Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hadephobia (H_PHOBIA.WAD)


Hadephobia started a long, long time ago under the banner of "Progressive Fiction". It was something of a conceptual community project. Basically, someone started by making a map, writing a bit of a story to go along with it, and then passing it on to the next person, who would do likewise, and repeat until they had finished a full-fledged Doom II megaWAD for Boom-compatible ports. The story is a little scatterbrained at times as far as the finer details, but the main idea should seem familiar. After all the agony of the Doom games, you continue to have nightmares, some kind of psychic link with Hell which dubs you as a Hadephobe. The bad dreams start to get even worse and you're sure an invasion is imminent, but the UAC locks you up in a distant asylum, out of sight and out of mind. You're the boy / girl who cried Doom, though, and when another invasion breaks loose, you must fight for your life.


When I finally loaded up Hadephobia, I was concerned that a Boom-compatible megaWAD would be filled with tons of authors trying to outdo each other a la the Community Chest series. I was pleasantly surprised to find something more on the scale of Demonfear, in that the levels are mostly short, due to an imposed time limit of two weeks or so before an author would pass the story on to the next. A few levels are outliers, of course, fielding bunches of brutes, but it's mostly short and to be honest fairly coherent due to its emphasis on story progression. Another thing tying the project together is the dominance of some of its key contributors, them being Chris Bourke and Marcell Izidor Cellavy, aka Doomworld forum superstars Purist and Cell, respectively.


The levels are on the whole either prohibitively cramped (especially in the case of Cell's levels) or wide open, with fairly linear gameplay. Some of the maps border on slaughter but most of them are basically standard Doom action. Some of the standouts include more puzzle-oriented gameplay, like C30N9's "Power Up", where you need to close in a number of contacts in order to gain access to a generator, or the very cool climbing sequence from Melon's "Sacrifice". Bourke floods a canyon in "Washed Up", and there are some other races against time, like Hadephobia's only monster-spawner, interestingly not the finale. Some of the levels feature a lot of optional areas, notably in my mind A.Gamma's "Excavation Site" (pretty cool) and Cell's rejected "Pre-Destined Mortality" (ugh).


As far as the actual progressive fiction concept as it ended up in the STORY.TXT... It's a tough feature to work in. I liked the way Adam Windsor prefaced all his Demonfear levels with a blurb that helped to establish the action, but in Hadephobia, the story is supposed to flow seamlessly (for the most part) from level to level. The end result is that the implied narrative of the maps is explicitly told in the STORY.TXT, which makes things kind of awkward; if you follow along, it's almost like watching a movie and reading the book it is based on at the same time (or, heh, reading the novelization of the movie). It more or less succeeds and works as a companion piece, but it's a little odd to me.


Hadephobia is worth your time. It's a fairly quick play with some things not yet seen (always a plus) and the way the levels are supposed to tie together should be a nice bonus for players that are looking for a more story-driven experience with Doom. I hope that the project served its authors well, though looking at some of their proclivities, I doubt feedback will break the tendencies I don't enjoy anytime soon. Do note that it comes with three bonus levels, accessed via the standard unusual methods in the MAP33, 34 and 35 slots. 34 is more or less an outtake of the finale while 33 and 35 have strong niche appeal depending on your tastes. None of these are essential to the Hadephobia experience, but they're a welcome addition.



HADEPHOBIA
(by Team Progfic)

EPISODE 1
EVIL ISLE

Escape From the AsylumMAP01
by Zoltan "Katamori" Schmidt
A short little wing of an asylum. Well, it has more of a jail cell feeling; maybe a military asylum? It's got appropriately creepy music and it isn't too dark but it's dark enough to make the silver-clad environment not feel oppressive. Pretty easy and the warp ambush near the end is fun but the bathrooms are dull, even if they are pretty small. My threshold for sector toilets is pretty low.

MAP02Storage Basement
by Marcell Izidor "Cell" Cellavy
Another short little tech map, this one in the basement of the asylum in the wrecked elevator you escaped from. Tight and claustrophobic and a little dark. No real big surprises; all of the monsters are standard Doom II trash and you are swimming in health and ammo. I suppose the wrecked elevator looks kind of neat, and the machinery is a nice stab at ambient noise.

