Demon of the Well
Map 17 -- Antidote - 101% kills / 100% secrets
This is the last of the four maps that I mentioned I had sampled from Interception's earlier public beta. I greatly enjoyed it at that time, and happily it's still just as good on a replay. Set in a gloomy ruined hospital turned hellnest, it uses a large variety of different materials--blue carpeting, wood paneling, grey cement, fluorescent light fixtures, mossy masonry, stucco, and many others--to convey its theme, which mostly works pretty well. The clean texturing and relatively bright lighting of the upper levels contrast with the various scenes of gore, dismembered bodies and filthy gurneys and beds that dot its expanse, while the far darker lower levels use stone, metal, and torches to suggest a passage under the building leading deep into the earth, presumably towards an even greater concentration of hellish influence. Liberal use is made of unplayable area to create 'diorama'-styled detail, such as the great stone tunnel behind some iron bars hung with countless corpses stretching off into the blackness in the subterranean section, or more glowing redrock pillars, great bloodfalls, and teetering wooden towers visible from the outer deck on the west side (reminiscent of the distant horizon in map 12). For all of this attention to aesthetic, however, at no point does the map sacrifice function to form--so while there are a lot of set-pieces to convey the idea of a ruined hospital, the actual layout doesn't resemble one (or any real-world building) in any real way, allowing for the sort of abstract layout that generally best suits Doom's gameplay.
As far as play goes, much like "The Ocean Outpost" before it, it makes use of a classic Doom progression trope, in that the exit to the map is barred by a series of three keyed doors, and the player gets to go off in search of them in whatever direction s/he sees fit--they can be collected in any order. This relative nonlinearity is also evident from early in the map, where the player can choose to go through the main door into the hospital proper, or drop through a hole in a nearby ruined outbuilding to do the underground section first (I did the latter). It is both more challenging and a lot more violent than any of the maps that preceded it, with a monster count of 400, and featuring a number of frantic battles that require quick thinking and full use of the marine's considerable agility, as is evident from the second play starts, with the terraces full of imps and commandos and the cyberdemon in the tower that can and will fire upon you from the get-go. As I had seen it before I made it through pretty comfortably, but it killed me three or four times when I first played it. Apart from the dangerous opening, there are a number of nasty traps surrounding each of the keys, most notably the nested series of clusterfucks near the blue key. Room-to-room play uses a lot of imps with big monsters like arachnotrons or mancubi firing from vantages, with revenants lurking in many of the tighter corridors. The author's fondness for the rocket launcher, which was a theme of his entry in CC4, is very much in evidence here--unfortunately for those aforementioned imp hordes. The other most noticeable theme in how the action plays out, I feel, is the use of fluidly traversable height variation--so there are a lot of sweeping staircases and convenient drop points, but relatively few lifts, and groups of enemies often attack or approach from a different elevation. The secrets are generally decently well-hidden--I found the combat armor rather clever, prompting you to think laterally about possible applications of bits of apparently aesthetic trim in the environment. All of the above works together pretty smoothly, with the one pace-breaker being that early cyberdemon. Don't get me wrong, he's a great addition to the map--he's what makes that opening fight so much fun--but when it comes time to actually dispose of him, things bog down just a little, as his static position and the player's lack of cell-based weapons (even the hidden plasma rifle has little ammo available) make for something of a grinding exercise. Perhaps some kind of telefrag might've been in order here, as K. R. suggests. Not a big deal in the end, though, I guess.
As is probably evident from the way I've prattled on and on about it, I quite like this map. It looks good, has a coherent ambience, flows smoothly, has several harrowing and interesting encounters, and the combination of a relatively fast pace and an expansive playing field that I so often enjoy. Very much looking forward to ProcessingControl's map 28, and to the rest of the maps as well, as I have so far enjoyed the second episode quite a bit more than the first.
Last edited by Demon of the Well on Feb 16 2013 at 04:03