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The /newstuff Chronicles #513

  • Innocence X - Donnel "Jazzmaster9" Enriquez
    Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom - 48.33 MB -
    Reviewed by: gaspe
    Innocence X is a wad with 10 maps (7 regular + 3 secret) largely inspired by Doom 64 and PlayStation Doom. In a nutshell, this is Doom 64 shoehorned into Doom 2. Textures and sprites are all stock, except the skies, while sounds and music are taken from Doom 64. It also features the colored lightning and fog in the style of Doom 64/PSDoom, though it doesn't fit very well with the Doom 2 textures. While I liked some things about the layouts, the overall look is extremely simple with basic and mostly blocky architecture. It start to get better at MAP04, even the combat. They are quite easy, almost boring many times, but MAP05/06 were surprisingly good in that regard considering how the rest was. Some puzzles and the progression have a good vibe of Doom 64, though this wad to me kinda fails on the creepy feel that it wants to achieve.

    People who are really into Doom 64/PS will probably enjoy this a lot more than I did, but other than that I don't really have strong reasons to recommend this.

  • Lights out! - Carlos Lastra
    Ultimate Doom - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 120.98 KB -
    Reviewed by: fr0gm4st3R
    Lights Out! is a single-level WAD designed and released by Carlos Lastra on July 08, 2016. In order to access the level, utilize the console in-game and type in "changemap E1M3". Lastra heavily relies on the use of lighting effects to display to the player that, obviously, the lights are out. Hallways and sudden turns are common throughout the map, and offer a great close-quarters combat experience. Enemies are set at a moderate capacity, which keeps the player from becoming overwhelmed by too much chaos. In total, there is 55 enemies on the map. The enemies include the basics, such as imps, zombiemen, sergeants, and cacodemons. According to my playthrough, I completed Lights Out! in roughly nine minutes, and fortunately had an enjoyable time with it nonetheless. I would highly recommend players to check it out if they want a more laid-back Doom experience instead of something longer or larger.

  • Ancient Aliens - Paul "skillsaw" DeBruyne
    Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 35.85 MB -
    Reviewed by: Not Jabba
    You know how every megawad has that one crazy secret level with the bright colors and the fancy architecture? What if somebody made an entire megawad of nothing but crazy secret levels, and every single one of them was a thing of incredible beauty? The Doom community had the answer sprung on it back in May, its collective jaw dropping at the wall of screenshots that accompanied the first release candidate for Ancient Aliens. The megawad quickly garnered publicity throughout the community and beyond, including a shoutout article on PCGamer.

    It's easy to see why. Nobody has ever made anything remotely like this for Doom, or possibly for any other game either. AA has a lot of substance to back up the hype, and it basically gets every aspect of modding right, but it's the visual themes that have really drawn attention to it. The palette takes center stage, with full ranges of bright magenta, purple, teal, and modified blues and golds, and you'll see those colors pretty much everywhere you turn as you play through the megawad. Episode 1 is psychedelic desert ruins, episode 2 is mostly a series of neon alien landscapes, and episode 3 combines the two. It really doesn't end there, either. Map 32 is a hellish alien graveyard. Map 16 takes you across four distinct worlds, one of which is frozen and another scorched. Map 25 is a nightmarish rainbow of spinning monster containment tubes. Map 31 is a space station that somehow makes gray look beautiful, partly out of sheer contrast with the colors in every other level. And Kassman's level...well, I'll get to Kassman's level later. Even within the primary themes, there's a lot of variety, and pretty much every level is distinctive and memorable -- although a few of the early episode 1 levels do feel a little samey.

    The levels are backed up with a soundtrack composed entirely by stewboy, and most of the tracks are new compositions written for the megawad. Stewboy delivers his typical combination of soothing, ethereal melodies and steady but relaxed beats, along with a few more driving pieces where appropriate, and the instrumentation often features a blend of space agey and tribal sounds that's very fitting for the atmosphere of Ancient Aliens. The vast majority of the music is excellent; a few tracks were too bizarre or goofy for my taste, but even the weird ones fit the tone of the megawad.

