The Eye very much "has it"... if you'll permit the pun (you shouldn't). Mouldy's first ever release for Doom is more than just a great map: It is a shining example of one that operates best as a standalone release. Those who can recall offhand Iikka Keränen's The Reactor, to draw comparison, may also agree with the noting of its overbearing sense of progression leading up (or, indeed, down) toward an ultimate objective, and in such a way as to
make it feel out of place within its native megawad. The Eye holds all the qualities needed to create a memorable experience in this way, enhanced by stunning visuals and gruelling combat... but it's the perfection with which it creates this experience that grants it Cacoward status.
An all-dominating spiral to which the player must gain access is the "iris", the map's main objective and the most prominent feature of the titular construct. It's heavily reminiscent of Xaser's Helix from Plutonia Revisited (map15) in its requiring the player to fend off waves of flanking demons, and benefits hugely as an experience from the ordeal the player has had to survive up to that point. You are simply never allowed to rest, for even in managing to catch your breath you only succeed in having it robbed back out of you by the breathtaking visuals, including truly some admirable architecture and one of the most impressive uses of flesh textures I think I've ever seen.
One could probably find flaws in the map's gameplay -- most likely in its lack of provisions and difficulty -- but it would not be to the detriment of its greatest strengths: its progression, theme and spectacle. The Eye is without doubt one of this year's best releases, and a memorable one to boot.
Combat Shock 2
Paradoxical as it may be, I have to admit that there's a certain pleasure in pain. Hell, for a rare few of us, there's simply nothing else left. After slaying legions of demonic foes time and time again, the only thing that satisfies our bloodlust is laying waste to innumerable hordes. At once. Repeatedly.
Enter Combat Shock 2. This recently-released gem captures the best qualities of the slaughter genre, submerging the player in a sea of baddies in a series of grand arenascapes that one could best describe as "Sundrous". Never fear, though: it's far from your run-of-the-mill slaughter set, with impeccably balanced gameplay and enough villains to give Superman the shivers. In the first few maps, you'll start at a brisk pace of Plutonia-like challenges (with the occasional hordes thrown in), but by the fourth map, Dannebubinga pulls out all the stops and positively showers the player with carnage. I suppose it's worth mentioning that I generally don't play too many slaughter maps, but something about the later stages had me seriously hooked. Without spoiling much, it gets friggin' nuts. And bloody painful. But still awesome.
The wad does require some mastery of infighting to complete, but this is not a detriment. In fact, I've never before seen such a player-demon mutual agreement executed quite as well. Along the way you'll be forming unlikely alliances with crowds of revenants, piles of hapless imps, and cyberdemons' infinite-ammo rocket launchers, and you'll love every second of it. Combine this with exceptional pacing and imaginative setups and you've got a recipe for slaughter that never feels the least bit sloggy.
While it's inevitable that this mapset's stylistic tendencies will no doubt be compared to the current reigning champ of the slaughter circle, Sunder, Combat Shock 2 easily stands out in the crowd. In fact, I'd wager it's taller than most, to extend the current metaphor. So yeah, it may have kicked my ass time and time again, but I've got to admit that Combat Shock 2 is a masochistic blast. Though if you find yourself experiencing too much pleasure, you might want to get that checked.
For many of us, the notion of a "White Christmas" is as common as, say, an "Awkward Valentine's Day." In some parts of the world, though, it's rarer than some other lame analogy I'm not going to bother coming up with. Never fear, though: there's an early Christmas treat that's sure to bring all the fun of a fresh powder home without any of the mess. Or somesuch.
Winter's Fury is a 14-ish map GZDoom partial conversion centered around a mysterious Siberian UAC station home to an even-more-mysterious classified project. In this narrative-driven quest, you play the obligatory lone marine who's tasked to figure out exactly why our beloved hell-freaks are so interested in the nearby mountain peak. The dominant icy theme is utilized to the fullest, with a new palette featuring a set of cool cyan blues and a set of "frozen" monster alternatives with more devastating attacks. Not to be unfair, Pyroscourge has provided a new set of quicker, beefier weapons for you to play with, and they're quite fun to use without diverging too much from the originals, meaning standard Doom tactics are still in vogue. And though there a few 'modernisms' like cutscenes and hint messages, there's nothing intrusive or unskippable at all to slow down the pace.
