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    The /newstuff Chronicles #518


    • CyberShield (PWAD Version) - XCVG
      Doom/Doom 2 - Single Player - GZDoom - 5.94 MB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      CyberShield is basically a freeware indie game that happens to be made in the Doom engine and run in GZDoom. It goes a little bit beyond being a TC; everything about the gameplay feels different from Doom, and the graphics don't resemble Doom's at all. It's sort of like a 3D version of Space Invaders. There's only one level, and it takes place in a single small arena, where you try to fight off seemingly endless hordes of cartoony critters that are invading your turf.

      The story (which I could only partially read, since GZDoom clipped off a ton of the text) is that you're in a distant future where some sort of robots have driven the last of humankind into an underground refuge, where they're cryogenically frozen to wait for safer times. You play as a person or an AI or something who has to go into cyberspace and fight off an attack against the server that (I think?) is keeping them alive. All of this is conveyed via a series of intro screens accompanied by grim '80s action movie-style music, and even though I couldn't quite understand everything that was going on, it still set the tone nicely.

      Granted, the actual game has a completely *different* tone, but that's okay. The music is still retro but has more of a cheesy arcade sound to it, and the graphics are just plain adorable. The textures are very flat and colorful, and the enemies and guns are abstract shapes that look like they're made from just a handful of pixels.

      As you try to hold off the hordes of attackers, you'll encounter four different enemy types: a small swarming enemy that shoots projectiles, a suicide bomber that always goes for the server pillar you're trying to protect, a tough tank enemy that will attack either you or the server, and a boss that shoots at you and spawns more of the little swarmer guys. To combat them, you get three guns, all of which are already in your arsenal when you start and come with infinite ammo. There's a dinky railgun pistol, which is the default weapon; a machine gun, which is the best to use against the swarmers; and a slightly more powerful projectile weapon that can potentially take out several enemies in a shot, sort of like a weaker rocket launcher.

      Gameplay is extremely tough, and having the right control setup is absolutely critical. It's almost impossible to hit anything without a crosshair, and you have to use a 3D mouselook setup rather than 2D mouselook with automatic height compensation (which I personally prefer), because autoaim doesn't seem to work in this game at all. Even with these adjustments, though, I found the gameplay very frustrating. The enemies are extremely small, the weapons are weak and cover very little space, the swarmers move very quickly, and the end result of all this is that I spent most of my time just trying to aim properly. Those little pink swarmer enemies are the only ones that are really obnoxious, but they account for most of the enemies you fight, and the boss bots spawn them at absurdly fast rates, which compounds the problem even more. For me, it really sucked the fun out of what looked like it was going to be a pretty casual game. At some point I thought to myself, "Well, why don't I just switch to a lower difficulty setting?," but it turns out that the game doesn't have any difficulty settings.

      Does CyberShield reach some kind of dramatic finale where you try to fight off multiple bosses, or does it keep going forever, so that the goal is just to try to hold out longer and longer each time, like in all of the old arcade shooters that the game takes inspiration from? Honestly, I was never able to find out. Eventually I turned on cheats to see if I could reach an ending, but even then, I got so sick of trying to keep up with the swarms that I gave up and quit. I feel like this could be a great game if it were more accessible, particularly if it had multiple difficulty modes, the enemies were a bit larger, and the weapons had more clout. However, if you were a gamer in the '80s and you don't care whether games are about achieving a goal or being victorious, you may have a lot of fun seeing how long you can last.

    • ROMERO'S HERESY - John Mullins aka Drfrag Rafael Angel Jimenez aka The Master
      Doom 2, Heretic - Single Player - ZDoom compatible, EDGE/3DGE, Vavoom, Doomsday - 991.64 KB -
      Reviewed by: bzzrak
      ROMERO'S HERESY is a mod for ZDoom or EDGE (claimed to work with a variety of other ports, though), released a long time ago (somewhere in the early 2000-s), but updated in May 2016. Apparently, the install procedure was a bit messed up, so the authors showed up again and made Heresy easier to play in 2016. So, let's see what's it worth!

      The install procedure is indeed rather easy now; I just copied my Doom 2 and Heretic IWADs to a directory where I had previously unzipped the archive, ran the included executable and, after a few minutes, got a working PWAD requiring the Doom 2 IWAD. It requires a 32-bit OS, though, so if you're one of those progressive folks with a 64-bit OS, you might run into some trouble. This PWAD is some sort of tribute to John Romero, who is credited by authors as "THE DOOM GOD".

      As you might've guessed from me mentioning the Heretic IWAD, this mod brings you Heretic levels, but with Doom 2 monsters, weapons and powerups. Also, the authors claim that this is BREWTAL DEWM/PRUJECT BREWTULITI compatible, so if you're into that kind of stuff, go ahead and give this a play.