    The team also put together two new monsters, both of which are used liberally throughout the megawad (starting in E2) and fit into unique niches. The Plasma Trooper is extremely fast and is hard to see while it's moving due to a "stealth" effect that causes most of the monster to become invisible. It's based on a similar enemy used in Obituary and Epic 2, but instead of being a hitscanner, it fires short bursts of plasma shots. The second new monster, the Alien Guardian, is a slow-moving flier that fires two or three homing missiles at a time. Its death explosion deals splash damage, which makes it more dangerous but can also be used to the player's advantage. Neither enemy has much health, and one interesting thing about both of them is that they keep players from being able to default to the SSG as the weapon of choice for most combat. The chaingun is by far the preferred weapon against the Trooper due to the monster's high speed and very low health, while the Guardian goes down easily with just about every gun *except* the SSG, since it's usually too far away to bring down with a single spread.

    Ancient Aliens is mostly skillsaw's megawad, of course, and his highly recognizable mapping style is stamped across three-quarters of the levels. The gameplay is fast-paced and keeps you moving constantly, often drawing you onward faster than you really intended to go. Mid-to-high-tier monsters become increasingly central to the combat as the megawad progresses, and the difficulty gets quite high toward the end. Mancubuses, Arachnotrons, and Revenants remain skillsaw's go-to monsters, and Hell nobles are relatively uncommon, which I think is likely to make many players happy. As usual, he also mixes things up with an assortment of cool tricks and gimmicks, such as the sinkhole pit in map 06 that keeps descending lower and lower, or the obligatory episode-intro Tyson level (map 19), or what I can only describe as a Mancubus telefragging motif in map 07. His levels are all loads of fun to play, though I felt like I got bogged down in the difficulty a little more often than in Valiant, possibly because Ancient Aliens ditches the augmented monsters in favor of larger numbers of enemies, and you don't get the amped-up bullet weapons.

    Skillsaw chose to round out the megawad with contributions from seven guest mappers, and their distinct styles add some great variety to the levels. Stewboy's "Grey Dwarf" (map 31) is huge and extremely nonlinear, with a great arena fight on the bridge of the ship and clever secrets all over the place. AD_79's "Code" (map 20) is compact and arena-oriented and is probably the most similar to skillsaw's levels, although you can see AD's mapping style in the architecture if nothing else. Essel's map, "Acerola-Orion" (map 22), lets you play more cautiously, but it mostly has you fighting along ledges around the large central pit (don't worry, they're wide), and enemies have a lot of room to come at you, which makes for an enjoyable challenge. Pinchy's "Trinary Temple" (map 23) is an epic adventure map with a linear, implied-story-driven layout and a lot of big, sweeping vistas; it looks and plays very differently from everything else in the wad and stands out like a Bierstadt painting in a Monet gallery, but there's a lot of cool stuff going on in it. Egyptian Metaphysics" by Tarnsman (map 26) has relatively few enemies but very dangerous enemy placement and a high density of hitscanners. Joshy has two levels in the set; "The Nectar Flow" (map 09) is awesome, with mobs of fodder enemies and a really nice flowing layout, but "Floating Arena" (map 28) is the one level in the megawad that crosses the line into pure slaughterfest territory, and it drove me crazy.

    And then there's lupinx-Kassman's "Culture Shock" (map 24). True to form, Kassman made a contribution to a megawad full of visually stunning levels with incredible atmosphere and still managed to stand out from everything else around him. "Culture Shock" is set in a sort of heavenly alien cloud city painted in whites and pale blues, teeming with realism and surreal touches like bell towers, thrones, and snaking teleport systems -- not to mention the illusion of two levels of architecture, one stacked on top of the other. It's ungodly how beautiful this level is. I really want to see more done with this theme. The gameplay is pretty low-key compared to the other late-game levels, too, so you get to spend a lot of time gawking.

