Top Ten - Page 3
- Josh Sealy and Darkwave0000
Joshy and Darkwave will go down as one of the greatest mapping tag teams in Doom history. Two years ago, Joshy released the half-finished megaWAD, Surge, which broke a lot of hearts because it wasn't the sequel to Speed of Doom. After a lot of soul-searching (and school), he picked it back up, dusted it off, wired it some twenty or so levels, and sent it back into battle. No rest for the wicked, eh? Resurgence still isn't Speed of Doom part two, but that is less of a handicap and more of a testament to Joshy's willingness to grow as an author. A lot of this is due to a perceived need to make up for the absence of his buddy Darkwave in his attempt to create what he felt was a worthy successor to SoD, and a lot of it is no doubt due to his experience in other endeavors, namely Back to Saturn X and the Secret Santa project.
Though Surge remains part of this experience, Joshy did some editing and shrank down the number of maps by combining layouts and changing thing placement in many instances. The core gameplay remains more or less the same as the player is forcefully propelled through entrenched enemies, but the maps have some much-needed re-population methods worked in alongside some visual enhancements and brand new areas. The end result removes a lot of the dead air that plagued the original while leaving plenty of breathing room for new material. The brand new levels draw from a variety of styles, with slaughter consuming the final maps for the Speed of Doom faithfuls while the others involve adventure and epic action. Perhaps the biggest turn is away from Joshy's claustrophobic murderbrawls, but these scenarios still exist; they just don't dominate entire maps.
It's really cool to see Joshy stepping out of his comfort zone, whether he's drawing from his fellow authors like his "Festering Wicked Helix Sectors" (a take on Xaser) or just trying to do things that are simply against his nature, like make a challenging Tyson level that isn't about total ammo control. There's even an instance of Darkwave doing his best Joshy impersonation in a guest spot. There are also two new monsters added to the mix, both of which should be familiar to Scythe 2 veterans but are toned down from their original incarnations. It's all enough to say that where I used to know what to expect out of a Joshy map, now I think I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Tango is something more of a multiplayer sensation to me, the purveyor of DM delights and other such things. Naturally, when he started whispering about a singleplayer adventure, my ears picked up. Mayan Mayhem continues in the grand tradition of works like Obituary, STRAIN, and Lunatic by messing around with Doom's balance within the confines of DeHackEd-ish changes and additions. It's actually a pretty thorough switch-up, with what I would call a much less forgiving overhaul while attempting to keep most of the monster gallery looking roughly the same. Just about everything moves faster, including fireballs. The only enemies that seem to have escaped the knife are the ones you love to hate. All that, plus the Greater Mancubus.
All of this action plays out over four landscapes dotted with vaguely Mayan-ish ruins plus one gorgeous underground cavern, which is probably the least stressful level of the whole set. Tango doesn't give you any time to adjust. The moment you step inside Mayan Mayhem, you're thrown into complex firefights and forced to adjust to the hastened projectiles and demons and barons that shoot rockets. The trial by fire pays off if you can adapt and overcome as the architecture is gorgeous and the combat rarely lets up, peaking with an arena gauntlet in "Temple Terror". Don't stop there, though - Tango crammed some much-needed variety into a "bonus" slot of sorts for a nice post-climax romp.
Thanks, Tango, and thanks to all the folks who put up the resources he used to give Doom a nice makeover. Here's looking to another Mayan Mishap.
Urban Brawl: Dead of Winter
- Scuba "Steven Browning" Steven "Browning" Brownie
Having just sat down to review this article for the first time, I realise how difficult it might be for readers of the Cacowards to pin down what we think of Urban Brawl these days. Fact is, we've praised it so facetiously in the last seven years that today we almost reach the point of fevered celebration every time it takes a shit or buys a cup of coffee. Surely whatever hoopla we heap upon it here is just another catch of our blood-inked, Faustian agreement to retain control of the Cacowards, whatever the cost? It must seem that way. But hey, even if this were true (and it most certainly is), it shouldn't stop you from downloading Dead of Winter and confirming for yourself the first of this year's top releases.
Scuba's wintry add-on takes place some years before the events of the groundbreaking Brawl; a spirited little story that warms the cockles of your heart - or would do if it wasn't being doused in the steady flow of liquor. The winning formula remains completely intact as once again you take to the streets to combat scum and thuggery with switchblades and tire irons, shovels and planks. This non-departure can only be a good thing, as even with all the different permutations in its storyline, Scuba's second installment in the franchise had succeeded in colouring a world so wonderfully realised that it couldn't possibly be satisfied with a mere several hours of play. You wanted more Urban Brawl, didn't you? Well, you got it!
