Friday, July 27, 2012

Feature: Hot and Not (July 1-July 28, 2012)

I've decided that, most likely every couple weeks or as release frequency warrants, I will point out and briefly summarize the highlights of the recent weeks, as well as what to avoid! This post will take a look at July so far. 'Hot' indicates a recommendation, while 'Not' indicates avoid. Only single player wads with maps are considered; Heretic and Hexen maps are included if there are any. Some stuff may be listed as neither - in such cases it implies I didn't see any reason to consider the release particularly good or bad. No unfinished projects (if more work is clearly planned and actively in progress) are mentioned.

One screenshot from a selected 'Hot' is provided, and is usually courtesy of Doomworld, most likely on a release thread or in a /newstuff review, or from whatever forum the wad was released on. Occasionally my own shot might appear however! Viewers are encourage to comment and guess what wad the screenshot is from - I will post a comment if/when the correct answer is picked.

So without further ado:

Nutty Shells: This map contains many memorable areas from Doom II condensed into one map. It is a bit rougher than it could have been but the concept deserves its attention. Rating: 7/10!
...Total Randomness Community Project: Totally a mixed bad of maps, 8 in total. However there's some creative maps by Lupinx-Kassman in here (though there are short) and Map06 is definitely something to not miss! No rating since it's only picked for the highlight maps.
cannonball's speedy episode 1 wad: The author decided to lowercase the whole name so I just preserved that. It's a quickly mapped episode for Doom I that is of pretty high quality. Reminds me of Khorus' Speedy Shit from last year in concept, although the authors clearly have very different styles. The author might make more of these and maybe there will be a megawad at some point! Rating: 8.5/10!
Titan 1024: Re-imagining of the authors' wad Titan released in 2004, with maps condensed to 1024x1024 space. So it could be viewed as a "miniaturization" of the wad. Cramping can become an issue as is common in 1024 maps but these levels deliver a challenge that is generally fun, not frustrating. This is the first "1024 wad" in quite some time and it's worth it. Rating: 7.5/10!
Urban Fire: A single player version of Map37 of the excellent 32in24-11, this is a city level. It's not very large but it packs a big punch difficulty wise! It's also quite good looking and the Duke Nukem 3D music fits well, not surprising given the number of city-themed maps in DN3D. This was a reject from the soon-to-be-released Community Chest 4. Interesting, the public beta of Community Chest 4 contains another single player converted 32in24-11 map as well as a map by the same author as this level, and interestingly enough they play in two consecutive map slots in the current beta! Rating: 8/10!
Coffee Break Episode 1: Last is clearly best in my view here! It's not necessarily unfinished despite its name as it was just intended to be longer, which is a shame. There isn't much to say special about it, but that is actually its biggest blessing: what you get here is 11 maps that stick to the Doom basics of how to make maps good in the finest sense. You have to get this! Rating: 9.5/10!

Anything by DooMWar: While he technically only has one release in July, this author flooded the archives with a bunch of virtually worthless stuff just beforehand. There is single player maps, DM maps, and mods, but they all have one thing in common - they such. Avoid downloading these!
Uploaded by Perseus: I don't have a particular link I can give here in particular but this guy thinks the archive needs every mid-90's wad out there no matter what the quality is like. Fact of the matter is, it doesn't, and we'd be missing nothing without these maps.
The doors to hell: Likely this is by the infamous Terry even though it is a different name (likely he has used a thousand different names, no kidding!). It's a serious-looking start that then turns into an incredibly cheap, lame, and insulting joke. The usual Terry formula.
Real Death: It is another stupid map that's loaded with Commander Keens that's probably from Terry under yet another name.I wish this guy would just cut it out one of these days. At least there's been no UAC Military Nightmare 2 yet.
ClubEpic: Just pointless, almost in a wow.wad type of way except it's 13 years too late to be a classic in spite of that.

And here's the screenshot!:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

2004's reviews - Page one!

Notes: Similar to the caco's themselves, the reviews will be posted in three pages (first page 3 + second page 3 + third page 4). Each page will be a separate post however, and they will not all come out simultaneously. Links are to Doomworld's /idgames database and screenshots from various editions of /newstuff Chronicles.

Reanimated - Karthik and Varun

Both Karthik and Varun have produced good stuff. Karthik is most known for his Congestion Control maps, while Varun produced Short 'n Quick, two levels that live up to their name. Having been friends in the community, it was only sensible that a collaborative pack would come from them eventually. This effort came to fruition in Reanimated.

The two levels produced as a result of this effort are fantastic. Both have a brown/brick/base theme that is supplemented well by the orange sky. Without ever using too much detail, every area has been polished to look good and fit in well. Reanimated plays as good as it looks. The two medium-sized levels offer up a fair yet casual challenge, and easily keep one interested even though the only new feature is some Linkin Park music. The authors definitely had a success in working together and this is definitely not a mini-pack worth overlooking.

