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    The /newstuff Chronicles #505


    • Bloodstain - Pavel 'Pipicz' Tvrzník
      Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 11.12 MB -
      Reviewed by: Voros
      Bloodstain, a 32 level megawad for Doom 2, that'll blow your feeble mind all the way to Hell.

      I think I'm in love here, because this is just amazing. The detailing, geometry, thing placement, music, textures, almost everything is beautiful to enjoy in this WAD.

      The map detailing is damn superb, let me tell you that. Broken tile floor, dead trees and rocks on a rocky plain, hanging vines with mossy stone pillars, dark caverns, and even more! I love how the maps tend to explore different themes, rather than the whole "Techbase, Hellified Techbase, Hell" WADs out there (I'm not saying they're bad though). To fight the demons in such beautiful places is very refreshing.

      The geometry is pretty nice, always making the player go here and there and everywhere, with lots of backtracking. Makes my mind work overtime and my adrenaline spike insanely high. It can get a bit confusing at times, but nothing too serious, and can be quickly taken care of if you explore a bit.

      The demon placement is sure to lead you into huge battles, with the groups and hordes you'll encounter. Combine that with high speed and powerful weaponry, and it is the best feeling of awesomeness; even if you get killed, you'll see you did a fair number of killings yourself. But wait, Pavel has brought three new enemies into the roster:

      -a Z-Sec that shoots you in bursts.

      -a fiery Baron that throws green plasma two times instead of the regular one.

      -a flying, legless, fiery baron that throws four big fireballs together "like there's no tomorrow".

      This whole thing just got a lot more harder. And better.

      The item placement is fine. It stays progressive throughout the whole WAD, but can get very low or absolutely empty at times with all the demon slaying. Maybe a slight increase in ammo would be good. But you'll make it through to the next map and replenish your health and ammo from there. It's not even a problem here, just means you have focus your accuracy and move around more to avoid health loss. Now that's what I'm looking forward to.

      Music is wonderful for these maps. Yes, they may not be fresh tracks off the press, but they fit nicely with the maps. Even though the music isn't exactly original, that doesn't mean it's bad. I loved it all the way. The music ripping in my ears, while demons everywhere are getting killed one by one, in the very gorgeous places: extremely satisfying.

      The textures used give some amazing details to many maps, like the frozen waterfall or that huge ship on the sea of acid. It's amazing really to see all the great custom textures from the popular WADs and mods being used in one single WAD. Pavel's one heck of an interior decorator, I'll give him that.

      My only real complaint on this WAD would be the title screen and intermission screen. They look dreadful to me; the bright red with the nearly dark background just don't mix well here. It could've have been done better.

      Now some small first impressions on the first few maps!

      MAP01- A full 360 rotation, and I thought I teleported onto a secret UAC facility in the middle of a gigantic, thick forest. There are dead bodies laying all over the bridge ahead.

      MAP02- It looks like I entered into some closed area in a city because there is a closed gate and walls around me, with taller buildings inside, and outside there more buildings. This whole place feels more claustrophobic.

      MAP03- Looks like I'm in an old facility, and it looks like it broke down during the invasion, seeing the acid pools on the broken tiled floor. Lots of Imps here.

      MAP04- I'm in a facility again, and it looks like it was built around toxic falls. A room is full of dead bodies and Lost Souls lay there waiting. That felt creepy.

      I won't go any further, because you should play Bloodstain to find out. This WAD is amazing, and you really should download this. When you get to MAP30, I hope you succeed in beating him!

    • Medieval Duel - D.Scracth
      Heretic - Deathmatch - ZDoom Compatible - 3.82 MB -
      Reviewed by: walter confalonieri
      A short and compact map for Heretic created by D. Scratch, and it's intended for duel gameplay. I played this map with Zandronum 3.0 alpha and bots.

      Layout is basic but there's some cool detailing, and I think this is good for the intended gameplay. Sometimes the bot gets stuck on some angles, but overall the experience is fluid; the layout flows well, and I didn't find any game breaking issues.

      Thing placement is good and uses the height differences well, with harder and powerful guns on upper platforms and lower (but lethal) guns near the starting spawn points for the players.

      Overall, a cool experience; maybe more levels will be better but also in this way it worked good. Download it and play this with your friends on some servers.

