maps here can be defeated in this manner using the above strategies, as the otherwise unrelated problem of having all the monsters spawn from just one point of the map allows the player to concentrate on just one doorway. Even if there are multiple spawning points or paths to be taken from an initial spawning point, there is almost certainly an area in which all the monsters converge, which considering the player's likely inclination toward opting for the above methods (having developed them over the course of many maps so similar in design) means that every map, no matter the monster composition, weapon or item allowance, will play out in almost exactly the same way. Any tactical approach is almost completely swept off the board.
This, I imagine, is where most people decide whether or not they enjoy this wad. In considering a game like Doom there are bound to be those who feel quite comfortable in mindlessly blasting away at hordes of Imps so long as the scenery's nice and there's a place to stop for coffee, but for others the sorts of features that are included in a wad of this size really have to translate into a dynamic playing experience rather than just serve as frilly ornaments, and as far as free-forming gameplay and variety are concerned there really isn't all that much to work with here.
Outside the actual playing field, though, powerups do offer some form of release. As long as you're not tethering yourself to a select few just so you can continue barricading yourself by the stairwell, there are a number of ways in which you can alter your means of defence and still have a fun time holding back the masses. The powerups themselves are an integral part of the game and are fairly well balanced save for during three or four missions, and while there are a couple that seem more superfluous or gimmicky an inclusion (such as the Bruiser transformation or the I Win Button powerups, both of which I neglected in favour of most of the simpler tier 1 options such as the Turret and Quad Damage), it's the one reliable way in which the player can control the flow of the game where poor layout and fixed weapon allowance would otherwise prevent you from doing so. There is even a powerup which allows the player to automatically receive a random weapon, something which may or may not change the way in which the map is played out.
But having the player scour the wad's intricacies in order to make up for where the authors slipped up on the front page is a bad way to support the integrity of a release. And unfortunately, some of the intricacies themselves are turning out to be bad news. The replayability is appalling, for instance, on account of the game having any player who wishes to replay any of the wad's maps do so via a forced game mode called Time Attack, in which the player must race to finish the map under the alarmingly inconsistent set par time else be rudely escorted off the premises to the resounding announcement of his/her failure. The life system too - while rendered somewhat useless thanks to the ever-present saving system - is fundamentally flawed. Finding yourself in the not too improbable position of having little to no credits (earned through victory and monster slaying) and no lives prevents you from continuing the game at all, as you will not be allowed access to any of the wad's maps until you manage to purchase a life using the credits you don't have.
The music, be it all told, is very good stuff. While the visuals add a sort of identity to the wad, the music manages to be both greatly varied and consistent in having a catchy, aerospace techno/orchestral vibe. It also succeeds in rescuing a little of the game's fun factor, adding adrenaline and pizazz to the regulation slog-fest and even sometimes urging you to rush headfirst into enemy lines where you may have before been content in sitting and waiting for everything to pour into your centred establishment...
It certainly seems unfair to forgo even the slightest recommendation given the amount of work that has gone into this project, but deciphering whether or not this is the wad for you is actually a very simple affair, concerning what sort of player you are and where your interests lie, and should not then be overlooked. If you're the sort who's intrigued more by the execution of a concept than by the features collectively, you may find yourself growing tired of the game rather quickly. If however you are able to overlook the multiple deficiencies and enjoy what is undeniably a flavoursome and strikingly visual game, then immersing yourself into the heart of it will be easier than striking a match, which unfortunately, oddly enough, is never something I've been particularly good at.
There... I can smell it burning even now. Leg it!
Valhalla - Ed Cripps
ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 9263434 bytes -
Reviewed by: lupinx-Kassman
Valhalla (which was originally going to be called Sin City 4 I believe, if that is any foreshadowing of the quality) is a single ZDoom map for Doom 2.
I'll just start off by saying that there are dangerously high levels of beautiful screenshot material contained within the first ten seconds of playing. Atmosphere is definitely the map's strong point, and it attains it through a strong visual theme as well as good use of ambient music and sounds. Depicted is a desolate and war-torn base in the middle of what seems to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The ZDoom engine is put to good use for the architecture, and the author implements various clever design tricks like using mid-textures to model 3D looking structures. Every room is unique and great looking in some way, and it sometimes feels as if the effort one would spend making a solo megawad was all put into this one level.
