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The /newstuff Chronicles #366

  • Heretic - Curse of D'sparil - Kristian 'Kristus' Kll, Karl Kll
    Heretic Support - Solo Play - 4772021 bytes -
    Reviewed by: st.alfonzo
    People who've known me long and well enough say I'm a bit of a compulsive fellow, and I suppose to a certain extent it's quite true. I fold my dirty clothes into neat piles, restrict my desktop icons to a maximum six at a time, and am fervently selective about what Doom mods I allow onto my computer. That having been said, you'll be awarded no points for guessing that Kristus's 9-level replacement for the 3rd episode of Heretic slotted snugly into the confines of my hard drive without a scruple of doubt, and, furthermore, that I believe it to be one of the greatest and most influential level sets ever to grace screen.

    Curse of D'sparil, or "Curse" for short, is a fresh rendition of a seldom played game; a gargantuan defibrillatory shock to the face of Heretical history. And by God did the game need it. Up until now you'd be forgiven for thinking that Corvus didn't actually have death animations, or was incapable of screaming, or even that the true function of the Mystic Urn was little beyond that of looking aesthetically pleasing in the inventory selection bar. It really was that simple. Here however the game is taken to a whole new level, not only because it's far more trying, beautiful and memorable, but because the content that made the original Heretic set apart from its better known predecessor is really put to trial. Picking up my 14th Timebomb of the Ancients in Shadow of the Serpent Riders, to draw comparison, I always felt as though I was abusing the system by allowing items to clutter up the inventory, my aggravated conscience scowling at me from the back of my mind like a restrained mathematician watching an undergraduate abuse his algorithms ("You're doing it wrong!"). More often than not it would prove all too much for me to handle, such that I would simply stop everything, standing stationary amidst a bevy of blood crazed Weredragons, to begin cycling through the some ten variety of items I had collected previously...

    It's a tough gameplay obstacle to work around, admittedly, seeing as half the problem lies with the player's often too conservative approach, but Kristus seems to have pulled it off. Though it may only be due to the ominously high monster count forcing hand, absolutely every item found some sort of use at some stage, and for the first time I was left wishing I had so and so items at my disposal to combat a certain situation. For players like myself who haven't dabbled in Heretic for some time, it really couldn't be any more refreshing or engaging a quality of gameplay, and it boosts the enjoyment factor tremendously. In addition, it just goes to show that there is a real understanding of the content exclusive to Heretic at work here, making the experience all the more unique from other level sets: You couldn't simply replace the monsters or items with those from Doom and call it a day, for instance. It just wouldn't work.

    Difficulty too is a big talking point, and I'm only too happy to report that I was mercilessly mauled to death on several occasions. Along with the inventive application of content, the grueling onslaught helps most of all to elevate Heretic into the modern scene, something which I'm sure the community will be thankful for. Much along the same lines, the architecture is consistently high standard, and at times nothing short of miraculous. I simply had to stop and marvel at the Herakleion of E3M4, and the twisting, frozen stone-walks of E3M7's "The Icicle". The whole set managed variety, atmosphere and grandeur with consistency and believability, all the while having the player maintain a real sense of accomplishment and distance (as well as perhaps objective, if only the plot line had better allowed for it). I should point out though that it was rather disappointing to see the intermission screen displaying each map as nothing more than a misshapen fjord within the folds of a misty mountain. A petty qualm, to be sure, but its resolve would have been a final sanding around the edges of a work already immaculate in quality.

    All things said and done, the greatest boon of Curse is as was mentioned previously: what it has brought to Heretic mapping. Already we are seeing an evident rise in the number of individuals willing to map for the game (hell, I'd bet my lucky coin it's as a result of this mod, too), and hopefully it is a number that will increase further in future. Regardless though, this much is true: Curse of D'sparil is fun, brilliant awesome, and absolutely everybody should try it out.

  • Real Reload Weapon Mod r2 - Player701
    ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 6143911 bytes -
    Reviewed by: WildWeasel
    I like to keep on top of the latest weapon mod releases, and Player701's reload mod is no exception. In the field of weapon modding, I see a lot of "compromise" mods - mods that offer a slight change of pace with some different sort of weapons to look at, but don't change the gameplay beyond perhaps minor fire rate adjustments. Again, RRWMR2 is no exception. I imagine Player701's goal with this mod was to maintain the same basic behavior of all of Doom's weapons, while only adding the need to reload, as well as a few other little additions like shell casings, smoke, and spark effects.

