Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Heroes... Heroes is one of the earliest Ultimate Doom megaWADs, but it isn't an entirely original endeavor. The archiver, Al Dewey, curated most of these levels as the cream of his crop and took care modifying and expanding them. Judging from rough comparisons and the end product I believe that most if not all alterations were for the better. I'm not knocking the originals, though; Dewey wasn't in the business of slapping together a bunch of stuff as was popular back in the day when people just wanted to play entire episodes of Doom. WADPAK, EPIBEST, the list goes on and on. Heroes has the distinction of being somewhat canonized, a lot of which I'm sure has to do with Dewey's consideration when putting this whole thing together. Of all the compilations I've seen his has certainly been the most lauded.

The biggest reason to play through Heroes would be Dewey's own levels. Yes; four of these maps were created for and can only be found in this megaWAD. They are amazingly abstract playgrounds ranging from the guttural to the sort of psychedelic masterpieces that tend to originate out of the early years of Doom. Al's originals are all pretty tough plays so if you think your OG Doom skill is up to snuff, get you some! The Dewey offerings are in E2M4, E3M4, E4M6, and E4M9. The other maps that the curator tweaked are absolutely worth a look but these are the only exclusives. The rest are all on the archives in one form or another.

Heroes is essentially a huge pack of '94 levels. There's a lot of strange stuff kicking around but no HOUSE.WAD business. It's great as a time capsule of the best of what the community had to offer before they started developing a rough approximation of the standards that would go on to shape works like Evilution and Memento Mori. Authors could get away with a lot of things back then and players weren't really bothered because holy shit man, you're playing Doom, and you're playing it in a level made by another player! And making Doom maps back in the day was a pain in the ass if you had anywhere near the sense of artifice of, say, John Anderson. Of course, the ease of tools like DoomBuilder 2 should not detract from the work that creators are doing today.

The Doom community on average is far more self-conscious and critical than it was some twenty-plus years ago. If you surround your map with huge, long-ass corridors containing fuck-all but they're required to reach the end, you're going to be criticized. If you write your name - not hidden - but bright as day in the middle of one of the main areas, more players are prone to laugh at you than with you. Inescapable pits of death are out. Killer traps as a whole, frustrating. Blind death traps only passed dependably through trial and error? Unfathomable! God forbid you should have to reason out a teleport puzzle in the absence of attacking monsters. Blind backtracking, switch-flipping porn, mandatory secrets; the list goes on and on.

The art of map-making wasn't nearly as distilled as it has become. Today we have the luxury of being able to load up a different PWAD the second we feel bored or embittered and move on. In 1994 these levels were among the best of what we had to play, warts and all. Detractors of the early era of Doom may argue that the unadulterated avocation does not excuse these first forays when measured against "modern" mapmaking. I won't speak as to their absolute quality but there's a certain raw enthusiasm for authorship that existed back then and isn't quite as prevalent in the climate of professionalism we have today, an absence of fear in the face of losing out on potential players. The scene still has people who just want to make a map without running a focus group gauntlet, and that's fine... as long as you can actually reach the exit switch.

Heroes is the ultimate '94 grab bag from an age with few if any notions on what not to do in a Doom level, when every other .TXT had its own short story, and you would throw in any sound replacement you could pull off the 'net (and there are quite a few in here). Is it worth playing? That depends wholly on where your taste stands with respect to the "quality" of Doom PWADs and I can't tell how you personally feel. Perhaps, and this is a big PERHAPS, Heroes will open a door to the enjoyment of an oft-derided era of Doom mapmaking, broadening your horizons regarding what a Doom level should be.

compiled / edited by Albert Dewey


by Tim Scott
A pleasant little level that has no particular theme and a labyrinthine layout. AFRO isn't maze-like, just fairly open-ended. The map starts out kind of rough but there are some nice touches with the secrets and a rude little open area on the west side. Monster-wise, it uses everything except the big two, so the action is pretty varied.

author unknown
Another mixed-theme level more focused on traps. It plays quick. There are several nice imp reveals for those occasions where you make some progress. The final section is quite memorable, begging you to nuke about forty massed shotgunners using the BFG then afterward throwing you against a Cyberdemon in an enclosed space where the invulnerability artifact may or may not be in reach. Fun stuff.

