Map04 – Sewers by Jim Bagrow – Kills – 78, Items – 100, Secret – 100. Time 18:11. End Health – 65, Armor 45. Death Count – 17
I knew very little about Jim Bagrow. I might have exchanged one email with him, but mostly anything I had to say was communicated through RoC’s XO, Rob Berkowitz, and I had plenty to say, about this map in particular. ;D
Jim was clearly one of the axe-murderers of TMT, and the only thing I can remember about the guy is that he didn’t respond well to suggestions for changes, and at some point he seemed to lose interest in mapping altogether. I recall that Rob and I were underwhelmed by his final contribution, which felt unfinished. This doesn’t mean I disliked his maps, because I always have a sneaking admiration for anyone with the balls to actually submit some of the things he submitted, and stand his ground when people squealed at the pain. I’m probably on safe ground when I say that Jim submitted the most wildass crazy maps in the whole megawad, and some of them were really cool, at least in parts. Jim was just one of those mappers who comes into the game with a clear and simple goal – he’s going to reach into your mouth and tear your tonsils out. ;D
I really, really, completely and totally hate this map. I mean, I really fucking hate it, and I always did. I have no idea how many times I playtested this monstrosity, but it was enough to where I reached the point of actually beating it easily and UV-Maxing it from a pistol-start. But damn, this map sucks. Baboon-ass ugly 1994 architecture, misfiring and misguided traps, inconsistent use of damaging floors, and some stupid squinchy areas designed to rob your health and maybe even get you killed. But even at that, I gotta admit, this fucker knows how to use a Pain Elemental. ;D
However much I hate this fuckin’ thing, the core Doomer inside me says, at least Jim Bagrow decided it was time to smack the player upside the head with a baseball bat full of razorblades.
So, to start at the start, here I come in at 50% health knowing I’ll be toast in no time. This map isn’t a ‘ramp-up’ in difficulty, it’s like getting nuked at a picnic, as I said about another map recently. ;D If you go forward you can drop down to a platform where you will be damaged or killed by a Chaingunner, or you can jump off that platform into a huge non-toxic nukage pool loaded with monsters. But you also have the option, before any of this, of going into a secret side room off the start area, where you fight a small army of hellspawn for some ammo, a Chaingun, a Chainsaw, a Shotgun, Green Armor and the SSG. Pistol-starters take note! Since Rob and I playtested each map as they came in, my first experience of this nightmare was on pistol start, and I basically said, “You gotta be kidding!” But my comments fell on deaf ears because the whole team wanted to promote difficult maps so we wouldn’t look like a bunch of pussy-wimps next to the PC guys. ;D
Anyway, this side room contains the first instance of what I’ll call “The Pestov Structure.” This was suggested by Slava Pestov, one of the first members of the team, and for some insane reason people actually went along with it, at least at first. The structure is the huge Stargr1 platform with a switch on top and a specific number of stairs of a specific height. The goal was to provide some sense of continuity between maps, and I forget if it was supposed to be in every map or not. I think I only put it in Map09 and I did it in a sort of “Fuck you!” kinda way . . . but it was hilarious when I read a comment on idgames about how “several maps contain an ugly platform . . .” Oh, the larks! ;D
Now back to the forward progress. I got killed the first time I leaped into the nukage, so on the next go I killed the Chaingunner and performed crowd control by peeking over the edge to induce some infighting. Cleared a lotta critters that way.
After you finally kill everything down in the nukage pool, you might, if you’re lucky, find a secret area containing 2 much-needed Medikits. But here, the nukage is suddenly toxic, so woe betide any player entering at 5% health or less. At least you don’t have to go far, so you might make it. ;D
We next see another flagrant violation of the Floor Texture Rule when nukage changes, without changing height, into Rrock12 at the doorway. There’s some nice Dr. Sleep-style lighting in the hallway, along with some enemies, but nothing major.
You soon arrive at a doorway leading into another nukage room, where the nukage up high is toxic, but the nukage down low on the other side of the platform is safe. The immediate fight against the PE, with distant Sergeants sniping, may drain a lot of your ammo. You’re never really safe in this room unless you kill all the Sergeants and Hell Knights, but if you keep moving it won’t be too bad.
After grabbing some Stimpacks and dusting-off some Lost Souls, I sucked it up, walked along a platform, and descended into The Fucking Archvile Room! Most of my deaths occurred in that room. On the face of it, it’s not so bad. Just 1 Archie, 1 Manc, 1 Baron and 6 Spectres in a big, square space. And a bunch of barrels, too. And tons of Hanging Victims and Legs and such, some of which are blocking. And it’s really dark, too. The Archie is turned away when you walk in, and there’s even a couple of dwarf walls to hide behind. No problem, right? I mean, you’ve got the SSG . . . ;D
I decided not to re-watch Heretic’s magnificent demo until after I was done, because I wanted to enjoy the full agony of figuring out the right strategy. I started with the wrong strategy – hiding behind the dwarf wall farthest from the Archie. This resulted in Spectres opening a secret door, which unleashed a Revvie – definitely not what you need when you’re already under fire. After several deaths, I decided it was better to charge the Archie and hope the Manc or Baron would hit it, and I’d be able to either kill it while it fought them, or I’d kill some Spectres, which were everywhere. This is what Heretic did, only he was much, much better at it than I was! ;D
As these things usually go, I got killed again and again and again before I finally won the fight in great shape. But this nightmare ain’t over yet.
One of Jim’s best jagoff moves occurs after you ride a lift out of the Light Goggles room. There’s a radsuit I chose to dodge away from before engaging in a frantic hall fight. Then I go through a door and step into a little toxic slime area. Small, but big enough to get me every fucking time. Now that’s worth smiling over. ;)
The next horrific area is the open walkway over another huge non-toxic nukage pool. Down below in the pool is a ton of monsters you don’t need to kill unless you’re going for UV-Max. They are only there to kill you if you fall. Remember, we could not record or play demos on MacDoom. No Doom Honorific Titles for us! As a result, we had no idea that this kind of design would piss off speedrunners. We just did what we did for the reasons we did it. ;D
The tactic I chose for this area was to kill the PE, the Lost Souls rising from below, and all the monsters on the platform, then run like crazy to get down to the red key area, which requires a tight and annoying fight against a well-placed Chaingunner and Arachnotron. More of my blood was spilled here.
Then it’s back across the platform – and keep in mind that I didn’t kill the Chaingunners on the tall columns – and back the way I came, with one more “Fuck you!” from the slime room, and down into the Archie room again, where you find a butt-ton of Hell Knights and a Manc waiting for you. They are not placed in such a way as to prevent your escape, but if you step onto the lift and wait, they’ll converge on you. I didn’t have enough health to take on all this meat, so I outmaneuvered them, rode up the lift, and was presented with another pointless trap unleashing some Cacos and Sergeants. No need to fight them unless you want 100%, so I went past them to the exit.
This map has many problems. It is exceptionally ugly, nothing but big square rooms with virtually zero detail. But it does have some significant height variations, often featuring the too-tall sectors common to noob mappers. It has schizophrenic nukage, safe here, toxic there. It has many and sometimes hideous violations of the Floor Texture Rule. And despite killing me 17 times, it has two major traps that you can easily avoid! In short, it’s a mess. But then again, it killed me 17 times. If Jim Bagrow had been able to optimize a couple traps, it would have been even nastier! :D
So this is probably a polarizing map. Some players may actually like it despite its many and manifest drawbacks. Some will hate it. But no matter how ugly it is, it does have some snarling Doom gameplay. And so, while I really do truly hate this damned thing, I kinda like it at the same time . . .