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    The /newstuff Chronicles #499


    • Hellish Lab of Barons - cybermind (aka Mistranger)
      Doom 2 - Boom Compatible - Solo Play - 1.71 MB -
      Reviewed by: Zalewa
      Hellish Lab of Barons, or helllab.wad (that's triple L), contains a couple of maps. The first map (screens 01-10) was released for the "First-Try Demo" Contest number 8. The idea of the contest was to beat the map as fast as possible, record the demo of this feat, and upload it for comparison against other contestants. It was set up so that the players had no beforehand knowledge of the map and everyone started playing at the same time. I won't go into much detail here as the zip file comes bundled with a text file containing high-scores and a URL to Doomworld's forum post where you can learn the rest. Demos made by the contestants are also included.

      The second map (screens 11-22) in the WAD doesn't seem to have any special backstory.

      Each map takes about 40 minutes to beat. The first time I played them was in a two-player cooperative survival game. At that time I thought the maps were amazing. Some time later I went through them again in single player, and this time I wasn't as impressed. Maybe the first time around it was the added tension of losing the one life and not being able to play, maybe it was late and I was half-asleep, or maybe the maps just don't replay that well.

      Anyway, both maps are very similar. The theme for the first one is dominated by brown, stone walls that suddenly changes into a tech-base for a moment. The second is a temple that also changes into a base and a hellish cave. Architecture is mostly flat, with floor level variance used mainly for decorative purposes. Visuals are decent; they're nothing extraordinary, but they do their job.

      Now, the layout for the first map is confusing and non-linear. For a map that is supposed to be beaten in a time-based contest, it seems to be rather devilish. After going into the blue skull key area and seemingly completing everything, I got briefly stuck running around and looking for a missed switch or a key hidden in a dead body. What I needed to do was to backtrack into an intersection that forms the center of the map and go into a different direction. This took quite some time, as I was expecting a more continuous progression. On the other hand, I watched the demo by JCD, who won the 1st place in the contest, and JCD had no problem finding a way out.

      The second map has a similar, semi-non-linear layout where you need to collect all six keys to open the final area.

      What can be recognized very quickly is the approach of punishing the player for progressing in the level. Each switch can be a trap that will lower chaingunners on to your back. Each key will begin a massive warp-in of enemy troops. This gets repetitive, and once you realize the pattern, it also gets really annoying. In the first map the traps are set up so that you actually need to fight. In the second I didn't even bother. It's possible to grab the key, quickly escape, and then lock the monsters behind a door that they cannot open. As you never have to go back to those areas, you can simply ignore them while listening to their hopeless, taunting "activity" sounds. MAP02 also likes to put spectres into dark areas. These are used well. You can easily blow yourself up with a rocket against them.

      Difficulty can be summed up like this: lots of ammo, not so much health. Most of the time you will find yourself shooting enemies repeatedly with super shotgun. There aren't that many rockets, and only later you get some power cell ammo for plasma and BFG. When monsters don't spawn behind you, they're usually in front of you with plenty of space for maneuvering. Hence, the gameplay focuses strongly on super shotgun used in shoot-reload-shoot-reload-repeat pattern.

      Both maps end in boss fights. The first one is a battle where you must kill your opponents or the level won't end. The second is "survive the invasion" type where you get swarmed by an army of Barons, Pain Elementals, and Arch-Viles, with some Revenants thrown into the mix, and Cyberdemons serving as death raining turrets. You must survive long enough for the central column to fully lower, and once it does you can finally exit. Fortunately, there's so much going on there that the monsters focus on killing each other instead of you and the battle isn't really that difficult. Both boss battles are fun.

      The tune that plays in the first map is a climatic, eerie piece by Jean Michel Jarre. It sets the mood quite well. The second map has a jarring power metal song, which, while not necessarily bad on its own, gets old after a while and wears out your ears. I'd rather listen to Jean Michel Jarre again.

      Summary: this is a couple of maps that are good overall, but annoying in some aspects. They're definitely worth playing at least once. Or, if you don't want to play, you can watch the 17 demos that cover MAP01.

    • Abyssal Speedmapping Session 23 (XXIII) - Various
      Doom 2 - Boom Compatible - Solo Play - 3.42 MB -
      Reviewed by: gaspe
      Here we are with the 23rd edition of the Abyssal Speedmapping Session which also turned out to be a Halloween special of our beloved monthly appointment, as this session was held on the 24th of October. The themes/restriction that were proposed are: monster count of 75 (lost souls aren't counted), use of locked doors that require any key, use of Keens with tag 666, and voodoo dolls in the playable areas. To let more people take part, this session had two rounds at different times, and a few mappers contributed to both the rounds. A spooky resource pack with some textures was also provided, and even some monsters got some visual changes fitting for the event.

