Okay, here it is, finally; The /newstuff Chronicles #266, old stuff edition. And it's a pretty good week too, if I may say so, with a whole fine megawad and other interesting things, including a school TC from '96 and a few additional fun-to-play wads. Grazza will start off as usual, with that juicy megawad and a few other goodies (including British cheese):
I've only 42 maps to present this time, I'm afraid. However, this includes one very solid megawad from an otherwise unknown Russian wadmaker...
- Extremal Doom by Mikle Ilyin
756kb - Doom.exe - SP - 27 maps - - - - -
This 3-episode megawad for (Ultimate) Doom is undoubtedly the highlight of this month's offerings. Its 27 maps are of generally high quality, with a fair amount of new graphics, competent (or better) construction, and gameplay that is well-balanced and challenging - one presumes as a result of considerable testing.
Each map is fully playable from a pistol start on UV, though if you play it this way you may find some of the maps to be quite a scramble to survive until you have hit upon a good strategy. The maps are not jam-packed with enemies - they are more strategically placed, and you need to make good use of your resources, and in general exploit the fact that you are (I hope!) more intelligent than the Doom monsters. The maps are for the most part medium sized, with, as one would expect, smaller ones near the start of each episode. There were very few places where I was left wondering what to do next, and only at one point did I feel I was using trial and error (and that stage didn't last long, as the first and most obvious random act was what was needed to open up the next part of the map). I felt that the secret areas were especially well done. Often a somewhat tricky manoeuvre is needed to reach them - an awkward little jump or perhaps you need to spot a ledge that you can somehow reach. In almost all cases there is a visual clue of some sort.
I didn't discern much in the way of strong and consistent themes, though there are certainly some tendencies. Several of the maps have a space ship/station feel to them, while there are a few attractive maps in more natural settings (rocks, caves, etc.), together with some nicely done town/city areas. I found the following maps to be especially memorable: E1M4 (good water areas and ledges along the banks), E1M6 (complex map - a real sense of achievement upon surviving it), E1M7 (superb map! somehow caverns, water and buildings are merged in a convincing manner), E2M2 (a fortress with good use of height differences), E2M3 (stone and water themes, and tricky battles), E2M5 (just excellent flow and balance, and a good idea for the secret exit), E2M7 (intense battles and some fancy footwork needed), E2M9 (it features a dockyard and a boat; you can't go wrong if you put a boat in your map), E3M3 (a city map on a grand scale - the textures work very well here), E3M6 (excellent use of height differences, and gameplay balanced on a knife-edge), E3M7 (a good spaceship), E3M8 (a creative and fitting finale) and E3M9 (secret maps are meant to be a bit weird, aren't they?).
Extremal Doom's original date of construction is not clear. Hitherto it had only been available in remote and dimly-lit corners of the internet, because the author had made the mistake of distributing it as an iwad. Judging from his e-mail address, he may be from the port town of Tuapse on the Black Sea. This is a pwadized version, made by Andrey Budko with the author's agreement.
Overall, I reckon most Doomers will want to download this, and should have at least several hours of fun with it.
- Callisto Anomaly by Vince Russett
322kb - Doom.exe - SP - 5 maps - - -
First off, I would like to point out that the author of this wad is from Cheddar, home of the single most popular cheese in the world.
There's a clear progression within these five maps, with the quality, complexity and creativity increasing as we progress further through the mini-episode. The first map kind of reminds me of opost21 (one of the first "good" pwads) in style, but with more errors, less variety and a greater need for backtracking. You might want to skip that one, unless you like that kind of map. In the second map, the author shows his credentials as an archaeologist: the map is based on actual plans of the Roman Baths at the city of Bath, England. Bath is just a few miles down the road from me, and the map did seem kind of familiar before I had read the text-file, so I guess he must have succeeded. As often happens when a real place is reconstructed within the Doom engine, the gameplay suffers a little. Sadly, the ancient Romans didn't give sufficient consideration to flow and connectivity. And the author ran into some limitations of the original Doom engine when trying to recreate the structure, and resorted to some slight kludges to get around them. Still, if Dooming in a real place gives you an extra tingle of excitement, this one should float your boat.