Although you need all keys to exit, the level isn't too long. You may not notice this at first though, because it is somewhat easy to get lost. On this note, many of the switches are small red buttons which may be easy to overlook. The map doesn't throw all of the monsters at you right away. Instead, the battles typically revolve around ambushes after periods of silence. The challenges are moderate, and I did die a few times. It is entertaining, but I get the feeling that it is something most players could probably handle pretty easily. One final nit-pick I have is that the ending is somewhat anti-climatic.
So, assuming you scrolled past all of that nonsense, should you play it? Yes. You really should.
Base Ganymede: Episode 2 - Adam "Khorus" Woodmansey
Vanilla - Solo Play - 753306 bytes -
Reviewed by: ultimatecarl
Base Ganymede: Episode 2 is an 8-map vanilla WAD. It is a "sequel" of sorts to Base Ganymede: Episode 1 insofar as both WADs are vanilla episodes and share the same author, though considering the lack of storyline or gimmicks you won't be lost if you haven't played the first.
I think the best word to describe Ganymede would be "promise". The WAD isn't bad by any stretch and there are a lot of good moments, but several little issues keep it just out of reach of greatness. The architecture is nice but never gets too complex, and the lighting is pretty consistently boring throughout the entire episode. There also seem to be some odd design decisions, such as the player being simply handed backpacks with no real effort or risk involved while repeat plasma guns are guarded by ambushes, or handing the player a rocket launcher maybe five minutes before forcing them into a fresh start for the next level.
Technical issues never break the game but do make me question if the WAD was as fully tested as the readme claims. Half the levels have at least one instance of monsters that are stuck in architecture or each other. Linedefs are not always hidden properly (an automap on one level in particular allows you to see all of the out-of-map boxes that ambush monsters will teleport out of), while others within the levels proper are hidden for no evident reason.
A few other "problems" are not really problems, but little things that could have polished the experience: levels are not renamed, the end text has not been replaced, and there is no secret level. Also on a personal note, the "instant monsters through floor" glitch (which this WAD makes extensive use of) is gimmicky and in poor taste, especially to use in every level.
I've probably sounded really negative so far, but I really enjoyed the experience! On Ultra-Violence, the challenge is present but not overbearing and bordering on the easier side for careful players (ambushes are all rather predictable, and a large number of enemies in open areas can be safely "sniped" ahead of time before entering the fray proper). The secrets are hidden well; not obvious but not impossible to find.
Some of the architecture, while still simple, is unique and never looks ugly (and keeps a very old school mentality of "yeah so this is a military space installation but why not have this abstract staircase made out of pillars?"). The author makes good use of monster-impassible linedefs to keep the player from corralling imps around. There are too few stronger monsters, but who doesn't enjoy mowing down armies of filler monsters?
Overall if you're yearning for a classic vanilla Doom experience but you've played the original episodes ad infinitum, Base Ganymede: Episode 2 is a solid choice, and Khorus is definitely a mapper to keep an eye on!
Three Level WAD - lathaniel
Limit Removing - Solo Play - 209130 bytes -
Reviewed by: Snakes
From the modest mind of lathaniel comes this mapset.
Three Level WAD isn't a great wad by any means. Heck, a good chunk of it (and that first map in particular) is downright ugly. It has the feel of a wad made by your Average-Joe of a mapper with DEU back in 1995. You know something, though? That doesn't bother me in the slightest.
A quick glance in the text file, and all the description written is, "Three levels for Ultimate Doom, nothing fancy." So, there it is. This isn't an attempt to make a prestigious wad that will win accolades and Cacowards. No one will probably talk about it for the next few weeks. No, this is what is becoming an increasingly rare bird: a wad for the hell of it. I can jump on board this ship, so long as it plays decently.
Well, damn, it does just that! The gameplay has that old-fashioned feeling of being tough but never overwhelming. Slim-side ammo balance assists the even balance of claustrophobic hallways and the open, chaotic outdoors. Traps are devilish, albeit unimaginative. The third map gets particularly tricky when you enter a dark-as-hell cave and realize that the lighting is as much a part of a gameplay as the monsters. Never to fear, a light-visor secret is nearby to help you out. Smart mapping, so far as I'm concerned.
