Wednesday, June 29, 2011

All Hell is Breaking Loose (ALLHELL.WAD)

Up until the advent of DeHackEd, all of the "crazy" Doom mods were basically just sprite replacements. While Obituary is sort of the grand daddy of S.T.R.A.I.N. and some of the more subtle augments, the batshit insane mods can lay claim to The Sky May Be, or more sensibly, All Hell is Breaking Loose. Released in 1996 by one Joel Huenink, ALLHELL is a "near Total Conversion" for Doom II, replacing MAP01 to MAP05. It changes virtually all monster behavior, tossing many of them around in DeHackEd to make new and even more threatening beasties, and revamps Doomguy's arsenal to compensate for the increased lethality of the hordes of Hell.

The story is... virtually nonexistent. At least, there is no in-depth setup to explain how or why All Hell is Breaking Loose, but Doomguy's photo op with then president Bill Clinton implies - in spite of its anachronism - that it's some time after Doom II. The rest is told through the setting and action. You start off in your secluded cabin in the mountains when shit goes down, the demons apparently taking a keen interest in targeting you. The rest is just action that takes you through some abandoned mines and caverns until you emerge on the edge of a recently infested metropolis, hopefully the nexus of the invasion.

As some have said, Joel Huenink succeeded in creating an excellent demo to showcase just how much craziness DeHackEd is capable of. I say demo because, uh, the actual level design is more weighted toward the sort of minimalist realism exercised by Roger Ritenour in his Earth, with some textures used to remove the right angles and flat edges of the rugged caverns and mountainsides on top of multi-layered waterfall textures and ambient noises like running water and ominous, devilish chuckling. The only problem is that Huenink's design carries even less artifice, not really coming into its own until MAP04, with the multi-tiered JRPG-esque caverns feeling quite refreshing before the clumsy but effective madness exhibited in MAP05, "Fiendish City".

It's really the DeHackEd changes that sell this experience. Pretty much the only enemies to escape sweeping changes are cacodemons, revenants, lost souls (excepting the fact that they have been moved from their original slot) and boss monsters. The changes (SPOILERS): Zombimen, sergeants, commandos, imps and demons all move faster the first four have alternate explosive deaths. Some of the hitscanners' attacks are more dangerous as a result of Doomguy's different weapon behavior. Imps throw cacodemon fireballs now, and demons are a) on fire and b) a bit tougher. You can't depend on killing them with a single SSG shot and often will need another hit (or a few bullets) in order to bring them down.

Arachnotrons now have two-headed chaingunners on their backs. They are much tougher, having maybe twice the HP of a normal arachnotron, and when they die, the chaingunner leaps off their back and must be killed as well. Thankfully this means arachnotrons will infight with each other, which is one Hell of a boon, especially when you consider that these fuckers won't disengage from attacking you after you break their LOS... or die. Two-headed chaingunners also appear sans arachnotrons and are a bit tougher than their single-headed brethren, but at least they don't park and bark until you either pain or kill them.

Barons are tougher and fly on a plume of green flame. Arch-viles are disguised as medikits (bastards!) and morph into their true selves when they locate the player. There are also curious enemies, imp skeletons that reconstitute when awakened. They're not that useful beyond the first psych-out, though. There are several different colors of the title pic demon, which are pretty tough to take down and shoot ball lightning that moves pretty fast, and you may know by now about their potty-mouths and gestures. If not, well, they bellow "FUCK YOUUUUU" when they die and then flip you off with their last dying moment.

Pain elementals are replaced by helicopters that shoot two rockets and a plasma trooper at you. The caveat is that the trooper usually beats the rockets to the point of impact, resulting in some infighting. The plasma trooper uses the marine sprite and, unsurprisingly, shoots plasma at you a la the arachnotron. They appear independent of the helicopter at times and are a bitch and a half to kill, moving fast and dodging about. The last new beastie replaces the mancubus (I believe) and should be a welcome though easily handled surprise. Due to some oversight, it's a bit easier to kill than its cousin as it's vulnerable to splash damage.

The weapons changes are all great. The BFG and SSG remain intact, I think (though it honestly feels like the SSG fires a few more hitscans). The pistol replacement, dual... somethings, now fires three bullets at the expense of two. The chaingun is replaced by a rifle that fires three bullets a shot, rapid-fire. The rocket launcher shoots missiles (which I think are more damaging), the plasma rifle is replaced by a flamethrower that does incredible damage at the cost of reduced range, and the shotgun is replaced by a street sweeper that fires shells rapidfire, great for clearing out crows. The chainsaw is double-bladed for double the stunlocking opportunity and your basic fists have been increased in power and Doomguy punches with both. Float like a plasma trooper, sting like a demon.