The final three maps have more of an "accomplished mapper" feel to them. The construction is good, the level of complexity is a few notches higher, and the gameplay is tight and challenging. These three maps are all speedrun-friendly, with ways to reach the exit quickly (about a minute apiece). On the other hand, these maps could also have done with some more playtesting, since there are ways to get stuck in a few places. E1M3 is a dark and confusing affair, but fast-placed and fun. I can't quite place the music, though it has a definite 1980s feel to it. The same can be said for E1M4's music, though the map is a far brighter affair, with brushed metal walls, outdoor areas, wood and nukage in evidence, together with some non-obvious progression. Note that there is a teleporter in a nukage area for which different sides lead to different places. For E1M5 there are some hints of the Roman baths again, but dark corridors and nukage pools also make their appearance. There's also a narrow ledge to negotiate, and the odd jump to get some goodies.
Overall it is a somewhat mixed bunch of maps. If you're feeling dubious about it, check out one of the last three maps and take it from there. The text-files are also quite amusing - in fact, I remembered some of the comments in them from when the maps first appeared, even though I had forgotten the maps themselves. For instance: "How the hell do the things reproduce? I mean, can you imagine a Mr and Mrs B.o.Hell?" OMG, Baronse in 1995.
- Aboo4 by Bob Reganess
447kb - Doom2.exe - SP/DM - 4 maps - - -
Bob Reganess released a number of wads, which for the most part were quirky, if not rampantly eccentric - he was never one to feel bound by convention. He also made a large number of graphics, sounds and musics, many of which since appeared in a variety of other wads (including one by Alex Mayberry). This collection of four maps is not as polished as his more major releases (System Vices and Doomstone), and I presume they are some of his earlier or more experimental maps. The four maps are unconnected, and a couple (map02 and map03) are perhaps better maps for DM than for SP. Map01 offers us some sort of building together with an outdoor area (and plenty of teleporters to get about the place), and features two cyber-spider confrontations. Map02 is a large and somewhat surreal, wide-open arena, with some more twiddly side-areas. Map03 has stone, wood and some blocky design. It's overall quite bland, and we are allowed to exit the map early rather than face any of the larger (albeit one-sided) battles. Map04 is an odd mix, with the later "weird" areas more impressive than the house-style start (complete with tutti-frutti table).
- Demon's Feast by Cary Maucere
64kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
Here's the obligatory map for those who love to mow down large numbers of monsters. They're mostly small monsters, but the balance is good - you can die at more or less any stage of this map, especially if you are playing aggressively. However, there is nothing actually unfair - you can play it safe if you like, but whether that actually makes it much easier, I'm not sure. Initially, there is a lot of green marble, followed by areas with more wood than anything else. There's a fair bit of blood about too. The map's name comes from an area with tables adorned with health potions. Give it a go - it's a blast, with no frustrating aspects to the gameplay.
- Gogomap by Kurt Dillard
73kb - Doom2.exe - SP/DM - 1 map -
While not a large map by any means, Gogomap offers a lot of action. It is based around "Go-Go Studios in Austin, Texas" (where the author worked) and "the cheesy Mexican restaurant across the street: Pato's. (Both the interior and exterior are REALLY that odd looking and mismatched)". Somehow it works pretty well, though it is a map of two halves, apart from the abundant possibilitities for infighting between the populations of two buildings. Gameplay-wise, you'll be running for your life initially, but once you've got things under control, it becomes a little easiser, assuming you haven't wasted most of your health, power-ups and ammo by that point.