The Stench of FreedomMAP03
by Kieran "Melon" Millar
Short little sewer map. It's unremarkable at first but it has some neat encounters. The big teleporter wave, best handled by infighting, is an obvious highlight, and I really liked the darkened tunnel with the caged imps. That SSG is a bit too late, though. I also like how Melon lines things up so that you can see the switch presses lower the gate sections to the exit. Nice stuff.

MAP04Washed Up
by Chris "purist" Bourke
A pretty linear ravine level starting out where you got dumped out of the sewers. It's tricky at first due to tight ammo coupled with a few teleporter ambushes but once you get past that bunch of lost souls / demons / commandos - my standout encounter - you should be fine. There's a nice reveal toward the end of the level where the canyon is flooded with water, though your journey through the tech portion is one-way, so make sure you grab all the goodies. Kind of fun, and the commando shooting gallery isn't annoying.

Rumex CrispusMAP05
by "magicsofa"
Kind of a shipyard that's been inundated with Hell. Flesh and brimstone crack through the ships and halls and the monsters are more than willing to strike at you. It's not exactly hectic with enemies available to harry you through most of the level but it's not immediately threatening so you're likely to let your guard down as you duck imp fireballs. The enemy teleport hordes and the dudes on the big tanker are nice encounters for SSG slaughter - I didn't locate the rocket launcher. Pretty fun and the music is off-kilter, reminding me of Gary Numan for some reason.

MAP06Hull Revealed
by "Vaporizer"
A tight little level with a ship that's slowly sinking. Some neat SFX like exploding stuff as you try and flee the sinking seacraft, like the sealed-off blue key door. Because the fights are tight they tend to be tricky with the star attractions being a series of archviles, most of which are on the top deck, after a tricky tango with a cloud of cacos, probably my standout encounter. Pretty fun, if not substantial.

EPISODE 2
HELL EXHUMED

Deadly ExploitationMAP07
by Marcell Izidor "Cell" Cellavy
A decent little island fortress thing with some Hellish mines alongside a tech base. There are some marble pillars that lower as you progress, ushering in waves of beasties you'll have to combat. Three assaults feels like an over-extension of the gimmick, but I don't mind. The interior combat is incredibly cramped with spectre use in the darker areas and lots of big monsters in that tan chamber where I wouldn't ordinarily think I'd fight any. It's a little tough to get around in, especially when the pain elemental enters in, but if you found the secret plasma rifle you should be alright. 

MAP08Sub-Station
by "Vaporizer"
Like "Hull Revealed", this is another cramped level, kind of an underground mine / base / whatever. It's got kind of a random construction with that grated platform to the east feeling out of place but it plays alright, just slower-paced with the emphasis on shotgun and chaingun fighting, which makes the teleporting revenants a little tricky. Standout encounter for me is the wave of monsters upon grabbing the blue key with the surprise baron, commandos, and all the nasties coming down the tunnel toward you.

TerminusMAP09
by Chris "purist" Bourke
Continuing the mines theme is this minetrack-dominated series of tech rooms topped off with a descending pillars in to Hell-type sequence. There are a lot of hitscanners which do a solid job of chipping away at you but most of the true pressure comes from everyone's favorite monster, the revenant, appearing in several places to keep you backpedaling and on your toes. Dropping into the shaft area leading to the finale is one of the trickiest encounters, matched only by the crate room, where opposition lurks around every corner (with a cool aerial monster reveal).

MAP10Excavation Site
by "A.Gamma"
Okay, this is a pretty cool if dark cave / ruins level with tons of sneaky monster placement. The more open cave sections will be annoying if you hate hitscanners you can't 100% see, but it's got a pretty nice layout with two count 'em two large secret segments housing a plasma rifle and a more complex section with the "secret" yellow key required for entry. Bless you, A.Gamma. The warp fights aren't too challenging - it really defaults to a lot of shotgun / SSG dancing - but they're generally hectic enough at first. The plasma rifle one is my standout encounter.

Descent into UnderworldMAP11
by Walter "Daimon" Confalonieri
A short level that's more or less a boss battle. I think Walter pulls the main event off, but the fights before and after the mastermind feel like filler, mowing down some imps with the chaingun and I guess some cacos and lost souls afterward. The Spiderdemon is an arcade-style fight as it warps from platform to platform in a pre-determined sequence. The only way to fight it effectively with projectile weapons is to know where it is going to appear next and then fire in anticipation, hopefully without getting tagged yourself. The scale of the whole level is too large, though, and any attempt at establishing a real atmosphere is undermined by the comparatively lazy-sounding TNT track.