The mapping is simply beautiful, with incredibly complex layered architecture arranged in such a fashion that the player never gets caught on extraneous detail. Piercing blues shine through the grey haze of the harsh outdoors, and frigid caverns feature prominently and sport some fancy texture fade work. I'm especially impressed by the constant use of portals to give the architecture a grand three-dimensional feel, which is a staggering feat in an engine originating from '93. The best way I can describe it is "Torm Done Right", a craft which Pyroscourge has honed over the years to nearly the tip of perfection. Though without spoiling much, the ending does hint that much more is to come, so I'm likely making this statement far too soon.
In all, with so many high-quality ingredients in the mix, the full package amounts to one seriously immersive experience. Ambitious projects like these will often suffer from a bout of style over substance, but Winter's Fury absolutely delivers on both. So while your neighbors are busy riding sleighs and belting out clichéd carols, be merry in the knowledge that you've opened your presents early.
Base Ganymede: Complete
Here at the map32 top secret Cacowards Facility, we're thankful for wads like Base Ganymede. They make the selection process so much easier with their obvious show of quality and size 14 shoo-ins. But sometimes so given are these selections that very little thought is put toward explaining why they're great in the first place, which, when it comes to the actual writing of the articles, makes us all feel a bit embarrassed...
Base Ganymede is a megawad beaming with personality and charm. The maps showcase the Khorus design perfectly in being moderately sized with interesting layouts and monster placement, yet are also very experimental in requiring the player to think his way around encounters in unusual ways. In some cases the player feels cleverly disarmed and exposed (not the easiest trick to pull off in a Doom map unless your name is Use3d), with the usual tactic of running and gunning leaving you dead on the floor, but at very few moments does your death feel undeserved, as you are able to adapt to Khorus's consistency in design and plan your approach accordingly. To add to this complex of experimentalism are the lack of map names and any real sort of progression, and while this may alienate some players who prefer a more immersive and varied experience, it goes that extra distance toward highlighting a style of gameplay which, on the whole, is executed quite brilliantly.
And this is the crux of Ganymede's success. It is an obvious show of quality in its visuals, consistency and gameplay alone... but it also boldly harnesses these qualities around a remarkably unique style. You may dislike the mapset for that style. You may spurn it as you wouldst spurn a rabid dog. But it cannot be denied this fact and, in any case, you probably like it anyway.
- Doom The Way id Did
- Strife: Absolute Order
- 5till L1 Complex
- Community Chest IV
- The Eye
- Combat Shock 2
- Winter's Fury
- Base Ganymede: Complete
- Best Multiplayer
- Best Gameplay Mod
- Mordeth Award
- Mapper of the Year
Craving more tasty treats? How about a third helping of runners-up?
Coffee Break Episode I
You look tired! Sleeping at the wheel is dangerous, you idiot, so why not pull over and grab yourself a Coffee Break before you kill someone? Matt Tropiano's pit-stop is 11 maps of caffeine-fuelled excellence, and although it may not have nabbed a Cacoward this year, it'll still hit the spot and have you coming back for more. So drink up... and drive safe!
Honoring a Newcomer
Somewhere beyond the bustling confines of the internet, Tango bolts upright in a cold sweat. The Eye is indeed Mouldy's first ever release for Doom, adding an additional dimension of amazement to its already considerable quality... but I could not in good conscience have written this blurb without the noting of another distinguished individual. Who can it be, now?
My enjoyment of Purist's Interception map Panopticon lead me to the discovery of some very notable works, including the much celebrated Blood Street and Doom Station of the Devil. Surely you have heard of these creations? No? Well, you should have: they're maps by Purist's 6 year-old son Dylan, published here -- by his father -- in our very own forums. Although I don't suppose I'd surprise you in pointing out that they're his first maps, an opportunity to glance into the artistic mind of a young designer should be enough to sway your interest. Great going, Dylan!
Ode to the Abandoned
Not all runners cross the finish line. Over the years, several notable, promising, or mega-hyped projects were washed away in the tide of time, many of which still linger in our hearts. But have you heard why some of these were canceled? The answers may surprise you.
- Rain - El Zee and 5hfifty hired by Interceptor Entertainment to work on ROTT, then later abducted by aliens.
- Haze - Canceled due to author's volumetric fog allergy.
- The Empty Museum - Erased due to time travel accident. Succeeded by Project Hydra, which coincidentally fell victim to the exact same accident.
- Void 2 - All known copies lost when Cyb's private jet disappeared somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle.
- Foreverhood - Turns out the mod never existed; the whole thing was a child's fantasy in a mental ward.
- ZHalloween - No longer Halloween. Also no longer 2004.
- Demon Eclipse - Government funding for hyper-intelligent AI project 'ERIANCE' ran out.
- RTC-3057 Hub 2 - Actually still being worked on, but the release date has been pushed back to mid-2063.