- Omega by Steve Kraushaar
71kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
This dark map offers a stern challenge from a moderate-sized monster population by putting the player in a series of somewhat awkward situations. The flow is good on the whole, broken only by a few places where a little waiting is needed and by the fact that some switches are not very obviously marked (differently coloured areas of wall in some cases). There is one significant bug that I found: there are two switches next to each other just after the blue-key door. You need to trigger the stairs in that room to build before pressing the switches. And you need to shoot a wall at one point. And to be aware that there are some little invisible steps leading up to the red-key and yellow-key doors. Otherwise, the map is fun. The decor features a lot of dark grey stone, and there is some nukage too. Lots of slow and noisy self-building steps and linedef-triggered ambushes complete the picture of a map that will delight some, and annoy others enormously.
- Zeh by Jeremy Zeh
42kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
An eponymously-named map is often not a very good sign. However, this simple but competently-made map plays quite well, apart from a little too much backtracking being needed in the later stages. An archie and a cyber could cause problems if you handle them badly, but otherwise there aren't any nasty surprises. If you like your maps to have rhyme and reason, you might want to steer clear; otherwise it is worth a quick look.
- The Stench Of Burning Death by PROLIFIC dEaTH WORKSHOP
70kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
This is the first of two maps by "PROLIFIC dEaTH WORKSHOP" that have puzzled me for years since I first downloaded them. There appeared to be no legitimate way to exit either of them. What's more, the makers offered their services as wad repairers to other mappers. The problem turned out to be that the wad contained two versions of the map: one with too many doors that needed a key, while the other was a fully playable rendition, hidden away as map16. I have removed the buggy one, and moved the correct version to the map01 slot.
It's an odd map, that's for sure. A challenge, but certainly not overwhelming by any means. The central area of the map features very narrow ledges à la map24, but don't worry: they're not so difficult, and it's no great disaster if you fall a couple of times. There are also some tricks to avoid having to walk the whole length of them. Branching off from there are several side-areas. Unfortunately, there's no real indication which is the right way to go when you haven't got any keys, so you may find yourself needing to backtrack. And that backtracking will need to be via those ledges again. Each side-area features a moderate battle, but you should be well equipped for them. There are some minor puzzles, but nothing complex. Overall, as long as the ledges don't bother you too much, there should be a good half-hour's fun to be had with this map.
- Sacrificial Suicide by PROLIFIC dEaTH WORKSHOP
68kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
This is a map30, and this time the problem that had made the map unplayable was a node issue, creating some solid air where you really needed there to be normal gaseous air. Presumably they had done a last-minute node rebuild before uploading. Whatever, it's fixed now.
You start off in an icon-type area, but there is nothing to be done there as yet. Early on, there isn't anything too difficult, but as with all the maps by these guys, you can't afford too many careless mistakes. And you need to be on the lookout for secrets and for walls that need to be shot. After you escape from the base, you reach an outdoor area with canals, which leads on to the boss area itself. The shooter is there, but where's the brain? I won't give the gameaway, but I'll just mention again that you may need to shoot walls, and that it would be wise to remember the map's starting area.
- Arena for DOOM II by Daniel Griffiths
75KB - Doom2 - 1 map - DM - - - - SP/Coop - - - -
A map to play whenever you're merely looking for some frags and a game without a complex tactical scheme. It's made up of an open central area where the heavier weapons are located. Around that area we've got long passages with enough armament to prepare us to go out without dying in the attempt, plus a few other items (power-ups) that don't make too much of a difference. Due to its size its recommended for at least four players in sake of more action, though it wouldn't be a bad idea to play on one-on-one mode if one has more time.
Against the monsters you start off facing the inner arena, which is well protected and dominated by a Cyberdemon who wishes to grind your bones with its rockets. Other monsters back him up, making it riskier to just stroll in carelessly. Around the arena you've got two levels of passages; the tunnels (and adjoining rooms) in the preimeter from where you can navigate around the arena with relative ease, and a series of galleries bordering the arena proper. These galleries can be temporarily closed off with a mechanism that can also affect DeathMatch games a bit, giving moments of less direct action while the walls are up. A DOOM version of the map was uploaded with this one, and it's quite similar, except that the opposition is slightly weaker and there is no BFG (and that's fine for DeathMatch, since there is not SSG to face it off with.)