by Nicholas Bell
A techbase with some Hellish trappings when the rest of the map opens up. The construction is interesting but a little too vast, the spider-temple section especially. I have to give props, though, for a warehouse storing actual health and ammo. About halfway through the map a bunch of new Hellspawn warp in to make the gameplay a bit more interesting. I finished the level with about 100 still not killed, however. I'm not sure what flips the trigger; maybe it was the secrets I didn't get.

by Ethan Brodsky
This map is ridiculously massive. The entire western section is dominated by a large red Wolf3D style maze that kind of drags. The titular crusher is located outside in a secret area, one I didn't bother to track down. I'd say traveling the maze takes about half the level. The remaining portion is a pretty fun slugfest. I like the room with the shoot-out bar cage but the big dust-up following the crate depot gauntlet is my favorite moment.

by Casey Miller
Dewey selects a freeform techbase level. There's a little raised walkway near the red key which you can permanently fall off of. As a whole the map is pretty sparsely detailed and the rooms are a little big but it plays well and is a bit non-linear to boot. I came in behind the cacodemon ambush in the outdoor area and found that I had to run around the pack so I could have better mobility.

by Ben "Warbaby" Morris
As if you couldn't figure it out, this is a techbase level. Those lights on the east side of the opening staircase look awesome. And, wow, there's a reasonable facsimile of a pushable button! Kudos to Morris. The giant circular room fight is tense as Hell, but really, most of the encounters are rough. The "sewer" section is no exception and with the catwalk and constant reveals it's a good romp. The "Call of Kthulu" midi translates pretty well to Doom, too.

by Scott Amspoker
Techbase with a jaunt into a Hellish section. The base portion is less than stellar. It's under-detailed and involves hunting around to see if anything has changed after investigating a new area. The Hell-cave, conversely, feels fairly organic. I got unfortunately stuck after getting the red key and had to noclip my way out. Perhaps an engine compatibility issue? The final climax is okay but the mandatory unmarked secrets kind of drag it down.

E1M7FRENZY on Phobos
by Jeffrey Chow
Freestylin'. Chow uses many different themes but everything meshes well in its particular area. I wasn't expecting that nice slugfest around the blue key and actually tensed up for a second! There are a lot teleporters used to seal off areas the player effectively commits to exploring, forcing them to navigate the new zone until they clear it. The author institutes a few clever scenarios like a box puzzle or a dose of platforming where you have to navigate a winding pit while being assaulted by several tiers of imps. (The pit is inescapable.) It's a bit more cerebral than your average Doom map but, in the end, there isn't enough action to carry the adrenaline through the more brilliant ideas presented.

by Jon Landis
This level is mostly Hell-themed and somewhat difficult. At the very least, it's quite a different take on E2M8. There are many tricks and traps to be had. Teleporters abound and you'll also meet a Cyberdemon that can be killed without firing a single shot. The puzzles aren't intuitive, though, and crusher traps dominate several rooms. In spite of its antagonism toward the user, it's a fun romp.


by "Greytale"
The second outing kicks off with this curious offering, an interesting example of abstract construction. GRYBLOOD plays really fast but lacks any instances of ingenious combat situations. I did like the open area and its raising vats of enemies and the massive imp trap was pretty nasty.

by Barry Ferg
A short, circular symmetric level using techbase textures. There's nothing too difficult here as long as you're quick on your feet. The secrets parallel each other though individually they play out a little differently. The opening stands out as a nice moment as you lower into position under fire and outgunned; I think it's fairly accomodating as far as hot starts go.

by Ben "Warbaby" Morris
Another one of Morris's levels, generally evoking a Hellish theme. The map contains excellent architecture and some very nasty traps like the mandatory Baron hug. I believe there's a whole side area to explore if you enter the teleporter to the right in the yellow key room. I picked left and was shuffled off to the level's second half, a starbase that gives way to more infernal transformations before finishing. All in all, a great level, using lots of cramped space to increase the threat of demons, imps, and Barons.