EPISODE 3
FORTRESS OF DAMNATION

MAP12Passover
by "Olympus"
A short brown outpost of Hell, home to a handful of tricky fights but nothing you can't strongarm your way through, especially when the SSG is so freely given. Olympus has no shortage of tougher monsters to chew through, with revenants appearing on several occasions, contributing to my standout encounter in the outdoor area with the switch that lowers the blue key pillar. The rest is pretty easy, though, including a supremely neutered archvile.

Metal TerritoryMAP13
by Marcell Izidor "Cell" Cellavy
Out of the outpost and into the warzone. It's an assault on a territory occupied by Hell, starting in a valley and moving into a fortress on the other side with an adjoining cavern. It's a little hectic to start, and unless you get to work finding some of the secrets, tight on ammo compared to previous levels. The hardest parts are in the claustrohobic base, mostly in the yellow key area, which combines tight spaces with large monsters, admittedly circumvented by a handy invul if your footwork is up to it. The running around you do in the outer area is a bit much; I'm not a huge fan of all the back and forth stuff to get the red key.

MAP14Power Up
by "C30N9"
This is an odd kind of strung-together base with an objective. There are a number of switches strewn about the complex that will close in contacts; you need to activate them all in order to grant access to the exit - err, the level's generator. C30N9 uses his pain elementals wisely but the run up to the base itself is curiously devoid of opposition, which given where you just came from is kind of odd. I'm okay with most of the fights but the revenant trap at the blue key is pretty dirty with the weapons you're given. 

Septic UnderbellyMAP15
by Chris "purist" Bourke
Pretty cool sewer level from Bourke with some Hellish undertones but most of the combat is in wide-open spaces. I like the architecture, particularly the normal exit route toward the Comm tower, and the story bit is neat, even if you know those marines are Doomed. Combat is average though again I love the combination of aerial monsters in the normal exit area and the trap in the alternate path is very nice. I guess the switch that lowers the blue key was another neat fight, but the archvile went down way too fast to mix things up.

MAP31Hell's Armoury
by Michael A. "Death Egg" Jurich
Decent techbase inundated with all kinds of Hell. Starts out kind of tight on ammo with you doing a LOT of work with the shotgun, including a fight which will probably need some infighting, thick with mancubi and revenants, not to mention the yellow key's pain elemental. You're supposed to be saving two marines but your real objective is to grab some decent scratch to fight the Hellspawn with, but you'll have to fight all the monsters in the armory in order to secure your prize. It's potentially deadly what with the choke point backed by a few archviles. I really like the way the normal exit leads back to MAP15's normal exit, though the fights aren't as interesting. 

Sirenum ScopuliMAP32
by "magicsofa"
A decidedly weird and abstract map from magicsofa that takes the player through some bizarre locations. The opening looks grounded enough at first with some techbase trappings but the crushing ceiling shards and revenant ambush plus the warping architecture makes things...different. Especially that intricate line design in the pillar area. The bizarro yellow key area has an interesting aesthetic with monsters teleporting in constantly. If you're not careful you'll catch a few rockets in the face, but it's pretty fun firing them constantly. The Cyberdemon showdown afterward, not so interesting. The finale is more low key with a sequence of crushing platforms and powerups; the only real threat are a couple of spread-out pain elementals. I do like the level's overall look and there are some cool SFX.

MAP16Eisenhower Heliport
by Walter "Daimon" Confalonieri
I daresay it's a "typical" super-size Confalonieri level that has a bit of exploration mixed in with its wide-open areas and incidental firefights, complete with some eye candy as is the case with that semi-truck viewport. It's a very large level with a lot of running around, which is somewhat alleviated by the teleporters used here and there to point you toward objectives in case you forgot. It's just, mostly unremarkable except for some pain elemental usage and some hitscanners put in wide-open spaces. I like that little secret alcove with all the plasma ammo.

Communication TowerMAP17
by Andrew "Malinku" Rehberger
A pretty cool, pretty fast tech map from Malinku. It's got a nice layout, looks clean, and has some great fights, like the second ambush (revenants and mancubi) at the tower base or the Cyberdemon, which actually had me surprised. Then there's the crossfire near the level end, not exactly lethal if you let the mancubi take the opposition out, but with the cacodemons and imps and other things throwing shit at you you'll probably get hit a few times. Fun stuff!