- Castle by Daniel Griffiths
35KB - Doom - 1 map - SP/Coop - - - - - DM - -
This map is a small walled keep surrounded by a dangerous moat, plus a small adjacent tunnel complex with some goods in it. It's not too hard, yet the pelting Shotgun guys and an occasional roaming Cacodemon can catch you off guard over the walls, and hurt you enough, especially since health is reasonable but not overabundant. The main issues the map suffers from are VPOs in the outer area (most people can ignore these nowadays) and no exit. The VPOs are common enough to make one wonder how the author played the wad, since they even occur on low detail (but not with 5 screen blocks.) And perhaps the author intended that the map be played with -timer? Another curious thing is that on the outer area you can walk out the ends of short halls that would appear to hit dead ends. Other than that, at least is looks relatively tidy. It is possible that the map was incomplete, though there is no clear indication of this on the text file.
Castle has various issues in DeathMatch mode, mainly the distribution of the weapons, that are found in places that require a previous effort to get to. In addition to the items within the walls or in the keep itself, there are additional ones outside. The size makes it best for about three players.
- Circle for DOOM II by Daniel Griffiths
64KB - Doom2 - 1 map - DM - - Coop - - - -
Here we have a DeathMatch map with a particular twist of its own. It's composed of an encircling hall divided by similar room that each hold teleporters to the next such room (either way, back nad forth) and that surround a central room defended by crushers which guard shorter secret halls that hold useful items. In the periphery of the hallway ring there's some irregular tunnels that somewhat break the symmetry of the map. Due to the combination of crushers in multiple locations, teleporters, some additional barrels and doors that open automatically as you move through, the best way to hunt your opponent down is to listen to or observe (and peeking at the the automap becomes handy here) activation effects, which makes for a hunter-style game which is more interesting than usual. Confrontations are intermittent and mostly in generally confined areas (the rooms are never too big nor are they generally plain.)
Single player is not really possible in this map due to the nature of the exit; the door to the exit room must be opened by one player while the other awaits near it. Cooperative play is quite possible, though due to the confined architecture and the circular layout it's best if each player takes a different path, joining up at the end, near the exit. Opposition is decent, as there are a good deal of monsters, some of which are of the relatively larger variety, in the hallways and smaller rooms. Ammo, though, is relatively plentiful.
- Fox (Map12) by The Fox
31KB Doom2 - 1 map - DM - - - - -
A series of large rooms without evident relation between each other; some present characteristics that allow the player to hide in the dimness and camp for frags, while the others generally allow either long or short distance fighting. Weaponry is sorted throughout the map, and free-for-all games are recommended, or one could get bored.
- Private Hell, Part III Revisited by FLAGG (aka Matrix)
32KB - Doom2 - 1 map - SP/Coop/DM - - - -
Seemingly the third of a series, this map was designed primarily with DeathMatch in mind. But the crude level is relatively big and DeathMatch games on it might be somewhat uninteresting. In single player the monsters are not many, but more or less sufficient for the map dimensions. There are lesser and medium-tough monsters that provide a light challenge without being too deadly at any point, but the ammo isn't excessive and the item/thing placement is not bad, so they aren't harmless either. Curiosly the the author made a mistake, and you need but two of the three keys to get through; one of the doors is marked for one key but is opened by another that you get earlier.
- Wizard's Rage II by Ernest Anthony Marino and Sal Gonzalez
142KB - Doom - 1 map - SP/Coop/(DM) - - - -
A rather large and well-populated level where you infiltrate a base called Octa-Gamma. The wad comes with an intro text in EXE format and a separate map that goes with that intro briefing, showing you the overall shape of the base. The map itself is relatively tidy, with a scale where the textures fit in without glitches, and with carefully made geometric sections. The lighting is relatively even thoughout, with only slight variations to mark some areas, which gives the map a very simple but smooth appearance. The action is relatively constant as nearly all rooms provide opponents, while the progress can be pretty straightforward though some areas can cause confusion, such as the initial teleporter area, a maze section, and a toxic area which is not too easy to leave (especially if the Enviro-suit is gone.) For DeathMatch the map seems big; each octagonal section could serve as a fragging arena in itself.
