The Ultimate DooMer
(former) /newstuff Chronicler
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to all you DooMers, as just before the jolly bearded one sets off on his annual round-the world trip, he takes his sled into cyberspace and drops a stack of prezzies marked 'Newstuff 108' down the virtual chimney here at Doomworld. Unwrapping them reveals a bumper set of 12 wads with 31 maps for your festive enjoyment, including single player, deathmatch, graphics mods, utilities and my very own Ultimate ZDoom episode! (reviewed here by Grazza)So, without further ado, let's go:
- ManoWar Part II - The Triumph of Steel by Javier Fernando Almanero Otoya - (img) - A single map wad, which also replaces graphics, sounds and music. The detail isn't too bad, and the new resources are quite good, but unfortunately the gameplay is not. The reward for getting out of a near-impossible starting building is...an open area stuffed with spectres and lost souls, with a couple of pain elementals and archviles thrown in as well. The buildings and other structures are crammed with imps and chaingunners. All the good weapons are in one place, an outdoor temple with an archvile and a ton of mancubi, and while the ammo is plentiful, the vast majority of it is accessible only at the end, after you have killed everything. Fortunately, there's enough in the temple to kill everything, and there's a few berserk packs, supercharges and armour placed around the outdoor area. It is possible to complete it, and it will present a really good challenge to the DooM gods among us, but unless you want to play with god mode, this is for DooM gods only (and even then you'll trash your quickload key). It is easier second time round, once you're familiar with the tactics and locations of everything. Source port recommended (but not ZDoom, as for some reason it doesn't work with that - I played it with Legacy 1.40).
- Maprunner by Javier Fernando Almanero Otoya - A program that lets you look at the various parts of a wad, and lets you run it. Kinda like Wintex (in fact it looks very similar), but without the editing features. Oh, and it's in Spanish as well.
- Wintex 4.7 by Olivier Montanuy - I'm not quite sure what this is. I think it's an editor of some kind, that lets you do various things to a wad. Apparently, this is an updated version of the latest version, but it's number is the same as the latest version that existed before this updated version.
- Operation Suicide - Dead on Arrival by Philip Renshaw - (img) (img) - The title is well and truly justified, as right from the off you are plunged into a suicidal battle with a ton of monsters! This battle sets the scene for the rest of the map, as there are many more battles like it, with lots of tough monsters thrown in. Ammo is never a problem, but you'll have to watch the health. The architecture is quite unusual for an industrial-themed map (as there are a lot of gothic-style arches and lighting effects) but it fits in nicely with the more traditional industrial/tech architecture, and is impressive to say the least. Lesser skilled DooMers might want to play on skill 2 or 3 (as the monster count is very high on skill 4, and is pretty tough in most places), but if you enjoy high-carnage maps and/or highly-detailed maps, then play this now. If you don't, play it anyway, as it's a pretty damn good wad. Source port recommended.
- Electric Eye by Kim Vidal - (img) - A deathmatch map set in a black void, made up entirely of good looking new textures and flats. The gameplay here is high-frag orientated, with plenty of rockets, supercharges and blue armour suits scattered everywhere over a couple of islands, all linked by teleporters. If you like short and long range rocket battles (and knocking your opponents off the islands into the void), then this one is for you.
- Bombay 72 by Martin Howe - This is a slightly barmy graphics mod that turns you...wait for it...into a cat! Dehacked/BEX modifications have been used to create a 'super-cat' that can claw anyone to death faster than a chainsaw! (replacing the pistol). Other weapons have been modified to include the cat's paws, and the appropriate sounds have been included. This is a tongue-in-cheek mod that will provide a few laughs, and if you fancy playing DooM in a slightly odd way, then this should do the trick. (tip: try taking on revenants and barons with this...) Requires Boom-compatible port, although a normal dehacked patch has been included for vanilla use.
- Marble Deathmatch by Sandman - (img) - A small deathmatch map, set in a nice outdoor area. As the name suggests, marble is the theme, but there are many other textures used as well to create some nice architecture. The gameplay is also nice and simple - weapons only (no ammo), no BFG, and only one supercharge and green armour to avoid the inevitable death, which will happen fairly quickly given the absence of ammo. All-in-all, a small, nice-looking wad that should flow pretty quickly.
- Waste Treatment Center #911 by Owen Lloyd (sargebaldy) - (img) (img) - Don't let the filename put you off (it could easily be mistaken for something else), as it's a rather nice DooM 1 wad. A small industrial map, the atmosphere reminds me of some early custom DooM 1 maps I played. The map is quite dark in most places, which also enhances the atmosphere, along with doom.exe compatibility. The detail is quite nice, with some working machinery and some nice lighting, too. Gameplay-wise, it's small scale with not many monsters and not much ammo/health to go with them, although it is balanced just right (I killed the last monster with my last few bullets). High-skilled DooMers will probably find this a bit easy, although the last battle is fairly tough. But play this anyway, as it's a good map that should bring back a few memories.