      The maps of Jimmy, Pinchy and AD_79 seem to be the best offerings of the wad, and even the rest weren't bad at all. Obsidian (especially on MAP12), Scifista42, and TMD went for something more silly in the execution. Overall it's a really enjoyable wad. All the maps are quite short and the few weaker ones don't last very long; it's definitely worth a play. The custom stuff for the Halloween event was a nice touch. This is probably one of the best Abyssal Speedmapping Sessions made.

    • Ars Doom (repackaged edition) - Ars Electronica 95 Project
      Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 1.69 MB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      This is apparently a port-compatible repackaging of a wad that's already in the archives -- but it's from 1995 and I've never heard of it before, so I'm going to go ahead and review it.

      Ars Doom is a real oddity. Shortly after Doom 2 came out, a European artist named Orhan Kipcak decided to create an art gallery in the Doom engine (probably because it was more easily moddable than other video games of the era) and show it at the Austrian Ars Electronica festival (a venue for experimental art/technology crossover projects). He got some help from a programmer (who apparently had to hack a Doom editor so that it could handle non-90-degree angles) and assembled a bunch of other artists, and together they created this level, which is a replica of the Brucknerhaus convention center in Linz, Austria, where the festival was held.

      The various artists created artwork that they turned into low-res Doom textures and placed all over the level as exhibits. The artists themselves show up as a bunch of spherical monsters that can't hurt you and occasionally turn into the artists' faces. As the player, you can run around shooting them and destroying their art (some of which turns upside down or tears apart when you hit it) using a few Doom guns that have been reskinned as a paintbrush, a Christian cross, and a remote control. It's all very post-modernist or something; in an interview (which you can easily find on Google; Ars Doom appears to be the main thing Kipcak is known for on the Internet), Kipcak describes his approach as "anarchic," which is the sort of word that modern artists really like to throw around.

      If this is art, then it's the sort of art that random Doomers have been creating for decades as jokewads, or half-assed efforts to represent their own houses filled with their favorite fan-art. On the other hand, the art textures used in this wad probably do represent actual art that these guys created and displayed in the real world. If nothing else, this wad represents a unique piece of Doom history, and if you're interested in that history (or even just morbidly curious), then it's worth running around the gallery to check out what they came up with.

    • Gasplant - Jakob
      Doom 2 - Zandronum - Deathmatch - 14.12 KB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      If you download the zip file for Gas Plant and open it up with the intention of finding out about the wad, you'll discover that it has no text file at all. If you look it up on /idgames, you'll find that it has no port or compatibility level listed -- but it was tested in Zandronum, and it works in ZDoom, in case you're wondering.

      The author says of this map that "there isn't really anything redeeming about it," and if you upload something to /idgames that you don't think is any good, chances are everyone is going to agree with you. So it is with Gas Plant, which is pretty much a set of three square rooms wallpapered with a single tan texture. The only weapons are two SSGs that are right next to each other, and there's an ammo backpack that you can't reach. The layout is abominable, with huge, empty dead-end rooms and one extremely long, thin corridor. I practically never play deathmatch, but even I can recognize that this is probably as bad as DM maps get.

    • Spicy Evil Spaghetti - Thales "Noiser" Lari
      Doom 2 - ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 30.06 MB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      Spicy Evil Spaghetti is a pasta-themed jokewad that makes use of Doom's various intestinal textures for the noodles, blood for the sauce, and Cacodemons/Pain Elementals for the meatballs. The visual gimmick is surprisingly effective and gives you plenty of fun stuff to look at, culminating in a restaurant with Mancubuses as the gluttonous patrons. The jazzy MP3 soundtrack adds to the mood, but unfortunately it also adds almost 30 megabytes to the download, which is likely to turn some people away from playing.

      Unlike most jokewads, Spicy Evil Spaghetti has a good amount of thought put into the gameplay, and it's actually pretty interesting to play. It's got a rather tricky start, with Revenants and Pain Elementals putting pressure on you as you run around collecting weapons and ammo, most of which is on top of pillars that raise and lower periodically. At first glance there doesn't appear to be any health anywhere, but -- slight spoiler -- it's actually under all of the stationary Cacodemons that are marinating in the "sauce" throughout the level. Ammo is quite tight at first, especially given the unorthodox method for delivering health, but it ends up being pretty liberal by the end.