So you know what? Old-schoolers, come one and come all, have yourselves a fine time. If you OCD over aesthetics, though, I'd steer away. This is straight-up, old-fashioned Doom.
Time of Sorrow (ver. 1.1) - Azamael (Kolybenko M.O.)
GZDoom - Solo Play - 3352508 bytes -
Reviewed by: ultimatecarl
Time of Sorrow is a two-level (2500+ sectors each) GZDoom WAD that follows the classic Doom formula of a marine fending off an attack from Hell before taking the battle to them, with some new tricks.
For some reason this WAD doesn't seem to be getting much attention, and that's unfortunate. Azamael has been improving with every release, and I suspect that before too long we're going to have another big name that we eagerly wait on major releases from! But you want to hear about this WAD, huh?
First off: these maps are fun. A lot of fun! Gameplay-wise it doesn't mix things up too much (no new weapons or pickups) but that's okay: I'm staunchly against adding new stuff just for the sake of adding new stuff. Unfortunately, that's also my first complaint with the WAD, as most of the few additions or changes seem to be done simply to be different (health bonuses are now orbs instead of vials but practically identical, pistol lieutenants are functionally no different from regular former humans, did Ultra-Violence really NEED to be renamed to Mega-Violence, etc.).
I'll get my other complaints out of the way so I can get back to the praise... The final confrontation is a bit anticlimactic, and there's a lot of small mistakes. One or two is understandable, especially with such large maps. However, there's a surprising number of misaligned textures, mirrors don't always work properly, more than one spot has a "hall-of-mirrors" effect, monster ambush teleport boxes don't have their linedefs hidden so they can be seen with an automap, and a lot of doors are not properly unpegged. Difficulty and ammo count are a bit inconsistent, with the player having to scavenge early on but eventually never worrying about ammo again (thanks in part to easily-accessible berserk packs in both levels), and gameplay that veers on the easy side (even on Ultra-Violence) until the player is faced with some occasional blast-fests that take everything you have. Even these few instances are offset by the extremely generous powerups, however. I finished the WAD with three Supercharges and a Megasphere I never even touched.
And all of that is a real shame; as I said the maps are genuinely fun and Azamael knows what he's doing. If the WAD had spent just a little more time in the oven it could have reached greatness. There's a pleasant retro feel to the maps, in that each area feels unique but not disjointed, and the first time you encounter one of the WAD's big new enemy types is pretty neat. When not plagued by lack of polish the architecture is very nice and fairly unique (ironically the first level, a standard Doom space station, is the better looking of the two). The grand scale works in the WAD's favor as well: it contains only two levels, but feels like an entire episode without wearing on your patience.
All-in-all, definitely give this one a play if you want some good no-nonsense action. I played it in two sittings, and while at work after finishing the first level, I was actually excited thinking about getting home to finish the other! If nothing else, this WAD proves that Azamael is one to keep an eye on.
Testride - Bullet-time
ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 838818 bytes -
Reviewed by: walter confalonieri
[Ed: I don't feel like editing this, so here it is in raw form.]
Hello boys and girls, so long we can't see in this page huh?
Today i want to review this wad made by bullet-time is a 3 level adventure for doom 2, barely large maps, lots of monsters, a spider on title screen (at the first time i think: "hey this could be cool stuff!") and few nice concepts, and is also first (and last, according to the author) level from him, but is time to be rude: i don't like it in some aspects.
Yeah, you know, i really enjoying playing classic doom maps but this time it doesn't attract from the real beginning, it doesn't stun me at the visual detail, and i had some difficult found something barely nice to show you for the screen shots... if you see from the pics here, there's some troubles like HOMS in sky and also in the hills on second half of map03.
In the combat section, as i said before the author make a use of huge hordes from hell, nothing insane don't worry, just a regular slaughter map like hell revealed... but the fights are a little boring for me, and i want to skip it as fast as i can...
Music are nice (i recognized aces high from iron maiden in map02) and make enjoy a little more the maps.
Let's talking about the maps: we have a "city" whit some crushed canyons, isn't awesome but got few moments of fun, and this the least favorite of the pack.