- Jenny 1 by Andy Mckie (mystic) - (img) - A slightly bizarre single map for Legacy, this is set in a space station without walls. Each section is colour-coded using coloured forms of the silver2 texture (which looks nice IMO), and are linked by teleporters (also colour-coded). There's not much else in the architecture, but translucent flats are used, and it is reminiscent of those space maps in Duke where you could see space for miles on each side. There are only a few monsters, with plenty of ammo to kill them, but the map is open and you'll have to watch out, as you can easily get caught unawares by long-range fireballs (there's only 1 supercharge for health as well). The layout and the high amount of weapons and ammo suggests that this is primarily deathmatch-based, with a few monsters to interest the single player. Short and sweet, requires Legacy. (tested with 1.40)
- Jenny 2 by Andy Mckie (mystic) - (img) - The sequel to the previous map, this one is a little bigger. This one is also deathmatch-orientated, but with many more monsters, which can make it challenging as most of the health is guarded in some way. A series of simple but nice-looking rooms and passages encircle some larger rooms. These passages have walls (unlike the previous map) and transparent flats have been used to create some nice futuristic-looking architecture, while the rooms contain pools of deep water. This one is more of a blast than the previous map, as you get to use a plasma gun to kill everything (which is quite rare these days). The health placement can make it challenging, but this is still an enjoyable map that will please fans of space maps. Requires Legacy. (tested with 1.40)
- DMC Deathmatch MapPack by Enrique Urra (Archon) - (img) (img) (img) (img) - Dedicated to the DooM Cazuela clan, this is a set of 15 deathmatch maps for ZDoom. Detail is impressive throughout, and there are some really nice visuals and settings, especially the island based maps. ZDoom features improve the maps here, especially the scrolling skies. It's no-holds-barred fragging here - weapons, ammo, health and powerups are plentiful throughout, and in some maps you might even catch a glimpse of the odd monster to hurry things along. Design-wise, there's something for everyone - open maps, complex maps, lifts, switches, death traps and hiding places. The only downers here are the seemingly random themes and texturing in some maps, and there is some adult material among the new graphics here. In short, this is easily the best set of deathmatch maps I've seen, and it's a real shame these maps are deathmatch only, as they would have made great single player maps. Requires ZDoom (1.22 and up) or ZDaemon (0.99 and up), but you'll need to type 'forcewater 1' on the console to get the underwater areas to work.
- 007: Licence to Spell DooM by Stephen Clark (The Ultimate DooMer) - (img) (img) (img) (img) -
Guest review by Graham "Grazza" Burgess -
Basic Facts: Licence to Spell DooM (LTSD for short) is a 9-map Ultimate Doom single-player episode for Zdoom (only), playing on maps E4M1 to E4M9. Jumping is required. It was designed to work with Zdoom 1.23 beta 33 and above, but there are apparently some problems with crashes at a couple of points. Therefore, the latest beta (Zdoom 2.0 v.25 at the time of writing) is recommended (found at http://zdoom.notgod.com/lars). I played the episode using v.25, and everything worked OK. Regarding ZdoomGL compatibility, a skybox is used, and unfortunately this is a feature that is not supported in the latest version of ZdoomGL. According to the text-file, LTSD needs to be played as an episode (due to scripting considerations), rather than tackling each map from a pistol start. This would make LTSD problematic for demo recording (even if a new version of Zdoom irons out the well-known demo playback problems in the 1.23 betas).
The maps are all large, complicated and genuinely innovative. Throughout, there is extensive use made of Zdoom features - so much, in fact, that you could quite easily forget you were playing Doom at all. First off, I should say that a phenomenal amount of work has clearly gone into Licence to Spell DooM. In addition to the complexity of the maps themselves, there is a wealth of new graphics. Ambient sounds are used throughout, and have been chosen with great care and are used very appropriately. LTSD has a story, but you don't have to study it in order to play the wad. I should clarify that it isn't a James Bond-themed episode; the main "character" remains Jody Russell, the hero of Ultimate DooMer's previous Doom creations, Operation Lightning and Fragport. The plot itself has some general features in common with the Bond films, but that shouldn't put you off if those films are not to your taste. The main similarity seems to be that you continually escape from each complex in the nick of time just before it goes kablooey. And save the world from an evil madman, of course.
