Cyb says: Today everyone gets a double treat. First off you should note that t/nc is a whole two hours early (given that it's on time I mean), and second off this week's reviews are written by none other than author of the famous vrack series, Fredrik! Yaaaay Sweden! Here you go:
11 WADs this week, most of them single-map, single-player levels and of quite good quality. I wasted my entire Saturday playing these WADs and writing the reviews for them, so enjoy and start some entertaining flamewars for me.
The Cult: The Castle - Milian Moritz
doom2.exe - SP - 224k -
Running on Map 07 and likewise being part seven of an upcoming megawad, this is in many ways your standard castle level; it consists of a huge square building complete with a moat, a drawbridge, a central courtyard, wooden corridors, a sanctuary, various life-size rooms, dungeons, castle walls with a walk on top of them, etc.
You start outside the castle and immediately proceed into the main courtyard from which you can access the various other areas. The progression is quite straightforward and there's usually no more than one way to proceed. Unfortunately, most areas are extremely cramped and similar-looking - and there is a myriad of corridors, rooms and alcoves that you'll have to go through. I found a few areas to be, while not quite maze-like, a bit disorienting. Thanks to the automap I didn't get lost, but there's a slight chance you might, especially if you forget where the next locked door is located. The level is fairly big - it took me a respectable 28 minutes to beat.
Some of the rooms have gotten a righteous share of attention to detail: there are chairs, tables, bookshelves, stained glass windows and other elements intended to give the level an authentic touch. I particularly liked the rather cozy aquarium room. However, the level is seriously lacking in its overall aesthetics. There is very little actual architecture; the rooms are generally flat and rectangular, and most walls are nothing but plain walls without any interesting additional structures. The 64 unit narrow corridors, which give the impression of making up 3/4 of the map, are entirely uninteresting. The lighting is subpar as well, and not all textures are aligned correctly. The level is well below today's standards in this respect.
Gameplay-wise, the level is not exactly boring, but hardly interesting either. You'll spend most of your time gunning down weak enemies with your weak weapons. There are some traps and a few interesting fights, but most parts play similarly. There is just about enough ammo lying around, so no complaints there. The map is not very hard; I barely got a scratch on Hurt Me Plenty, so you'll probably have to try Ultra-Violence if you want a challenge.
In conclusion, a standard level with some interesting ideas but mediocre execution. By no means bad, but if you've played cramped and plain-looking castle levels before, you've pretty much played this one as well.
Demon's Revenge - DooMBoy
Boom - SP - 72k -
Now this is nice! A small, action-packed level that provides a decent challenge and is quite fun to blast through. Starting next to a super shotgun and having a berserk pack around the first corner, you're all set up for the ass-kicking this level provides.
Demon's Revenge is basically linear in the sense that there's only one way through, but the rooms are laid out compactly and ordered such that there's a central point which you have to run through a few times. This gives the level a nice feeling of flow.
Most monsters are medium-sized (i.e. about the order of Hell-Knights). There is enough ammo and health, but the Arch-Viles (there's more than one) can be frustrating if you're unlucky.
The rooms are somewhat cramped. Not too cramped for dodging fire while working with the super shotgun, but in my opinion (admittedly possibly simply because I suck) too cramped to allow convenient employment of the berserk. For a minor complaint, I don't see the point of the Imp cages in the first room. They're basically annoying and merely serve to consume time and ammo without being stimulating to clean out.
For the looks, the map is certainly a bit above "okay". We've seen the style (Ultimate Doom episode 4-ish marble/wood/metal) before, and there are no wow-inducing rooms. But there is architecture and the level of detail is fine (although some parts look a bit cluttered rather than actually good). Thumbs up.
Short and fun - a recommended play. Probably a good map for demo recording.
Deep Core 1 - Use3d
doom2.exe - SP - 67k -
This level was made in 1997, intended to be part of the author's upcoming megawad. He chose to release this one as a separate level since the lineup for the megawad was changed and this one didn't make the cut.
