Well ho ho ho, insert festive reference here! This Boxing Day edition brings a very large crop of new wads, encompassing a great variety of styles and themes: some traditional, and others breaking wholly new ground. The quality varies similarly, with works of near genius alongside frozen reindeer spraints. So let's jump down the chimney into what shall be my last /newstuff Chronicles for a while (with it being the ski season and whatnot).
- Super Sonic DooM by Stephen Clark (The Ultimate DooMer!)
18,339kb - Zdoom 2.0.94f only + Doom2 - SP - 35 maps - - - - - - - - - - - -
We start with what is this week's biggest wad in every respect. The Ultimate DooMer is one of the community's best-known mappers, and he has been working on this project for about two years. And working quite hard for most of that time, I would imagine. Super Sonic DooM offers 35 maps, many of them very large and complex, a host of new and modified monsters, new graphics and special features not seen before in a Doom wad. The central theme is Sonic the Hedgehog, but this is not a Sonic TC or port, but a Zdoom megawad which draws upon ideas from the Sonic games. Note that you don't have to be familiar with the Sonic games for it to make sense though; instructions are supplied on a few special features, but mostly it is self-evident. You'll quickly get used to the yellow and red bounce pads, and the fact that you need to jump onto the console thingamajigs to obtain the power-ups displayed on their screens, or that if you see something that looks like a big mounted gun, it is worth pressing on it to see if anything happens, etc.
The game is split into distinct zones, each with their own design themes. Each map includes a battle that, when completed, grants you access to the next map - this is either a straight battle against monsters, or some sort of boss battle where, e.g., you need to shoot a target a certain number of times while dodging missiles. You are awarded bonuses for 100% kills or 100% secrets, and for how quickly you complete a level. This is tallied up in a running total score. This score is just for fun though, and doesn't affect the behaviour of the game, so if you prefer to take your time, or can't be bothered to find the secrets, then you won't necessarily suffer because of it. The game is intended to be played through from start to finish, rather than warping to individual levels - in most cases, a pistol start would leave you in considerable difficulties (there are some notable exceptions though), and the gameplay clearly has not been designed with that in mind.
It must be said that some of the challenges are distinctly unfair, and some of them are likely to kill the player when he encounters them for the first time. Moreover, there are places where it is possible to get trapped, so it makes sense to save quite often. There are a number of Hexen-style hazards, such as moving crushers, pits opening up, or hallways where you have to dodge projectiles. Others are monster-based traps, and they can be particularly nasty when modified monsters are involved.
There is a kind of story, with sometimes slightly leaden dialogue interspersed with the occasional Doomworld in-joke. I am pleased to see that Ultimate DooMer has made an effort to avoid situations where the player gets killed because he is forced to watch a cut scene while a monster strolls over and bites him to death (though that can still happen). One thing that I have mentioned before, and that strikes me as weird, are the doors that open and close not by physically opening and closing, but by a message coming up on screen: "the door is open" signifies that you can now walk through a still obviously closed door. OK, I understand that there is a good technical reason for it being done that way, but I'd regard it as too absurd to leave in myself - it would be better just to do things a different way.
So overall, does it work? Frankly, I'm not sure. While I am in awe at the amount of work and creativity that has gone into this wad, it isn't really a type of gameplay that appeals to me. Personally, I prefer maps that are rather more free-flowing, and less puzzle- and trap-based. However, this is a quality piece of work, and should appeal to those who enjoy the types of challenges it presents.
Note (in case you didn't notice the information above): This wad currently only works with a special version of Zdoom: 2.0.94f. It does not work with 2.0.95 or 2.0.96, due to bugs in those versions that cause fatal problems with Super Sonic DooM.
- Massmouthmas by Cyb (mostly)
3,665kb - Zdoom 2.0.94 + Doom2 + Massmouth 2 - SP - mini-hub (3 maps) - -
Note: requires massm2.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It's low on action, but strong on plot, as you have to accomplish several tasks in this add-on for Massmouth 2. I found that it was always clear enough what you needed to do next, even though the information was provided on a need-to-know basis, and there is a clear assumption that the player is alert to little nuances, and has a sense of curiosity. It is possible to start going round in circles, especially in the caves, though. The battles, when you get to them, aren't so tough, and quite small in scale. Some of the monsters are seasonal, but I won't spoil the surprise. The final boss (I think it can be called a boss, since it can kill you in one shot, and takes some strategy and a number of hits to kill) is a bit of a challenge, but if you have read all the info on the computer screens (btw, lol @ impse), you should know what to do. Jumping is required, and mlook will be needed for the boss battle, if nothing else. It's a surprisingly large set of levels for just a few days' work, and the quality is high too. Cyb mentions a few misalignments in the caves, but there's nothing that really looks bad. Definitely recommended.
