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The Top 100 WADs Of All Time: 1996

1996 brought Quake and the beginning of the long exodus of mapmakers away from Doom to more modern engines. Nevertheless, the releases this year are plentiful, as the Quake editing scene was still in its infancy and people were still shaking Doom out of their systems. Visual styles continued to evolve, with architecture growing more complex and new textures becoming commonplace.

Memento Mori - Many

Compared to the speed of most Doom projects these days, it's hard to believe that Memento Mori was able to gather 21 level designers and texture artists, produce 32 good levels, along with a consistent theme with a liberal dose of custom graphics, all not much over 5 months. The gameplay of most of the levels can't be faulted. The interesting layouts of the levels, and excellent placement of monsters and traps, means that there's never a dull moment. There are also plenty of good quality secrets throughout. Unusually, Memento Mori was also designed specifically with cooperative play in mind, and it plays excellently in this mode. One of the must-play Doom add-ons. If you haven't played it yet, no more excuses! (cph)

Memento Mori 2 - Various

Memento Mori 2 is a continuation of the WADmaking enterprise of the original Memento Mori, where many level authors worldwide came together in an effort to make a good megawad, fast. Released only seven months after the first, Memento Mori 2 is another collection of fantastic levels of all themes and difficulties, and is in fact even better than the first, as might be expected given the authors' extra experience. Since the WAD is a communal effort, there is no real common thread running through the levels: one might be a gothic cavern while the next is a brushed-metal space station. Regardless, it's very well done and is certainly one of the best megawads ever created. (Ling)

Dystopia 3 - Anthony Czerwonka and Iikka Keränen

Iikka and Adel are about as close to legends as Doom has had (outside Romero and Carmack anyway) and this is possibly their finest collaboration. Dyst3 features a multitude of doom2.exe special effects, many created by these two, such as 3d bridges, instant move sectors and more. Each map is excellently detailed and features some top notch gameplay and for a wad from 1996 it looks great. It also has a self-contained story (as much as possible with the Doom engine) with pretty convincing vehicles showing how you got to each map (usually via a crash), and ends off with you blowing up Microsoft. Yes, you read that right. (Cyb)

All Hell is Breaking Loose - Joel Huenink

All Hell is Breaking Loose certainly lives up to its name. While the maps aren't great and the new graphics are a bit rough around the edges, this wad does have a few things going for it. First off it's just all around crazy. You'll face off against ressurected imps, flaming demons, two-headed chaingunners, gigantic cyberdemons, insane plasma troopers, helicoptors, and flying monsters that give you the finger and yell "fuck you" when you kill them. Pure insanity. On top of that All Hell is one of the first mapsets to feature a nice amount of dehacked work, with the crown going to arachnotrons with two-headed chaingunners riding on top of them. When you kill the arachnotron the chaingunner drops off his fallen chariot and fills you full of lead. If you're looking for a little insanity in the midst of all those 'serious' Doom maps, look no further than this. (Cyb)

AOD-DOOM - Various

In the grand tradition of making Doom into stuff not originally intended comes Army of Darkness Doom. Based on the cult classic movie of the same name (part three of the Evil Dead trilogy), AOD Doom puts you in the boots of Ash, the loveable hero, and dedicated S-Mart employee of the AOD movie. The maps, while nothing great by today's standards (which is often the case with old maps anyway) are still quite nice, and all of them present a pretty good challenge. You'll also notice some familiar situations such as your meeting with Evil Ash, the pit, the windmill (complete with moving blades) and even S-Mart makes an appearance. While the graphics may not all be great (most are borrowed from Hexen) the TC is a good deal of fun, and a must have any for AOD fans (which are probably also the majority of Doom fans) out there. (Cyb)

Icarus - TeamTNT

Icarus is TeamTNT's second megawad after Evilution, their commercialized freshman effort that became half of Final Doom. However, due to the vagaries of the publishing world, Icarus was actually the first to be released to the general public. The megawad follows the space marine as a member of the Earth Defense Force, alternating between high-tech brushed-metal spaceships and more earthy alien worlds, with a series of teleports on each level connecting them together thematically. The gameplay is nice, but sadly the looks have suffered more than other megawads from the era. Nonetheless there's lots of nice tricks and traps for anyone who's followed TeamTNT through the years. (Ling)

Polygon Base - Rick Lipsey

Polygon Base was mostly overlooked at the time of its release, only to be highlighted a few years later by RicrobNet, one of our hosted WAD-review sites. The level is large and complex, but the shining feature is its extreme nonlinearity: you need all three keys to exit, but besides that, you can go wherever you want and in any order. The author, Rick Lipsey, shines at making the level look good by using "clean" textures to go with the sparse architecture. Compared to the FPS levels of today where every room has exactly one entrance and one exit, and Polygon Base looks positively sprawling. (Ling)

99 Ways to Die - Warren Marshall

The year? 1996. The game? Quake. The topic? Lights. Doom's successor was fast approaching and its new realistic lighting model was causing unrest among level authors eager to break out of the sector-based restraints which made lighting Doom levels a banal affair. Enter Warren Marshall, whose 99 Ways to Die, more than anything, raised the bar for lighting effects in Doom. Faked lightsourcing had been done before, of course, but Marshall's levelset takes it to a new level, casting light and shadow in a quasi-realistic way to keep the Quake-engine wolves at bay a little longer. (Ling)

Trooper's Playground - Matthias Worch

The Trooper's Playground is another example of mapmaking circa 1996: the style is still evolving, but level authors have become very creative in their tricks and traps. Created by Matthias Worch, the levelset features lots of crushing ceilings, trap doors, moving walls, and so on in a great example of the lengths mappers would go to in order to trick the increasingly savvy player. Nowadays the MacGyver-esque practice of creating elaborate traps from the sparse collection of linedef tags has mostly gone by the wayside as ports like ZDoom make it possible to script almost any scenario one could imagine, but I fondly remember attempting to dream up new ways to use the stock Doom effects to trap an unwitting player. This WAD shows what a clever author could come up with. (Ling)

Hidden Mountain Factory - Grzegorz Werner

I'm not sure why I never hear about this map (I only found it while scouring the idgames archive), but here's your obscure 1996 wad. Hidden Mountain Factory takes place just there, and quite convincingly. The map has all sorts of machinery and pits and vats of slime (like any good factory should) and features some rather intense battles due to the close quarters of nearly the entire map. The difficulty on UV is a bit higher because of this, plus the large amount of monsters in a fairly short map (you should be able to finish it in 8 mins) will keep you busy the entire time. Great looking map as well, especially considering it was made over seven years ago. If you haven't played this yet (which is highly likely), I recommend you give it a go. (Cyb)