Friday, June 10, 2011

Aliens TC (ALITCWAD.WAD)


The Aliens TC, released by Justin Fisher in 1994, is Doom's best-known "TC" and also one of the few high-quality partial conversions using popular commercial assets that remains on the /idgames archive. For awhile, Fisher's name became a pretty hot property, and everyone was watching and waiting to see what his next project would be. In the end, all we have is the remnant of the Nemisis TC, and about an entire world's worth of promise. Fisher left a profound mark on the game industry, from the aspect of user modifications to actual industry professionals some years down the line, and even got to see Terry Pratchett (RIP) play an early beta at a sci-fi con. And, well, that last bit may be the greatest accomplishment of all, depending on your outlook in life.


In case you've been living under a rock. Aliens TC is based on the film, Aliens, where a squad of space marines takes on a hive of perfect, bio-engineered killing machines that have infested an interstellar colony. Sure, there's other stuff involved that makes the film something more than a non-stop action rollercoaster, but if for whatever reason you have managed to avoid knowing what Aliens is about and are uninterested in seeing the movie before playing this mod... Fuck it. There's almost no point in playing this thing if you haven't experienced the film. The significance of some of the locales will be completely lost on you, on top of stuff like the mech-loader. Most importantly, Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, who is pretty much written out by this mod. Need I say more?


An important note... There are like a Brazilian copies of the TC floating around on the archives. The version to use, however, is Quasar's repackaging for modern source ports, which can be found interred on the Doomed Speed Demos Archive as aliensv2.zip. It works pretty well in ZDoom, and it's been tested in many others, so if you don't want to go through the agony of unpacking and working the thing with command prompts and whatnot, V2 is the package to use. No disrespect to Fisher, of course. I wish the authors of other ancient install packages (Obituary) had placed less restrictive licenses on their distribution so that we weren't forced to pass more relevant re-distributions around on the sly, lest we incur the wrath of the almighty authoritative author.


So. Aliens TC is... a lot like the original Doom in terms of atmosphere. At least, supposing you played Doom when it first came out, and all the zombies and imps and demons actually scared you with the keyboard tank controls and stuff. Aliens TC milks the same environment but plays by a different set of rules which makes the whole experience seem fresh. The end result is more survival horror than Knee Deep in the Dead. Ammo management, aliens popping out of walls, terrified of getting too close to kill them without getting splashed, and lots of crawling through air ducts. There's plenty of duct work in almost every map, and exploration is necessary for your survival. I wouldn't recommend playing this WAD through with pistol starts. There are a lot of cinematic sequences and lots of places for you to waste your precious ammo that you shouldn't, and starting over from scratch can make some levels nigh impossible.


As far as the gameplay changes go, the weapons remain fundamentally the same but have mostly new sprites, including a Mechano-loader replacement for the chainsaw, with some pretty good sound bites. This does create an interesting dichotomy where Doom's workhorse weapon, the shotgun, tends to overshadow the pulse rifle, the weapon of choice for colonial marines. They're all pretty useful, but you probably won't be using the grenades (rockets) as much considering the emphasis on claustrophobic, close-quarters combat against the aliens, who are used in a skirmish-heavy fashion.


There are only a handful of monsters to combat, but Fisher has made the most out of their appearances. The alien eggs can be killed before they give way to facehuggers, which crawl along the ground and leap like lost souls. You'll also find smaller aliens, replacing the function of the imp, in that they spit acid balls. The ubiquitous alien warriors charge along the ground like demons and occasionally explode when killed, doing damage to everything around them. The mother of them all, the Alien Queen, is basically a baron replacement, but by the time you get to her, you may find yourself short enough on ammo to be challenged.


Lots of cool crafted events help to immerse the player. There are tons of ambient noises, including clips of comm speech by the movie's marines as you play. It kind of breaks the atmosphere when you're the only person playing, but it works in its own special way. Also dig the wandering monster noises replaced by motion tracker blips and beeps. Many aspects of the movie set have been faithfully reproduced along with other curiosities like powerful, burning fires. Heck; there's even a visit to the nightmarish "Alien Host Ship" as envisioned by Richard Love, an experience that is about as effective as it is basic.


The Aliens TC is a must play TC. Though, to be pedantic, it's more of a partial conversion given how many of the original Doom resource are still knocking around. I think that it better emulates the idea behind Doom than Doom sometimes executes it, and I'd be stoked to see a Doom mod that tries to recapture the same feeling of surprise with some new trappings and DeHackEd work. The weaving of the Aliens franchise and the Doom franchise together is well documented elsewhere, though. Suffice it to say, you should really play this total conversion, and with Quasar's splicing its even easier than ever. So, what are you waiting for?





ALIENS
TOTAL CONVERSION FOR DOOM
by Justin Fisher and Richard Love

E2M1Landing Pads
SECURE THE AREA!
There's nothing to find here except some desperately needed ammo and armor. I mean, you won't need it here – there's nary an enemy to be found, just tons of atmosphere as you explore the deserted exterior of the base. It will make the following maps much easier, though. The things that generate ambient noise and comm messages are genius and help set the mood as you explore.

Atmospheric ProcessorE2M2
LOCATE THE COLONISTS!
More tension mounting until you reach the meat of the level, the infested base. The thing placement is wonderful here, creating obstacles that don't really impede your movement until you're trying to evade the dreaded aliens. Sure, you could kill them up close, but there's no telling what's going to shower you with acidic blood when it dies. There's also some eggs, very creepy, and a surprise encounter with a facehugger (and an alien!) in the cramped and poorly-lit air duct system. Even when you leave the infested portion for good, you're still jumpy, waiting for the next alien to come out of the wall and have at you, and those orchestral stingers in their wake sounds don't help much.