- TV1998 by Thomas van der Velden (aka T.V.)
712kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 22 maps - -
Chances are you're familiar with the name Thomas van der Velden due to his megawad TVR! (a.k.a. Revolution). That was released in 2001 and contained 32 fairly small maps that were fun to play and visually interesting, with many of the maps resembling places that could actually exist. Apparently, he has unearthed a number of his earlier maps that he thought were lost forever, and released them as this 22-level wad. While not as polished as TVR!, these maps are just as much fun, and in several cases are prototypes of his later maps (the same exit trick in the rocket level can even be used), or at least include some areas that you may recognize. All the maps are very playable from pistol starts and without using savegames. In total, it will probably take something like 2-3 hours to get through them all on a first play. Themes vary, but pipes appear quite often, and the gameplay packs a few little surprises, but nothing that should kill an alert player without warning. The balance is generally good, with health and ammo a little on the generous side, but never excessively so.
- Courtyard Escape by Lars Thomas Boye aka Larsboy
271kb - limit-extending port + Doom2 + Gothic textures - SP - 1 map - -
First of all, note that this wad requires gothictx. Given that fact, the design/texturing theme of this map will come as no surprise: it is
futuristic/aliengothic. The map is of a type you don't see too often: the action takes place in a big, wide-open area with free movement across the map for both player and monsters. The player's task is to escape from this walled-in area, for which three keys are required. The keys and weapons are scattered among the various buildings that are within the courtyard, and the player must decide in what order to collect them. This makes for a great many possible routes, but be warned: your actions trigger the release of more monsters into the courtyard, and while the supply of power-ups (mostly in the central area) is generous, you need to make good use of them. Please note the author's comments about skill levels: UV is really difficult if you don't have a route worked out, while NTR is a good option if you just want to go on a killing spree with the odds stacked in your favour. There are enough snipers that a simple policy of "release the monsters and then circle around them while they kill each other" is likely to fail, as you'll take damage a bit too quickly if you're not careful. Design-wise, many of the buildings and structures make some sort of sense, and resemble what you might find inside a medieval courtyard. Overall, this is a good and attractive map, and I've certainly had plenty of fun playing it. But don't complain if you dive straight in on UV and get your butt kicked all over the place.
- IC2004 AKA Cut 'N' Paste by Ian Cunnings
1,425kb - Zdoom 2 + Doom2 - SP - 1 map -
The first thing to point out is that this map only works in Zdoom. The text-file claims it requires only "Boom compatible (with increased SEG limit)", and that it was "Tested and works fine in ZDoom 2.0.63a and PRBoom 2.2.6". However, it contains a door that only opens in Zdoom, so I can only imagine that the testing in PrBoom consisted solely of checking it didn't crash at start-up. I believe "tested with ..." should mean at the very least that someone has run through the map (with nomo or godmode, whatever), and checked that it is actually possible to exit the map via the intended route.
Anyway, the map itself is described as "comprised of (about) 5 previously unreleased maps ... pasted together to form 1 larger level". Design-wise it doesn't appear anything like as disjointed as that might suggest. Apart from the starting area, with caves and bloodpools, the map is mostly techbase (some parts in a state of being transformed by the demons), and generally rather attractive and intricate. The gameplay flow perhaps suffers a little more from the method of construction, with somewhat haphazard progression and the need for a fair bit of backtracking. The ammo and health supply are tight - I'd suggest using both the chainsaw and infighting to your advantage as far as reasonably possible. The battles are mostly quite routine though, although if you're careless you might find yourself boxed in by, e.g., mancs or trons. Overall, the map is OK, but not one to get wildly excited about.