    • Hellborg - Erdem KIRMIZI
      Doom 2 - Single Player - Zandronum - 27.95 MB -
      Reviewed by: gaspe
      Hellborg is small episode for Doom 2 with six new maps. The author states in that text file that this wad is an edited version of Doom 2 with the first six levels used as base, which it puzzles me as the levels don't have areas/parts that resemble with the original maps of the same slot, but whatever. And to finally talk about the levels they have a nice mood which gives some TNT feelings, they feature quite some exploration, and they are all big and full of monsters (the lowest monster count is 380) and without being a slaughter-wad.

      But it's not all sunshine and rainbows, as there are some problems with this wad. At first you will notice that the texture alignment isn't done well, both vertically and regarding the use of the unpegging, but it isn't very important. The biggest drawback is in the layouts, which also affects the combat. As said before the maps are big and sprawl a lot; there will be lots of going through long corridors to reach what most of the time is another room. I guess many people will hate the progression, which isn't really obscure, but you will have to backtrack a lot, and there won't be monsters to repopulate the areas. For the most part, combat will be really flat and not particularly engaging.

      Despite the flaws mentioned above, it manages to have some cool traps and some decent fights overall, and also visually there are many inspired places. The first two levels aren't exactly brilliant, and the wad improves from MAP03. Personally I found it to be rather interesting on the whole; it takes some time to finish each level and the gameplay is a bit on the slow side, so if you want to play this, be ready to see some glaring ups and downs.

    • Beautiful Doom (version - Agent_Ash aka Jekyll Grim Payne aka zer0
      Doom/Doom 2 - N/A - ZDoom Compatible - 6.63 MB -
      Reviewed by: yukib1t
      Beautiful Doom is a graphics and gameplay modification that claims it "keeps original Doom gameplay but introduces lots of special effects and visual enhancements for deeper and more thrilling Doom experience." The mod comes as a PK3, but you can extract the WADs from the PK3 and use them individually in various combinations to suit your preferences. I went ahead and used the entire PK3 to give it the most thorough review I could.

      Right off the bat, you're given the choice to use either standard Doom weapons, or a set of enhanced weapons. The standard ones all feel pretty much the same as the original game, and I didn't notice anything changed as far as gameplay goes. The one difference is that the animations have been enhanced to be a lot smoother. The enhanced weapons, on the other hand, are all tweaked versions of the original Doom weapons. Most noticeable is the change in firing rates, and the addition of secondary attacks for all of the weapons but the chainsaw. Hitting F1 will bring up a list of these changes.

      Looking more closely at the enhanced weapons, as far as the primary attacks go, I found the changes to the gameplay to be quite a bit better than what is found in Brutal Doom. Basically things didn't feel too different from vanilla Doom, just tweaked. However, most of the secondary attacks felt gimmicky (like the plasma gun's rail gun attack), too different from vanilla Doom (homing missiles), or just pointless (the "shove" when using fists). For a mod that claims to keep the gameplay the same as the original, the secondary attacks just feel too out of place. If the weapons only had tweaked primary attacks and that's it, I'd feel like they were a worthwhile addition. But overall, I doubt I'd use the enhanced weapons much at all.

      Moving on, the graphical enhancements are a mixed bag. The high res in-world sprites are really nice, and I can see myself using them on a daily basis. Nothing looks out of place, or too different from vanilla Doom. Also nice were the blood effects (think Brutal Doom minus the gameplay changes... if you're using the original weapons, anyway) and some of the redrawn enemies. Again, nothing felt too out of place with these, and they blended nicely within the rest of Doom. However, some of the smoke and fireball effects look pretty silly, or even like they've been pushed too far. Especially the plasma gun bolts and the BFG bolt, which look very odd, out of place, and juvenile. I also wasn't a fan of a few of the new decals, and wish they would be a separate WAD option in the PK3.

      One other graphical change I want to bring up is the new status bar. Normally I play with GZDoom's full screen status, and so I normally don't see Doom's good ol' grey status bar unless I go into the automap. Well that's just what I did, and what I found was actually quite horrifying. The new status bar places health, armor, and secrets on the left hand side; kills, ammo, and keys on the right hand side; and a very out-of-place looking mugshot right in the middle. All of these also still have the original grey backgrounds as well, making the whole thing look butt ugly and take up way too much of the screen real estate. This should probably be a separate WAD option as well.

