Betelgeuse - César "S.W.A.T." Zevallos M.
ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 877088 bytes -
Reviewed by: StupidBunny
Betelgeuse is an interesting and very challenging map. I personally don't like the gameplay style that this is based around, but I know there are people who do, so I'll try to be as impartial as possible.
Aesthetically, Betelgeuse is a fun level: it has a trippy, surreal look, which is made more effective by the video-gamey music and starry sky. Most of the level consists of series of platforms, with lots of moving floors, raising walls, and the like. The overall theme starts out techbase, and moves progressively toward a hell theme, making the whole thing even more bizarre.
The gameplay is almost entirely running from one platform/pillar to another, often with little tricks and traps thrown in, which on the one hand can be a fun challenge but on the other hand can be immensely frustrating. When Doomguy falls off a platform, he does not die instantly but takes damage fast, meaning he has to get to a teleporter quite fast. Expect to fall off a lot...I can't imagine getting through in one try otherwise.
The enemies are interesting and add to the challenge. In general, the stock enemies have been given more powerful attacks, and several new enemies, mostly zombie variants, have been added. Many times they will teleport in or appear from behind a closed door or pillar, which makes the level exciting and chaotic. For the most part the new enemies and enemy replacements work well and contribute to a reasonable challenge, but the lost soul replacements just didn't work for me. They have been made partially invisible and are nearly impossible to see against the starry sky, making them annoying as shit. I would probably name this as the only real mistake in the WAD, though, and other than that it is enjoyable.
I would say my overall impression is positive, even if I don't have the skill or patience to negotiate so many platforms and enemies. :P Even if you don't like the platform-hopping style, it's probably worth a play through just for the unique look and feel of it.
Tuning Contest#3 (aka Freakmapping) - Various
Various engines - Solo Play - 9936834 bytes
Reviewed by: Craigs
This zip file contains 11 individual wad files from a competition. The ultimate goal was to take a randomly generated level and spruce it up a bit. While most of these really aren't the best things you'll ever play, there are a few gems that shine amongst them.
Descent by AK-01: This one's by far my favorite. It takes place in some kind of dark, run down tech base floating over some weird structure. Ammo and health are somewhat limited, so you really need to stay on your toes and make every single shot count. One of the main reasons I like this wad so much is because there are times when you can actually forget you're playing a SLIGE map. I found myself stopping at times to take in some pretty impressive sights, such as when you find yourself outdoors in the hellish area.
Freak train by 3EPHOEd: I've always been a fan of train themed maps, and this is by far the best one I've played yet. While there are quite a few misaligned textures and areas that are lacking in the detail department, it still makes excellent use of 3D floors. There weren't too many faults with this map, other than a baron of hell that was stuck on a hand rail.
Post_FM: This isn't exactly a bad wad, but it's far from great. The wad is pretty easy with the exception of two areas, the first of which only qualifies as a challenge if you don't go back to the previous hall and take the other hall that leads to a small weapons cache. The second one is hard for all the wrong reasons. After you grab the yellow key, a crap load of monsters spawn, which normally wouldn't be a problem. The problem is that an earthquake suddenly occurs which jerks you every which way and makes it absolutely impossible to aim. Another problem I had was with the lifts. Normally they wouldn't be a problem, but they move so slow that half of the time you spend on this map will consist of waiting for the next lift to arrive.
Escape from burning house by Flanker: Now this is by far the worst of the lot. The map takes place in a store (not a house). The lights go out, and the telephone starts ringing. Once you realize that the telephone is not in fact a telephone but some weird switch, you must answer it. Some text flies by at the bottom of the screen almost as fast as the text in Xaser's Turbo Charged Arcade. You go upstairs only to find that the shop is on fire. There are no monsters and all you do is grab the red keycard, then use it to open a door so you can grab a yellow key card, then use it to escape out the back door. That's it. You take 10 damage every couple of seconds, but yeah, that's all you need to do. The only positive thing I can say about this wad is that there's some pretty cool music playing during the main part of the map.
Evil Factory by Guest: I personally wasn't too much of a fan of this map. Most of the ammo you find is dropped by enemies, and the main texture choices for this map are ugly brown metal textures. The thing I really hated about this map was the machine that kept spawning lost souls every couple of seconds. Ammo was already in short supply and that machine really didn't help.