Simply Phobos - Paul Corfiatis + E2M9 bonus by Kristian Aro

Paul should need no introduction. He's been an author that has become very well-known over the years - pumping out Twilight Zone, Death Tormention, and leading 2002 A Doom Odyssey. His latest incarnation, Simply Phobos, is quite aptly named. It is (primarily) an full nine-map episode with all the hallmarks of Doom I's first episode in mind.

Be it the texturing, design, or just modestly challenging gameplay, Simply Phobos goes for and succeeds at producing that classic E1 feeling while incorporating some clear elements of Paul's style at the same time. Unlike Phobos Revisited, another prominent E1-based wad released around the same time, Simply Phobos borrows few homages from the original levels and instead simply goes to emulate the style. There isn't much to say about this that can't be said about other E1 replacements, other than that it's just as good and has been accompanied by a new soundtrack to boot.

Except, remember that "primarily" in the starting paragraph? That is because the package also includes a bonus level, E2M9, by the just-as-talented Kristian Aro. Kristian decided to go for the E3/E4 vibes in this level and created what is, arguably, actually better as an individual map than any level from the main epsiode. As you would expect, it is tougher, much more sinister/hellish, and contains the full crop of Doom I monsters unlike E1's select variety. It also, by all likelihoods, will take longer to finish than any of the wad's main levels. This level would have clearly been considered for a cacoward on its own right had it been released individually, though it would have most likely just missed the cut owing to Kristian's own awesome independent map this year..

Hollow Minds - Kristian Aro

Well you knew what was going to come next, didn't you?

Released just two months after Paul brought us Simply Phobos and exposed us to Kristian's awesome work there, Hollow Minds is a truly first class Doom II level. Let me start with a disclaimer - don't expect to get through this quickly. Hollow Minds is one behemoth, and it'll easily take the average player an amount of time to complete that is more resemblant of a short episode.

Let me make another disclaimer, namely that while the monster count of 422 initially on UV is quite moderate for a map of this size, don't go into this one expecting it to be any pushover! Hollow Minds starts out with relatively standard difficulty, but it keeps getting harder and harder from there right down to the finale. Surely, however, the seasoned Doom player can take such heat. And if they do, this map is quite the sight to behold. Made with mostly brown and brick textures, but throwing in the variety just where it is needed, this level's every room oozes with architectural near-perfection that doesn't simply rely on the tactics of excessive detailing to make it work. Add in the fact that the level is just slightly on the dark side, and a slow, soft music track, and the atmosphere in Hollow Minds is dynamite to be absorbed.

As already mentioned, this is one long, and eventually very difficult, map. The faint-hearted surely should not be playing this on the higher skill levels, and fortunately difficulty settings are implemented. But this difficulty, thankfully, doesn't come as the frustrating variety. Rather, it's a challenge you will adjust and adapt to as you explore further and further into the masterpiece of a level Kristian has given us to explore. The progression is smooth and it only adds to every other merit this map has to stand on. There is really nothing about this level that feels as if it wasn't planned well and executed accordingly, making Hollow Minds an easy candidate to be amount 2004's most exquisite single map releases.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Feature: The Lost Cacowards, 2004

Well for those coming from Doomworld, I don't think I need a whole lot of introduction, even if I'm in one of my more obscure names.

So it's right on to the first feature.

Here is the puzzle: Imagine each, and every, wad to receive a mention in every year's Cacowards ceased to exist. But the race to pick the best 10 wads of each year is on more than ever! In these posts, I will highlight each and every award that I envision could have been the years' Cacowards if the real ones had never seen daylight. I think you'll be impressed that in some years, a full new list of ten impressive wads could easily be compiled. Maybe you'll even find some wads you like better than the Caco's themselves!

Here are the selection rules:
1) No wads that got actually got a top 10 (of course) or honorable mention that year.
2) Nothing that was explicitly mentioned or where it can be reasonably implied it would have gotten a top ten award but some other wad (usually by the same author) took its place instead. Goal is to highlight DIFFERENT authors!
3) No wads that are older or newer version of wads that got a Cacoward at some point (regardless of year).
4) All single player wads with at least one new level.
5) I will not choose two wads that are (entirely) from the same author(s) in a year unless I honestly cannot find ten works plus two honorable mentions by different authors I feel are all award-worthy.
6) No top 10 in one year will also be a top 10 or a significant part of a top 10 in another year.
7) Doom, Heretic, and Hexen can all get awards.
8) Wads must have been released, not simply uploaded to the archives, in the specified year.
9) Year is defined as from December 10 of previous year through December 9 of year of Cacowards.
10) I will first make a list before I compile a short review of each wad in a later post. This list is open to suggestions and I might change a pick or two if it seems to be in demand! You can post any such thoughts in the Comments - please feel free. :)

We will open with 2004, the first year to go in the name of Cacowards.

The 11th Annual Cacowards!

Top 10:
Simply Phobos
Hollow Minds
Nilla Doom
DSV 5: Final War
End Game
Castle Nevermore
In A World

Honorable Mentions:
Mansion of Time
Exquisite Corpse