Deep Core 1 is a tech base somewhere between small and medium in size. Some rooms are slightly reminiscent of Doom's episode 1 while others use Doom 2 textures to the degree of looking more generic. The map is not excessively detailed, but looks quite good nevertheless due to good use of geometry and decent texture placement.
The layout forces you to run back and forth between the different sides of the map a few times. This is slightly annoying since crossing the map involves taking a double elevator ride through a centrally placed room, a bottleneck to an otherwise nicely flowing map. Switches and keys are usually not immediately close to the doors they open, but it's not hard to find your way around since the map isn't enormous.
The gameplay isn't thrilling. You only get to gun down small monsters and the traps are easily escaped. I'd say that it plays a bit like Knee-Deep In The Dead (except that it is less intriguing).
A bit generic in its tech base-setup, but fully enjoyable. I'm looking forward to the megawad.
OMFG DETAILZ0R - Shockwav3
ZDoom - n/a - 46k -
This is one of the most detailed levels ever made for Doom. Well, it's not really a level; it's just a room showing off excessive detail. The detail is here utilized such that it sculpts a personal computer and its peripherals (including the cables!).
It looks great, and I'm sure it took some time to do, but it's ultimately pointless. Let's just wait for Doom 3 instead.
Hell Pit - Use3d
doom2.exe - SP - 82k -
One more old level by Use3d. The quality of this level is surprising, considering that it was made in 1996 and that it was one of the author's first maps (at least, as the text file says, one of his first map that haven't gotten lost or deleted).
The theme is of the abstract kind (as for instance seen in Doom 2). There are some parts that vaguely resemble structures of a tech base, but most of the level is of the hellish brick-and-wood kind.
The design is for the most part excellent. This is a map that, unlike most, gets the scale right. While the level of detail is not particularly high, the detail is used well and there is enough geometry to make the map look good. The map is largely symmetrical, but that property is not exposed to the degree of being distracting.
The gameplay is mostly casual and not extremely challenging. A little bit of strategy beyond aiming, shooting and generally watching your step in suspicious-looking places is required to get through. There is still a fair amount of variation and it's fun all the way through.
The total supply of ammo is good, but what strikes me as a bit odd is that I kept running out of shotgun and chaingun ammo while I for the most part had a full supply of plasma cells. I generally prefer to enter a battle with the weakest weapon that I expect will get me out of it unharmed, and most of the battles in this map don't require a plasma gun. Putting more shells and fewer cells in the level would have made the gameplay more balanced and raised the difficulty level in a positive way.
So far so good, mostly anyway, but it must be noted that this map has a major flaw. It is even explained in the text file, so I suppose it is excusable by some definition, but it really doesn't make sense that the author didn't simply fix it for the release. The flaw is that you must locate an extremely obscurely placed room in order to reach the exit. This is strange considering that the layout and progression is clear during the rest of the level. You can ignore the flaw once you know about it, though.
A fun map, definitely worth a look.
Imp Atak (2004 edition) - Janizdreg
doom2.exe - SP - 365k -
This is an updated version of the previously released Imp Atak, now among other enhancements no longer requiring ZDoom.
Superficially, Imp Atak is quite good. The base is nicely textured and detailed with various kinds of rusty metal plate, and the surrounding desert looks like a desert. A fitting music replacement is provided.
The goal of this map is to kill as many Imps as possible and making it to the exit without dying. There are three types of Imp, with different strengths: lesser Imps, classic Imps, and dark Imps. Except for the chainsaw and the fists (which have been disabled), all weapons are available.
The map consists of a small base surrounded by a large outdoor area. The base has four rooms: a control room, an armory, a storage room, and an exit room. The last three rooms can only be accessed by operating switches in the control room. The first thing you must do is gain access to the armory, in which all weapons are located. From there on, you can start killing Imps. Your weapons must however be reloaded frequently, and reloading them can only be done by entering the base and touching ammo refill stations. This forces you to use some strategy.
The idea of putting the player in an arena where he must survive an endless stream of monsters as long as possible is good. But I don't find this map particularly fun to play, because the procedures involved are simply annoying, and mainly so due to there being no space whatsoever inside the base. And what's up with disabling the fists? This level would have been a lot more fun with berserking (the ultimate weapon for killing Imps). It wouldn't work with the current setup since it mainly revolves around the strategical use of ammo, but that could have been solved by choosing a different setup.