    The problem is, though, that that is literally all Player701 has contributed here. While he created his own reloading system from scratch (really the only way you can do it in Decorate), in addition to the new smoke, spark, and shell casing effects, the rest of the mod is comprised of borrowed resources from Xaser's Zen Dynamics (okay, I can forgive that, as the Zen weapons were never officially released as a standalone package) and Zero Tolerance (which is already quite a good weapon mod in itself). The author, in borrowing said resources, did not bother to change much - in fact, the animation sequences for most of these weapons are the exact same sequences as they were in the aforementioned mods that they came from, almost right down to the tic delay between frames.

    Also, in Player's attempts to make sure that the balance is not upset by the addition of reloading, somehow this mod makes the game much harder than it ought to be. While Doom's basic shotgun takes an estimated 2.4 shells to kill a Pinky, the replacement shotgun (Duke Nukem 3D's, as edited by Cory Whittle who said in his text file not to borrow his edits...*cough*) takes slightly more shots, in that you will more frequently need to fire a third shell to put down the demon, and the times in which you need only two shots are far more rare than they would be with Doom's shotgun. It sounds like I'm nitpicking, but it seems quite obvious to me that these weapons have a lower damage-per-second than Doom's, even discounting the reloading system. This is even more noticeable in regards to the pistol, which not only does (estimated) less damage overall, but also fires slower than Doom's pistol.

    There is one change that I really like, though, and that's how the chainsaw is handled. The chainsaw now has limited ammo, which will (very) slowly wear down as the weapon idles, and quickly burn up if you keep it revved up. But a click of the Alt-fire button will cut the motor and allow it to "rest" and regenerate its ammo. Makes the chainsaw a bit more interesting to use, encouraging you to really run in and make the most of the fuel before it runs dry, and then go take cover while it recharges.

    My overall opinion of the mod is that it really doesn't offer anything new and interesting - at least, not for those of us that have already played Zen Dynamics and Zero Tolerance. Player701 would do well in perhaps learning how to edit sprites, even just a little bit; perhaps also some time could be put into creating new animations for the weapons instead of merely taking others' resources at face value (sprite alignments and all). Lastly, perhaps a little creativity couldn't hurt. I liked the new chainsaw. Perhaps Player701 could make more little clever gameplay changes like that.

  • Doomworld Heretic speedmapping session 1 - Walter "Daimon" Confalonieri, Philnemba, Fenriswolf, Magicsofa
    ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 561014 bytes -
    Reviewed by: hardcore_gamer
    This is a map pack for Heretic that contains five levels that were, according to the author, created in less then 24 hours. I have personally never been a fan of speedmapping, mostly because it typically results in the creation of a handful of mediocre and bland maps that aren't always much fun to play.

    Thankfully, the quality of these maps is actually pretty high. The first (albeit short) map looks pretty nice. And while the others don't look that great visually, the gameplay is pretty solid and straightforward. When it comes to themes, the maps mostly use stone and Egyptian textures. It works fairly well, though I never had any real sense of location. There isn't much detail in these maps either, but the layout is still fairly decent, as it is mostly non-linear but not so complex that you get will lost all the time.

    What I loved the most about this map set is that there are no complex puzzles to solve or mazes to master; it's just straightforward action most of the time, so if that is your thing, then you can probably enjoy this set. My only real complaint is that there are way too many health potions on these maps, so many that you will probably be swimming in them by the end of the third level. Other than that, I can recommend giving this set a try.

  • Calisas - Chris Wright
    Limit Removing - Solo Play - 918545 bytes -
    Reviewed by: 40oz
    More maps from the new infamous speedmapping world champion! This wad contains 9 maps (one of which crashed in prBoom) that are all the same theme -- ugly. Really. If you've played one Chris Wright map, you've played them all. All the walls are wavy and curvy and are stitched together with auto-align abuse. Every sector has a distinctively odd shape, and while the buildings appear to be built with uniform bricks and otherwise man-made materials, every area seems to lack every kind of basic realistic architecture. There's a few traps and some extremely random monster placement, all while you routinely suffer ammo and health famine.