MAP18Altar of Chaos
by Brian "Snakes" Knox and Norbert "NoneeLlama" Dávid
An underground mix of marble, Hell, and blood. Somewhere in there is a cathedral around which most of the slaughter takes place; it's the home of a few cool fights, my most memorable being the clouds of cacos and pain elementals, though the rest of the shocks are certainly cause for pause. The whole place looks sharp. Combat is more incidental at the start (demons, packs of imps, etc.) but once you hit the northern half you're in for higher-end shenanigans. That archvile trio callback is pretty cool.

Satan's FortressMAP19
by Marcell Izidor "Cell" Cellavy
"Satan's Fortress" is enormous and intricate. It's also incredibly cramped and you're liable to get hung up on decorations everywhere, none moreso than the dreaded blue skull key room with the two caged archviles, which slows gameplay to a standstill as you potshot your good friends before moving on with the rest of the clusterfuck. For all the bits I like of Cell's, like the blue keycard secret eventually leading to the super-secret BFG, there's stuff like the archvile room or flooding already constricted areas with demons / spectres. I did like that reveal at the map's opening, though, and I'm a sucker for secrets, even if you pretty much need to get lucky with the SSG for one of them.

MAP20Ostoyae Anomaly
by Chris "purist" Bourke
Kind of a cool IOS map. It starts out plain and then you move into the base proper, which starts out fielding only a few beasties and then quickly develops into full-blown Hell as you saw your way through. It's not immediately apparent but Hell has grabbed other Hadephobes - the dudes in straight jackets - and you need to destroy them, locked behind key doors as they are, in order to lower the obstruction blocking your way. The few pitched fights you run into are pretty good at delaying you to fill the level up, so good job there. I mean, you could just ignore the big two after you get them to fighting, but I finished the job.

EPISODE 4
DEMENTED DIMENSION

ConstrictionMAP21
by Zoltan "Katamori" Schmidt and "Death Egg"
A short Hell level. What lighting you get is gorgeous, but the map is very...constricted, and very dark once you get past the cathedral. The spectres in the mines are just a tad annoying but the main problem for me was dodging fire from the easternmost room. It's just hard to see is all, plus that pillar doesn't give you much leeway. The final fights are refreshingly and easily gamed, especially if you got the easy access BFG secret.

MAP22Prime Mover
by Norbert "NoneeLlama" Dávid
Nice simple Hell map. It's got a neat opening with the caged area and has some marble annexes to the northwest and southeast to vary up what is otherwise fairly brown. The big hook is of course the IOS under construction, sadly just eye candy here rather than an action centerpiece. I think Dávid does a good job using archviles and while most of the fights don't stand out the "Anomaly"-esque pair of archvile coffins is a nice high-water mark given how tight ammo seems to be through the level.

Gloom KeepMAP23
by "Olympus"
Olympus packs a lot of action into this small level. It's nicely detailed but pretty flat. Good thing the action distracts from the lack of vertical variation. Highlights include the blue key fight with two sneaky barons and some nice steppage, the dual archviles warping in at the red key, and the finale, a semi-arena style layout punctuated with a Cyberdemon. It's a nice closer as long as the thought of peppering a Cyber with rockets doesn't bore you and the structure in the center adds some difficulty to maneuvering about. The big issue is how tight ammo is at the beginning. If you see an arachnotron, just turn around and use the other door.

MAP24Lifeblood
by Chris "purist" Bourke
A semi-slaughter map with some psychedelic Hell sections, like the weird blood circuitry on the ceiling or that inferno maze with the hell knights. Sometimes it's slow or underwhelming, but if you want to pick a fight Bourke is more than happy to oblige with secrets upon secrets, like the opening gambit that leads to the BFG - practically a necessity - or that platform of revenants guarding an invul, very handy for the final crawl. Not to mention that secret challenge back where you came from.

SacrificeMAP25
by Kieran "Melon" Millar
A very small map from Melon but it's worth playing, if only for the super cool hook that drives the yellow key battle, a mad dash up red rock as a sea of lava raises up around you, threatening to swallow you whole. The rest of the fights are pretty tame but good at misdirecting your attention, with the exception of the archvile trio guarding the BFG, a pretty dirty encounter (unless you're packing cells from the only secret, perhaps). Fun stuff.

