Done with these settings:
- Crispy Doom 5.3
- Continuous combined with pistol start mindset.
- Saves every 10 minutes or so.
A strange, okay old one-man megawad with a long story included. Basically, the protagonist is part of a worldwide terraforming organization whose objective was invade Mars, they sent a spaceship with him inside. Troubles happened and he had to work it out on his own for several years, running out of oxygen and supplies. Rest is your job to survive, and if you care, the background of the maps is thoroughly explained in the text file. By the time I played the wad, I opted to ignore the story, but you don't have to do the same. Mars War has as many themes as basic Doom II resources allows, including spaceships (from where everything starts), tech bases, bunkers, underground caves, and other ambiguous environments. The peculiarity is that the visual themes appear in alternation rather than like a classic thematic progression, which seemed a bit disorienting at times. Texturing and detailing are generally a take-it-or-leave-it. Sometimes the looks are very bland, which is due to the a lot of monotexturing and misalignment combined with full brightness and boxy design in many of the maps. Think of huge walls of, for example GRAYTALL, to get the idea, or any other textures you might not like. However, I will admit the bits of surreal architecture helped some parts to look memorable in a good way, like a giant kitchen sink or the chambers with floating crates. I get that the author tried to tease people with Microsoft references, but that was not of my concern, in fact I liked the tricks with lifts resembling bar and pie charts, once I got the joke. The labelled textures, on the other side, seemed like silly memes. It was hilarious to find a big "DOOR" text on a door, that sort of things aren't common these days. All of the maps contain different midis, some gorgeous songs and tracks while others quite noisy. The one in the super secret map was the best by far.
The levels have a sort of gradual progression as monster species go, with the biggest demons appearing in particular boss-like situations. Figuring the correct way to exit is part of the regular gameplay of the wad, specially in the larger maps when becomes a maddening task, so as feeling constantly exposed to, mainly, hitscan attrition. There are a few instances of pressure from mixed groups of enemies here and there, and some interesting ideas like a zoo of monsters and infight simulators, but what will mostly keep you alert are the chaingunners and shotgunners, usually sneaking in resource compartments or from higher positions. Well, and the death traps. Teleporting in the middle of a round of zombies was devilish enough but dying my way through chains of nearly inescapable crushers was a tad obnoxious. Or the inverted case, you get sandwiched between the raising platform and the ceiling if you don't time perfectly your escape, which is the gimmick of map 20. Kudos for making an average player rage, heh. Anyways, the pace isn't necessarily slow in spite of the hitscan preponderance: health supplies exist aplenty, weaponry is available pretty soon in every map, with some exceptions, so I can only believe pistol starts are enjoyable with proper knowledge.
Secret-wise, usually they are very easy to spot. If you're familiar with 90's wads, it just takes a good eye to catch the hint, but sometimes you're down to trial and error, since the author had a fetish for punishing unwary players (yes, death traps). I like that there are plenty to find and some lead to hidden areas for extra kills and stuff, keeps the exploration side more engaging. For favourite maps I'll pick 16, 21, 29 and 32 for their cool concepts. Maps 15 and 17 would also be in the list because I love city maps, but the visuals are garish. The rest vary from acceptable to mediocre or boring.
Overall, it's quirky, rough, perhaps provocative for some people, as I could see around here, and still got me immersed until the end. Not sure if I would recommend this outside of nostalgic reasons, it definitely didn't aged so well, but unless you're opposed to the creativity of mappers from the past, this might worth a quick check. It's not going in my list of favourites, though. My rate is 5/10.
What I disliked: The 64/PSX (whatever) sounds, the lack of ammo, the unrewarding secrets, the recoiling of weapons and the "new" translucent Imps. I especially disliked the atmosphere - my eyes were hurting after Map 04. Almost every button you activate will spawn monsters coming out of the woodwork.
I DID like the Mapsets, though. It's unfortunate that the atmosphere ruined them for me.
This game should've been called "Spectre" 'cause there were more of them than every other monster in the game. Again, the gloomy atmosphere made them especially annoying.
I've read the sequel to this WAD is much better...but for this one, it just wasn't fun for me.
1 1/2 Stars out of 5