      This is a cute level, and fun as well. Between it and Luducrium, I feel like we have some solid contenders for the Mockaward this year.

    • Tech Gone Bad - John Romero
      Ultimate Doom - Limit Removing - Solo Play - 215 KB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      John Romero surprised everyone at the beginning of the year with the release of Tech Gone Bad, his first Doom map in decades. This level is an alternate version of E1M8, and since Phobos Anomaly is noteworthy for being the only E1 level that Romero didn't create or co-create, the Sandy Petersen haters of the world are free to retcon it (and Romero's even more recent E1M4 remake) into their Doom 1 playthroughs forever after and create a pure, Romero-only E1 experience.

      So basically Tech Gone Bad plays like the ultimate authentic entry into Doom the Way id Did, right? Well, actually, no, it's not like that at all -- and if you think about it, that makes perfect sense. The mappers of DtWiD aimed to create the perfect nostalgia experience, with everything exactly as it could have been in the original episodes -- whereas Romero, like any artist, has probably spent random moments thinking about what he could have done with E1 to make it even better for the last 22 years.

      The first thing that will probably strike you about the level is how different the visuals are from classic Romero. Throughout the map you run across jagged, spiderwebbing cracks full of red-hot metal, obvious signs of Hell's influence as you near the heart of the Phobos base. These cracks even damage you like lava if you stand on them. There are also large chunks of rock floating in the nukage that you have to run across in a pseudo-platforming fashion (though thankfully it doesn't require much fancy footwork), including a couple of places where you run up steps to give you the boost to hop to the next platform. All of this "damage detail" looks like it came out of the early years of ZDoom, when many of the community's mappers were somewhat infamously discovering the wonders of detailing. In other words, it looks a lot worse than the kind of gorgeous detail that modern Doom mappers have honed to perfection, but that's to be expected.

      The gameplay also departs significantly from classic Romero, but here the designer shows his chops a lot more. Most of the spaces feel much more cramped than classic E1, which is well known for its freedom of movement, and at times this can be frustrating. On the other hand, the encounters are cleverly crafted and tend to revolve around sneaky-but-fair traps and good use of darkness. Even the first room of the level has monsters teleporting in around you within seconds of firing your first shot. The sea of nukage in the outdoor areas adds an interesting element as well (at least when compared to the rest of E1, which lacked such large expanses), and at times it reminded me a lot of exploring E3M6, which was one of my favorite Doom 1 levels. Tech Gone Bad is more linear than you might expect from Romero, but it does frequently give you choices of where to go, and the main route often crosses back on itself in interesting ways. The difficulty is higher than the original levels, mainly due to large numbers of Sergeants and some carefully placed Spectres, but it's not too challenging for a veteran player.

      Finally, the boss reveal with the two Barons at the end is WAY cooler than the original. The atmosphere in this room is fantastic, and it's the one part of the level that feels truly modern, in the sense that it could have looked perfectly at home in a heavily-detailed levelset like Hellbound or Speed of Doom. You step onto a lift and descend slowly into a dark room dominated by two towering portals into Hell, and then a Baron steps out of each one. The trickle of weaker monsters that follow the Barons through the portals, combined with the double-edged sword of the scattered nukage barrels, makes the fight much more complex than Petersen's wide open, well-lit star room -- though again, for skilled Doomers it's mainly as simple as equipping the rocket launcher.

      In spite of the many differences, some elements of Romero's classic style remain. The structure of the buildings and the more subtle elements of detailing often feel familiar, and some of the secrets are so reminiscent of E1 that it feels nostalgic, particularly when you get peeks of coveted items in areas you don't yet know how to reach. All in all, however, you shouldn't go into this level thinking it will allow you to reminisce; it's neat to play, but it's much more about seeing how Romero looks back at Doom and how he's changed as a designer than about reliving our carefully preserved memories.

    • Gleam - Jonas Lundin
      Doom 2 - Vanilla - Deathmatch - 21.26 KB -
      Reviewed by: walter confalonieri
      Gleam is a deathmatch map by Jonas Lundin, and it's based from memory on a deathmatch map that the author played in 1995, and in graphical aspects this shows deeply.

      But the layout design is really cool, giving a frantic and fun playtime through the map. There's a pair of "spam" weapons such as plasma rifles set on some platforms; one needs a switch to be activated and lower the lift that contains it, while the other needs a little jump trick to get it.

