This week we have an enormous quantity of new maps - quite possibly a record number. However, don't get too excited; the majority of them have little or no worthwhile gameplay or architecture. Still, there are some quality maps to be found, especially for those who have a taste for weird levels, so let's go!
- Blind Alley 8, "Retribution" by Gene Bird (Searcher)
58kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
This is the 13th map in the Blind Alley series that Gene has released. If you've played the earlier maps, you'll know roughly what to expect: a well-made level that presents a good solid challenge, with the player given plentiful ammo and good weapons from the start. On this occasion he has also provided masses of health, so you can really take a few liberties with the monsters. The map consists of four main areas, all of which are fairly open in nature - so there is lots of scope for infighting, but on the other hand you can take damage from pretty much any angle.
The Blind Alley series is intended to be demo-friendly, so I'll assess it from that angle. I feel this map is suitable for several more demo categories than the earlier ones in the series. In addition to UV Max, it is fun for UV Speed, and UV Pacifist is OK too. Tyson is feasible, though it is quite difficult with so many hell knights and barons to punch out. UV -fast should be OK, but I'm sure Nightmare would be very tough.
From a speedrunner's perspective, there are some glitches, most notably awkward weapon changes - you are likely to pick up new weapons when under heavy fire (this happens with the single shotgun, berserk and chainsaw), and in a Max run you need to position yourself quite accurately to ride a vital lift. OK, that's nitpicking, but it does cause frustration when trying to shave a few seconds off your time.
Anyway, the odds are stacked nicely in the player's favour in this map, so you should have a blast. It mainly gets the award by default, but it's still a worthy wad of the week.
- Doom: Mercenaries Demo by Jacob 'ellmo' Zuchowski
734kb - Zdoom (UDoom) - SP - 9 maps - -
Here we have a full episode 1 replacement, mostly in E1 style though with plenty of items designed to look like "real things" too. It suffers from the standard E1 disease I mentioned in T/nC #150: the difficulty level is too low. There is really nothing to challenge the player here. The maps are all nicely made though, and there are some interesting effects achieved, so it is certainly worth playing. It is clear that a lot of work has gone into these maps, to get the fine details right. Zdoom features are mainly used for cosmetic purposes; it could have been made for vanilla without there being any enormous differences. Occasionally there are scripted messages, but they are not of vital importance - you could ignore them entirely and still find your way to the exit. One of them made me laugh: "What the f**k?" popped up on screen when something slightly surprising happened.
The one departure from E1 style occurs, appropriately enough, in the secret level, which is a remake of Quake's E1M1. It's OK, but I think Enjay did it better in his NJZdoom2001 (see map01).
Everything seems to work correctly, and I didn't get stuck anywhere, except that I couldn't quickly find how to open the red-key door in E1M5. I'll give ellmo the benefit of the doubt and assume that was my own stupidity.
- AvantGarden by Jow
117kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
There is some fun to be had from this somewhat plain map. The layout is fairly good, and the monsters well placed. However, finding your way around involves some slight trial-and-error. The rather drab central area features four identical corridors ending with identical doors - there is no indication which key opens which door. Also, there is a subterranean area where "walls" raise with little rhyme or reason. I don't want to get too picky though - this is a fun map, and definitely worth playing. Maxkills are possible, but you'll need to be well tooled-up for the final room.
- The Gate to Never Never Land by Templar
99kb - Advanced port (UDoom) - SP - 1 map -
A weird map, though weird in a good way. It also shows that an atmospheric and fairly attractive appearance can be achieved with just a small range of textures - a black one with a sprinkling of white specks/stars occurs throughout much of the map. Note that it looks far better in GL ports than in software mode though.
A dehacked patch provides some significantly modified monsters - the former human is transformed into a far deadlier foe, making the early parts of the map quite challenging (for those of us who insist on playing in pacifist style, anyway).
My main criticism of the map is that it is much too empty - monsters are few and far between, and you can just run through most of the map unopposed. You might even start to feel quite lonely as you plunge through the lengthy sequence of drops into the void.
- Nightmares of Loki 1999 by Jerry Lehr, Jr
4,776kb - Doom.exe (with dehacked) - SP - 34 maps - -
I'm not sure how lengthy a review it is worth giving this megawad, since the conclusion is simply "avoid like the plague".
I was forewarned about this wad. An earlier creation by Jerry Lehr Jr was called chaos3, and was recently demoed by "Maikl" Novikov, a man who seems to enjoy playing even very mediocre wads. The mild-mannered Maikl's comment on chaos3 was "Pretty lame wad: maps, music, structure of levels. Damn this wad. ... Don't create maps like these! NEVER!"
So, has Jerry Lehr Jr improved? Sadly not. This wad features dreadful sound effects, pointlessly recoloured monsters and weapons, together with nausea-inducing colour schemes and textures. But I could forgive all that (I think...) if it offered some worthwhile gameplay. However, gameplay is perhaps its weakest point of all. Typically you need to find a switch that opens a hitherto unmarked door on the other side of the map. You scour the map for it, and eventually find it, whereupon you find another switch that does just the same thing. Over and over and over again until you start to lose the will to live. OK, enough.