      By the way, if you're playing this with EDGE/3DGE, you will have to cope with some sort of weapons mod. The pistol has to be reloaded, the SSG reload animation is even slower, and the shotgun, RL and BFG have those "expanded" sprites. I used ZDoom for this review, so I can't really tell you how much it impacts the gameplay and if are there any changes that I haven't noticed at first glance.

      First of all, I have to say that this mod is NOT something that aims for the genuine Heretic experience and things like that: all those Heretic behaviour quirks, such as basically everything related to the D'Sparil boss fight, are not preserved. I'm not sure if that was the intention, so I'm just neutrally mentioning it.

      The monster balance seems quite different; it is very clear that the levels aren't suited for the bestiary. A single Baron is a LOT weaker than an Iron Lich, at least to me. Same goes for zombiemen and those small red flying gargoyles! Therefore, the levels are quite a bit easier than in the original (I played on the 3rd skill level). Or am I just too used to the good old Baron of Hell and Zombieman? However, it's still quite fun to play... assuming that you found the original Heretic with its more exploration-focused gameplay fun. The varying level design, lots of secret areas -- it's all still here and waiting for you to play, but with a new twist in it.

      All of the episodes, including the semi-hidden E6Mx levels, are accessible from the title screen.

      This PWAD (or can it be called a TC?) also comes with a few new sprites -- those gargoyles holding red and blue orbs for the two Doom key colours that were absent in Heretic.

      Moreover, one thing that probably should be mentioned is that the map slots are in Doom 2 format now, so e.g. E3M8 becomes MAP26.

      There are also a few (minor) things that are, if not annoying, a pain to watch repeatably. The small blood splats that appear when you shoot a monster make that "SPLOOSH!" effect and sound when they fall into the water. That's noisy and aggravating. Also, the teleports lack that funky stars effect. They just don't seem so special anymore. One more thing that isn't really a problem is that some monsters look (a bit) strange in the Heretic palette, such as the Hell Knight and Pinky.

      Overall, ROMERO'S HERESY is definitely a decent execution of an interesting idea, and, although it does suffer from minor problems, is still something that the Six Fans Of Heretic (TM) might like. Even if you don't belong to the aforementioned Six, you can check this out for a slightly different experience from the usual Doom gameplay.

    • Pulse - Michael Jan Krizik (valkiriforce)
      Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 1.29 MB -
      Reviewed by: Ofisil
      Almost every single wad author has a long list of old wads; wads that helped us understand level design better, wads that are too old, or wads that were simply left out of any major projects. This is such a collection, and as one, all levels were meant to be played at pistol start. Here's a brief summary:

      First there are a bunch of levels that look like small tests. Map 03 is a tiny three-corridor level. Map 04 is a small arena that won't need more than a minute to complete. The most interesting of the bunch is Map 07, a Satan's asshole level (lots of blood and gore), which offers a few long corridors guarded by some unchallenging Arch-viles. Map 10 is a generic Cyberdemon fight - skip.

      Then there are a few, equally simple, but larger stages. Map 01 and Map 06 are both short and sweet, but otherwise forgettable, and the same goes for Map 15 which is longer, but nothing special as a whole. Map 02 is pretty much the same, but ends in a slaughter map-type area which is more annoying than challenging. Map 05 is even worse, since it's a slaughter borefest that's highly unfair and irritating.

      Moving on, we have the simple, decent-to-good, old-school and open-ended, key-searching maps, like Map 08, 09, and 12. Map 13 and 20 are quite larger than those, as well as one of the best in this collection, and the same goes for Map 14 and 16, although they are somewhat lengthy. Map 17 and 18 are good too, but they overstay their welcome, not to mention that the first has way too little medikits around. As a whole, some good ol' Doom fun here.

      Finally, we have those "are we there yet?!" bore-o-ramas that don't know when to finish, like Map 11, which is a LONG, unimaginative pile of corridors with a few enemies sprinkled all around, and the Grand Canyon-like Map 19, which starts OK, but soon puts you to sleep with its overabundance of enemies and gargantuan map size.

    • Asylum (v1.0) - Angry Saint
      Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 816.97 KB -
      Reviewed by: Ofisil
      Asylum (v1.0) is an Asylum-styled (duh) level, and as one, it consists mostly of various shades of brown, green, and more brown. It's generally good-looking, although not that detailed (or varied), and the contrast between light and dark is - mostly - well-used, but those seeking something more vibrant in color, or closer to Doom's cyber-hellish look, better try something else. By the way, while not a long map (in fact it's quite balanced length-wise), it IS long, which makes its already repetitive and dull music track even more so.