Imp Atak is for these reasons, the way I experience it, hard in a frustrating way rather than in a stimulating and enjoyable way. Cyb's Imp Arena, for comparison, is more fun. The author claims that all demo monkeys ought to enjoy this one, which might be the case. I suggest you try the map and form your own opinion - who knows, your idea of what makes a map fun to play might differ vastly from mine.
NesDeath I - Nestea
Source port recommended - DM - 556k -
What we have here is a YASODL - Yet Another Set Of Deathmatch Levels. These maps range from small to large and from perfectly symmetrical to not so symmetrical. There is, in other words, some variation. I can't tell how these maps play since I haven't tested them in deathmatch, but my perception from running around in them a bit is that they probably play decently. Not that most other deathmatch levels don't. Artistically, the levels are not masterpieces, but I suppose they look good enough for deathmatching in. Some new sounds and new music are provided.
Caged - Crono
doom2.exe - SP - 27k -
This is the author's first level, which shows. Expectedly, there are oversized flat rooms and some technical oddities (although there aren't really any significant bugs). There is only one room that has something that resembles architecture, and the architecture consists of a billion pillars. The level is fortunately short, and I can say for a positive thing that the choice of textures is not downright abysmal (green and blue are nice colors).
The Rebirth (debugged version) - Bjorn Ostmann a.k.a. Vader or Bobjet
doom2.exe - SP - 2774k
This is an updated version of The Rebirth, which was reviewed (with screenshots) in The /newstuff Chronicles #140. The changes don't affect the single player mode, so there's basically nothing new here for those who have played the first version and don't intend to try it out in multiplayer.
I have only played a few of the levels, so I might be wrong in my judgement, but Rebirth is quite good judging from what I've seen of it. The gameplay seems solid and the levels look good - a bit dull, generic and low on detail in places, but not bad. It gets bonus points for the secret levels.
One neat thing about this WAD is that it contains monster modifications, and that they actually look great. There are also some new sounds and new music.
The rundown of The Rebirth is that while it isn't quite Alien Vendetta, it's a very nice set of levels. Featuring a whole 32 good maps, and made by a single person, this is pretty much by definition no less than an amazing achievement.
Stress - JacK ThE RiPPeR
doom2.exe - DM - 195k -
This level is so small and so cramped that I can't imagine it being fun for deathmatch. But hey, maybe different people prefer to play the game in different ways. The visuals are decent, but not reason alone to make the level worth checking out. Contains new music.
V.O.L. R2 - Christopher Emirzian (Udderdude)
ZDoom - SP - 203k -
This is a remake of the WAD V.O.L. (1000 demons). Visually, it's a competent piece of work. It uses the dreadfully conventional brick/marble/metal theme, but uses it well. The level of detail is high throughout and there are some interesting architectural features. Nothing to elaborate on or complain about in this department, really.
The layout is simple. You start in an enclosed area in which you must locate and activate several switches in order to open a teleporter gate that takes you to the next area. Repeat for the next area. And again. The separate areas are small and logically structured so there's no risk of getting lost. I don't think this is the most interesting layout for a level, but the level does end before it gets unbearably tedious.
Most rooms are small, but there is enough space to handle the enemies without getting crammed. The fauna mostly consists of weak enemies, and there are never more of them coming at you simultaneously than there is room for you to handle. Playing on Hurt Me Plenty, I didn't find the map particularly challenging - just quite fun to play through casually, enjoying the (relatively speaking, as compared to most levels) nice visuals. There is more than enough ammo and health to keep you alive.
ZDoom is required, a fact that I find somewhat strange. I didn't notice any features that would be hard to implement using only Boom features (though maybe I'm just not observant enough).
A music replacement and some new sounds (taken from Heretic/Hexen) are included. I personally don't think they added much in this case, but change is always good as long as it doesn't detract.
Definitely worth checking out.
[11:00pm] <fredrik> add "P.S. I lied. All the WADs suck."