      Thing placement is clever and the map doesn't have a moment of peace, but what I don't appreciate is the bad texturing (I don't know how hard is to map with Eureka, but some upper / lower unpugged and some alignment could be better, also some better texture choices in the brown "caves" would be appreciated), but overall it is a solid map despite these things. It is something like a rough layout from a "32 in 24" session before revamping.

      Yes, it is a funny map to play for me; join a pair of pals on the net or (like me) play it with bots, fun is assured!*

      * But no refund otherwise

    • Atrocious - Reed Martens
      Doom 2 - Boom Compatible - Solo Play - 10.6 KB -
      Reviewed by: gaspe
      This is another first wad, and the author himself states in the text file how horrible it is. Not so much actually; I was expecting something worse. The map has only three rooms with few technical errors. If the author wants to keep trying for sure he can improve; nonetheless, you really shouldn't bother with this wad.

    • 2Zone - Jonas Lundin
      Doom 2 - Vanilla - Deathmatch - 16.38 KB -
      Reviewed by: walter confalonieri
      This is an old-school deathmatch map by Jonas Laundin for Doom 2, and by old-school I mean a level that comes from 1994.

      Anyway, this is a level set in a arena divided by two zones (as the title suggests), one red and one blue. These zones are joined by stairs and very dark hallways filled with items. Also this level contains a very hard challenge in SP, due to using hard tier enemies and two or three cybers at the very beginning of the map, and all with only a player spawn. In the second shot there's a coop session with bots, but the only way it is possible to do this is with a player already in game and one by one!

      Anyway the map is made for DM, so how does this act in that department? Gameplay isn't that bad and the corridors work fine (maybe using stairs instead of a lift between the hallways that surround the arena would be better), but overall it is kinda fun with bots.

      Overall, nothing exceptional, skip it for better stuff.

    • November 5th - antares031
      Doom 2 - Limit Removing - Solo Play - 197.88 KB -
      Reviewed by: gaspe
      This is a birthday map made by antares031 for Hellbent. There are few changes on the weapons: the pistol is replaced by the Doom Alpha shotgun, and the sounds of the shotgun and the chaingun are different. The level is a gorgeous marble castle. The detail and the lighting are really good. The difficulty is quite tough; there will be some nasty traps and a few archviles that will be sent into areas already cleared. An excellent level, which is really worth a try.

    • E1Mone - Gabriel Machado
      Ultimate Doom - ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 20.31 KB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      E1Mone is the author's first level, and as far as first levels go, it's not the worst. The corners aren't all 90-degree angles, the layout is more complex than just a bunch of boxes connected by straight hallways, and the lighting actually does a pretty decent job of setting the mood, including lots of flickering (though the author may have overdone it a little with the flickering). Even so, the level is overly simplistic and has its share of texturing issues, and there's not really anything that's compelling enough to warrant a recommendation to play.

      Since the toughest monsters are Demons and Spectres, it's really easy, but ammo is limited, so it would probably be pretty frustrating if you didn't find the secrets -- then again, I found at least 2 out of 3 secrets without really trying. There's a plasma rifle toward the end of the level (again, even though the toughest monsters are Spectres), and it removes any feeling of threat that the rest of the map might have had. There are a couple of well-planned encounters, though -- the one moment that I really liked was when I went into a lit hallway and started shooting at several completely obvious Spectres that were coming toward me, and I failed to notice the dark ledges overhead on either side until the Imp fireballs started flying at me. After that, there's a dark maze with flickering lights and Pinkies where you have to be careful and watch for movement when the lights hit (or at least you would have to be careful if you hadn't just picked up the plasma rifle). Give this one a pass, but if the author can keep learning to use players' expectations against them, he may have a decent future as a modder.

    Let me guess; one of those reviewers doesn't know how to properly appreciate a WAD that you liked this week. Want to do something about it? Instead of complaining in the comment thread like you always do, perhaps you can make a difference and write some better reviews than those idiots up there. The /newstuff Review Center is the place to do so. Put that Doomworld Forums account to constructive use, because you need one to submit reviews.

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    That art wad is a real strange one, but for 1995 it was probably pretty cool to have an actual virtual art gallery that people could interact with. Given the goal of the venue this seems like it would have fit perfectly.

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    Yay, thanks for the Spicy Evil Spaghetti review Not Jabba. I'm glad that you liked it and figured out the gimmicks. First time reviewed on newstuff, I feel honored :-)

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