E2M3Med-Labs and Operations
SEAL OFF MED-LABS!
Very exciting and very cinematic. Most of the aliens you encounter here come in seemingly endless waves that you don't have the ammo for, so hit the red switches and shut the hatches where they come up and you'll be fine, for the most part. There's still some free roamers you have to deal with but the emphasis is on action and lots of it and also features a very long tunnel crawl more suited for an android.

Med-Labs and OperationsE2M4
ESCAPE FROM MED-LABS!
Another cinematic moment where you're actually treated to the aliens bursting out of the ceiling! There's no chance to take them where they're at so you leave the lab and flip the sealant switch to explore the rest of the level. There are a lot of air ducts, a lot of sewers (with some infested spaces), and a lot of steamworks. Coupled with the alert siren you get a nice journey through the inner structure of the colony base that keeps you on your toes with all the ambushes. At the very least, you get to go back and clear out the med-lab you initially ran from.

E2M5Atmospheric Processor
RETREAT TO LANDING PADS!
More base with less ambushes. There's a small infested section you've got to punch through to get the blue key, but most of the map is dominated by ominously empty base structure and a warehouse. There's a sizable outdoor location, not that there's much to do there, but the secret's cleverly locked behind some yellow key doors. Good luck getting to it!

Alien Host ShipE2M9
by Richard Love
The sole level in this TC credited to Richard Love. It's mostly pitch-black corridors with some grand architecture that kind of suggests the host ship. Gameplay is pretty ugly, with you hunting identical looking hallways for some minute change that occurred after exploring, again, and again, and again. The feeling is pretty tense but it's not the kind of fighting that really sustains through an entire map. The Alien Queen makes an appearance at the end but you can just dodge around her. All in all, it's okay, but the rest of the levels are much better, even more telling that this one belongs to a different author. He did pretty good on the egg section, though.

E2M6Atomospheric Processor
PENETRATE THE HIVE!
Atmospheric opening, of course, until you reach the hive, the main source of the bullshit. There's a lot of great ambushes here that will leave you begging for escape, especially when you never know which alien is going to blow up on you. There's plenty of supplies, but make them last, 'cause there's no telling when you'll get your next breather.

Alien HiveE2M7
ESCAPE!
More of the same but this one is mostly infested colony with an emphasis on survival over extermination. Ammo will be tight; don't be tempted to smoke that bunch of eggs or you'll find yourself poorly suited to get all three keys and escape. Incidentally, there are some fire walls used in this level to somewhat impede your progress. If you're quick, though, you shouldn't take much damage.

E2M8The Sulacco
It's the final showdown. The Sulacco's docking bay is authentically nondescript. The drop ship is dead center and there's a network of ducts surrounding the main floor. The main attraction is the fight between the Queen and you, and I hope you brought ammo, 'cause the Mecha-Loader isn't gonna do it alone. Either that, or you get really good at killing what's basically a Baron with a chainsaw. This would make more sense if the Mecha-Loader worked like a berserk pack, really. Especially if it added a bunch of armor. It's okay, though. The Queen wouldn't be a very tough fight otherwise.

BONUS LEVELS

Bonus LevelE3M1
Really, this is almost the entire TC in a nutshell. The main problem is, at pistol start, you will be struggling to find weapons to take on the aliens. On the one hand, it really drives home the survival horror atmosphere. On the other, it's a real pain. Almost everything is here, though, including a series of giant vats not otherwise seen in the WAD. It's a big simpler when you get the Mechano-Loader, though you should really avoid using it, especially when the aliens have a tendancy to blow up in your face.

E3M2Bonus Level 2
It's the first level of the main TC, "Landing Pads", but with monsters this time. An interesting, if unnecessary, romp.


AT YOUR COMPUTER
NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1994

Crossing AcheronAliens TC
Doomsday of UACGalaxia
SerenityEternity
The Unholy TrinityReturn to Phobos
Slaughter Until DeathThe Evil Unleashed

8 comments:

  1. Great, the fucking link from the first paragraph doesn't work!

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    1. I managed to download the wad from entering main Doom Wad Station page. I don't understand why I got redirected when I tried downloading the updated version from this blog.

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    2. The updated version is also found on Doomed Speed Demos Archive labeled as aliens v2. Can you update your review and replace idgames link with DSDA link?

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  2. did you read my posts?

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    1. in the time since this review was posted, nearly four years ago, doomwadstation.com went offline for a period of time and was subsequently resurrected as www.doomwadstation.net, which is why you were "redirected". i completely forgot that i linked to it for Quasar's updated package, since i otherwise did not and still do not use Doom WAD Station as a source. thanks for pointing out that the updated package is on the DSDA; the links have been updated accordingly

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    2. Another small error: You said PC two times instead of TC.

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    3. i wouldnt call it an error, i called it a partial conversion in the opening paragraph, though that might be confusing when contrasted against the pretty brazen self-label of TC. at the time i was trying to differentiate between something that replaced almost all of doom's resources, a total conversion (TC), from something that replaced some of doom's resources, a partial conversion (PC), because i thought that the distinction was important. i dont think thats the case any more but im not gonna change it right meow

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  3. First conversion type wad I've played for Doom. Mixed feelings, bought on more by a lack of interest in the level design - the complexes are too large with exploration being the main pull. In particular E2M9, the picture above does absolute justice as that is literally all you see. The alien sprites are fantastic though and its a great feeling when they get the drop on you, they appear to come out of nowhere just like the movies.

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