by Albert Dewey
This map is Al's first inclusion to the compilation. It's stout, compact, and utterly lacking in guile. The secrets aren't labeled and the abstract layout is dominated by a large open area marked by four columns packed with shotgunners and a roving pack of demons on the ground. The side segment has an aerial ambush but more importantly at the bottom of the stairs sits a pack of ten or so Barons. Dispatching them is incredibly tedious no matter how you handle it (there's an alternate disposal mechanism readily available) and really, you don't even need to kill them, or most of the monsters here. A full clear from pistol start can get incredibly boring.

by Craig J. Dudle
Mixed theme focusing more on a Hell castle. The beginning has some ominous detailing as it's poorly lit and broken bodies strewn across the floor. You almost hesitate to grab the isolated and illuminated shotgun. There are some really cool ideas in here like the demon army emerging from the flames. Toward the end it seems to peter out in terms of detail and fights but up until the final room there's a lot to keep your eyes busy. The secret exit isn't very secret but it's a nice touch.

by James "Professor Doom" Atchison
Massive Hell-themed level. For whatever reason, that room with the imps released on a raised platform behind you while lost souls and a shotgun guy snipes at you from above was a particularly rough moment. It's a pretty cool semi-abstract map with large areas, a few Barons lying around to make things interesting, and a lot of good usage of cacodemons and demons / spectres. The biggest dick moves here would be the red key trap, which somehow ended up with me stuck inside the floor, and the first yellow key door. I didn't grab a lot of secrets here but what little I did find was helpful. I did like the Baron / plasma rifle fight.

E2M6White Room
by Doug Ryerson
This one is somewhat oriented toward techbase and the weakest level so far. It's very small, non-threatening, and kind of buggy. If you should fall into the pit by the exit door before you hit the switch by where you entered you're pretty much fucked. In fact, I couldn't really figure out how to get to the exit area itself. I opened the blue door and found the chaingun but nothing really came of it or hitting the switch. There's also way too much ammo floating around, at least in terms of shotgun shells.

Damned BastardsE2M7
by Thomas Moeller
Hell-themed map. It's problematically balanced for pistol start. It's not impossible, but it had me doing things like leashing demons to unreachable imps and just thinking outside the box in general, which is probably a good thing in the long run. In retrospect, after playing all of The Innocent Crew's other works, especially Obituary, pistol starts that kick you in the teeth seem a common theme. The key problem here is a lack of shotgun pickups; you won't get one until after getting the red key and killing a sergeant, and by then you've already passed at least 72 shells. Afterward the level somewhat eases up, but it's still pretty rough with zero soul spheres or large armors and a few fiendish traps. The architecture isn't spectacular but the monster closets feel natural and the basement is a nice scare.

E2M8The Halls of Hex
by Peter Naus
Massive Hell level featuring a lot of green marble and not all that exciting though I like the few cool "puzzle" sequences. I could have used a Baron or two by then. There's a memorable moment where you encounter a giant cage chock full of imps and can merrily blast away at them being careful to duck behind the corner when the inevitable stream of fire flies toward you. All the bruisers are located in the final area which is pretty simple to handle given there's an invulnerability and a BFG just sitting down a nearby corridor. I did like the music.


by "The Harbinger of Sorrow"
A short Hell-themed map that plays fast and is by no means difficult. I like the usage of lifts and gaps which gives the work an interesting character when trying to bluster your way through it. There are a few secrets here but they're not marked so good luck finding them. A nice little opener for Episode 3.

by Peri Strange
The author provides a pretty intense offering featuring a symmetric sewer system giving you among other things an ugly crusher room and a few nice outdoor battles. My only regret is that the shotgun was the primary weapon of use which tends toward a shell fuelled grind. The level plays pretty fast and the obligatory author lettering is relatively unobtrusive.