      Anyway, as far as the sounds go, things are mostly alright. The new additions are mostly pretty nice. Separate pickup sounds for keys, various powerups, and items are now different. Footsteps and environment sounds have also been added and sound pretty good. However, the switch sound is silly, mushy, and weak. In fact, when I first went to hit a switch, I thought I had missed it and kept trying to hit it, not realizing the sound had played. But this is the only new sound I didn't like.

      Weapon sounds and various death sounds have also been replaced. These are based on the original vanilla Doom sounds, but have been resampled to 32KHz. Now, just taking a sound and resampling it to a higher sample rate doesn't necessarily do a damn thing to make something sound better. If the information isn't there in the original sound, it won't magically show up by resampling it. So to compensate, it sounds like the authors either layered a few new sounds onto the originals (which generally sounds quite nice), applied an EQ with the high end emphasized (which sounds pretty crappy in my opinion), or a combination of the two. But still, the new sounds are pretty good.

      Overall, would I recommend Beautiful Doom? Well, that depends. If you want Doom to look smoother and bloodier, but not feel very different, then no. I would instead recommend a mod such as Smooth Doom. If you want Doom to look better and more full of special effects, but still play the same, then consider giving Beautiful Doom a try. Lastly, if you want Doom to look better, have more special effects, and some mild gameplay tweaks, definitely give Beautiful Doom a try. But in any case, go full screen and ditch that ugly status bar.

    • THE TROOPERS' PLAYGROUND (repackaged edition) - Matthias Worch
      Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 885.95 KB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      The Troopers' Playground is a classic 9-level mapset from 1996. From what I gather it was pretty highly regarded at the time (in fact, "10 Years of Doom" names it as one of the best wads of its year), but it has been largely forgotten in the last decade due to the fact that most people couldn't play it; it had to be installed, not just unzipped, so you couldn't access the wad file without a DOS emulator or something similar. The author is Matthias Worch, a legendary designer who contributed to Memento Mori 2 and Requiem, created the famous Quake mod Beyond Belief, and has spent his years since then working in the mainstream game industry on games such as Sin, Rogue Squadron 3: Rebel Strike, and Unreal 2. Yeah, Unreal 2. Guy's kind of a big deal. Anyway, TTP was before all of that; it was pretty much his first foray into game design of any kind.

      When an ancient and long-lost wad by a respected author resurfaces from the depths of history, especially if it's his first wad, there's one obvious question to ask: is this really a hidden gem, or is it like one of those tiny, boring New England towns that refers to itself as "historic" because George Washington once stopped there to eat a sandwich? In the case of The Troopers' Playground, I'd have to say it's a little bit of both. By most standards it's kind of bland, and some of the levels are lacking in polish, but it also has a solid foundation and quite a few interesting ideas.

      The wad uses a handful of new textures (mostly pretty basic stuff) and a nice blue custom sky. The last level is sort of an abstract island of techbase floating in the starry void -- one of those levels where you can look down as well as up and see eternal empty space, hinting that you're very far from home. This type of theme has become fairly common (think lupinx-Kassman's CC4 map 20), but I'd be willing to bet that TTP was the first wad to really explore the idea. The level before that is a pretty nice techbase that uses custom textures well. The rest of the mapset is less interesting to look at, as it's basically all done in that sort of mishmash of wood/stone/metal/green marble/occasional tech elements that I like to think of as "Generic Somethingfort." It could be in Hell, it could be on Earth, it could be on Deimos, who really knows?

      The most interesting addition to the mapset is the new monster, an undead marine called the Trooper. It's basically a more powerful chaingunner; it seems to have a faster rate of fire, it has more health, and it's significantly less likely to flinch when you hit it. That probably sounds like a recipe for cheesy "fake difficulty," and in some cases it does feel that way. Thankfully, however, Worch is smart about using them, usually giving you some cover to strafe in and out of while you're trying to bring them down. He also uses them sparingly, limiting them to one or two per level, so that they feel sort of like minibosses. Personally, I think they add a lot to TTP. In fact, given how generic many of the levels feel, you may find them to be the wad's biggest saving grace.