    AA is also accompanied by a comedic story about drugs and conspiracy theories that either ties the whole thing together and fits perfectly with the strangeness of the levels or undermines its credibility as a serious megawad -- take your pick. Sometimes it was hilarious, and sometimes I found it pretty grating. I also wish there were more interesting secrets in skillsaw's levels -- most of them just had a couple of hidden item closets and that was it, but I think the whole idea of secret hunting would have worked well for this megawad. Maybe skillsaw was trying to keep things perfectly balanced, but the extreme difficulty is easily the biggest complaint players have raised, so it probably wouldn't have hurt. Even so, quite a few people regard Ancient Aliens as the wad of the year, and as someone who places a huge amount of importance on aesthetics, I'd say it's one of the best ever made.

  • Ancient Aliens Textures - Paul "skillsaw" DeBruyne
    Doom 2 - N/A - N/A - 12.51 MB
    Reviewed by: Not Jabba
    This wad contains all of the resources used in Ancient Aliens (except for the music), and there's a ton of awesome stuff in here. Despite the name, it's not just a texture wad. The zip includes a monster resource wad with the two new monsters, the reskins of the Arachnotron and Mancubus, and all of the megawad's new decorations. It also comes with the custom font used in the wad, a .png of the palette that you can modify at will, a GIMP file that lets you play around with the arch textures, and a separate text file with detailed instructions on how to convert Doom's stock textures, sprites, and flats to work in the AA palette.

    The textures are the primary resource, though, and there are a huge number of them -- something like 5,000 total after you subtract the text and HUD graphics. These textures will obviously allow you to create new levels based on the types of desert ruins, gleaming space bases, and alien planetscapes found in Ancient Aliens, but there's a ton of more general stuff in here as well, including a fair number of textures that I'm certain weren't used in the final megawad. If you're not a fan of the rather extreme colorful visuals of AA, there's still plenty of stone and techbase stuff that you can use as a base while accenting it all with some of the more colorful textures (see map 31 of AA, for instance). There's the hellish graveyard textures from map 32, the snowy textures from map 16, and the large array of cloud city stuff from map 24. The texture wad includes 24 skies and three new liquids (magenta, purple, and teal) with waterfalls, as well as basic water, lava, sludge, and black water textures that work in the AA palette. There are "monster alert" stone panels for the Revenant and Cacodemon, similar to the ones that have always existed for the Baron and Arch-Vile. There are portals, forcefields, laser barriers, and monster containment tube textures for like half of the Doom bestiary in any color you could want. In fact, one of the best things about this resource set is that most of the textures seem to be available in about 8 different colors, so you can use whichever one(s) work best for your level.

    I'm not sure if aa-tex.wad is going to topple cc4-tex as the reigning king of resource wads, but it's definitely a gold mine, provided that you're willing to commit to using the AA palette for your wad.

  • Japanese Community Project - Various
    Doom 2 - Single Player - Limit Removing - 12.69 MB -
    Reviewed by: Not Jabba
    For most English speaking Doomers, the Japanese Community Project was on the edge of their radar while it was in development, assuming they knew about it at all. When it hit the first public beta back in April, however, it made a big splash. This community megawad features a full 32 levels made using the CC4 texture set, as well as original art by Nanka Kurashiki, who was already famous in the broader Doom community for her fan art. Other than Nanka and the project head, Tatsurd-Cacocaco, I had never heard of any of these mappers before, so the huge amount of talent on display came as a welcome surprise.

    I won't go into detail about every map, but here are some of the major highlights:

    "Riminshi Valley" by burabojunior (map 06): A rocky jungle/ruins level with great lighting. Everything is tied together by a set of vividly blue waterfalls and the player's enduring hatred toward chaingunners. This level has a really cool secret that leads to a hidden area.

    "54-pit" by Toooooasty (map 08): A battered base with some cool tech and various fun details, like the forklift in the big central pit, the mirror into another dimension in the bathroom, and the set of Revenants holding tubes foreshadowed by the automap, which contains an illustrated story to introduce the level. Full of surprises and interesting secrets.

    "My Fav" by Nanka Kurashiki (map 11): Nanka's first level in the set is themed around different colors of fruit, and if you think that doesn't sound awesome, you're wrong. This is quite possibly the only puzzle level I've ever played where I never once felt bogged down by the puzzles. This map is pure eye candy, but also surprisingly fun, and don't worry -- you get your dessert at the end.