Fort KnocksE3M3
by Guy Stockie
This one is a large Hell level but it plays fast and has an air of non-linearity to it. The author has a few Barons but you don't end up that close to them so it's nothing too rough. Most of the threat in the map is from shotgunners and stealthy demons. It's good to have some shortcuts after getting keys which saves you time when backtracking for secrets, a feature I see more often than not in Heroes. Bravo.

by Albert Dewey
This Hell-bound level's opening looks a lot like the author's E2M4 but it quickly separates itself from its anemic cousin. The WAD appears as a series of difficult challenges with the few minor encounters mostly relegated to some hordes of troopers. The entire level is pretty much downhill after you kill the Cyberdemons in the cathedral near the start. As long as you're quick the four Spider Masterminds shouldn't be much worry (depending on whether or not you found the BFG). It was far more fun to play through than START1.WAD for me.

by Megaduck
It's a fairly large Hell-themed map with no really difficult encounters. I ended up tackling it in a bit of a different direction than intended so I made ample usage out of a berserk pack. There's a nice floor drop switch and some cool trap effects. I can't figure out what the secret button behind the yellow door did if anything. I'm guessing it conjured up the Cyberdemon but I exited before I could find / activate him. I think that the teleports were used fairly well. I felt it pretty under-detailed save for a few rooms but it was fun to play.

E3M6Docking Crater Alpha
by Jin H. "Time Traveler" Kim
I was immediately surprised to find the simulation of an outdoor space environment by making most of the outdoors a damage floor mitigated by rad suits stored away like temporary space suits. While I predicted it to be a gimmick that would piss me off later on I thought it to be a very nice touch. I especially like the narrative he's put together with the placement of items and slain marines. The biggest criticism I can level against it is that a lot of the monsters are incredibly oblivious to their surroundings. The red key "ambush" waited merrily in their closet until I started blasting them at point blank range. On the whole it was very fun to play and had a lot of verisimilitude plus warping monsters to keep things fresh.

by John C. Lyons
This map is big and pretty abstract. More importantly there are some cool traps in here like exploding barrels flying through walls. It kept me on my toes the whole level. The architecture is decent but my biggest problem was the long-ass elevator ride to the final encounter area which did not merit the buildup given to it. I was expecting, say, Cyberdemons to show up rather than a few Barons hemmed by other less threatening monsters.

by Chris Kendall
The map itself has an ugly layout rendered as some kind of bland brown military base but it's swarming with monsters and features an armory that outfits you to take care of most of the map's meanies. If you do make it to the ammo room, which is fairly close to the start, then the rest of the level is pretty much downhill. Expect lots of toughs and a lot of winding through a cavern complex. There may be some backtracking to do depending on how you progressed but all in all it's a pretty fun slaughter.

The Tiger DenE3M8
by Jim Young
This mixed-theme level has a lot of monster closets but they lend a fairly organic feeling to the map. There are a lot of semi-crazy fights but they're simpler than they look and generally take care of themselves if provoked into infighting. The climax is a bit ruined by the fact that the Spider Masterminds will take themselves out leaving one somewhat weakened individual remaining and a boatload of health, armor, and ammo. It's a fast play and quite fun.


by Kevin Haley and Bill Courneya
The authors have created a Hellish town with a lot of mandatory secrets which sucks because the rest of the map is well-balanced and leads through a series of interesting encounters. At the end is a less than straightforward fight consisting of a Cyberdemon in a long building marked with torches but if you had the presence of mind to save the first invulnerability it should breeze by.

E4M2Daemon 2
by Cameron Newham
Traps 'r' Us! This map plays out like a bunch of carefully balanced encounters one after another. On the downside it seems to play more like Dragon's Lair with some exceptions. I managed to find the secret exit well before the normal one but the rest of the level is fairly challenging in the way it uses barrels and monsters in cramped quarters to make things interesting. After circumventing the Cyberdemon the rest was pretty much downhill but that last trap before the exit almost got me good.

by Albert Dewey
Another incredibly abstract level from the compiler. And I thought the Cyberdemons in E3M4 were nuts! The map has a very manic quality as you're constantly put in over your head though in the later half you tend toward keeping it above water. The final sequence is ingenious; make good use of your invulnerability or you'll soon find yourself caged in by rockets. Alternatively, you could just give up and jump in the drink but there's something satisfying if drawn out in watching the Cyberdemons crushed one by one (or two by two as the case may be) while you're sitting pretty. I dreaded the red key section as well but I managed it without any screw ups.