      In terms of gameplay, it's a pretty straightforward, find-the-keys map with normal-to-slightly-higher challenge and no big surprises or intricate/labyrinthine level design. When simply running around you will face a couple of enemies at some pretty big areas for them to pose a threat, and when picking up a key or a weapon a typical "ambush" will occur, which, while tougher, is not something special. The only out-of-place battle is the very last one, where all sorts of enemies (plus an Arch-vile) will appear from multiple doors, with little to no space to move, leading to a lot of cheap deaths. The funny part? Since this is the only section that stands out, it's probably the best in what is an otherwise average wad.

    • The Cursed Temple - Paolo M. aka Paul977
      Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 250.73 KB -
      Reviewed by: Ofisil
      The Cursed Temple is a single-player Doom II level with an underground, dungeon-like look full of brick and wood that, while not exactly wallpaper-beautiful, is surely the work of someone experienced with wad design - plus, the accompanying, dark music tune "Night Bats," courtesy of Mark Klem, fits like a glove to the claustrophobic, almost survival horror vibe of the map... the VERY claustrophobic vibe of the map.

      The whole idea behind it is that it's a very linear, but unorthodox labyrinth, where paths open up not by just turning on switches or opening doors, but by "secret" wall-doors and so on; secrets in the sense that that they are not obvious, though, because moving on never becomes a "search every crack and crevice" kind of chore.

      Gunplay-wise, it's a mixed bag. Needless to say that the vast majority of enemies don't just stand there waiting for someone to come, and instead surprise the player through ambushes. While some specific areas end up feeling more annoying and unfair than challenging, most of the time there's "enough" space to move around - the "enough" is in quotes because, let it be mentioned once more, this is very claustrophobic. In conclusion, great wad, but only for those who want the things it offers.

    • Mephitic Purity - Lee "DooMAD" Wallis
      Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom - 944.42 KB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      Mephitic Purity's development goes way back. It was intended as a submission for Community Chest 3 but was put on hold when that project changed from ZDoom to Boom compatibility. It's set in a brown, slightly overgrown base and uses slopes liberally. Overall it looks pretty good, but the appearance tends to be kind of monotonous, since the same sets of mid details get used for huge sections of the map and the texture selection is pretty much the same throughout (up until the final room, shown in screenshot 3, which is a nice visual change).

      Gameplay is laid-back and fun, relying on just the shotgun, chaingun, and SSG against lots of low- and mid-tier monsters. Although there are over 350 monsters on UV, the level felt concise and fast-paced to me, since there weren't any boss battles or grindy hordes to slow it down. The ammo felt just right -- slightly tight if you always try to rely exclusively on your most powerful weapon, but reasonably generous if you switch back and forth between guns. Unfortunately, the ending arena felt really jarring to me, since it uses a completely different style of gameplay from the rest of the level and switches music without any particularly good reason. It also locks you in, so you can't go back to the rest of the level to max items and secrets if you missed some. Speaking of secrets, I clipped out of the last room after beating it and used the map cheat just to check them out; none of them have any visual indication of where they are, so you are presumably expected to just run around clicking on walls, which is annoying. Also, there's a yellow key in the level that isn't used for anything.

      In short, this map has a few weird flaws, but it's pretty fun overall.

    • Based - PinchySkree
      Doom 2 - Single Player - PrBoom+ - 4.38 MB -
      Reviewed by: Ofisil
      Pinchy has spent a lot of hours here. A lot. Thankfully, he is a skilled author, so don't expect any flaws design-wise; no serious bugs, no stupid enemy placement, no misaligned textures, and so on. Unfortunately, Based is a megawad where the emphasis was given in realism rather than fun. Instead of the abstract level design that made Doom such a fantastic game, all stages resemble actual places - from parking lots to office complexes, and from excavation sites to hi-tech labs, everything is highly detailed, and full of some well-crafted props, ranging from simple toilets to fountains. This doesn't help the gameplay, though.

      For starters, the vast majority of areas are (again, for reasons of realism) extremely large, and, to be honest, empty, making the - initially - few battles with enemies far from challenging, because, let's be honest, even a legion of Cyberdemons is an easy target in an area as big as a football stadium. Furthermore, even as the levels become more challenging as the game goes on, it all feels like a gargantuan room with a few enemies scattered around, with no real surprises, traps, or secrets. The player enters, shoots some demons, grabs the key, and moves on. All in all, a fine example of level architecture, but an average Doom wad.

    • Try Before you DIE! - VeinCrawler
      Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom - 585.61 KB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      Try Before you DIE! is a challenging map that uses only stock textures -- and uses them quite well. Half of the map takes place in a destroyed city, and the other half is the standard bastion of Hell that serves as the source of the invasion. The level has plenty of nice clean detail, including lots of crumbled walls and such that contribute to the ruined world theme but also serve a functional purpose, since most of them are actual openings that you can walk through to get from one room to the next. Partly because of this, the level felt like it offered a great deal of freedom in terms of how to move around.