    "Bad Morning" by Namsan (map 13): This one is a real odyssey. You wake up in a bed in the eerie starting room, where you're greeted by multiple banks of the static-filled monitors that will continue to appear throughout the level and serve as its main motif. The first part of the level is a fun key hunt through a big, nonlinear base, and then you're thrown into a hellish city made of bone and blood for the finale.

    "Space Port Panik" by doom68k (map 18): This level is full of huge, relatively undetailed spaces, but the lighting and sheer sense of place elevate it to become one of the most atmospheric levels in the set. I enjoyed the large battles, especially in the interior portion, mainly due to the large number of cover options that made up for what could have been annoying monster setups.

    "Remind" by Nanka Kurashiki (map 19): Another one with a great sense of adventure and atmosphere oozing out of every pore. This map takes you through watery canyons, bases, and Hell, but each of those three settings comes in two forms. There's the "normal" areas, which are in full color, but there are also really eerie areas that are colored only in grayscale and one other color, usually red. The lighting is ridiculously good, and I really liked the final arena.

    "A Resplendant Emerald Green" by burabojunior (map 27): This map, which is probably the most beautiful in the set, looks like it could have come out of Stardate 20X6 or Swim With the Whales, except that it's bright green instead of purple or blue. Although it begins with a couple of very difficult jumps that almost had me quitting in disgust, it becomes extremely fun after that. An exploration/puzzle level set across several large island areas, it requires you to find 13 hidden Commander Keens (a candle indicates that one is nearby, as the automap will tell you), and it's a ton of fun to hunt around for them while blasting through somewhat light opposition and staring at the scenery.

    "Hellport" by Masa (map 28): The largest level in the megawad, and another one that's really stunning to look at. True to its name, it's set over a massive docks/harbor area bordering an ocean of lava. The difficult and almost constant combat takes place in and around the imposing fortress that overlooks the ocean, on the docks themselves, and even on board a couple of the ships. The style is highly reminiscent of Hellbound, but the setting is something I've never seen before.

    "Hazmat Hazama" by Toooooasty (map 29): This deranged and brilliant map takes place in a red hellish void area that has become some kind of interdimensional magnet, sucking in pieces of places from all over space and time. These shards butt up against each other but don't connect in a logical way, leading to a big nonlinear sprawl in which you leap from a techbase into a jungle fortress or fall out of an office building into a medieval stone tomb. It could easily have been a total mess, but it somehow manages to be both good looking and flawlessly designed.

    ...and I could just keep going. Every level by burabojunior, Toooooasty, or Nanka is fantastic, and between the three of them, they created just over half of the maps in the megawad. Interspersed between all of these more epic, individually memorable levels are a bunch of humble but still very enjoyable offerings by project leader Tatsurd-Cacocaco and a small cadre of less experienced mappers, who seem to have learned a lot from working with the masters on the team. In addition to making maps, Tatsurd ran quality control on all of the beginners' levels to make sure they met consistent baseline standards, and as a result, nearly all of them feel like they're worthy additions to the megawad. In other words, Tatsurd had the monumental task of making sure that nothing felt like filler, and did an excellent job.

    The common thread throughout the megawad, and the thing that makes it stand out most to me, is that the maps are almost always more than they seem at first glance. Whether it's dramatic theme shifts or new areas that depart from the level's main theme but somehow feel completely at home (as in maps 08 and 26); huge, beautiful secret areas (as in maps 06 and 22); or utter and deliberate misdirection as to what the level's main goal even is (as in map 15), there are always surprises at every turn. Map 13 ends with an "it was all a dream" scene; map 32 starts out looking like a normal building but turns out to be a bank, complete with hidden vaults full of gold. Hell, even the automaps frequently contain easter eggs -- most notably the detailed comic book page that appears over the starting area of map 08.

