The Joy of Mapping #2 - Jimmy & Various
Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 1.71 MB -
Reviewed by: Csonicgo
Note: I lost my other review in an SD card wipe, because I'm an idiot. So if I missed anything, well, oops.
The Joy of Mapping #2 is more Joymap goodness by Jimmy and Company. While I loved the previous installment, this one is a lot better in the quality department. There aren't many stinkers in here, but there are a few slaughtery-maps, including one that took me a while to beat because I was playing on a sub-par setup and couldn't turn around in time.
Texture themes are (mostly) all great and lighting seems to be more competent this time around. I didn't have many complaints other than the blandness of one map that reeked of the Doom Builder 2 default theme. I've yet to see that theme look good in any map yet.
Yet another solid effort, and I wish these mapping machines the best in the next installment, which I will likely enjoy playing if this one is any indication. Pick this one up!
Ave Exitium - Obsidian
Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 254.61 KB -
Reviewed by: Not Jabba
What to even make of this map? If you open up the automap, you'll see the words "Jesus Wept," which I think roughly sums up my sentiments on the matter.
I think this has to be the most difficult map I've ever played with under 200 monsters, or the most difficult map in which monster count was not a major factor in the difficulty. The first time I quit in frustration was after just a few attempts, because I couldn't get past the first few rooms. Then about 10 minutes later I tried again. And quit again... and so on. Ave Exitium is that kind of map. It's very much a puzzle that leaves you feeling like there must be some way to beat it, and makes you keep coming back even after you've relinquished your review claim in disgust and abandoned the wad for like three weeks straight.
So what's so bad about it? First and foremost, there's hardly any ammo. There's no chaingun, so the bullets you pick up aren't good for much, you don't get rockets until the last couple of fights, and although you get both shotguns early, there are only a few boxes of shells. If you are using your SSG against anything other than Arch-Viles, Pain Elementals, or monsters that are actively blocking your escape route, you're doing it wrong. If you follow this advice religiously, you should have enough ammo to make it through the first third of the level, at which point you get the Berserk pack and it becomes a balls-hard Tyson map. The chainsaw appears earlier, but it seems to require some kind of straferun trick to get, and I couldn't reach it. Throughout all of this, you're trying to get around tough enemies like Revenants and AVs in fairly small spaces, it's dark, and you have to puzzle out the progression as you go while under fire from enemies you can't kill. The layout can be pretty confusing, as there are passages that sneakily transport you to the other side of the level, and most of the rooms look pretty similar. There are many switches to find and hit, and some of them open up in small nooks in areas where you've already been with no warning; I'm thankful for ZDoom's automap rendering with color-coded lock-and-key lines, because I don't think I'd have ever found the locked switches without them. Also, there is only one difficulty setting. Also, the walls are actually Mancubuses and shoot fireballs at you. Even the secrets don't give you more ammo, though one of them does give you the privilege of Tysoning six Revenants at once with no cover for a Megaarmor.
At one point after hunting down most of the switches, I ended up finally finding the rocket launcher and the level's final ammo cache (hallelujah!), only to realize that I was stuck in a puzzle room with no obvious way out. After riding blood floors up and down for 15 minutes, I ragequit again... and then half an hour later, I restarted for the nth time and tried again. It turns out that to solve the puzzle, you have to blindly guess that the FIREBLU walls have barrels and Keens behind them that you can only destroy with rockets. Once you get out, you're almost free -- all you have to do is take on a couple of Cyberdemons and a small horde of other enemies blocking the exit lift. You can get the Cybers to help you kill everything else, but if you have enough ammo to kill the Cybers, I don't know where you got it from. It's kind of interesting that there's yet another layer of challenge there; sure, you can run past them and beat the level, but can you be even stingier with your ammo and kill them next time?
Don't get me wrong, this level is pretty cool. The blood-filled fortress setting is nice, and although the detailing is on the simpler side, the lighting does wonders for the map's atmosphere. The little spinning skull cube things are also neat -- Obsidian is always good at creating new content that expands the Doom universe in believable ways, even if it's something as simple as a single decoration. And although the design can be kind of dickish at times, the whole level is a very carefully crafted puzzle that requires some serious thought and effort. I would only recommend Ave Exitium to masochists, but if you genuinely love a challenge -- and I mean seriously love it, not like you're just saying that because you don't mind dying sometimes -- you may really enjoy it.