The next map is my favorite of the map (i like speed runners maps!) but got this moment of wtf: when i switched all the switches in the maps, i searching for the exit meanwhile that clever mother fudges from hell shooting each other, i was involved into a fight and... level ends without any reason, make say "Eh?". I think the exit must be given to a specific high grade monsters (like one of the "million" of cyberdemons in this map), i made in this way also i, but goddammit do the bloody exit monster ACTIVATED BY PLAYER'S CHOICE! I mean: you're in a specific situation in the map and you killed all the enemies, you reaching the auto-destruction switch (wow, we are in a different game now! but i always think in this way about the exit switches in doom...), or the sky hole in the floor, or the teleport, or whatever else, and so you running for the freedom, and something happens (bars lowering, a earth quake makes lower the floor...) and in the same moment, behind you, a undefeated monsters teleport beyond you! You engage the fight, you kill the last one, you exit the level. Simple, isn't? Just needs few knowledge of zdoom thing usage, and you're done. But in this way... makes people frustrated. Uh, also the first time i think to be near a story message, and meanwhile i thimk "looks this bricks, is so huge! But why doesn't start a story?" i realized to be already in the level! LOL, at me the smart dude prize of 2011!
The third and last map starts in hell (or almost in a hellish cave) and for giving much more demonic appeal to the map, monstercount is 666! WOOOOOOOOHHHH!
Anyway, returning to seriousness, after your little vacancy in the hell, you return back in the same town of map01, but from a different location. Foggy hills and (boring) tons of monsters waiting for you, and after this you going into a UAC base (actually, i like this section), until you reach some infested brown mines and return back to surface, and you save the world another time.
Anyway, it's a mediocre map, but hey is the first try. Personally i don't love it so much due to visual and gameplay choices, and there's better slaughtermaps around here...
Val - Valerie Sindunna
Limit Removing - Solo Play - 342498 bytes -
Reviewed by: Encryptic
In some other universe, this WAD would probably be funny - a universe where the guys responsible for "Epic Movie" and "Meet The Spartans" are held up as masters of the comedic. Unfortunately, we're here in this infinitely dark and cruel universe where even people who evidently spent their formative years huffing paint thinner can crank out a Doom WAD that inflicts their brand of "humor" on the Doom community.
The opening screen is a painfully bad MSPaint boldly declaiming "Vali.wad - It's Cute!" complete with a smiling sun and heart. Yep, we're going places here, and it only gets better as the menus have been replaced with hot pink text including all-new difficulty options like "I like cute things!" and "I can strafe now!".
So, having managed to start the first level of this two-level masterpiece, we're thrown into a reasonably normal-looking techbase with the usual run of enemies. This level actually isn't all that bad (not great, but not godawful) until you get to the lovely pair of nukage-filled rooms with "VAG" and "INA" spelled out in big raised letters on the floor. This is high-tone satire right here, folks.
The level sadly ends without any other references to female genitalia (surprisingly, the WAD author didn't choose the obvious route by replacing any gun sprites with poorly-rendered cocks). Tragic loss to the comedy world.
So...on to the second level entitled "Barrels of Vagina" after being informed that the level I just completed was entitled "Awwwww!" and that I collected 100% Cute Things. Lovely. Naturally, we start off in a similar layout to the original "Barrels O' Fun". If it's possible to get out of this one without cheating, I'm not sure - I died numerous times before I finally just IDDQD'd and undoubtedly killed whatever humor might be derived from repeatedly dying in a hail of exploding barrels, like some sadistic rendition of The 3 Stooges Play Doom. Like its predecessor, the level actually isn't that godawful in overall design, though we're treated to a big red "Hello Kitty!" written on the floor of one room. Sadly, there are no Hello Kitty sprites posing as enemies for you to bloodily gun down.
I could go on, but I'm still wiping the drool off my chin after my brain temporarily shut down to avoid any further damage to my intelligence by playing through this WAD. Truly a masterpiece of Doom level editing to rank up there with Impsex.
Freedoom leftovers - Simon Howard (fraggle)
n/a - n/a - 578791 bytes -
Reviewed by: lupinx-Kassman
leftover.wad is a collection of resources that had been replaced in newer versions of freedoom. I want to start off by saying that the levels you see in the screenshots are from a mapset called farewe11.wad, and these maps initially used stock resources. I chose it for personal variety.