- Wizard's Rage III: The Castle of Hell by Ernest Anthony Marino and Kim Roser
109KB - Doom - 1 map - SP/Coop/(DM) - - - -
Here Anothony has tried his hand with a castle theme. The map is shorter than the previous map in this series (see above) and generally easier, but a bit more consistent mimetically (the other one was merely "a map", and consequentially didn't even have a subtitle.) The castle is relatively big, but in overall layout isn't complex. The start is the hardest part, where you must reach decent weaponry while shot at or followed from various sides, though not too hard as the monsters don't pelt you with anything you can't avoid. Inside the castle encounters are more controlled, but a bit tougher toward the end, though there's never anything truly nasty. Although DeathMatch is supported it fails to be exciting because the map is expansive and weapons are far apart and often not close to where the player starts.
- School-DOOM by Gotara, Gigademon and Faidros,
with Jelly and Ostrowsky
1.8MB - Doom - 5 maps - SP/Coop - - - -
Here we have a genuine TC themed in a school environment. If your kid shows psychopathic tendencies and has reportedly threatened school staff or mates with death, don't have him play this; his warped mind might get nasty ideas. But if on the other hand he's relatively normal, as most people are, he'll see this as the product of some kids (from a land where the media, or the concept of it, is relatively free) having fun and expressing school-bred frustrations in an entertaining way. In the wad most things have been changed (even the music is new), except some of the weapons and a couple of monsters. The new graphics are pretty basic and cartoonish, with simple shading and generally saturated colors, but the Pupils Of the CyberDemon have gone into a good degree of detail depicting places and things that could be found in an imaginary high school. The functionality of the monsters hasn't really changed, so don't be surprised if some teacher or school manager hurls some kind of odd energy ball at you (the DeHackEd work is mostly for the new texts, map names, and item pick-up lines.) The monsters say a few things when they spot you, though you need to know Finnish to understand what. The maps show many straight lines and its evident that imitating school architecture (including different floors within each map) was more important than coming up with layouts for fights with the monsters, though most rooms and halls provide ample space to move through and fight, and there isn't too much health, so it's not unchallenging. The secret map is conveniently used as one of the main maps to make a shorter episode that ends with a final text and scrolling screen (which is ingenously modified.) The secret map (E3M2) presents a slightly different "x-files" sewer theme that apparently hints at the powers behind the evil schools, plus the oddest gameplay in the wad. Additionally, obstructing flames have been used in the otherwise large maps to block off certain sections and leave the main areas confined for relatively fast-paced DeathMatch games (otherwise the maps would indeed be too big.)
First map (E3M1) - DM - -
This map's main playing area consists of four classrooms y two connected hallways. It's quite suitable for three or more players, though it's not bad for one-on-one games.
Secret map (E3M2) - DM - - -
This near-gigantic map tries to represent a sewer system, with an ample range of textures. As for the gameplay, it's not bad for any number of players; even though the rooms are large it isn't hard to find one's opponents.
Second map (E3M9) - DM - -
This is the park level, the "ecological" part of the wad :) It's spacious and doesn't provide much weaponry. In this map whoever has good moves, aim, and refelxes will be on top, though some tactic will also help.
Third map (E3M7) - DM - - -
This map is made up of various classrooms, bathrooms, etc. The size of the place is consistent with what it represents. Since players are continually opening doors it's possible to follow their progress through the map; and with so many rooms one can quickly hide by closing said doors, which can confuse rivals in regard to which door the opponent just used.