Jupiter Carnage 3! - Bzzrak Ktazzz
Ultimate Doom - Single Player - Vanilla - 546.18 KB -
Reviewed by: Voros
Yet another bzzrak map. Fortunately, this one's decent. Pretty good in fact.
First of all, there are two maps here. One is supposed to be a small starter map, apparently to let the player know this isn't the main map. The actual map itself is larger in size. Second of all, don't let those screenshots fool you! There's more to the map than you think!
In terms of detail, such as texturing, it's all right. Pretty good in fact. He didn't go for the hyper realistic details found in many new school maps, nor the classic '90s way of detailing either. It's both tied together neatly. Or at least, as neat as possible.
The thing placement could've been better, could've been worse. There's no denying that. Sometimes, it feels too easy, such as shooting down imps single file in a nice corridor, to extremely challenging via fighting barons and cacodemons in pitch black darkness in a claustrophobic tunnel. But there's good progression, so I have no real complaints on this matter.
The map design could use some work though. I admire the architecture used here, showing off bzzrak's potential, but it can be cruel. For example, being forced to run around in a cramped hallway with hitscanners waiting to penetrate you with their guns. Even worse: being forced to navigate a room with damaging floors, and no radiation suit. Not a big fan. Another thing worth mentioning is how the map seems to slowly change itself from techbase to Hell, similar to how Doom's first three episodes follow a trend of techbase to perverted techbase to Hell. This is a plus, because it's something I did not expect, seeing as how the map starts so techy.
The graphics. Well, first of all, I thought the sky fit very nicely with the map, for being visually pleasing to look at. But what I really enjoyed the most was the title screen. Just like how hentai intrigues me, this did too. The font and its colour along with the Doomguy himself taking a selfie AKA Selfie Doom, was a nice treat. Too bad though. I liked the older one with simple black background and that silly quotation. Not sure why really, but my brain enjoyed it a lot. Then there's the ENDOOM, which claims that this WAD surpasses Half-Life. Had a good laugh reading that. Well, if anything, bzzrak has a sense of humour and clearly makes these maps because he enjoys doing so. That's my kind mapper.
Overall, not too shabby, can be drag sometimes, can be a bitch, but worth playing through.
No End in Sight - Emil "NaturalTvventy" Brundage, Xaser Acheron, Chris Lutz
Ultimate Doom - Single Player - Limit Removing - 6.03 MB -
Reviewed by: Not Jabba
The landscape of Ultimate Doom modding is pretty well dominated by individual episode replacements, and a serious 27- or 36-level megawad is virtually unheard of this side of Doom the Way id Did. But if you think less is more when it comes to Doom 1, you clearly haven't played No End in Sight.
This project, a collaboration between NaturalTvventy, Xaser, and Lutz, began as yet another offshoot of Doom the Way id Did. But despite its origins, NEIS is not an id clone, nor does it try to be. It maintains a classic feel throughout, but the team of three mappers focused much more on creative use of the vanilla Doom engine than on sticking religiously to id's design tenets, with a couple of major exceptions: first, virtually every level has a non-linear layout with an emphasis on freedom of movement; and second, the use of Barons and boss enemies is pretty limited up until E4, which puts the focus on fighting smaller enemies with lighter weaponry. To some extent, individual mapping styles take a back seat to these main principles (as well as the limitations imposed by the vanilla engine), but you can still pretty easily guess who made what. Xaser's maps tend to feature the smoothly curving structures and shifting geometry that are the hallmarks of his style. Lutz only contributed three maps, but all are excellent; his two vanilla maps are probably the most classic in the set (in the sense of "the Way id Did"), while his limit-removing map is one of the most complex and detailed. NaturalTvventy, who created around two-thirds of the total maps, is a bit more of an odd duck, and it feels like his mapping style evolved over the course of the megawad. His E1 maps are simplistic and often intentionally rough around the edges, probably intended to mimic the early modding community as much as the id team. His maps in later episodes, however, feel like they could have been created by a completely different person. From E2 onward, Brundage provides clean, attractive visuals, but it's his creative gameplay that really stands out. Every single one of these maps feels completely different from the others, and most of them revolve around some totally unique gameplay idea, whether it's a puzzle, a layout principle, or a combat style.