This wad contains completely replaced weapon graphics, various sprite replacements (including a full demon from the ghost busters TC), various new patches and flats, and a few new sounds among other graphics tidbits (like the HUD face). Just because they were replaced doesn't necessarily mean they were bad. Some of these graphics are actually pretty impressive, such as super-shotgun and rocket launcher. Some are a bit strange, such as the fist (power glove!?) All in all though, you can probably find things worth using in this wad.
Dawn of Reality - Reinchard
GZDoom - Solo Play - 122867955 bytes -
Reviewed by: Maes
Dreaming of Doom: most of us Doomers will have done that one time or another, perhaps with the added perk of dreaming of a more life-like rendition of Doom than it actually is, mixed with the surreal and unstable twist only dreams can give.
Doom in Reality: some of us might have wondered about how Doom would look in real life, or how a real, actual location would look rendered through Doom's engine. We have also seen WADs that tried to be realistic, or mods for other games that tried to "enhance" Doom's looks with mixed results.
And then there's Dawn of Reality. It's not really easy to start somewhere with a Doom project of these dimensions. I'm not even sure if it qualifies just as a Doom project, or if it is a Doom map in the traditional sense of the term, or if it's something so revolutionary that will shake your world. Probably all of the above, and then some. I will do my best to review it as a standard Doom map (even if it's anything but standard) from now on.
For those of you that have been living under a rock for the past 3 years, Dawn of Reality is a large GZDoom project that first appeared on the ZDoom forums, by a mysterious author going by the handle of "Reinchard666". Its particularity? It's based on a real place, the city of Bytom in Upper Silesia, southern Poland, of which it reproduces what looks like a small residential/industrial area faithfully, kinda like e.g. a Half Life 2 location. There are houses, a school, shops, a church, green areas, a super market, a portion of an (abandoned?) railroad, warehouses, etc. And by faithfully, I don't mean the "I copied the contours off a road map" kind of faithful. We are talking high-res custom texturing all over the place collected from actual photos of the place, scripting, OpenGL effects, polyobjects, 3D models, room-over-room, etc.
I personally became aware of the project some 2 years ago, and the preview videos and screenshots got my attention, since I'm a fan of large, city-like, realistic Doom maps. But the finished project took a long time to complete, and eventually I could hardly remember it existed (like most of us, I suppose). Then one day it just was released, and I HAD to play it and review it.
In a nutshell, Dawn of Reality is by any standard the most realistic Doom level ever made. This is both an obvious and a bold statement, since technically it uses technologies and extensions to Doom that way exceed the capabilities of old plain standard Doom, as it's a GZDoom-only mod. Still, it's undisputedly the most realistic realistic-looking mod for a Doom-derivative engine ever made, and probably the most realistic you'll be seeing in a while, since it took the author 3 painstaking years to complete. There are more architecturally complex maps around, or maps with a similar or even bigger area extension, but none has Dawn of Reality's combination of extension, detail and realism. And none of them is single-handedly more realistic.
But, hold on a sec, haven't we all seen "my house", "my neighborhood" or even "my city" themed WADs before, already from the times of vanilla Doom, usually filled with squared toilets, box buildings, and boring, level streets with sidewalks? And didn't a certain scathing realization always settle in? More specifically, the realization that these kind of maps often turned out being both poor, flat, gimmicky representations of the real places, as well as uninteresting/mediocre maps gameplay-wise, once you stripped them of the novelty of "realism"? Yes, we have, and Dawn of Reality isn't entirely immune to this problem, as I'll expose later on.