      So how about those levels? There were definitely things I disliked about the set, and I found the first four levels particularly unimpressive. The rooms tend to be bare and boxy, the layouts of the early levels are uninspiring (usually about three sets of rooms off of a hub that have to be completed in linear sequence), and there isn't anything really interesting about the height variation, as it's mainly there to create another obstacle that you have to hit a switch to get past. Most of the traps open up right on top of you, making them pretty unfair the first time and much easier the second time when you're anticipating them. There are a large number of puzzles that revolve around timing, which is something I dislike personally.

      From map 05 onward, however, the design gets a lot better. The use of space feels more interesting, the lighting is better, the layouts flow much more smoothly, and the combat is more fun. I got a distinct Quake vibe from some of those levels, not just from the largely brown visuals but from the gameplay as well, perhaps because Worch makes good use of mid-tier enemies that appear in small numbers but confront the player in somewhat difficult spaces so that maneuvering becomes really important. It can still be difficult to know where to go at times, but there are some neat puzzles and environmental gimmicks in these levels. In map 05, there's a series of empty troughs and pits at the beginning of the level that fill up with blood after you've solved the puzzles and found all the switches, giving you access to the last key. Reaching a certain key-bearing platform in map 06 will drive you batshit crazy, but maybe in a good way. The last level is a ring of four rooms, each at a different height, around a central tower where the boss brain constantly raises and lowers, forcing you to chase it around the ring while monsters spawn in every room.

      If you're interested, the zip also includes a bonus solo level and two DM levels, one with a stony theme that felt sort of medieval and the other using the void/tech theme that I mentioned earlier. I thought the bonus level looked and played worse than the maps in the main episode, though I kind of liked the ending area.

      TTP has been on the archive for many years, of course, but this is a repackaged version (with Worch's permission) that circumvents the difficult, dated installation process of the original. It's worth noting that this wad still doesn't work properly in ZDoom, which can't read the dehacked file and therefore doesn't replace the new monster -- and that's probably for the best, because quite frankly, these simple, low-detail maps look horrible in ZDoom's high resolution.

      I find this mapset to be a mixed bag, with some nice high points and some really lousy low points. I won't blame you if you're waving your cane at me and shouting, "Show some respect! That's Matthias fucking Worch you're talking about!" I also wouldn't blame you if you never want to play this wad. If you were around when it was first released and remember playing it when it was new, then you'll probably find this re-release extremely welcome, and playing it will probably feel like catching up with an old friend. If you weren't around then but love the kind of levels that Worch and his contemporaries made, then you shouldn't miss this wad. If your tastes are more modern, then The Troopers' Playground is still worth having around as a piece of history, but you may want to keep it behind glass, as I can't guarantee that you'll enjoy playing it.

    • Extreme Terror - Alexa "yukib1t" Jones-Gonzales
      Doom 2 - Single Player - GZDoom - 24.07 MB -
      Reviewed by: walter confalonieri
      This is a large level made by yukib1t for the GZDoom engine and is set inside a large canyon-techbase (similar to the Doom 3 techbase environment) with a hellish twist that leads you to hell and to a final boss that looks like a huge black mass of joined cacodemons, then to a twisting finale that you'll see only by playing and finishing this, and this will not be a easy task!

      The layout is contorted but somehow easy to navigate and even kind of linear, and changes from short, narrow corridors to large, ominous open canyons or crate storage rooms or hellish caves. There's really a lot of cool detailing and salient usage of (G)ZDoom special effects such as 3D floors, dynamic lighting effects, and "realistic" deep water effects, with a less intricate layout in the hellish part of the map. The only part with misaligned textures contains secret rooms, so be careful on that detail!

      Gameplay structure is based upon a series of missions that needs to be completed with a simple puzzle quest, all this while fighting compact groups of mid/high-tier monsters, with some little groups of mid-tier monsters like shotgunners, hell knights or arachnotrons as turret monsters in the first hell cave. There are also monsters that hide in box closets that create dangerous ambushes for the inexperienced player. The item placement is well done and, incredibly, I didn't found myself without ammo in the entirety of this level, and when O found myself with a short amount of ammo in a gun, I swapped to another gun while taking more ammo I found from the zombies' dead corpses or scattered around the map.