MorPehFM3 by MorPeh: Now this one was a real disappointment. Mainly because it starts off so promising and ends in a complete disaster. Ammo and health are practically nonexistent in this map, and to make matters worse, a lot of the monsters in this map are stealth monsters, so you really don't know they're there until you've got a nice big juicy projectile coming your way. The few bits of health and ammo you'll actually find are usually found just before a huge fight, which makes them somewhat useless. The final boss is somewhat impossible for this same exact reason. Just before you fight him, you get ambushed by dozens and dozens of imps, hell knights, and a baron of hell in an extremely cramped room that leaves almost no room to dodge the huge volleys of attacks coming your way. After that massive battle, you go straight to the boss. The closest thing to ammo you get after that huge fight is a BFG behind a broken door that you can't even reach. This is a bit of a problem because you don't just fight the boss once. I'm not sure how many times you have to kill him, mainly because I just quit after defeating him for the 5th time. I couldn't help but wonder if MorPeh even playtested it up to this point, because there's a script error that appears every time you beat him.
All Mogrels by Squid: I really hate cramped maps, and this is by far the king of them. All of the rooms consist of boring boxy rooms that just feel like another part of the hallways between them. There really didn't seem to be much of a constant theme. One minute you'd be in a brown tech base, the next you'd find yourself in a room decorated with marble textures.
Cacodemon Quest by Tom Cat: While this map retains the rather boxy and ugly shape of its original map, it still proves to be an enjoyable map, although I must admit it is somewhat easy. The idea is that there's some kind of cacodemon following you around who just doesn't seem to want to die. As you battle through the hordes of monsters, the cacodemon will occasionally pop up to take some shots at you. When you hit the exit switch, the cacodemon hisses, and your character screams in horror as it rips you apart. I didn't get the point of that, but it made me laugh.
Corrupted Zone by Wraith: I really wasn't expecting much from this wad when I first opened it up. The start looked like something from 1994, and the ceiling texture looked a lot like the S you always see at the beginning of a SLIGE level. But much to my surprise, it turned out to be a pretty fun level.
Netherworld by Shadowman: Unfortunately, I couldn't get this one to work. Every time I tried to load it up with jDoom, I get this error:
Loading Sidedef Texture IDs...
Sector look up
Build line and subsector tables
Congest Hollow Wax - Jonathan Dean
ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 131136 bytes -
Reviewed by: magicsofa
The (Mr.) Dean clearly states that his map is challenging because of tight health and ammo, and for the most part, it is. Unfortunately I think it may have been more fun if he said "a Doom2 map" and stuck some more health in to allow certain mistakes. I resorted to learning the traps and often running right through them, or sucker-punching demon after demon coming through a bottleneck. The fights were often tightly controlled on the player's side, with one obvious strategy. Its repetitiveness, however, got me into bypassing a lot of the enemies. After all, they tend to hang out where they spawn...
Like gameplay, the architecture is an amalgam of creative bits, odd texturing, and bland bits. The layout itself is confusing, including doors that open for no obvious reason, and doors that don't open because they're just walls. If I weren't on ZDoom, I'd never have found out that there are no secrets. I also think it did break in Chocolate Doom, because there's a walk trigger right in front of a door.
I guess this map is extra medium. It shows some potential. Certain fights were really well planned, and certain areas looked really cool. However, other parts were just silly, like an array of zombiemen in one big square of happiness, and some questionable cut-and-paste. The author did say he used pieces of an already released map...after saying the base was "scratch." If you really want to do some crazy tyson and/or pacifist runs, it's a decent forum; otherwise, you're not missing a lot.
Bad Idea - Magicsofa
doom2.exe - Solo Play - 315987 bytes -
Reviewed by: Wills
This is a collection of 8 maps for Doom 2 that starts for some inexplicable reason on Map14 (for the music, apparently). This made me prepare for the worst (most 1994-ish maps do things like that), and I started up ZDoom to play. I found myself pleasantly surprised, however, to discover that this is actually really fun, and the maps aren't 1994-awful - more like '97-'98, which I can easily handle.
The maps range from underground techbases, canyons, and... that's actually pretty much it. They each have their own feel and style, so the canyon techbase theme doesn't get too old. Yes, there are some misaligned textures and some odd architecture in the early maps, but design gets progressively better as you continue, and some parts of the maps impressed me. The layouts in the techbases are fairly complex, but complexity is good; different areas interconnect and twist around each other, and often you can see rooms before you can get there. I'm a sucker for this kind of mapping. There's a lot of switch-pressing, but only once or twice did I get lost and not know what the switch just did.