Graphics-wise, Dawn of reality is easily one of the best GZDoom mods, and one of the most exquisite things you'll ever see coming out of a Doom-like engine. If you wondered how it would look if e.g. you looked out of your windows' curtains and see Doom monsters in your neighborhood, or how Pinkies roaming in a park would appear, or yet, how an imp stalking you in the dark tunnel of that abandoned part of the railroad you played at when you were a child....then Dawn of Reality won't let you down. It's simply superb, and the author has done a very good job at portraying exteriors as well as interiors with many custom, high-res textures. Many buildings and houses can be visited, and are detailed and decorated inside as well -some of them pretty uniquely, but no spoilers here ;-)
In general, there is a significant horror atmosphere in this mod that manifests itself mostly indoors, and is usually just hinted at in the outdoors, which, combined with the stereotypical gloom associated with Eastern European cities, the grey cloudy sky, and the "ghost town" feeling makes the whole experience somewhat surreal, like a cross between a dream and a Jan Svankmajer movie, and angsty, like Saw or Silent Hill.
Despite that, most Doom elements are left unaltered, such as bonuses, weapons, and the standard monsters. While some may feel that this leaves the mod incomplete, I applaud this decision, as it really comes as close as possible to the "what if Doom was real?" approach, without sacrificing any familiarity. There are also no apparent alterations to weapons/monsters power either, which means that you get a unique opportunity to combine pure almost Doom gameplay with an overly realistic setting. It also comes very close to how Doom looks like in a dream: a combination of reality's detail with Doom architecture (seldom the opposite), with some dream-like elements like e.g. limited interactivity with "daily" objects, the fact that there is little text to read - and most of it looks either hard to read or surreal - and that you can get in some places but not in others, make this a pure "I had a Doom dream" experience.
Regarding the sound department, it's important to note that all of Doom's original sounds are left unaltered (something I also applaud for the reasons mentioned above), except for the new ambient and custom monster sounds. Did I say custom monsters? Yes, there are some, but they deserve a separate mention later on. The music, if it can be called that, is a horror-like chiller that consists mostly of ambience sounds, ominous strings, and a crescendo of hell chorus screams, kind of like a Doom 64 track. There are also a few ambient sounds here and there, usually associated to scripting events, of which there are also quite a few.
So, my concerns about the "realistic" appearance part are definitively dispelled, as the mod is as realistic as you can ever get in Doom, and rightly so.
But what about the gameplay? Unlike the previous part of the review, I'll be telegraphic here: it's not bad, but it's also nothing that you haven't seen before, and if you have played e.g. Half Life, Blood, Silent Hill, The Suffering, Postal 2 (especially with the Apocalypse Weekend or Eternal Damnation mod), then you'll recognize a lot of the stock horror elements used in this mod, such as the "screamer flashbacks", the possession/haunting/demonism references, the satanic temples, the impaled bodies/gore etc. which I personally find cheesy or telegraphed from a mile away at times, and detract from the otherwise quite convincing suspension of disbelief that this map is able to create. Still, there are some genuinely startling and blood-chilling moments to be found, as well as humorous references if you look carefully enough ;-)
If viewed purely as a Doom map, at least the outdoors are way too large and dispersive, and apparently real architecture doesn't make for particularly epic battles. The map starts with about 400+ monsters already on the loose and waiting for you, which ruins the atmosphere, as it would be way more scary to have monsters appear out of nowhere or teleport in waves after you unsuspectingly triggered something, rather than starting off in an already infested place. Monster placement is also not particularly strategic, as e.g. the hordes of shotgunners just kill themselves off as soon as they see you, and imps/knight/arachnotrons will just drag themselves around the whole town as you vastly outrun them. Pretty soon, those 400+ monsters will kill themselves by infighting or will be rendered harmless by being dispersed over such a large level. Even if at the end the total body count went up to a 1000+, there still wasn't any significant challenge involved. If you want a challenge in this department, try it with a reality mod or on Nightmare. This is truly one of the few maps that would make sense to fill in with NUTS.wad hordes.
The most common problems associated with such large levels are usually orientation and excessive wandering around before you figure out what to do. Of course, this happens with Dawn of Reality too, to some degree, but it's better than I thought: yes, there are many chances for getting lost, but in reality you can start setting off certain events in a relatively free, open-ended order, and the author has had the acuity to place camera textures near the various switches you discover in various places (some are outdoors, some in warehouses, some behind locked doors or apartments), which give you a clear indication of where to go next. The map itself can be easily navigated, and if you have normal orienteering skills in real-life cities, you won't have problems orienting yourself in the virtual Bytom.