      Overall, this is a very well done map, same as the last /newstuff Chronicles, Comatose. It shares the same epic tone of that map but in smaller scale, but the epicness has been changed with fun and challenge. Download this map for a great and fun experience!

    • Vispire - Michael Jan Krizik (valkiriforce)
      Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 1.12 MB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      Vispire is a set of 17 speedmaps by valkiriforce, who until this release had (understandably) been a lot less active since releasing two and a half megawads in 2011 and 2012. I'm not the sort of player who really finds the word "speedmap" appealing, as I prefer to see mappers spend a lot of time on detailing, selecting resources, and coming up with unique, clever layouts. As a result, my expectations weren't very high, and fortunately the mapset exceeded them.

      Vispire is a pretty good set -- nothing about it is bad, although nothing about it is super great either. The mostly Doom 1 soundtrack sets the tone well enough and doesn't get annoying. The lighting is moody enough to add some atmosphere, though this is mainly accomplished by making every level uniformly dim, at least up until the sky change at map 12 (there are a few really nice bits, though, like the flickering slimefalls and torchlighting in map 10). There's not a lot of detailing, and not as much of a strong sense of place as you find in the more memorable levels of Reverie and Eternally Yours, but the texturing is good.

      Which brings me to one of the things I like best about Vispire: the episodic themes. Maps 01-06 are primarily red brick and water, maps 07-11 are green brick and nukage, and maps 12-17 have a seaside/ocean islands theme with a twilight sky. The episodes really help to tie the set together and tell a bit of a story (even if it's rather abstract), and there's enough variation to keep the texturing from getting old. The first and last episodes in particular use themes that aren't very common, which kept me wanting to see what valkiriforce would do with them next. I never thought I'd appreciate those red bricks so much, but I like the way they're used in this set.

      As far as gameplay goes, the maps feel more like sets of isolated challenges than coherent, flowing levels. The majority of the levels play the same way: you start out in some kind of hub area, and you teleport (or occasionally take passageways) to about three separate arenas or islands to get the keys/hit the switches you need to exit. Hordes of a single monster type are very common, especially Demons and Revenants, though there are also many mixed groups. I found that this basic level design had started to wear out its welcome by the end of the set, but there's no doubt that valkiriforce is good at creating these arena challenges. Probably my favorite was the opening of map 09, where you have to hold back a giant oncoming horde of Pinkies in a narrow passageway while Hell Knights try to take you out from the sides.

      Not every level fits the hub/island mold, either. Map 05 takes place in a single fast-paced, fairly complex faux-urban area with small monsters all over the place, tempting you to rush deeper into the mess and get yourself killed. Map 10 is, for lack of a better term, a dungeon crawl. Map 13 is my favorite overall, with some interesting connectivity and a lot of that great sense of place that I loved in Reverie -- it's set in a little island town with passageways that go down underground into the cellars and, beyond that, an atmospheric cavern with a set of intense battles. Map 15 is surprisingly puzzley, with some great combat in the huge, open main area. Map 17 is a large, interconnected fortress, though the huge numbers of monsters made the gameplay feel like kind of a slog to me.

      Don't play Vispire just because you love valkiriforce's mapping style, as it isn't much like Reverie or any of his other major works. However, if you want to shoot your way through a series of difficult mini-challenges, you can't really go wrong here. This is one of the best speedmap sets I've played, but I haven't enjoyed many speedmap sets, so maybe that's not saying much.

    The /newstuff Chronicles is a usually-weekly roundup of new items uploaded to the /idgames archive, and it is written entirely by community members like you. If you wish to contribute, the /newstuff Review Center is the place to do so. Register on the Doomworld Forums first if you don't already have an account, because you need one to submit reviews. Special thanks goes to the nearly 300 users who have submitted reviews over the past several years.

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    Glad it's back! Few reviews but longer than the usual. Bloodstain's one was rather painful to read though...

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    Yes, its back!

    @gaspe, gee lots of long reviews in this issue. Mine was straight to the point... Mostly.

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    Ah shit, I got killed by the trooper on level 1!
    This is great, best wad released this century.

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