OK, enough preamble; what is the gameplay like? Well, I wouldn't be doing my duty as a reviewer if I didn't say that some Doomers are likely to find it extremely frustrating, possibly to the point where they will swear loudly and give up. However, many of you should love it, especially if you enjoy searching for well-hidden secrets and solving puzzles of various types. Give yourself plenty of time to get immersed in the episode; you will need to think(!) quite a lot, and read with care the messages that pop up on screen - they often explain what sort of puzzle you are facing, if not actually spoon-feeding you the solution. Overall, the gameplay reminds me most of Half-Life, and I would estimate that the episode provides at least 20 hours of play (for comparison, I'd say Half-Life provides about 40 hours). The Ultimate DooMer told me that it takes him 5 hours to beat the episode from start to finish. Of course, he knows where the secrets are, and how to solve the puzzles. The rest of us may not even be sure what type of puzzle each one is. For example, I spent an eternity trying to solve a "jumping puzzle" only to realize the next day that it was actually a manikin-based task. (Having said that, I did solve another puzzle that I presume was meant to involve manikins by means of an SR50 jump, thus saving a fair amount of health and ammo. Hehe.) By the way, "manikin" is the term The Ultimate DooMer uses to describe the things more commonly referred to as voodoo dolls - they are used extensively in the secret level (E4M9). A reminder: manikins/voodoo dolls can pick up items and press against switches on the player's behalf, and can be moved by firing at them (ouch!).
Design-wise, there are many styles in evidence, and they all struck me as quite appropriate to the theme/location. Some areas are highly reminiscent of Half-Life, while the good old E1 style makes an appearance. A few ideas from Fragport get another airing, such as the style of railway platforms (and why not? - they were jolly good platforms).
In E4M1 you meet light opposition, need to cut through some rock, find and place some dynamite, and get a few jumps right. Slopes and 3D bridges are used extensively. It serves as a nice introduction, and helps you get used to some features of the gameplay (jumping, swimming, following instructions, etc.) in a low-pressure setting. E4M2 is clearly inspired by Half-Life's "On a Rail", and if anything is more complicated. I confess I got in one of the vehicles, just to see if it could be driven... To reach the normal exit is difficult enough - that took me about an hour. To reach the secret exit, you need to be psychic. OK, that's unfair, since I did actually manage it, but some of the secrets are absurdly well concealed. Still, highly atmospheric and a great adventure. The secret level (E4M9) contains a BFG, so is worth reaching. There are manikins all over the place, and it has a distinctly hellish atmosphere. The red fog is appropriate (but maybe a tad overdone), and dense fog adds to the challenge in one area. One of the puzzles struck me as unfair, since you can find yourself stuck without having done anything at all naughty. Save frequently... E4M3 is the first map to have a timing element. You have ten minutes to set about your task before a bunch of barons appear to make life more awkward. If you know in advance where to go and what to do, then you can be finished before they turn up, but otherwise you'll just have to deal with them. I also encountered an extremely annoying feature in this map. When certain important types of message appear on screen, you are frozen to the spot for several seconds - you can turn and fire, but can't move. The monsters can also fire... As far as I can tell, at one point this means certain death, unless you have first cleared the area of monsters - and clearing the area didn't strike me as the number 1 priority when racing against the clock. Still, the map has a wealth of really impressive features, and nice touches throughout. In E4M4 you find a lot of E1-style architecture, and gameplay here is much more traditionally Doomish than in most of the other maps. You start to encounter a few more of the tougher monsters, but you're pretty well tooled up to deal with them by this point. The level ends with a bang. E4M5 features some impressive bridge-over-bridge architecture, and even more green fog than in the Borg episodes of Voyager. The mission-based gameplay moves up a level of complexity here. The Ultimate DooMer's use of his trademark alphabet graphics is a big plus: he uses it to signpost areas which can then be referred to in the on-screen messages. E4M6 seems to draw its inspiration from quite a range of sources. I spotted themes from Half-Life (Uplink), Quake 2 (Outlands) and Unreal (Darkening), but it is mostly original stuff. Really captivating gameplay - you'll enjoy this one for sure. E4M7 takes place underground, with lava a-plenty. Nitpick: it's a bit odd that the dynamite you collect near the end spontaneously appears in locations where there previously hadn't been any. E4M8 is the grand finale, and it certainly doesn't disappoint. You get to face the main baddie, and a host of other challenges. There is also a fairly tricky section where you have limited time to accomplish certain tasks, but if you pay close attention to the instructions, it should be manageable. Overall, it's a very tough map though.
Conclusion: I'm going to enjoy replaying this one, and think it will appeal to many Doomers, especially those who also liked Half-Life. It is a lot of fun to play, so do persevere even if you have problems getting through certain areas, or find the puzzles difficult.