Final map (E3M8) - DM - -
In this stage players will have to deal with the "HyperDemon" that drops in from the sky (even when using the -nomonsters option), which is unavoidable, given that the exit is atop a slender rising pillar from where it can easily shoot you down. Only the Flame thrower and the Rocket launcher are available, the latter with enough ammo to destroy the evil boss. Even though when we tested the map we were already aware of the presence of the HyperDemon, one of us went forth and distracted it while the other equipped himself with all the ammo to eliminate it, turning the game into a kind of Cooperative DeathMatch for a while. After that the game became regular DeathMatch, since no other weird things came upon us.
CompUSA 5 by an anonymous author
82KB - Doom2 - 1 map - DM - - - SP/Coop - - -
This map is basically a shop or supermarket-like store, and you can navigate through the different departments, bathrooms, etc. You've also got outdoors sections, including a parking lot and a supply entry area. It's a good map for a varied amount of players, since it's got many rooms but a convenient size overall; on each game one'll get a wide range of variants in each player's actions which are naturally linked to the skill and abilities of said players.
On single player mode this level provides a good amount of monsters and a proper amount of firepower. Some areas are a bit on the cluttered side, which may slow down the action a bit, but the opposition is steady enough to make play fun, especially since as you enter you get the impression that the monsters have turned the store into a hold from where to encircle and attack anyone coming in, especially in the main area.
- Office Building DeathMatch II by Stan Spielbusch
34KB - Doom2 - 1 map - (SP/Coop) - - DM -
The smallish level was designed for DeathMatch, though it does include some monsters. For the most part, there are a number of medium or lesser monsters in the office building itself, and the bosses are scattered outside. The exit is close to the start, so the only point in playing single player is to go out and kill off the monsters. The available ammo is rather tight, if it can be made to suffice (probably so with good BFG usage, chainsawing, berserk punching and infighting.)
On DeathMatch mode the map practically offers two separate levels on which to play, as except for a teleporter there is no direct connectivity between the building and the outlying outer area, except for see-through areas that aren't too suitable for armed exchanges. The inner upper area has numerous rooms but is compact enough to guarantee many encounters. The outer area holds the BFG9000, which can be pretty useful in the confined upper area.
- High by an anonymous author
19KB - Doom - 1 map - SP - - -
This map starts you off in a central room surrounded by the rest of the map from where you have to access various doors stemming from it, your choices are limited and you have to go from one adjacent area to the next, and each area is relatively well protected. There's a persistent issue with the map, though, in more than one location; certain rogue linedefs have the property of doors, and if accidentally activated will bring whole areas continually up and down, locking off certain sections of the map (see the third screen shot above.)
- Headquarters by an anonymous author
51KB - Doom - 1 map - SP - - - -
This a smallish map that uses its area pretty effectively, taking advantage of height variations intelligently to make separate but closely connected sections that give a good consistent impression. The main open area is dominated by bosses while lesser monsters roam the adjacent sections you must visit to get the necessary keys. The map is not particularly hard, and one is provided with a good amount of equipment to trash the monsters with, but it's pretty action-packed.
- Levels One to Six by an anonymous author
51KB - Doom - 6 maps - SP/Coop - - - - - -
This set is made up of two wads with three maps each. The maps are pretty standard in design, with an indeterminate but rather tidy base style theme that varies gently from map to map. There are a few small HOMs but nothing critical. The sets strongest point is that it provides a good if not steep challenge, using the architecture well to deploy the monsters effectively and providing consistent amounts of weapons and ammo. The wad does provide DeathMatch starts, but it seems that it was not tested or planned out, since on some maps it's possible to be stuck in some room that is opened from a previous location during single player (and even at an initial start point.)
- The unofficial DOOM Shotgun FAQ by Denton Woods
20KB - Doom2 - 1 map - Informative -
Here we have FAQ about DOOM's "third weapon", the Shotgun. It's pretty primitive, and lacks any detailed information about the weapon's functionality or any advanced usage tips against monsters or DeathMatch opponents. The package comes with a wad and a demo that attempt to demonstrate how the weapon works, and the demo includes a cowardly attack upon a Cyberdemon (the Cyberdemon Defense Commission has been informed.)