Gameplay is fairly challenging; ammo is tight early on but the author gets more generous quickly. Monsters tend to flood you from all sides, whether from teleports or monster closets, but usually it's not too overwhelming. The wad is mostly a key-hunt, switch-pressing affair, which is pretty standard for Doom maps, but it manages to throw a little variety into the lather-rinse-repeat cycle. You often do a lot of backtracking, which isn't bad because it's never very far, and often things along the way have changed very much - a door has opened that lets you get back faster and opens a new set of rooms, or monsters have swarmed in. The only real disappointment is the final boss fight; you dodge cyberdemons while trying to kill Commander Keens to open the door to the exit. It makes the fight slightly silly, and it's a real challenge to see those Commander Keens way up on the ceiling (you're in a big, dark cavern).
But overall this was is actually quite good. Good maps design, great gameplay. Recommended download.
UAC Military Nightmare - Terry
Skulltag - Solo Play - 4396100 bytes
Reviewed by: Wills
An awful, awful, shitty jokewad that's not funny at all and completely unfair. You fight against "Romero-Men" who shoot homing BFG balls at you that you can't even dodge. There's no gameplay to speak of, map design is awful, etc. I quit after playing, then skipping, three levels. Avoid like the ebola virus.
Remain 3 - Alexander "Eternal" S. (aka Deadall)
GZDoom - Solo Play - 9054853 bytes -
Reviewed by: Wills
The concept of this wad, as Eternal puts it (in his somewhat broken English), is a Doom II-style megawad for GZDoom. This mapset is many things, but Doom II-style it is not. Eternal has added new monsters (some kind of annoying, most different graphics for the usual - headbands for zombies, etc.), a bunch of new textures (from Quake and some other unidentified games), some new music (most of which is actually quite awesome), and (of course) new levels; it's not much like Doom II in any of these categories. Not that that's a bad thing.
The new textures and enemies are appreciated, though they're somewhat inconsequential here - as in, it would be useless to talk about them extensively in this review. So I'll just say that they give this wad a much different feel than most Doom maps. All these different textures from Quake, probably Half-Life, other video games, and the stock Doom II textures all mash together (in their own, quirky, misaligned way) to form a very... odd product. It's not bad, though, and the maps are never ugly.
Detail is not quite as profound. Some parts look very good, some areas are kinda bland ("medium detailing", as the author puts it). This is another unimportant part of the wad - because the main draw of the whole thing is the mapset!
And there are some really good maps here. Having just finished this, the two that stick out in my mind most are the Meat Factory (much more on that later) and the last map, Downtown, which is (of course) in a city. Another good map is one that takes place in the desert (reminds me of that Ghost Recon expansion pack). The other maps aren't quite as bold stylistically but are quite nice. Even the clunkers aren't horrible - often, they're just a good idea ruined by bad execution (Catacombs - flooded techbase = good, uberlong hallways = bad). Some of the maps are remixes of maps from Doom II. I liked seeing the author's unique twist on these. But the best thing about this wad is that the maps get steadily better as you progress, which means you're left with a good impression when you're done.
Downtown is, quite honestly, one of the best-looking city maps I've ever played. The textures here (windows 'n' shit) are uncannily appropriate, and the buildings don't have that "blocky Doom II building" feel to them - they're all perfectly natural. Plenty of back alleys to explore, good-looking trees - perfect.
There's a bridge level that surprised me with how huge it was compared to the previous maps. It's kind of ugly, though, but not too boring. There's a level that takes place in a desert oil refinery (oil tankers, construction cranes, office buildings), and a missile silo which looks cool as well.
Then we get the the Meat Factory. You start off on top of a piece of flaming rocket debris (from the previous map, the silo), jump in the water, and get out, only to be confronted by an enormous factory. Oh, goddamn. This map is creepy as hell, first of all; little skulls come out of cracks in the walls and bite your ankles, and it's dark everywhere. Plus the meat here is humans. But the most impressive part of the map is the factory itself - its blank, metallic grey walls, the smokestacks on the roof, its sheer size. And the factory's hugeness is ridiculously intimidating. It's just so fucking big. My screenshots don't do it justice; you'll actually have to play the map to get a sense of how enormous the factory is. I've never seen anything like this in Doom. The inside of the factory, however, is just kind of ludicrous (guts on conveyor belts, blood swimming pools, the usual). There's very little of that, though, and this map definitely goes in my top five most atmospheric maps ever (as long as I suppress thoughts about Pink Floyd, which kind of ruins the mood).
So basically, this wad is really good. A little bland, odd texturing in some places, but really interesting maps and generally good gameplay. Definitely worth the download.
