Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heroes (HEROES.WAD)


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'm sure most if not all alterations were for the better. I'm not knocking the originals, though - Dewey just 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 care when putting this whole thing together. Certainly, of all the compilations I've seen, his has been the most lauded.


The most concrete 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 that range from the guttural to the sort of psychedelic masterpieces that tend to originate out of the early years of Doom. They're all pretty tough plays, so if you think your OG Doom skill is up to snuff, get you some! Dewey's levels are in E2M4, E3M4, E4M6, and E4M9. The other maps that Al has tweaked are also worth a look, but these are the only exclusives. The others are all on the archives in one form or another.


So, it's a huge pack of '94 levels. There's a lot of strange stuff kicking around, but none of that 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. There are a lot of things that you could get away with back then that didn't really bother players because holy shit man, you're playing Doom, and you're playing it in a level that someone else made! And making Doom maps back in the day was a pain in the ass if you had anywhere near the sense of artifice of authors like John Anderson. That's not to say that the ease of tools like DoomBuilder 2 detracts from the work authors are doing today.


The community as a whole is more self-conscious and far more critical than it was some twenty-plus years ago. If you make huge, long-ass corridors that surround your map and have fuck-all in them but are 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 people are prone to laugh at you than with you. Inescapable pits of death are out. Death traps as a whole, frustrating. Blind death traps circumvented via trial and error? Unfathomable! God forbid you should have to reason out a teleport puzzle when no one is attacking you. Blind backtracking, switch-flipping porn, mandatory secrets, the list goes on and on.


Like I said, there was a lot that you could get away with because the art of map-making wasn't nearly as distilled as it is today. Now, you can load up something else the second you feel bored or frustrated and move on. Back then, this was the best you had to play, warts and all. That idea might be mind-boggling to detractors of the early era of Doom, but there's a certain raw enthusiasm for authorship that existed back then that 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. You still have people that just want to make a map without running a focus group gauntlet, and that's fine... as long as you can actually make it to the exit switch.


Heroes is the ultimate '94 grab bag from an age when there were few if any notions on what not to do in a Doom level, when every other .TXT came with a short story, when 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 where your personal feelings lie. It's a question that you should already know the answer to. 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.





HEROES
compiled / edited by Albert Dewey


EPISODE ONE

AFRO.WADE1M1
by Tim Scott
A pleasant little level with no particular theme and a labyrinthine layout. It's not maze-like, just fairly open-ended. It 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 it's pretty varied.

E1M2BRAVE.WAD
author unknown
Another mixed-theme map more focused on traps. Plays quick. There are a few nice imp reveals whenever you make some progress. The final section is quite memorable, begging you to nuke about forty massed shotgunners with a 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.

InfestationE1M3
by Nicholas Bell
It's techbase with some Hellish trappings, particularly when the rest of the level opens up. Interesting construction, but a little too vast, especially with the spider-temple section. I have to give props, though, for a warehouse that stores actual health and ammo. About halfway through the map, a bunch of new Hellspawn warp in and make the map 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.

E1M9CRUSHER.WAD
by Ethan Brodsky
This level 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 rest of which is a pretty fun slugfest. I like the room with the shoot-out bar cage, but that big dust-up following the crate room gauntlet is my favorite moment.

MEGAWATT.WADE1M4
by Casey Miller
Freeform techbase level. There's a little raised walkway near the red key which you can permanently fall off of. Other than that, 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.

E1M5TECH.WAD
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 pretty good romp. The "Call of Kthulu" midi translates pretty well to Doom, too.

OPOST21.WADE1M6
by Scott Amspoker
Techbase with a jaunt into a Hellish section. The base section 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'. Uses many different themes, but everything meshes well in its particular area. I wasn't expecting that nice slugfest around the blue key. 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. Chow 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.

!Wow!E1M8
by Jon Landis
Mostly Hell-themed and somewhat difficult. It's quite a different take on E2M8, that's for sure. There are many of tricks and traps to be had. Teleporters abound and there's a Cyberdemon that can be killed without firing a single shot. The puzzles aren't intuitive, though, and crusher traps dominate several rooms. All that aside, it's a fun romp.

EPISODE TWO

E2M1GRYBLOOD.WAD
by "Greytale"
Interesting abstract construction. It plays really fast but there's nothing too interesting. I did like the open area with the raising vats of enemies and the massive imp trap was pretty nasty.

CORE.WADE2M2
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 also parallel each other, though each plays out a little differently. The opening stands out as a nice moment as you lower into position under fire and outgunned.

E2M3BEN10.WAD
by Ben "Warbaby" Morris
Another one of Morris's levels, generally evoking a Hellish theme. 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 hell architecture before finishing. All in all, a great level, using lots of cramped space to increase the threat of demons, imps and barons.