The other aspect of the gameplay is more goal-oriented, as you have to visit haunted houses and hunt switches -luckily you're aided by a system of pictures and camera textures along the way, along with other hints- and collect an item or two, but again it's not particularly tedious or long as in other Hexen-like mods I've seen.
It took me about 1 hour and 40 minutes of actual gameplay by exploring everything (if we take away saving) to complete the level with 99% kills, 95% items and 80% secrets, but if you know which houses you should visit and which you can safely skip, I believe you can easily bring this down to 30 or even 20 minutes, if not less, since the hordes on the street will seldom give you trouble unless you allow yourself to be cornered. Regarding the backstory of this mod, you will find several Blood enemies as well as stealth nightmares on your way the closer you get to the final battle, thus giving it that somewhat clichéd stock horror feel.
The final battle left me kind of disappointed, as it takes place in an "unholy church" swarming with monsters, but it's too easy to simply get out and let them fight among themselves or rocket-blast them at the door. The final boss is a kind of modified, horned, red archvile with a continuous damaging attack, which can be disposed of with two BFG hits - if you can find it, that is. Its summoning sequence is cool, but I found out that it's way too easy to deliberately or accidentally disrupt it if there are still many monsters roaming around, thus making the level effectively unwinnable.
Despite my criticism, I wouldn't call Dawn of Reality a mixed bag; it's an excellent mod if you take it for what it is: a hyper-realistic (for the current Doom engines' capabilities) reproduction of a real-world city into a Doom level. It surely definitively answers the eternal question on how a real place would look in Doom: it would look like Dawn of Reality, with a lot of hard work, and the project was definitively worth it from that point of view.
Gameplay wise, it could be more challenging and/or more original, or at least more Doomy; the lack of any significant height variation also means that if you remove the fancy textures, the scripting and the horror element, you've got little more than a super-glorified "my city" level, at least for the outdoors. Despite its HR-like number of monsters, their placement and the size of the level makes it less challenging than you might think, even in "boss battles". This is clearly not a level for those who want HR or NUTS-like pressure, but a harder "endurance" version would be interesting to see.
Technically, Dawn of Reality only works correctly on GZDoom. I tested it with 1.50, but saw that 1.31 also ran it, though I didn't risk playing too much of it until something broke. ZDoom may start it, but most indoors decorations and 3D models will not be displayed and you'll get creepy sprites and mysterious wooden poles instead. It also needs a pretty hefty computer: I had no problems playing this start to end on a laptop with a T8300 Dual Core and an nVidia 8600M, but there were moments where the frame rate obviously dropped, and I realize that going e.g. single core or with inferior graphics cards might make this unplayable.
The TL;DR version: this is a level each self-respecting Doomer should play. It may not be everybody's cup of tea for several reasons, but its visuals and atmosphere are stunning and top-quality, and overall it's an enjoyable experience, and surely a landmark in Doom modding. Perhaps its only weakness is that it doesn't really add nothing new to the gameplay department, and is not particularly challenging.
Stronghold - Steve Vilotti (Bytor)
Vanilla - Solo Play - 61102 bytes -
Reviewed by: Maes
Stronghold...what an original name for a castle-themed wad, huh? OK, maybe it was original back in the day, as this is yet another 1994 WAD that has been (re)uploaded into the archives recently. No idea if the author is the same "bytor" that dwells on Doomworld, though...
To make a long story short, Stronghold is a medium difficulty castle map. You start inside the castle in an (inverted) cross-shaped corridor with 4 doors, with only the S door unlocked and all the others requiring key cards/skulls.... not the most original way to start, even for 1994, as you know already that you're in for a long key hunt.
The very first room you'll visit though (and the castle's outdoors secret, if you manage to find it) have sky textures on the walls, which always looks kinda weird. I'm not sure what the author's intention was (are they supposed to be paintings? He could not do a proper window into the skybox?), but they sure give off that oh-so-1994 feeling.
For the rest, it's your usual switch and key hunt, a lot of maze zones, traps, etc., AKA nothing you haven't seen before. Finding the access to the red key zone, however, involved some guesswork and a leap of faith, and was actually harder to find than some of the actual secrets.
