E2M5 – Kills – 99, Items – 100, Secret – 83. Time 54:06. End Health 66, Armor 49. Death Count - 20
The gloves came off in E2M4, and in E2M5, cannonball puts on the brass knuckles. If you want blood, you’ve got it in this map. I spilled at least 3 gallons of mine. I’m not sure I’ve ever been bitch-slapped this hard in an Ultimate Doom map not authored by everyone’s favorite axe-murderer, Chris Hansen. Cannonball combines some of the survivalist approach of E2M4 and mixes it with his slaughtermap side to produce a map that seems especially geared to beat the living shit out of me, personally. ;D I probably shouldn’t have played this map on UV, because I came close to rage-quitting, but looking at the Easy/Medium/Hard monster count of 287/339/380, this map is going to hurt you no matter how you approach it.
You start outside against minor opposition, but after battling your way up doubled staircases, you get a sense of the ginormous scale of the map, as you gaze into a central hub with four long walkways over toxic blood, a shack in the middle, and columns hosting 4 Imps apiece to each side of the walkways. This puppy is huge. Taking advantage of all that space is a full squadron of Cacos heading your way, along with Sergeants and zombieboys paying a social call, with Imps and assorted scum sniping from every direction. Dayum! It took awhile to win through all this before I was able to teleport into the next main section.
And what a nightmarish section it was! Perhaps the most survivalist-oriented area of the map, this one held back on health and ammo and threw masses of Barons, Cacos, Spectres and, yes, a SpiderQueen and Herr Cyb at you! Holy Flying Fuck was this hard!!!! I got KOed so many times in this section that the monsters called me “Old Canvasback.”
The trouble really got started when I laid eyes on the bigass room at Sector 618. Drawing on past experience, this room screamed “Boss Monsters On The Way!” And sure enough, the SpiderQueen soon appears. You then have to fight your way through upper galleries on each side of this cool-looking room. On one side, there’s a highly irritating Ivuln secret. I figured it out, but after 3 tries decided I wasn’t into the race, so if a mapper says, “Fuck you!” to me with a secret like this, I say “Fuck you!” right back and clip my way to the secret. I did try about 4 times to win the battle against the SpiderQueen and Cyb without the Invuln, and died every time, with no good prospects in my future except to hope for luck.
But my first deaths in this area came when I dropped down into the toxic blood river at Sector 721. A curving path leads you to a room with 2 rocket boxes, 2 Barons and a switch. It reminded me of the secret ammo stash guarded by an Arachnotron in Romero’s Doom2, Map15, one of the most jagoffy maps I’ve ever played. But this was just the beginning of the pain, because after killing the Barons and entering the room, walls opened behind me to reveal a shitload of Spectres. “Oh, you bastard!” I thought, cursing cannonball and his family all the way back to his crustiest Neanderthal ancestors. At least a Berserk was there so I could punch it out with the Specs, but after hitting the switch and running back the way I came, I was blasted to death by Sergeants at least 3 times.
Then I had to fight the other gallery, and the multiple-trap room I entered at Sector 802. The opening fights were bad enough, with Cacos, Lost Souls, and Sergeants, and me starved of ammo and health. I died at least 2 times fighting in this room before I realized I’d never survive unless I took a side stairway up to the next higher level, and fighting my way up that sucker was no picnic, blasting it out with Demons and a Caco at close quarters, with every critter from the main room climbing the stairs behind me. Pain, pain and more pain! And my reward at the end? A switch appears above the lava pit, and pressing that switch unleashes a bigass nasty trap with 4 Barons in your face and 6 Imps teleporting in. Oh, the agony! But that switch also lowers the BFG platform now guarded by the SpiderQueen.
And you ain’t finished yet, because although you found the red key earlier (the switch in the blood river area lowered the red key platform), the red skull bars guarding the outbound teleport do not respond to this key. I got killed a few times when I tried to escape that way, and grabbing the BFG called forth Herr Cyb. I was never able to provoke infighting between the Cyb and SpiderQueen in time to save my dumb ass. So I had to go through the red door on the upper gallery.