    I played this wad so you wouldn't have to.

  • 1000 Unheard Screams - DoomHero85
    ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 7433522 bytes -
    Reviewed by: st.alfonzo
    1k Screams is a single player ZDoom level for The Ultimate Doom, replacing e2m6, and I suppose the first thing that could be said about it is that it's a rather large map, taking the best part of ninety minutes to run through (or roughly the same amount of time as it would take for a school of piranhas to feast through a herd of wild buffalo). Dark, difficult, and dragging on far longer than it ought to, it's a map that might try the patience of many Doom players, myself included, and as such is not one I would recommend to those with "precarious temperament".

    While certainly a large map when viewed on tab, DoomHero's "Screamer" is actually quite large scale when viewed in game as well, made evident by the many highly raised ceilings, looming pillars and marble monuments that dwarf the player into obscurity. Most such forms of design, however, are only barely noticeable through what on average is probably a lighting value of 112, and while it does lend to an interesting sense of setting and space (almost, if you'll permit, giving the impression of the level being set in the ancient grounds of some yawning, hellish, scarred gorge), most of the visuals aren't all that exuberant, and, if anything else, are fairly insubstantial in sustaining the player's interest throughout the lengthy playing time, despite the admittedly epic feel.

    Gameplay is bobbling in most departments (much like my putting on the 13th green this afternoon. All over the bloody place they were!), and feels as though it were a matter addressed more broadly than intricately, particularly with regard to item and monster placement. At times it would seem somewhat subdued or undercooked, and then at other times suddenly quite violent and outmatching (although this is something of a constant where the final stages of the level are concerned). Health is placed rather disjointedly in places, and some custom monsters such as the Dark Cardinal and Hell Elemental are overused, their difficulty contributing to a kind of play that - the level being as long as it is - is more frustrating than anything else.

    To make a long story short (ninety minutes of it, in fact), 1k Screams is a bit of a messy affair, and while there is definitely a unique and immersive feel to the level, as well as an appropriate choice in music, it just isn't as enjoyable as it should be for the running time.

  • Idoom mapping contest #1: Quake World - Method
    Boom Compatible - Solo Play - 5463003 bytes -
    Reviewed by: 40oz
    Here we have a 7-map wad made by various authors. This was a contest hosted at intending to invite beginner mappers to compete to make the best map using Quake 2 as its theme. In addition to all the Quake textures, the contest initiator also replaced many sprites and a few sound FX. Many of the monsters' sprites have been replaced with sprites found on the Realm667 Beastiary without altering any of its basic behavior, which was kinda confusing for long-time Doomer like me. I suppose that was intended to trick people into thinking it was cool and not plain old boring Doom. Also, the shotgun has been replaced with a shotgun sprite that is positioned so far to the right that it's near impossible to aim without using a crosshair. I usually end up using up 3 or 4 shotgun shells on a single imp.

    The wad is arranged from bad to best maps. At least that's what I had gathered from playing it. As much as we all wish it could be, using Quake 2 textures does not ultimately make your map cool. The first few levels are just bad. The first level is pretty much impossible with the lack of ammo provided and a bullshit closet trap filled with demons and hell barons. I ragequitted the second map as I was being forced to use a chainsaw on every monster in the map, which includes revenants and archviles. I gave up on the third map not knowing what to do after I had gotten the blue key. MAP04 was pretty good looking, but the monster placement was pretty extreme. I ran flat out of ammo halfway into MAP05; MAP06 was okay, albeit pretty symmetrical and repetitive, and then I had to deal with an insurmountable number of boss monsters toward the end with not nearly enough ammo to kill them with. MAP06 was the best looking map, but the gameplay was just piss awful, including shotgun and chaingun snipers up high in the cliffs, and Hell Knights and even a cyberdemon dancing around the mountain tops, not to mention the inexplicable lag that accompanies the map.

    I didn't enjoy these maps much at all. I'd skip out on this one.

  • Dormouse - Chris Wright
    Limit Removing - Solo Play - 26572 bytes
    Reviewed by: 40oz
    Umm. Haha?