There are a couple of interesting outdoor zones, and one internal zone (near the red key room) which, to my surprise, exhibited a deep water effect on the marble floor, even though DB revealed no such intention. It is most likely a bad BSP build, as rebuilding the nodes fixed it. However it doesn't hinder gameplay, as it's isolated to just a couple of subsectors, and you can safely leave it as it is.
The fights aren't bad, using all monsters up to the Baron and all weapons up to the Plasma rifle, and the ammo/health are adequate except maybe at the beginning, especially if you don't find the chaingun secret right away. In general there is enough space to maneuver and cause infighting, which always adds to the fun of any map. With 200+ monsters on UV, this is by no means an unpopulated level.
The architecture and general layout are typical 1994-ish in an E2 style, with texture misalignments, some unusual mapping like e.g. paper-thin wedge-shaped walls or sky textures on walls. Most of the level is a typical marble/wood fortress and parts of it are pretty basic E2-style techbases, with abrupt transitions between the two. The final battle takes place into a large cylindrical wooden room, where you can have fun if you manage to get the barons to infight due to the barrels ;-) Overall, a decent time-killing map, if you don't mind exploring it all and finding all of its secrets, of which there are plenty.
Bubba.zip - Robert Schwarz
Vanilla - Solo Play - 39987 bytes -
Reviewed by: Maes
Keeping up with my streak of reviewing vanilla/1994 WAD for celebrating the new year, here comes another "nostalgic" review of a pure, raw, uncut 1994 WAD (timestamp 20 Oct 1994), with a name to match: Bubba.zip, by some Robert Schwarz guy, back when "Roberts1, AOL" was a valid and cool e-mail address... OK, on with the review.
This is a typical gimmicky 1994 WAD, with all the usual clichés and annoying features you'd expect for a mediocre map of this period. You start off in an elevator shaft, facing a raw concrete wall, and you must about-face to flick the switch that will (slowly) get you to the top, while your ears are treated to some actual elevator music. Yes, I'm not kidding.
After this first "uh huh" moment, I was initially surprised to see a white concrete panel outdoors with water, which made me think of Brian Plumb's UNDERSEA.WAD, and hoped that under the hood, this map was a sequel/lookalike of that great classic (it was made some 5 months after) but no such luck, as it turned out. Some elements here and there were definitively copied/inspired from it, but for the rest this map here feels like the poor man's UNDERSEA.WAD or something.
I soon found myself hunting switches, discovering unmarked secrets and diving into holes in the ground to crawl in underground dirt + concrete slab corridors, fighting my way through a refrigerator full of twitching hanged bodies, to end up in a hellish room at the end if it, quite different from the rest of the level. By the way, you really don't want to miss that (unmarked) blue key secret at the beginning, or else the level becomes unwinnable, since you can't backtrack and get it.
The ending took place in a strangely Doom II-esque tech/hell room with a rising platform, quite different from the rest of the level, but nothing memorable. The fights are nothing special, with the toughest monster being a cacodemon, and the rest mostly imps and zombies. Considering that you even get a rocket launcher later on, it just feels like you're performing routine cleanup on the level, and you'd have to be drugged and sedated to even considering dying once. Not that there aren't fun moments, like e.g blowing stuck barrels up in the faces on zombies, but overall, nothing you'd want to repeat anytime soon.
Overall, this map is a weird mix of variable architecture, with some ideas obviously ripped from UNDERSEA.WAD, cheesy music, weak unmemorable fights, and a few strikingly different rooms that could change the map's overall feeling, had they been properly exploited to use some heavy fighting. Try it only if you want to see how bored Doomers had fun in 1994 :-)
Skull - Rob Morton
Vanilla - Solo Play - 38746 bytes -
Reviewed by: lupinx-Kassman
Skull.wad is the author's first single player map, and it takes place in E2M1. From what I can tell, this is a very early wad, but that doesn't mean it's particularly bad, and it may in fact be one of the better wads from the time it was released.
As is typical of older wads, the theme varies greatly from room to room, and the map is moderately challenging. A room may be packed with weaker monsters, but it is usually packed with barrels too, so the advantage is usually given to the player. The map's layout is well interconnected and requires a couple of keys to finish.
An average wad by today's standards, and maybe a little above average for '94 standards. Probably not anything you haven't seen many times before, but if you are interested in playing early wads it may be worth a shot.