- Ebola: 32 Ways to Die by Hyena
39kb - Zdoom - ?? - 32 maps -
Yay, another megawad! However, this one also has no real gameplay value, but in a far less annoying way. Hyena decided that it would be fun to make 32 maps which quite simply kill the player. That's it. You die, the map exits, and then on to the next. You're more or less a spectator throughout all this, though you often have to press a switch, move around a bit or even kill a few monsters to trigger the events leading to your demise (and generally that of a boss brain too). Some people will find this entertaining, though I suspect most will consider it a waste of time.
- 2DMMAPS by Twiztid
1,121kb - Zdoom - DM - 32 maps - -
Yet another megawad! Whoopee. This one is deathmatch-only. Uh, OK. And the maps are very small and plain. Hmm.
Still, small can be good for DM - one need only think of Doom2's map01 and map07, both undoubted DM classics. However, most of these maps are even smaller than those, and have less interesting layouts. Some are just rectangles; map12 is plain silly, and others are purely there for novelty value, one presumes (e.g., map31 - see the automap; map23 has a novel feature, but a very simplistic implementation). A few of these maps might provide some fun deathmatch, but even then I suspect the players would get bored with them fairly quickly.
The music is pretty good. It mostly comes from a variety of well-known sources, but the textfile does not credit the composers.
- Ep1 by Twiztid
172kb - Zdoom (Doom2.wad) - SP/DM - 1 map -
Another E1-style map, though this one is little more than a straight clone of E1M1. Actually, it is a little less than that, since it lacks some of E1M1's more interesting features. To tell the truth, the moment I started playing this map, it made me think of 1337.wad's map23, which was an overscaled E1M3. Twiztid's map isn't quite so overscaled, and isn't packed with cybers, but is rather less funny. Zdoom features aren't in great evidence; perhaps the map only requires Zdoom because of the dark imps. It's odd that the textfile doesn't give Nanami a credit for the dark imp, but it does claim that permission has been obtained for all resources used.
- Enjay's Marine Assault (revision) by Nigel Rowand (Enjay)
3,390kb - Zdoom 2.0.47i or newer - SP - 1 map
A revised version of a map that was featured in T/nC #150. It features some small improvements and an enhanced textfile.
I uploaded three old wads this week. Following the popularity of Cyb's magnificent Void.wad in T/nC #152, I thought people might have developed a taste for weird wads with unusual graphics. And maybe maps that kill the player for no especially good reason. Anyway, I scoured my file archives for strange wads that I had enjoyed playing. I hope you like them, or at least that my descriptions here help you to avoid the ones that you would find too annoying. These are more descriptions than reviews - it would be silly for me to upload something just so I could slag it off, after all.
- Fortress of the Seven by Sonny Wasinger (Conductor)
683kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
This is a big and very challenging map. 9 cybers, 15 archies, 56 barons, 39 revenants, etc. Not to mention crushers and other hazards. It's not an especially weird wad, but sound effects from Hexen and Heretic give it a rather creepy atmosphere. I think you'll be doing well to get through this map in 40 minutes. I've posted some lmps in the Demos forum - you may want to check them out before getting stuck into this map, since it isn't exactly obvious what you need to do in some places.
- The Ana's Dream by Noe Cuerda Aguado
1,224kb - Doom2.exe (with dehacked and deusf) - SP - 1 map -
A highly atmospheric map with a lot of new graphics. The monster population is low - most of the time you will be trying to find your way around, wondering when the next ambush will take place. I strongly recommend playing without savegames - this will heighten the tension, and none of the ambushes are really deadly anyway. It's not a good map to play if you just want something to blast through quickly; it is quite complex, and you might start going around in circles if you get impatient with it. After a while you should get a feel for how it all works, and what the various clues mean. Expect it to take 30-40 minutes.
- Deus Ex Machina by Dave Pletcher
746kb - Doom2.exe (with dehacked and deusf) - SP - 2 maps - -
Now this one is weird. There are some wacky monster replacements (quite well done), and a dehacked patch that does some very odd things. Imps can walk through walls; sergeants explode upon dying; lost souls are replaced with slow-moving floating mines that are instant death if you touch them; rockets (both your own and the cyberdemon's) become something very bizarre. There are security cameras and other new graphics throughout. Gameplay seems very tough until you get a feel for what is dangerous and what isn't.
Please read the instructions I have provided in the textfile (not the one in the zip, which is unchanged, but the separate deus.txt in the archive). Source-port users do need to install the wad with "deusf -app machina.wad". Not all ports work with this wad though. Legacy and jDoom are OK; Zdoom is almost OK, except that sergeants don't drop a shotgun upon dying (which they should - I tested it with doom2.exe).
The wad does have one really annoying feature: some totally out-of-place quotes from Richard Nixon replace a few monster sounds. They add nothing and are just silly. If you know how, you may well wish to remove them from the wad before playing.
Note that there are demos for several of these wads are already available in the new Demos forum, and more can be expected to appear in the next few days.