- Xmas 2004 by Gemini
1,333kb - port? + Doom2 - SP/DM? - 8(?) maps -
This is a Christmas-themed wad using a bunch of resources taken from here there and everywhere. I presume Ty was imbued with Christmas goodwill when he decided not to reject this wad: it is not zipped, it's unfinished, and the text-file lacks some of the basic information (such as the point that Xmas04be.wad is the principal wad, of six maps, and that Xmas04bd.wad is a two-map DM add-on). Gemini has succeeded in making an attractive Christmas town scene, but not in making a wad that is very interesting to play. Of the six-map SP wad, only two are real maps - the other four are just linking scenes. In the two maps where you face opposition, you have limited health, and meet significant numbers of small enemies, mostly hitscan ones. This makes the gameplay kind of tedious. It's not overly difficult, but not much fun either. In the town scene, you face odd-looking criminal types, most of whom are stone deaf. You end up jumping between rooftops. You then receive an e-mail from Santa, and head off to mark his card. On the way to meet him, you encounter a large number of elves, who for some reason speak German and claim to be members of the SS. Once they are dealt with (they do a very good job of killing each other, BTW), you need to run across rooftops once more to get a key so you can then tackle Santa himself. Well, whatever. I suspect you'd have more fun and feel more Christmassy if you just replay AV with a Christmas music wad.
- Denial by Agent (Matthew D. McGee) Spork
512kb - Zdoom 2.0.94 + Doom2 - SP - 1 map -
In the recent past, Agent Spork has made a couple of maps based on original E1 maps, with added Zdoom features. I reviewed one of them in T/nC #195. I'll quote from that: "there are quite a few little surprises and traps added in, but on the negative side, the map is now much more linear, with less choice about how to tackle each area. I doubt this map has a great deal of replay value. Still, it's nicely executed and it's certainly worth playing once or twice. You'll probably want to make a few savegames, since some of the traps are a bit unfair". Although the map currently under consideration is not an E1 conversion, the style is much the same, and similar criticisms apply: it is almost entirely linear, with some battles that aren't wholly fair unless you know what is coming. One of the great things about Doom is, IMO, the scope for creativity in route selection, and that is absent here. That said, the appearance of the map is excellent - you may be on a monorail, but it is at least a very good-looking monorail.
- The Overcoming by Ian Chipman (riki)
44kb - Zdoom 2.0.63 + Doom2 - SP - 1 map -
This is an attractively-made E1-style map, with some added Zdoom features - most notably coloured lighting and a ground-shaking effect. According to the text-file, "This level can be somewhat tough, considering that if you don't find the (very well-hidden) single-barrel shotgun, you'll have to get around with just the pistol." I'd disagree with that - the gameplay is easy and not exactly exciting, even if you just get by with the pistol. There is plenty of ammo, and no great threat to our marine from any of the enemies. You get a berserk near the exit, if you need it.
- Baron's Keep by Agent Spork
29kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map
For some reason Agent Spork has decided to show off one of his early maps, informing us "It sucks". At the time he made it, he wisely decided not to release this one to the archive. If you show similarly poor judgement and decide you actually want to play it, then it is a map where trial and error is the only way to get through. It really is quite a mess though, in terms of design, gameplay and overall concept. Actually, there is one interesting thing here: Spork's liking for linear gameplay and annoying battles in confined spaces, IMO the principal weaknesses of his current mapping, are present here in spades.
- TsotsoFx by Michael "Optimus" Kargas
1,300kb - Doom.exe - SP - 9 maps -
I don't get it - it seems to be a plague. Apparently Optimus plans to release some good maps in the future, but first has decided to release this, in the full knowledge that it is appallingly bad. How is this meant to be a good idea? Does he really think this will mean any later maps he releases will be seen in a more favourable light? Anyway, it's a 9-map episode with an additional sounds wad that you will definitely want to (v)omit from your command line. As for the maps... well, sometimes you come across a wad that you realize must have inspired some of the maps in projects like thissuxx, 1337 and mock2. This is one of them. The first map is just moderately poor, but some of the later ones are grotesque overammoed messes, with, e.g., BFGs covering the floor, and a collection of hapless monsters to be mowed down in amongst some rather crass architecture. Avoid.
- Destructomaniac by TheDarkArchon
256kb - ZDoom 2.0.63a - weapons mod -
First of all, note that this works only with Zdoom 2.0.63a. It requires features that are in that version, and because it uses that DEHSUPP thingy, it won't work with 2.0.9x. So if you want to use this, you'll need to juggle with your Zdoom versions.
As the name suggests, this is a set of weapon replacements that are rather more powerful than the defaults. The graphics are taken from a variety of sources, with some modifications. The rocket launcher now fires three rockets, while the plasma gun is slower, but the shots home in on their targets, while the BFG replacement, called the "EFC 24000", chucks plasma in pretty much all directions, often as not back at the player.