The Hells Grammar School Project - Joshy "ghost" Sealy
GZDoom - Solo Play - 9197425 bytes -
Reviewed by: Wills
As I browsed through the text file, I felt my hopes for this wad drop further and further. It's a jokewad for GZDoom - except that the author describes it as a "semi-jokewad" that's half-serious. Everyone knows, of course, that this means it's an unfunny jokewad and the author is trying to excuse that by saying he didn't mean for it to be funny. Or maybe it really IS a semi-jokewad - perhaps half the wad has some decent, witty jokes and the other half has a carefully designed level to create a memorable gameplay experience!
That "semi-jokewad" theory kinda fell apart when I played the level and thought, "This level is a sixteenth funny and maybe a quarter fun." So what's the other 5/8 (oh god I am so bad at math) of the level? Probably a good quarter of it is the music (the Forest Temple theme from Ocarina of Time, by far the best thing here), and the rest is ACS scripting and extra sprites/monsters (including green ties for the imps... how odd).
The basic plot of the level is: you're a marine who's failed Doom II (but wouldn't that mean you died? I dunno, lol) and has been sent to school. Here you'll learn deadly combat skills by taking classes in english, math, information technology, and sports. Apparently those demons just can't stand subject/verb agreement. You progress from class to class, but instead of learning anything useful (like quadratic division) you fight demons. So basically, you start in this little hut, fight demons to get to class, where you fight more demons, then you go to the next class to kill more demons, etc. There aren't exactly any surprises, and you aren't even allowed to go to the parking lot (it teleports you back to school if you try). Goddamn I wanted to see that parking lot.
The gameplay is consistently boring; the map itself, however, is often jarringly uneven, reeling from looking quite nice to blocky-hideous. The opening misty grass-canyon area is pretty cool, if bland. The school buildings, on the outside, are quite boring and badly textured. Then you go inside the school buildings and... they actually look decent. Computers, desks, detailing (though more couldn't have hurt).
There was one hallway (in the third building I believe, I took a screenie of it) that quite literally stopped me in my tracks. The elegant use of metal trimming with bookcases and an overhead sloped-sky ceiling is definitely the best-looking thing in the level. If the entire map had that one tiny hallway's perfect balance of detail and functionality, complementary texture choices, and impressive structural designs, I actually wouldn't have minded playing this. I know I sound like a pretentious jackass talking about "complementary textures" and balancing detail and functionality, but after playing a whole map of mostly sub-par design, that hallway really blew me away.
There are some new monsters here, including some kind of creepy shadow imp, some really annoying bats and dragon things (note to mappers: never use these little fuckers in your maps), some imps in armor that summon aforementioned bats and dragon things, imps with green ties, some asshole stealth monsters, etc. All have been used before, but at least they added some variety (except for the bats/dragons and stealth monsters). The final boss is apparently some form of D'Sparil, then a Maulotar. I've never played Heretic, and no one ever told me how AWESOME the Maulotar is. Freakin' hard too, but really epic.
So in a nutshell? Map is mostly below average, new monsters are okay, jokes are practically nonexistent (or maybe they're so unfunny I didn't know they were jokes), ACS scripting is basic, final boss battle is EPIC, this is kinda linear, kinda boring. The author also says that "You may NOT distribute this file in any format", which apparently doesn't apply to putting it on /idgames. Hmm. Oh yeah, apparently this wad is for PLUTONIA, which I didn't even realize until after I tested the level. Play it with Doom 2, it doesn't do anything bad aside from complaining about missing textures.
Not such a great map. If it's your kind of thing, more power to you, otherwise skip.
Urban Brawl: Action DooM 2 - "Scuba" Stephen Browning
ZDoom - Solo Play - 57916506 bytes -
Reviewed by: Remiel
Variety has sort of been tied wrists-to-ankles, blindfolded, ball-gagged and left in a basement these days. I understand there's a mainstay for everything, even for a game so old that in a few years it'll be able to legally drink in the vast majority of the world's countries, but.. I could be acting unwittingly pessimistic, but it sure seems like there are roughly.. two, maybe three people at a time with their great magnum opuses that deviate any from the norm. There are such good tools by now that the sky's the limit for whatever a person wants to make for Doom; at this point in time there needs to be more incredible, grand designs wrought from blood and sweat and imagination and the drive necessary to carry it all out, with a unique feel and design that has a heart and a soul to it, and the occasional funny in-joke and easter egg or two. And less... less wads designed word-for-word from Tormentor667's mapping guide and stocked with entries from that Doom Bestiary thing. The one full of palette swaps and minor sprite edits.
Then, suddenly, on the 22nd of August, coming out of absolutely left field was a noticeable step in the proper direction. Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl takes the basic concept of its predecessor, being to incarnate a different kind of action genre in a first-person format, and polishes it like you would expect from four years of work; basically, to Hell. The second game takes the shape of an old arcade-style beat-em-up - think Final Fight, or Streets of Rage.