    No community megawad is ever perfect, and obviously JPCP isn't perfect either. My biggest gripe is that the soundtrack is... just okay. Map 08's music is a Rockit! track that I've encountered before; it sounds great in a media player, but terrible in-game, at least for me. None of the rest of the music is really bad, but it's often not up to a quality that's fitting for the levels. It's basically a hodgepodge, with a few of the standard go-to tracks from Evilution, Heretic, and other games, as well as some tracks that felt kind of random. This is all par for the course when it comes to community projects where everyone selects their own songs, and I can't really hold it against them. However, it's worth pointing out that some recent community projects have benefited immensely from having the project manager oversee the direction of the music (which seems like it was the case with Nova 2) or even get contributors to put together a custom soundtrack (like Realm of Parthoris). JPCP does have custom title, intermission, and story music composed by Masayan, which is a nice touch.

    The one level I thought was really too weak for inclusion is "The Three World" by Tyousen121 (map 09), which is boxy and sort of dull, looks like it's intended as a "Tricks 'n Traps" tribute but doesn't feel anything like that level, and has a large, glaring HOM on one of the lifts. On the other hand, that same author's second contribution, "Probably Maybe Certainly" (map 24), shows a ton of improvement -- it's a dimension-hopping level with lots of little challenge areas and puzzles, and it's weird but also a lot of fun.

    So there you have it. I tried really hard to find some flaws, and I found a couple. But the tl;dr is that you have to play this wad. Between the many great contributions of its three star mappers and the hard work of its project leader to maintain high quality and round out the set, JPCP stands with CC4, A.L.T., and Nova 2 as one of the best community projects to date.

  • No Way Out - Alex Q
    Doom 2 - Single Player - GZDoom - 198.75 KB -
    Reviewed by: gaspe
    No Way Out is a single map for GZDoom. It's rather good visually, and the lighting added a nice touch to the map. It's advised to be a pretty level when actually it's quite easy, and the gameplay mostly focuses on "gimmick stuff". It's also very difficult to take this level seriously when suddenly there are SS Nazis, with the unnecessary and too many screen messages, BLACK METAL MIDI!!!! and those ridiculous texture resizes. To get the yellow key we have to do a few uninspired wave-based fights. At one point there's also a maze of mirrors; it would be quite interesting if it wasn't for the crappy stealth monsters.

    It's a first map and it isn't that bad actually. Even if the visual presentation is enough, the substance of the map (what actually counts) is lacking.

  • Low Key - Fveitsi
    Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 1.76 MB -
    Reviewed by: Memfis
    One map made with broad strokes. Mostly consists of large-scale rooms filled with rectangular structures. Ever heard of Michael Krause? Anyway, the monster placement is relatively basic and there is pretty much always an option of quickly retreating and stocking up on medikits, so you shouldn't have any problems surviving here (oops 3rd screenshot). If you're in a mood for a 20 minute walk in the park full of plasma and rockets, you can have some fun with this wad as long as you can tolerate a HOM or two. There is also a custom electronic song that gives the whole thing a slightly mysterious feel.

  • Doom2 Map14 Homage. AKA: A map submitted for Master Levels that was REJECTED! =] - Tom "ParadoX" Mustaine
    Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 55.68 KB -
    Reviewed by: Jaws In Space
    This map is one of Tom Mustaine's oldest levels; it was originally submitted for inclusion into The Master Levels for Doom 2. The story goes that Shawn Green played the map for a minute and then got American McGee to play it. Upon seeing the map, McGee said "go make some of your own geometry! We aren't putting this in the Master Levels." Mustaine left the id offices and then began work on Paradox.

    The map is very obviously an homage to Doom 2 map 14 architecturally, but the texturing is very in line with Mustaine's early work: BROWNGRN for exterior building walls, various METAL textures used for the interiors, and SLIME14 and SLIME15 for floors and ceilings. The map is divided into five different areas, corridors are pretty tight, and there are lots of hit-scanners strewn about. I played the map on HMP and had to deal with the fact that Mustaine only tagged the blue key for easy and hard difficulties, but the map is still beatable without it. Overall this is a pretty mediocre map; obvious homage aside, I don't think that ID would have put this map into the Master Levels, just because it really isn't that fun to play. Check this one out if only for its historical value.

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.