START1.WADE2M4
by Albert Dewey
Al's first inclusion to the compilation. It's a stout, compact level, lacking in guile. The secrets aren't labeled and the abstract map is dominated by a large open area with four columns packed with shotgunners, with a roving pack of demons on the ground. There's a side area with 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.

E2M5KILLZONE.WAD
by Craig J. Dudle
Mixed theme focusing more on a Hell castle. The beginning has some ominous detailing as it's poorly lit with 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 that secret, but it's a nice touch.

PVBDETH.WADE2M9
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. 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
Somewhat techbase and the weakest level so far. It's very small, very 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 cells.

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 is there are no shotgun pickups; you won't get one until after getting the red key and killing a shotgun guy, after which you've already passed by at least 72 shells. Afterward the level somewhat eases up, but it's still pretty rough with zero soul spheres, zero 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 there are a few cool "puzzle" sequences. At that point I could have used a baron or two. 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 that there's an invulnerability and a BFG just sitting down a nearby corridor. I did like the music.

EPISODE THREE

MARX2_1.WADE3M1
by "The Harbinger of Sorrow"
Hell level that plays fast and is by no means difficult. With all the usage of lifts and gaps it has some interesting routes. There are some secrets here but they're not marked. A nice little opener for Episode 3.

E3M2Crush-o-rama-ama-ama
by Peri Strange
It's a pretty intense level featuring a symmetric sewer system that gives you among other things an ugly crusher room and a nice few outdoor battles. My only regret is that the shotgun was the primary weapon of use. The level plays pretty fast and the obligatory author lettering isn't too obtrusive.

Fort KnocksE3M3
by Guy Stockie
It's a large Hell level but it plays fast and has some non-linearity to it. Nothing really rough; sure, there are some barons, but you don't end up that close to them. Most of the threat on this map is from shotgunners and stealthy demons. Some shortcuts after getting keys saves you from some backtracking for secrets, a nice feature, and one I see more often than not in this collection. Bravo.

E3M4START2.WAD
by Albert Dewey
This Hell-bound level's opening looks a lot like Dewey's E2M4, but it quickly separates itself from its anemic cousin. The WAD presents itself 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 (given that you found the BFG). Much more fun to play through than START1.WAD.

BCOMPLEX.WADE3M5
by Megaduck
It's a fairly large Hell-themed map. 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 switch behind the yellow door did, if anything. I'm guessing it conjured up the Cyberdemon, but I exited before I could find / activate him. The teleports were used fairly well, I think. Save for a few rooms, it felt pretty under-detailed, but it was pretty 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. A very nice touch, though I predicted it was a gimmick that would piss me off later. I especially like the narrative he's put together here 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.

FORGE.WADE3M9
by John C. Lyons
It's 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, not a few Barons hemmed by some other less threatening monsters.

E3M7TOWER2.WAD
by Chris Kendall
The map itself has an ugly layout, some kind of bland brown military base, but it's swarming with monsters and features an ammo circuit 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 went through it, 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 with some infighting. The climax is a bit ruined by the fact that the Spider Masterminds will take themselves out, leaving you with one somewhat weakened individual and a boatload of health, armor, and ammo. Plays fast, though, and fun.

EPISODE FOUR

TOWN.WADE4M1
by Kevin Haley and Bill Courneya
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, 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! Seriously, this level 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 exit, but the rest of the level is fairly challenging, using 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.

DMATCH2.WADE4M9
by Albert Dewey
Another incredibly abstract Dewey level, 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 your head 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
It's an okay techbase level with an emphasis on nukage. There are some 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 it. 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.

hOOtersE4M4
by Norman Scott
I really liked the use of columns in the large room with the baron. Otherwise, it's not the most straightforward layout with seemingly random textures and doors, but it's non-linear. Incidentally, there's some smut showing in the movie theater, with buttons letting you switch to your preference.

E4M5Der Turm
by Nicholas Bell
Predominantly a Hell-themed level, emphasizing green marble. Like Bell's other level, appearing earlier, this 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 rooms 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.

DMATCH1.WADE4M6
by Albert Dewey
It looks the most coherent out of Al's contributions. Also, like most of his stuff, 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 blue/red bars, about partway through. Other than that, there are some bits of architecture owing to DMATCH2.WAD, with slightly different encounter results. Except for the SUPER SECRET SWITCH it was a blast to play.

E4M7TIBET.WAD
by Keith Sheehan
Techbase level with a couple of cool features. Sheehan uses the bodies of marines to indulge in a little narrative and has some 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's a couple of decent puzzles that throw some short backtracking at you, like the yellow key. All in all, it's a decent romp.

Training Ground of the Mad Overlord – 2E4M8
by Bruce A. Bacher
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.

YOU TOO CAN PLAY HEROES.WAD
IF JUST FOR ONE DAY

7 comments:

  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:

    http://www.doomworld.com/idgames/index.php?id=3481

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    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!

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  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?

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    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.

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  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. :)

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  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.

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

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