It certainly gets its uniqueness down nicely enough. The graphics are cel-shaded, and nearly every resource in the game was tailor-made for it... just slightly unusual amongst projects these days. Scuba Steve's illustration, darknation's writing, Manc's voice acting and Ralphis' music tell the Sin City-ish story of an ex-cop on a mission to rescue his daughter in true beat-em-up fashion; rage-induced violence. The story branches out, unfolds and ultimately ends differently depending on how the couple of instances in which the player is given a choice of where to go next are handled, punctuated by full-fledged cutscenes; black and white, comic panel-style stills. The branching isn't extensive, but it'll take a few playthroughs to span the entire game, and even more when the player inevitably goes looking for all the easter eggs and neat little touches throughout the cel-shaded world.
No love has has gone ungiven to the gameplay. The level design is linear to focus more on the killin', and moderately detailed, more through texturing to look nice rather than sector detail. Neon signs and graffiti. The beat-em-up style is pulled off well, and combat is simple, streamlined and fun. There are the weak baddies that go down in a few punches, and the tough bruisers that will need one of the game's weapons to dispatch safely. These weapons will break after certain numbers of hits, however. If push comes to shove, there's a panic weapon the player has from the start, a handgun that takes out lesser thugs and does a number on higher-ups with a single round. Additional rounds for the gun are rare, of course.
I say that I think this is the best release of the year because it is the best release of the year. I'm not sucking up, nor do I. There's never any fun in writing a review like that. With that in mind... crowning the year 2008 as the best wad it will ever see etc. You simply must get this and play it. You owe it to yourself... and to freedom.
Lop3 - Alex Pielage
ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 247762 bytes -
Reviewed by: Wills
It's a single level that apparently works in vanilla Doom 2 (though I used ZDoom). It looks very much like a 1996 map. Many of the textures aren't exactly compatible, but it's not too clashy since it's not like "Bookshelves next to grass walls!!!!" texturing - mostly that there's hardly any detailing. Large blank walls, hallways with just one endless texture, not much to make the map that interesting.
I wish I could say this is a map where the gameplay saves the looks, but unfortunately it doesn't - it's pretty tough, yes, but there's more to it than that. There are just too many ambushes - walk ten feet, and monsters teleport around you. Turn a corner, the walls plummet down and you get more monsters. Try to open that door. Guess what? It's fake - the entire room disappears, and you're surrounded by MANCUBI and REVENANTS and ARACHNOTRONS, with a heap of imps and demons thrown in just for fun, in a smallish room with hardly any space to maneuver.
This constant bombardment of monsters is exhausting, and the few traps that were clever I didn't really appreciate. Worst of all, I was stopped dead in my tracks practically once a minute because of these ambushes, and this created a feeling of not getting anywhere anytime quickly - a hallway that would normally take five seconds to get through takes five minutes.
So, yeah, you should probably avoid this map, unless you really like dealing with floods of monsters (nothing like AV or HR, but still a lot overall). Not worth your time.
XXXI CyberSky - Alexander "Eternal" S. (aka Deadall)
Limit Removing - Solo Play - 1527829 bytes -
Reviewed by: Traysandor
Upon looking at the initial reviews of this wad, I knew not to be disappointed when the first thing I saw upon typing idclev31 was the first screenshot: a huge cache of ammo.
CyberSky is a Hell Revealed-style wad, and as such presents an extremely high level of difficulty. I made a quick check of the initial monster count to find 2,168 monsters on Ultra-Violence; that's the highest total of any level I've seen since Deus Vult 2 Map28 "Hell's Vendetta". However, unlike the latter level which was pure slaughterfest, this wad presents the monsters in many tough challenges as you trek across this massive single level, flipping switches along the way.
The detailing in this wad is very good, and the use of textures varies in some areas, but overall is quite consistent with the overall theme of the level, and is sufficiently lit. Health and ammo are plentiful, as you might expect with such a high monster count, and are scattered all over the place. The puzzle is a bit linear and switch-hunt based at times, as only two keys are present in the level. There are also quite a number of instant-move sectors as well, most of which involve monsters appearing in front or around you (and at one point, is made to look like a Cyberdemon pops out of a large box).
Overall, this wad is very good despite the difficulty, and I would recommend anyone looking for a good, solid HR challenge to give this WAD a playthrough. Having been through this wad myself (albeit in god mode for the purposes of this review), completing this wad on Ultra-Violence is certainly within the realm of possibility, but it would take a long time and a lot of save/loads for the casual Doomer.
The /newstuff Chronicles #327