All Hell is Breaking Loose is pretty crazy. It may not be the most polished mod out there, but its ideas are more interesting than the tired "high HP recolors throwing faster fireballs", and while it can be quite difficult (especially from pistol starts), it's well worth playing to see what kin of over-the-top comprehensible madness the base engine is capable of.

Important Note: You need to load the .DEH file included with the WAD in order for it to work properly. For a modern port like ZDoom, this is pretty easy stuff. Just extract ALLHELL.DEH from the archive and drag both it and the .ZIP to the executable and they should both load correctly. Make sure to read up on how your port of choice handles .DEH files to handle your particular case. If you kill a sergeant and he drops a street sweeper, it hasn't been loaded properly.

by Joel Huenink

MAP01Home Sick
You start out in your house under siege from imps and zombimen. The building has a pretty neat layout and a couple secrets. The real fun happens when you leave. You get to witness the crazy materializing imps in the garage and walk around the wilderness, which is actually rather nice to look at, with hacked in ambient noises for wind and the waterfall. This bloody romp leads you to the abandoned mines, which introduce you to the two-headed chaingunner as well as the new and improved demons. The mine itself isn't much to look at but this is a decent starter level.

Tough gauntlet through some canyons and mines. It's incredibly linear, though there's a semi-hidden blue key that awards a missile launcher, which is all but necessary to handle some of the more ridiculous hacked in monsters that appear here – the two-headed chaingunners riding arachnotrons. Both continue to fire regardless if you've ducked behind cover. The only way to make them stop is by killing them or pain stunning them. The music in this level is particularly awesome, it's just a shame the level itself is so banal. I can't really describe the nearly identical mine-shafts and canyons, except to say that the canyon encounter with two arachnotrons gives you quite a start and the opening is hard to handle at first given all the spectres slumming around.

MAP03Bridge to Damnation
Map layout and architecture are no great change from MAP02. The biggest changes here are the acquisition of the chaingun replacement (a full on machine gun) and the appearance of the wicked plasma troopers, who dart around at super speed. The initial room with its various snipers is the hardest part to get past. The aforementioned bridge, the most memorable landmark, isn't much of a fight, though the ambush about halfway down may rattle some nerves. The final sequence takes place in some crate storage and pits you against two waves of revenants, the first of which springs a pack of demons at your back, making things very interesting.

The Cave of DeathMAP04
It gets harder. If you carry over your previous items, it's not quite as tough. Otherwise, Huenink hasn't given you any useful weapons to start with. You've got to sprint about 2/3 of the way through the level where the rifle, SSG and flamethrower are all located. The upshot is that all three will augment your killing ability quite nicely. This is the most aesthetically interesting map of the WAD, a network of caves full of demonkin that will fall quite nicely to your expanded armory. There's several underground waterfalls coupled with lava. The most memorable encounters are two bullshit traps, one involving super armor (300%!) that, unless you know about it, will surely result in your death. The other, involving the switch to access the exit, is a complete bitch and a half unless you're packing something like, say, some spare plasma rifle ammo.

MAP05Fiendish City
A different iteration of "Downtown"; city blocks swarming with demons while you run amok with a streetsweeper, clearing streets and ducking for cover from lethal aerial foes. This level pulls out all the stops; it opens with you climbing out of a manhole and then fighting amongst the various buildings. The first objective is to raid the library for the yellow key so you can get a backpack and unleash the Cyberdemon. The second is to free up some of the other stuff and open the condemned building to grab the blue key. It's a little sideways, though, as the baddies in the hole refuse to fly out half the time, forcing you to jump down precariously and deal with them (unless you figure out the triggering mechanism). The final encounter behind the blue door is pretty easy, all things considered. After the non-stop rollercoaster ride it's odd that Huenink decides to end on a whimper.

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1996

Memento MoriMemento Mori II
Dystopia 3: Re-Birth of AnarchyAll Hell is Breaking Loose
Army of Darkness DoomIcarus: Alien Vanguard
Polygon Base99 Ways to Die
The Troopers' PlaygroundA Hidden Mountain Factory

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