Dead of Winter may be a very short adventure - shorter even than some of the standalone levels being awarded this year - but it remains a complete and satisfying caper. A real Christmas bonus! If by some miracle of diversion you missed its announcement late last year, now is the perfect time to treat yourself to some more, snowy Action.
Oh, and remember to drink Action Beer!™ It's the beer that gets you drunk!
Thy Flesh turned into a draft-excluder
- Matt "cannonball" Powell
If you take away a few of the more revealing levels in this mapset, I'm not sure I would immediately guess it's by the guy who did ConC.E.R.Ned. Who the bloody hell made this thing? Where's the Cannonball that used to drop me into a box labelled "fight!" and force me to contend with some gruelling, centralized concept? Where are the detached and evenly-formed corridors; the layouts that seem interchangeable between episodes? When did the demons become so skilled in taxidermy? These questions and many others seared onto my brain as I clambered through the confines of E4M3's Ravine of the Damned, a captivating adventure that keeps the player pressing deep into the dark. Clearly this is not the Cannonball of old. It's heavier, bolder, packs a bigger punch... you know where I'm going with this.
Rest assured, dear reader, that this is not a sympathy vote on behalf of last year's debacle. I would no sooner recant on that decision than turn the Cacowards into a circus act. The simple truth is that Draft Excluder wins, and wins big. Its levels are dastardly, winding, packed with inventive hazards, and remarkably resplendent for being so limited in texture selection. Indeed, there are a couple of levels that evoke an impressive sense of place, something I hadn't strongly felt at any point in last year's ConC.E.R.Ned, and which indicate a heightened understanding of map flow and explorative gameplay (see Chris Hansen's Wailing Horde for another example of how best to execute this style of play). Granted a couple of hitches in the evolution of his style, such as the oddly disenchanting soundtrack selections late into the game, Draft Excluder is still one of the better examples of storytelling through level design and one of the most enjoyable and well-balanced releases this year.
Witnessing a talented and determined young artist like Cannonball fulfill his potential is one of the most rewarding things in this corner of the modding community, and I'm sure I echo the sentiments of everyone who reads this when I hope that Draft Excluder becomes only the first in a long line of quality Cannonball endeavours. Top shelf, Powell!
Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement
Top Ten - Page 1
- Going Down
- The Adventures of Square
- Back to Saturn X: Episode 2
Top Ten - Page 2
- Shadows of Cronos
- Monster Hunter Ltd. 1/2
Top Ten - Page 3
- Mayan Mishap
- Urban Brawl: Dead of Winter
- Thy Flesh turned into a draft-excluder
- 32in24-13: A Thanksgiving Without Burgers
- Rage CTF
- Best Gameplay Mod
- Mordeth Award
- Mapper of the Year
RUNNERS-UP 3: RUNNERS-UP HARDER
Sometimes the best things come in small packages, and these single-map releases are well worth a mention -- and a playthrough.
If you're gonna make a splash, it might as well be with something as ingenious as this. Tuxlar brings a tiny bit of the magic of Minecraft to Doom as you use a shovel and later a jackhammer to dig out a cavern layout that's made of sterner stuff and populated with monsters. There are a lot of cheats that keep you from realizing the true limits of the idea in BEX, but the execution is better than I could have hoped. The only thing that's really missing are the vast ruins one might dig into while digging out such subterranean caverns, so here's hoping that Tuxlar comes back with some larger, more exploratory levels because this concept has a ways to go before going stale.
The Wailing Horde
Sometimes I wonder if Chris Hansen isn't secretly a stealth fighter pilot who spends his free time dropping cool little bombs on our Democratic Hugbox of Mediocrity. It would explain how maps like this get by without the red carpet being rolled out. Wailing Horde sneaks into this year's awards thanks to some really refreshing gameplay. It's the type of the map that makes you enjoy managing your resources, straining at the keyboard as monsters filter in from unseen nooks and hound you into areas you haven't been before. There's an intensity that lasts for most of the map - no small feat given the monster count and a running time of over forty-five minutes. If you have an hour to kill then this little gem's a must!
Reconstruction / Decomposition
Da Werecat didn't make a big impression when this level was initially made public, but a late bump (for another map, oddly enough) garnered a lot of attention. R/D oozes atmosphere from the moment you arrive, in part due to the unfamiliarity of its custom textures, but the soundtrack and pacing do a great job at building tension as you pick your way through a derelict spacecraft that teeters on the edge of insanity - with a little help from some silent teleports, of course. The "Decomposition" feels like a fresh take on Giger, and the combat moves past its MAP01 feel to archviles and Cyberdemons in its final moments. Don't let this one pass you by.