MAP26Pride of the Descent
by Marcell Izidor "Cell" Cellavy
I daresay a shorter level from Cell, continuing in the Hellish vein. It's got a nice arrival moment but is full of cramped and tricky combat situations. Actually, it's more manageable than his last level, revenants and all. The architecture is whatever but it has some cool moments like that key room with the switch that lowers a little trench you can escape through. Very cool room. There are a lot of secrets, I guess, and alternate sections I didn't discover, which is neat. Decent little romp.

Drilling StationMAP27
by "Rambosee"
A pretty unforgiving and claustrophobic level with a few major highlights. Rambosee is a huge fan of archviles, putting them in what feels like every corner, plus a wicked finale that budgets your maneuverability with rad suits while you combat several switch-triggered waves of enemies. I like how Hell blends back into reality as you go along and then back again with the nukage drills. I could have used a little more leeway with health, especially with what felt like a few sneaky commando traps, but it's all good.

MAP28Teleportation Center
by Kieran "Melon" Millar
Difficulty takes a drastic turn upward with this RE-turn to tech. It's a relentless level, from the berserk-punching shotgun guys opening to the flood of monsters that arrives with the blue key to that final mini-slaughter area with revenants, hell knights, cacodemons, and arachnotrons. The layout is ultimately super-symmetrical but there are a few snags that will change your approach, mostly in the thing placement. Fun, though probably unfair for FDAs given how tight the ammo balance was for me.

Dead PlanetMAP29
by Chris "purist" Bourke
An appropriate high-octane "city map" with tons of monsters. Challenge is high for me at least with lots of tricky archviles which together with some of the placement - like having thrown both yellow key switches - makes things very rough for the player. The Cyberdemons aren't very memorable; the best parts are all about things teleporting in to get you after you thought you wiped out the entrenched opposition. There are several "cloud of pain elemental" moments that are pretty annoying but there's more than enough health and ammo; the important bit is just getting beyond the yellow key section, after which things open up.

MAP30Hadephobia
by "A.Gamma"
Short but hectic finisher with a lot of monsters to chew through on your way to the evacuation ark. It's suspicious with the dribs and drabs but once you start flipping the main switches you'll see the major opposition. There's an invul in there for you to use, probably for the final wave with its two archviles and four Cyberdemons. Hilariously, the big BFG surprise manages to take itself out, an unfortunate limitation of every MAP30, but something you might want to be wary of yourself. The ark is a very nice touch.


BONUS MAPS

Pre-destined MortalityMAP33
by Marcell Izidor "Cell" Cellavy
This is Cell on steroids. It's incredibly cramped and super tight on ammo, with some of the situations feeling unfair at times. It's also the home to an elaborate secret if you want to see the Prog team tribute area, which is pretty neat but most of the triggers are hidden in areas Cell won't let you return to, which is very disheartening as I have no intention of going back through the pain train that is his playstyle to get them, as long as it is. That same chain of secrets (involving the normal keys in the sewage area) is incidentally the only way to get the supplies almost necessary to deal with some of the situations you'll encounter later, namely that nightmare archvile pillar to the eastern area. There are some cool ideas in the actual gameplay, and the idea of the secrets he's hidden intrigues me, but making the areas containing them one time only is a huge blow to my enthusiasm.

MAP34Hadephrenia
by Chris "purist" Bourke
The alternate end to Hadephobia, starting out in the same area but turning out to be a much simpler fight. The most dangerous things are the zombies at the beginning (not really) and the Cyberdemons guarding the yellow key, which given the limited space requires much more finesse than handling Hadephobia's "official" finale. The end sequence is basically the same, though, amusingly enough.

Scotch BonnetMAP35
by Erin "Grain of Salt" Fisher
This wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be and was actually pretty fun, if really unfair from the start. It's a semi-symmetrical slaughtermap you drop in to with walls of barons / hell knights harrying you while four archviles in the corners of the entry point provide the true threat. If you can kill just one of them ASAP, the rest should be so busy infighting with the random shit flying around that you can duck out and grab some more rockets to quickly and deftly finish them off. From there a lot of crowd control can be coerced from a Cyberdemon, after which the map is pretty much cleaning up. Cool stuff.

BIG BLACK SHAPE WITH EYES OF FIRE
TELLING PEOPLE THEIR DESIRE
SATAN'S SITTING THERE, HE'S SMILING
WATCHES THOSE FLAMES GET HIGHER AND HIGHER
OH NO, NO, PLEASE GOD HELP ME

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