|Grove - B.P.R.D.
Rarely does a level come along that invokes such strong emotions like those of our wildest and most revered dreams. Grove is that map. B.P.R.D. spared no creative ingenuity to fashion this level and place you firmly in the surreal world that he imagined.
Most pertinent to any discussion of Grove will be the frustrating and baffling switch searches and difficulty of the level. Coupled with the initial release, which featured several thousand tree sprites which caused a major performance hit for all players (this was eventually ironed out in an alternate version which eliminated frame rate problems, but what do you expect from the author of NUTS?), these issues make Grove a controversial addition to the years top picks. What is fascinating about Grove is that it may be the only wad where micro switch hunting is not only tolerated, but adds an entirely new depth to the experience. Like a place from your wildest imagination, secrets abound in Grove, and each one you discover fills you with a sense of accomplishment and wonder few wads ever achieve.
Grove's atmosphere and beauty not only secure it a place as one of 2004's best maps, but also distinguish it as one of the top wads of all time.
Tremor - Zarkyb
Using the stock Doom/Doom 2 textures and trying to cram as much detail into a level as possible has been a past favorite of map makers for years. Sometimes they go too far and cross the line between very detailed and ridiculous, like Gothic 99. Sometimes the author gets it just right, as Zarky did with Tremor.
Tremor gets high marks for being one of the most detailed and beautiful maps released this year, and at the same time having very nice gameplay as well. Silver trim adorns the steps, and the attention to detail is very sharp indeed. In Zarky's case, his previous works included mostly joke maps and works in Mockery, and then we are blessed with this amazing collection of nodes. If what the title suggests is true, and this is only Part I, then we are fortunate to have a Tremor Part II to look forward to in the near future.
Chosen - Lil White Mouse
In the truest sense of the word TC, total conversion, there are very few in existence for Doom, and even fewer worth playing. Probably enough to count on a hand or two. Chosen is one of them.
Wandering around the eight or so levels in Chosen, you will be hard pressed to find even one stock Doom sprite, texture, or even a flat. The entire project takes place in an Egyptian setting, and everything from the new music to textures and Egyptian-themed monsters and sprites convinces you of this. There is an amazing boat ride that looks incredible, and the weapons are all cleverly original, including arrows and hatchets that stay once they've hit. The enemies range from generic archers to the final showdown with an enormous snake whose tail drags along behind him in a very inventive hack of the ZDoom engine.
Chosen easily ranks high this year as one of the shining stars released, as well as a welcomed addition to a long impressive history of total conversions along the vein of Aliens and Batman.
Huy Pham "Converted Doomer"
Deus Vult could possibly be the most ambitious project ever conceived for Doom. As the author's first foray into Doom editing, he made quite an entrance with this map. I say map because it may technically be six levels, but it was broken up into smaller levels so other ports besides ZDoom could run it. If you enjoy Hell Revealed-type monster pools, you should enjoy Deus Vult.