Almost every level in E1 is by NaturalTvventy, and as I already mentioned, the episode is intentionally retro. If you liked the idea of Erkattanne but hated the execution and decided to set out to do it right, you might end up with something like Brundage's early E1 levels. That said, the maps gradually increase in polish as the episode progresses, and there are also some really strong hints of Romero homage. The best of these levels is E1M9, which is mostly one long, often frantic battle set in a nukage zone around several large silos that occasionally open up to send more enemies after you. Xaser's lone offering, E1M7, is also relatively simple, but the beautifully interconnected indoor-outdoor layout and occasional horde combat help it stand out.
E2 is my favorite episode, not just because I always love the E2 setting, but because of the huge amount of creativity and attention to detail and atmosphere that the mappers have put into it. E2M1 seems like a simple id homage, but when you return to the same area in E2M9, it becomes a whole new ballgame, a glorious nightmare of illusions and sudden descending floors. E2M2 has few crates but is still scary enough to make a great successor to "Containment Area"; it's full of sharp swaths of light cutting through darkness and things that go bump in the night. E2M4 is an eerie crawl through a huge and highly realistic floating spaceship, and it almost feels like playing System Shock. E2M5 is the crate mazey storage facility, with the added twist that most of the level is dark and non-functioning; when you find the master power switch, the whole map suddenly transforms, with lights coming on and machinery whirring to life all over the place (and remember, this is a vanilla map we're talking about). I could write a whole review just about all the cool stuff that's going on in E2M7, a huge three-key hunt in which every time you return to the hub area with a new key through an already-used entrance, the walls drop to expand the room and reveal new paths and new monster ambushes (I still haven't figured out how they did that in vanilla).
E3 is classic Hell in many ways, but again, the team has managed to accomplish a lot with what normally feels like a pretty limited theme and make each level feel unique. E3M1 is a pure puzzle level, with no required combat and some pretty good subtle environmental cues (but for those who hate puzzles, it's worth noting that the majority of them are for secrets, not the exit). E3M3 is a compact but super-intricate Xaser layout with lots of spatial challenges in addition to some close-quarters combat. E3M9 is a lava-filled level that's heavily inspired by "Mt. Erebus." It's also worth noting that E3M9 is a normal level, not a secret one, and instead, both E3M5 and E3M6 act as secret levels. E3M5 is an interesting mishmash of many themes, including some mysterious tech; make sure to check the automap when you've seen everything, as there's a great nod to the "map as art" idea first seen in "Slough of Despair." E3M6, the super secret level, is as close as Ultimate Doom can get to a full-on slaughter map; it takes you back to "Phobos Anomaly" before throwing you into a monster-filled nexus with tons of challenging side areas. E3M7 is incredibly epic, probably the largest and most complex map in the set, and by far the most memorable green marble fortress level I've ever played -- you can easily spend well over an hour exploring the whole thing.
For E4, the team lifted the vanilla limitations, allowing them to create bigger, more detailed levels. They also threw out any self-imposed sense of kindness toward the player, and the resulting levels are often extremely difficult. Even E4M1 is the most harrowing level so far, forcing you to scrounge for every meager offering of ammo and puzzle out the progression while constantly coming up against Barons and Cacodemons. E4M2 is one of those alternate dimension levels where you travel between eerily similar base and Hell areas and your actions in one dimension affect the progression in the other. E4M4 is utter chaos, with mobs of enemies cramming onto every catwalk of a fortress surrounded by lava and seemingly teleporting at random as they cross invisible lines. E4M5 (Lutz's map) is slower-paced and puzzley (though there's still some very tough combat), with a fantastic sense of exploration and lots of atmosphere. E4M6 is a hardcore marathon with limited ammo and many boss enemies, and the whole thing plays out like one huge combat puzzle. E4M7 is an appropriate penultimate gantlet that pits you against everything from large mixed mobs to Spectre hordes to twin Cyberdemons to your own instincts about whether or not you can fly. E4M8 manages to create something remarkably like an Icon of Sin battle through slow delivery of teleporting monsters and then caps off the megawad with a cinematic closing scene.