      The two halves of the level are (mostly) played separately, but each one is nonlinear. In the first area (the city), you have to run around and find guns and ammo while under heavy fire from the chaingunners and upper mid-tier monsters that start confronting you almost immediately. There's some great building-to-building urban combat here, but also larger, more open battles in the main street area. Once you've dealt with everything and found the series of switches needed to progress, you move on to the Hell area, which is built around a central blood pit with an Icon of Sin. Those who hate Icon of Sin battles don't need to worry, as you never have to deal with a monster spawner. That doesn't mean that anything about this area is easy, though. To open the way to the exit (through the Icon's mouth), you have to hit four switches scattered around this part of the map, and each one requires you to overcome a distinct challenge: a tricky barrel puzzle, a multi-level cavern maze, a big battle against many enemies, and a Cyberdemon/Arch-Vile fight. I love how many different things the author manages to throw at you in this map, and I think pretty much any player will have their skills tested in some way. Tough but fair, and quite fun.

    • Plutonium Sandpit - Kristian Aro
      Doom 2 - Single Player - GZDoom - 33.47 MB -
      Reviewed by: Not Jabba
      For pretty much the entire time that ZDoom-based ports have existed, it's been easy to dismiss most of their features as pointless gimmicks -- and with the exception of DECORATE and its ability to expand the game's content base without replacing existing resources, I tend to agree. Features like slopes and translucent panels can be loosely replicated at lower compatibility levels in a way that feels more Doomlike, and stuff like colored lighting and sudden music changes during boss battles usually make me wonder why the author even bothered. But every once in awhile, there comes a G/ZDoom project that manages to use all these features so thoroughly and so well that I have to grudgingly admit that they may be on to something.

      Enter Kristian Aro's Plutonium Sandpit, a GZDoom map that, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with Plutonia but quite a lot to do with sand. This goliath of a level has it all: atmospheric effects, fancy lighting, bulletproof glass, about 20 different "you can't open this door yet" messages, and a crapton of custom content, from decorations to powerups to monsters. Thing-wise, the new monsters are the most obvious additions. Early on, you'll fight several slightly more powerful Imp variants and a couple of custom zombies, and although they don't really add anything to gameplay, they succeed in what they set out to do, which is add some unobtrusive flavor to the level. Aro doesn't go whole hog with a zillion different variants of every monster, which is a good thing; mostly you're dealing with standard Doom-style combat against your favorite classic demons. Toward the end of the level, you face a few more hellish monsters, including a fast-moving fireball thrower (Hellions, for those well versed in the Realm667 Repository), a powerful flying Mancubus, and two different Baron-based minibosses with fire-themed attacks. The minibosses are a fun addition, and the variety they contribute to the combat scenarios is welcome in a level that takes an hour plus to beat. The Hellions aren't as useful an addition, since you mostly fight them in more confined spaces where their speed is less of an asset. They still look cool though.

      Did I mention this map is huge? Plutonium Sandpit carries on the tradition of gigantic ZDoom-based megamaps such as the ZDCMP series and Ultimate Torment & Torture, and even though the monster count is a somewhat moderate 500 or so, you'll want to have a serious chunk of time free to commit to your playthrough. The level is divided up into three distinct sections. The first is a nonlinear base crawl with lots of the usual trappings, including crates and air ducts; combat is pretty light, but the scattered enemies tend to be shooting at you from multiple directions, and there are a fair number of perched snipers that you'll need to watch out for. After that, you'll move on to the huge, open sandy courtyard for which the level is named. This area has multiple side buildings and is generally linear (find the switch or key to open up one area at a time), with much more challenging combat against larger groups of powerful enemies and several bosses and minibosses. The fog and other ambient effects create a nice sandstorm-like atmosphere out in the courtyard and start to make the level feel like it's part of a more modern game (Serious Sam era, maybe) that just happens to have sprite graphics. The last area is the hellish source of the invasion, and Aro uses GZDoom's features to really lay the atmosphere on thick here, with heavy reddish fog and various fiery effects. After some simpler hall-to-hall combat, you make your way to the final arena, where you're likely to get walloped by a nasty battle against all of the toughest enemies in the expanded bestiary, followed quickly by an Icon of Sin fight.

      Plutonium Sandpit is nothing if not impressive. Although I still prefer to see port features used in a way that doesn't interfere with Doom's classic look, this level is GZDoom mapping at its finest.

    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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    Nice review of Plu Sandpit Not Jabba! I enjoyed that beautiful level and given the name of its author that's not much of a surprise. It's maps like this that slowly raise the bar for zDoom mapping.

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    There are blue keys and blue orbs in Heretic; it's just the red that's replaced by green.

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    Gez said:

    There are blue keys and blue orbs in Heretic; it's just the red that's replaced by green.

    Oops... sorry. Can the mods please correct my review?

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    I don't play much single player but I just played through Plutonium Sandpit and it was awesome! Excellent map :)

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