    Picture a giant plain of grass with a small body of water, and an island with a small beach house. There's a shotgun outside the house, and a super shotgun inside. There's a tiny shed outside the house and a hallway leading outside of the plain. Going inside the house opens the shed revealing a red key which is used for the exit key shortly after the hallway all the way at the other side of the plain of grass. I don't think there are any more than 15 sectors total. Oh, and there are some monsters on the map too.

    That's about as detailed as I can get with this map. Hopefully with the word pictures I painted I don't need to post screenshots. Not all of Chris Wright's maps are crappy, but this is definitely skippable.

  • shangorn - goldenhog
    doom2.exe - Solo Play - 62005 bytes -
    Reviewed by: 40oz
    Shanghorn is a pretty fun map. Lots of monsters, an SSG at the start, tons of shotgun shells. The rooms are pretty big too, which leaves enough space for circle strafing. The map isn't really pretty, but the texture choices were good and the theme is consistent, except for that random fleshy hallway. The only gripes I've got with this wad is that it's lacking in armor, and the author is kinda stingy with health given how many shotgun guys and chaingun guys there are. And the red key platform probably should have lowered via walkover line instead of a switch, because it is REALLY high up and takes forever to lower. I think the monster closet just before it was supposed to make you run to hit that switch and then deal with them while it lowers, but I ended up pressing it after I killed everything. It's a pretty fun slaughter nonetheless, though.

  • Jack Bauer questions Chuck Norris - Michael "Optimus" Kargas
    Boom Compatible - Solo Play - 37378 bytes -
    Reviewed by: 40oz
    It's a first map. It's also a speedmapping attempt. The total build time was 3 hours. It's not very good. It's about six or so structures spread over a 25,000 map pixel-diameter island of grass. It's obvious there was little to no planning for the gameplay aspect of it. Monsters appear to be plotted in groups in random places of the map. Ammo and health is a little tight but not absent. You basically journey over the empty plain of grass collecting a colored key from each building in sequence while monsters from afar do a really bad job at trying to snipe you. This appears to be the author just experimenting with the editor to see if he can actually complete something. He succeeded in doing that, but it's hardly enjoyable.

  • No Man's Land - Kevin Hamula
    Limit Removing - Solo Play - 143631 bytes -
    Reviewed by: Joshy
    "It's not the size that matters, it's how you do it" aptly said by... whoever made up the quote. The remade movie of Godzilla's promotional adverts claimed otherwise that "size does matter", but the film wasn't very well-received. Why am I preaching on about such overlooked philosophies? Well, I just felt like pointing out the truth of it, and no, I'm not implying there are phallic implications, nor am I concerned with Freud's wet dreams written as unseemly eminent theories conflated with such flimsy facades of overrated intellect. It is quite relevant to the map by Kevin Hamula: No Man's Land. I recall playing this map five years ago, and my thoughts are no different now compared to then; it's quite mediocre at best.

    It is the author's first map and was made within three days (although, no maps should ever be rushed). It is a large map. Yet, how it is done is underwhelming. It is quite simple and linear, and involves quite redundant backtracking. Any annoying old-school mapping tricks you can think of, it is highly probable the map incorporates it. There are death teleports with no indication of such shit-throwing frustrating demise is bound to transpire; one in particular functions like a Venus flytrap with health bottles as the bait. The texturing is rather shoddy; there is no strong coherence with the themes. There are numerous beginner's mistakes (door into the sky for example) sprinkled across to detract from the imagining of the author. While the monster count of 600+ can seem to be overshadowing, the difficulty is far from impressive. It is relatively easy on UV; traps are simple, and if you somehow die, you'll handle it next. So it appears bad, it is not necessarily completely bad. It will occupy playing time; some might find it to be their cup of tea. If you're after what the majority would consider fun or technically sound, then this isn't it.

  • Computer Core - EvilNed
    doom.exe - Solo Play - 65478 bytes -
    Reviewed by: walter confalonieri
    Two little amateurish maps for prBoom and ZDoom (due to a Doom Builder 3D start in the maps) for good old first Doom.

    This little map pack is set in a usual episode 1 human base/computer station, and near the end of the E1M2 turns in a marble stone fortress, with barons defending the exit.