In addition to the regular content, most of these levels have tons of secrets, many of which are interesting to explore and add a whole new layer of depth to the levels. You don't need to find any of them to beat the maps, but they add a lot of cool optional content, and you'll definitely want to look for them if you like to max kills. In some of the larger levels, such as E3M7 and E4M6, layered secrets account for about a quarter of the level's total space and monster count. One thing that bothered me is that it seems like many secrets are only accessible once, and it's possible to accidentally close them off forever with a simple mistake. This may have something to do with vanilla restrictions and the experimental nature of the secrets, but it can be frustrating. If you're trying to do a max run, you'll want to be very careful of this issue in E3M7 in particular.
The whole megawad uses the stock soundtrack and mostly stock textures, but the team has also added in some edited textures and the alpha stuff released by id to help vary the settings and add to the '90s atmosphere of many levels. The wad is also set up so that if you run it in ZDoom, it automatically switches to a lower resolution, which is a nice idea that more classic-style wads should probably make use of, since they benefit much more from the feeling of nostalgia from the low resolution than they do from being forced into a high-res mode in which they don't look good. Speaking of ZDoom-based ports, if you're using one, make sure not to miss the two bonus levels, E1M0 and E4M0.
With so many different concepts and playstyles represented in this megawad, you're bound to find a few levels that you hate, and many of the more puzzley elements (including the combat puzzles) will frustrate many players. Even if you love most of the levels, as I did, there are so many levels to play, and so many of them are huge and difficult, that you're likely to be pretty fatigued by the end of E4. I think this is more a product of Doom 1's limited resources than an issue with the mapping, and I firmly believe that the team made the most of everything they attempted to do. I'd advise you to take this mapset slowly and savor it, rather than trying to push all the way through it as quickly as possible. NEIS has an immense amount to offer, and it really feels like a love letter to the game, the community, and everything that is possible in the aging Doom engine with a little moxie and some elbow grease. NaturalTvventy's wild experimentation is the star of the show, but Xaser's and Lutz's maps are excellent in their own right and help to round out the set and provide more variety and change of pace. No End in Sight may well be the pinnacle of what is possible in Ultimate Doom mapping, and it's certainly the pinnacle of what has been achieved so far. If you have any respect for UDoom and believe it's more than just a rough draft for Doom 2, NEIS is a must-play.
Miscellaneous Mayhem - Dutch Devil aka Dutch Doomer
Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 903.21 KB -
Reviewed by: Not Jabba
It's always awesome to see a great mapper return to the community with a new release after being inactive for awhile, and I'm sure I speak for many when I say that Dutch Devil has been missed. This set of three maps was assembled out of scraps for a couple of projects that were never completed, and repolished for their final release -- so I'm not sure if that actually means DD is back to mapping or if he just wanted to clear some clutter from his hard drive, but either way, they are quite welcome.
Map 01 is a snowy base with an open layout. It's a very casual map, with nothing more dangerous than a few chaingunners and only one difficult battle against a large teleporting mob. The layout is nice, though the progression is a bit confusing -- the main control room switch opens up a small, easy-to-miss door halfway across the level, and it took me a while to figure out what was going on. The map looks really pretty though; I'm always a sucker for snowbases.
Map 02 is probably the best map in the set, a larger, warmer base map with a dark flooded section and some large outdoor areas reminiscent of DD's epic map from the first PCorf Community Project. The layout is excellent, both non-linear and easy to understand. Again, it's a pretty simple map, with a couple of Hell Knights as the toughest opposition, but larger enemy groups make it more on-your-toes than the first map.
Map 03 feels more like a scrap map than the others, but it's still fun due to the more intense action. It throws some tougher monsters at you and has some cool (though brief) spelunking.
These maps aren't as good as many of Dutch Devil's classics (except maybe map 02), but they're still well worth the time to play.
The /newstuff Chronicles #528