- Ye ole hexen replacement weapons by Cutmanmike
3,519kb - Hexen - weapons replacement -
This replaces the graphics of the Hexen weapons, artifacts and players, with the stated aim of giving them "a more futuristic theme". I'm not convinced this fits too well with Hexen, but maybe it will if someone makes some futuristic Hexen maps/textures. The behaviour of the weapons is unchanged.
- Mercúrio by Carlos Guariglia
12kb - CDoom v2.05 + Doom2 - SP - 1 map
A new release of a wad reviewed briefly in #203.
The first two of these were uploaded by "RL", while Funduke is responsible for most of the others. I get the impression RL uploads maps if he considers them good, but that Funduke applies no quality control.
- The Hall by Jim McColm
143kb - Doom.exe - SP - 1 map -
Another Jim McColm map! This one follows Blood and Legion, which were featured in the Old Stuff Chronicles, and were both uploaded belatedly to the archive. This one is certainly a quality map, but I'd say it's rather less fun to play than Legion, principally because it is easy to end up wandering around, not sure what to do next. In particular, there is a not-so-obvious switch you need to press in the long hallway in order to get one of the keys. Also, there is an area where I think it is possible to get trapped. Other than that, it is a fun map, offering a moderate challenge and something like half an hour's play.
- The Sewers by Steve Kraushaar
114kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
This large map offers quite a challenge, with repetitive architecture and texturing (albeit consistent with the theme), and some unfair moments, such as the series of lifts leading up to a hell knight that you can't see unless you're a little lucky. The sewage in this place is green, for some reason.
- CHRISK.WAD (THE FINAL INSULT) by Christen David Klie
378kb - Doom.exe - SP - 12 maps
This appears to be the same (I'm not sure if it is 100% identical though) as the first half of the Lost Episodes of Doom, a much-hyped but rather average commercial product. The last time someone tried to upload Lost Episodes to the archive, it got nuked. Having said that, this particular file appears to have been distributed for free on the web by its creator, and so maybe it can therefore be distributed legally. The maps are competently made, but unexciting. You can read Ultimate DooMer's review of Lost Episodes in T/nC #128. Note that Klie's maps in Lost Episodes are generally regarded as far better than Carter's.
- Challenge by Andy
65kb - Doom.exe - SP - 1 map -
By 1994 standards, this is a fairly large and complex map. If you are a fan of the genre, you'll probably want to give this one a go. Not difficult, but not a turkey shoot either.
- Overlord by Todd Smith
76kb - Doom.exe - SP - 1 map -
Odd: this contains two copies of the identical map, with different filenames. It's a fairly typical 1994 map - nothing grotesque, but nothing of any great interest in terms of design or challenge.
- DMSEWER by Andy
30kb - Doom.exe - SP - 1 map
Yay, more sewers! This time it is a medium-sized map, and not too challenging, and the texturing is unconvincing. Overall, this is a typical random 1994 map, where nothing makes too much sense.
- Escape by Mark Spaeth (Wayne Gretzky)
126kb - Doom.exe - SP - 1 map -
A large and very annoying map, with, for instance, a big and pointless maze. The mapper may well have talent, but he ruined everything here by failing to make his wad fun to play.
- Games by Dave Hansford
18kb - Doom.exe - SP - 1 map
I've no idea what game this is supposed to represent, but it's just an ugly map which is tedious to play. There are lots of small enemies and limited health and ammo, but infighting does most of your work for you.
- Castles by Rob Whitney
21kb - Doom2.exe - SP/DM - 1 map
I can't see anything resembling a castle here - more just blocks, rectanges and holes in the ground. It's a medium-sized DM map or a small SP map depending on how you look at it. For SP, there are just a few monsters, and more than enough goodies provided for you to dispatch them all without undue difficulty.
- The Chasm by Steven Doornbos
13kb - Doom.exe - DM - 1 map
A small DM map with a little chasm and routes across it. The big weapons, including the BFG, are all easily available.
- "Chicken" and "Gangstar" by GANGSTAR/CTX/SWL
79kb - Doom.exe - DM - 2 maps
Two maps for DM. They also have some monsters in them, but no exits. Chicken is essentially just a walkway with rocket launchers, while Gangstar is more of a sprawling map with a warren of rather monotonous passageways off one side of a central crate warehouse.