E4M3Nuclear Spillway
by Jeff Ebert
This is an okay techbase level that emphasizes nukage. It has a few fairly large areas with nice detailing. The puzzle in the red key room really dragged it down for me but I wasn't paying complete attention to what was going on the first time so I paid for my ignorance. There are some pretty good traps and such. I think a second rad suit in the maze could have gone a long way but I'm a sissy when it comes to damage floors.

by Norman Scott

It isn't the most straightforward layout and the textures and doors are seemingly random but it's kind of non-linear and I like the use of columns in the large room containing the Baron. The major set piece is a movie theater that's showing some smut and is capable of switching between two different images, hence the title.

E4M5Der Turm
by Nicholas Bell
Predominantly a Hell-themed map that emphasizing green marble. As with the author's "Infestation", appearing earlier, this one is SPRAWLING. It never lets up though and has plenty of interesting encounters including numerous Barons and a Cyberdemon. There are more than a few secrets and he manipulates the space between rooms quite well. My biggest issue is that most of the chambers seem sparsely decorated with a few exceptions, first and foremost in my mind being the Baron cages. There's some smart puzzles and it lacks the large outer ring of INFEST.WAD. For as much as I run I always feel like I'm going somewhere.

by Albert Dewey
This looks to be the most coherent of Al's contributions. Similar to the others, it's kind of tough using darkness in a nasty way much like the maze in DMATCH2.WAD. I got stuck in a bad way fairly early in the level. SPOILER: The switch to lower the gate behind the blue / red bars is ON one of the bars about partway through. Other than that Dewey borrows architecture here and there from DMATCH2.WAD with slightly different encounter results. Except for the SUPER SECRET SWITCH it was a blast to play.

by Keith Sheehan
The penultimate level is a techbase with a couple of cool features. The author uses the bodies of marines to indulge in a little narrative and includes a few nice details like a blasted-out brick wall. None of the ambushes are threatening but they lend a bit of manic energy to the WAD. There are a couple of decent puzzles that throw some short backtracking at you, like the yellow key. All in all it's a good romp.

Training Ground of the Mad Overlord – 2E4M8
by Bruce A. Bacher
The finale presents as an abstract level emphasizing wooden architecture with some Hellish trappings. Most of the map is a mad house situated around a single area pitting you against wave after wave of monsters. There are some cute puzzles here but the big one is the use of voodoo dolls at the map's end. It's a nice change of pace and a great gimmick to end the megaWAD.



  1. Thanks for the review, I really enjoyed this wad. It is like an early community chest, only the author's works were unwittingly pooled together =P. The old maps, graphics, midis, and sound effects come together to form a a real time capsule of a wad.

    I have the origin for E2M1 by the way (despite not being in heroes text file). It is E2M2 of darkhell.wad by greytale:

    1. Sweet, thanks! I know the author had a handful of other levels released under the title "anonymous" but never knew that a) he adopted an actual alias, and b) he published a Doom episode based on his works. Gonna have to check this out!

  2. (WolfForever a nickname, my usual online name is Kak Home)

    Anyways I love your reviews, and this wad is no exception! I just played Hedrox 2 today and what you said about it matched what I thought pretty well. Anyways, there is another Heroes mapset, for Doom II, heroes2.wad, a similar compilation of generally higher quality old maps. I'd be interested in a review of it as well; would you mind giving it a go?

    1. When I played this, the original Heroes, I was intending to play the Doom II follow-up. I ended up writing off compilation WADs, though, and really wanted to play through each of these levels in their original incarnations...which I may eventually end up doing. For now, though, I'll go through Dewey's tune-up, eventually. I just don't know when.

  3. Eventually should be fine. I wasn't asking for you to stop doing what you were doing and play it immediately, or anything like that. I never intend for my comments to look like demands, just suggestions. :)

  4. Just a few footnotes about a couple maps that I know about the origins of:

    In the pre-edited versions of E1M1 and E1M3, you could exit immediately. In E1M1 you just had to turn around and in E1M3 pressing that elevator wall in front of you when you start actually ended the map.

    E1M6 was a very popular map back in the mid 90's I'm pretty sure. Saw it in a LOT of compilation wads when I was younger. Has the reputation, I think, of being the 'first ID-quality level', though I think such labeling is questionable.

    Finally E2M7 is from TiC's freshman effort 'Slaughter Until Death', also reviewed on here in full.

    1. E2M7 wasn't explicitly stated, but that's where the map title came from.