    Talking about E1M2, I found a frustrating part in the beginning of the map; a lift raises up with some sergeants who ambush you... that made me rage out in many occasions!

    However, nice map, but there's better maps out there waiting to be played.

  • Darkstalkers - Chris Wright
    doom2.exe - Solo Play - 80551 bytes -
    Reviewed by: 40oz
    Darkstalkers is the pinnacle of the now infamous Chris Wright's mapping career. This map offers varying texture themes which makes the map as a whole hard to label, but the changes in theme are subtle so it's not bad. Each room in this map has very smooth and curvy walls, which is what I am not used to seeing. This causes a good deal of texture misalignments given that the choices in textures are often very uniform such as TEKGREN and tan bricks. I guess I could say I envy this style, because as a mapper, I'm an absolute slave to the grid, but at the same time I'm kinda glad I don't map this way either.

    The gameplay was pretty fun. I played this wad shortly after reading people's suggestions that were quickly shot down, which was helpful to know for this style of wad. Many monsters come at you from many different directions, backing you into corners and sometimes causing you to panic. Knowing that ammo would be scarce definitely gave me an edge over the monsters, such as allowing a revenant to take out a cacodemon or two to give me some extra leeway as far as ammo consumption. Given that behavior, there was only one time I was flat out of shotgun shells, but still had a chaingun and 100 bullets to live off.

    The monster placement was a little irritating. I guess the monsters live up to the title by "stalking" the player, by which I mean being deaf and placed in the map in a way where a new monster will see you with every step you take. I kinda wish I could have just woken up all the monsters at once and took them out in a single battle, but no. Cjwright79 doesn't like his maps that way and his way goes. To top it off, the type of monster you will see in each room is almost entirely unpredictable. Unlike most wads where you walk into a large empty arena with a key in the center, it's easy to assume there will be an archvile battle or something. In this wad, an archvile can be just about anywhere, often catching you off guard.

    I enjoyed this wad a lot, but the flaws were definitely apparent. Especially many of which that had been brought up in the wad's release thread, and brazenly frowned upon by the author. In his defense, even I release final stuff with bugs in it, but to target community members and flame them in response to almost every error or suggestion encountered in the wad is despicable. I enjoyed the wad, but I did not enjoy the drama left in its wake.

  • UAC Ultra Textures (v1.1) - 40oz
    n/a - n/a - 470449 bytes
    Reviewed by: MegaDoomer
    This file contains the entire set of new textures from the excellent expansion UAC Ultra. Overall they are decent, and could become even better with some fine-tuning. Given that permission is given to freely use these textures for your own purposes, it might well be worth refining them and then using some of them in your own project(s).

  • Speed of Doom - Joshy and Darkwave0000
    Boom Compatible - Solo Play - 9261369 bytes -
    Reviewed by: MegaDoomer
    A megawad a year in development by Joshy and teamed with Darkwave, Speed of Doom was finally released to the community in March. Promising to be a high quality set of difficult, monster-filled maps despite a limited timeframe for making each one, and advertised by many cool looking screenshots, the community was eagerly awaiting this release, as was I. And combined with promising reports from multiple beta testers, expectations were understandably quite high.

    One slightly unusual thing to note is that these authors didn't develop this megawad with exactly the biggest rsums of prior work in the Doom community. Darkwave has made no previous releases from what I've seen, and Joshy has merely created one or two maps for 1024 megawads, a few maps for NDCP 2, and an old set of maps later revamped and released last fall in the name of "Imperfection Has Its Charms". But all of Joshy's aforementioned maps quite impressed me when I played each one, and I know he would put be pretty sure of quality before releasing his well-advertised opus. Likewise, I figured he'd make sure Darkwave produced maps right up there too, as not to taint the megawad just for the purpose of having two authors involved. And with plenty to expect all around, I'm happy to say it didn't disappoint in the least.