This door leads to a majorly frustrating fight – for me, that is – In a huge room with a lava floor and three platforms you have to cross to press a switch to raise a bridge to let you access the switch that lowers the red skull bars so you can leave this slaughterhouse. And getting across those platforms was a bitch! I was very low on ammo and faced with street gangs of Imps, a small bomber group of Cacos and Lost Souls, sniping Sergeants up high to the left, and Barons guarding the switch platform on the other side. There were deaths and near-deaths here. The thing that really made me curse cannonball and his entire family even farther back than the Neanderthals, indeed, all the way back to an Ardipithecus kadabba with poor hygiene, was the damned Spectres hidden off to the right. I raced to the first platform, which held a box of rockets, activating the Spectres, and when I turned around to run back, they formed a meat wall that caused me to drop into the lava three fucking times! Worth noting is that, for some reason, the lava in this room is non-toxic, but because my forward momentum was stopped, I ended up killed by Cacos and Lost Souls. If I play this map again, I'll take advantage of the safe lava to fight the Cacos from down there.
To make an overly-long story short, I eventually prevailed, but the lack of ammo and health in this area, and all the high-HP monsters, made the whole thing sloggy and all but spirit-killing. At this point I was thinking that cannonball made even Ribbiks look merciful by comparison. ;D
But none of this is the part that made me want to rage-quit. That desire came in the nukage room at Sector 491. This was a techbase section, and as an aside, allow me to note that the “theme” of the map seemed to be a desire to feature the theme of each episode somewhere in the map. Sector 491 is a room you drop into after grabbing a radsuit and exploring some nukage tunnels, and of course, once you drop into it, “the only way out is through.” Cannonball’s enemy mix and placement is positively demonic; 4 Cacos and 2 Spectres guard a rocket launcher and 2 rocket boxes. 2 Imps and 2 more Spectres join in to form a meat shield around the Cacos and advance towards you so quickly that it becomes impossible to use your rocket launcher. There’s also 2 Sergeants blasting away at you while guarding a switch which opens an escape door that’s got some Imps inside and leads to a lift with a Sergeant Surprise awaiting you at the top. Available health is limited to 2 Stimpacks. This battle’s a close-quarters motherfucker that slapped the smile off my face so quick it left a sonic boom. I’m not sure how many times I died here, but even more than the deaths were the re-fights to get my specs up. Again and again I fought this battle until I started screaming in rage. Yowza! This map is hard!!!!
My favorite part of the map was all the E2ish tech areas surrounding the central hub. These areas were a colossal bitch to fight, too, but at least grim determination can carry you to places where you actually find health and ammo. There is no truly easy or in any way relaxing section in this map. Stress and terror are the order of the day everywhere, but at least here you achieve rewards beyond simply surviving.
Even though I found the secret Computer Map, I failed to find all the secrets, including the trigger that opens the path to the secret exit. This means I have to pistol-start the secret map. Yay.
And let’s not forget cannonballs’s final act of cruelty. After you’ve killed all 3 million monsters and died 850,000 times, you open the exit door to find yourself facing a Cyb while 4 Barons teleport behind you. Well, what’s a few more deaths between friends? ;D All I’ll say is that I finally ran past the Cyb – didn’t have enough ammo to kill him, -- and left this veil of tears. And I only cheated once, to get that Invuln.
This is liable to be a polarizing map. This is not a steady ramp-up in difficulty from previous maps. In terms of both difficulty and size, it is a giant leap past all that came before, and I shudder to think what’s coming next. ;D Because this map is, as Capellan would say, “pitched above my skill and patience level,” I can’t say it was a really fun play, any more than rubbing a cheese grater against my face is “fun.” Just the same, I’m enormously impressed. This map has a bit of the grand architecture that previous maps lacked. It is also extremely well constructed. Everything I encountered worked. The techier areas were built in Romero E1 style, but with more and tougher monsters. Because this is my favorite playstyle, I like these sections the best and greatly admire the convoluted construction of the corridors.
One thing I’m trying to get across is that Map5 in a 9-map episode is an unfortunate place to discover that you’re out of your depth. Though E2M1 was pretty tough, the next 2 maps were comparatively easy. Difficulty ramped pretty high in E2M4, especially for pistol-starters I’m sure, but E2M5 is like getting nuked at a picnic. When you’ve already finished the 5th level on UV, you don’t really want to pistol-start the 6th on HMP or HNTR. As a result, I’m girding my loins and playing through on UV. BTW, have these maps been tested on HMP and HNTR?
Okay, so after all the butthurt bellyachin’, my final word on this map is that it’s totally badass!