    So, where do I begin? I'll go with the designs first, as each and every one is of good quality. They're also quite sizable for maps made in a short amount of time, though there aren't many (if any) truly massive maps, as is to be expected, which is actually rather refreshing considering many slaughter maps these days are gigantic to boot. Inspirations are many; there's a remake of an early Alien Vendetta maps, a design based on Doom E1M1, and plenty of other references to classic modern megawads such as the Scythe series and Alien Vendetta, to name the most obvious/prevalent. Styles vary, and while Darkwave's maps have a decidedly "hilly terrain" overall, they still mostly provide the right amount of variance, and the slightly different design styles between the two mappers isn't enough to hurt the flow of the megawad.

    Architecturally it looks good and clean, basically from start to finish. There is no hyperdetailing or anything that would interfere significantly with gameplay, and the maps are still uniformly pleasing to the eye. The scale is fair but rarely extreme, though Map28 pushes this border (and you probably want to play it with a Boom [NOT ZDoom]-based port for a tolerable frame rate). I used Eternity and got through it without excessive or interruptive slowdowns. A few other areas may lag a tad, but it generally wasn't very noticeable at all. The theme is mostly progressive, starting earthly and getting more hellish, with definite hell being the prominent feature in the final maps. On a side note, there are occasionally various small texture bugs, especially in the later maps, but they are minor and don't hurt the excellent overall appearance very much.

    The gameplay doesn't let the megawad down, either - provided you choose a skill level you can handle. It is very challenging indeed, and Hurt Me Plenty is probably recommended; I played on it, and it certainly was no easy task. In fact, it's right up there with other very hard megawads (HR, AV, etc.) and occasionally even pushes right into Death-Destiny range (Map23, Map29, and Map30 would a be few examples). On that topic, the Icon in Map30 itself is very easy to kill once it appears - instead, the challenge is holding up against a massive (and constantly reinforced) wave of monsters during the many minutes it takes to lower to the ground. The other side of gameplay, level progression, is good too. I almost always knew what to do next, and was very rarely lost. There are some nice secrets to find too.

    There is new music to top the whole thing off, which is well-chosen with some really good tracks, including some I haven't even heard before. The music almost always adds to the "feel" of the maps rather than detract from it.

    There really isn't much for me to complain about. Really all I can think of as negatives are the aforementioned occasional texture glitches and a less-than-stellar difficulty progression. While the hardest of the hardest maps are near the end, the difficulty does often tend to seesaw between hard and very hard (or maybe a few medium maps early on) and therefore, the overall difficulty progression is a bit bumpy. But it's a minor nitpick; by no means did it hurt the experience very much for me.

    All said, this is really an outstanding achievement, made even more remarkable when considering the fact that the maps didn't take exceptionally long to make, and that these are early creations by both authors (and probably first, in Darkwave's case). It really does compete with other elite megawads of this kind like Alien Vendetta, Hell Revealed, and the Scythe series (especially the later part of Scythe 2). While you may want to turn down the skill of you're a newbie, this megawad is absolutely not to be missed. It is right among my favorites, and could easily be among yours as well. It's easily the best Doom release I've played in 2010 so far. And on December 10th, I think it will almost certainly get a golden caco, as it surely deserves one. But enough said, here's the bottom line: Speed of Doom is the next epic megawad for the Doom community, the first real Dooming masterpiece of this young new decade. And you owe it to yourself to play it now if you haven't already.

  • Speed DM Anthology - Various
    Skulltag - Deathmatch - 2204195 bytes -
    Reviewed by: 40oz
    Speed DM Anthology is a compilation of 29 speedmapped deathmatch maps for Skulltag by various Skulltag community members. And as with all compilations, it's a mixed bag. After playing the first map, I was a little scared of what I was getting myself into. Some maps are junk, while many are worthwhile. Pheonix, Thrasher, and PUN1SH3R make up a majority of the megawad, each contributing 3 or more maps. The rest is filled in with single maps of heavily contrasting quality by other authors. I kinda wish PUN1SH3R would have went ahead and taken the liberty of naming all the unnamed maps that make up about 50% of the wad though. Aside from that, it's a pretty good compilation, and it's nice that a lot of the good maps here didn't get overlooked.

Does this /newstuff Chronicles suck? Does your wise ass think you can write better reviews than these jerkoffs? Then get over to the /newstuff Review Center and help out. I know you must have a Doomworld Forums account because you like griping about every edition in the comment thread, but if you don't, you need to get one to submit reviews.