Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Fistful of Doom (FISTFUL.WAD)


A Fistful of Doom is a charming little partial conversion from the early days of modding. 1995, to be exact. Bob "Soutec" Soutar and A-Ware are still lurking around, though A-Ware goes by Azeraaron nowadays. They left a pretty early but significant mark on the Doom community with A Fistful of Doom, and with the recent advent of stuff like Pirate Doom, I'm really hankering for a Western-themed TC of a similar caliber. And, well, that's why Fistful is so tantalizing. Its fidelity within the bounds of early vanilla PWADcraft is remarkable, and while all the assets may not exactly match up, they do about as good a job as anyone could have expected... In fact, I'll say they do a job better.


There isn't a provided story to set the scene for A Fistful of Doom. About the only background I can offer is that the authors conceived of it as the UK's answer to Boothill, another Western partial conversion. Boothill was pretty much for deathmatch only, though, where Fistful has sprite replacements for the trooper, sergeant, commando, and demon. And... that actually adds an awful lot to the atmosphere. The implicit story places Doomguy as wanted, wanted... dead or alive. The only people that aren't out to kill you are either drunk or asleep, and there are a lot of people that are out to kill you. It isn't made explicit, but it seems that an unnatural fervor has gripped some frontier towns, and you're the only unaffected individual that's capable of doing anything about it.


A Fistful of Doom is actually kind of tough. That's because most of the enemies you'll fight are hitscanners, which challenges you to be quick on the draw and fast to cover, just like a real Western. Keep an eye out and watch every window or you'll get sniped to death. There isn't a whole lot of health to go around, either, and armor is virtually non-existent. Actually, "Armor" has been re-titled to "Luck", which you can boost in tiny increments by collecting horseshoes. There's at least one really lucky horseshoe you can find, though, and the cow skulls are actually berserk packs, so be on the lookout.


Fistful isn't entirely serious. It can't be, what with those vaguely-cartoony sprites for stuff like the vulture, the panting dog, the drunk, and the siesta dude, not to mention Sweeney's Barber Shop. Also, legit killer cacti, though you'll have to be hugging one for it to have any real effect on you. One of the more subtle touches obscures the lack of cell-powered weapons by changing CELL to GOLD, which you can actually find, though it doesn't have any utilitarian value. There's also the rocket launcher, which has been replaced with a stereotypical dynamite plunger. It almost kind of works, but suspension of disbelief isn't an important factor in having fun with Doom WADs for me.


The other thing that this little conversion has going for it is the verisimilitude of the level design, which has a vaguely BUILD-ish approach in constructing set pieces like the saloon as well as other nested visual gags that's pretty appealing, plus some really clever midtexture usage that helps to stand the buildings apart from the usual follies of Doom II texture tiling. Giving both the frontier town and the pueblo village their own distinct aesthetic is an excellent decision, though it does leave me wondering just how many more Western settings a full-fledged TC could field before going stale.


Overall, it's very short at two maps, has a somewhat different gameplay experience due to the enemy selection, and enough brand new textures to really make the WAD pop. I'd recommend A Fistful of Doom to anyone who wants to try a different Doom II experience and doesn't mind smirking a bit. It's a shame no one really took this idea and ran with it for a much larger episode. Oh, what could be...





A FISTFUL OF DOOM
by Soutec and A-Ware

El PassoMAP01
by "A-Ware"
A cute little western town complete with bank, saloon, barber shop, general store, and sheriff's office. About the only things missing are the bordello and the gold mine, but I'm not complaining. Grabbing the gun off the rack in the office is a nice touch and there are plenty shootout opportunities, particularly after grabbing the red key, which causes a siege of the building you're in. I also enjoy the many ambient noises, like the saloon chatter. Many buildings have multiple floors. While the rooms aren't that well decorated if at all, I realize I'm not playing Duke Nukem 3D, and I'm happy with what I've got (though I'd say that the barber shop could stand a few decorations).

MAP02A Faceful of Taccos
by Bob "Soutec" Soutar
Considerably more frantic. Most of the action takes place outside with little cover and plenty of snipers on pueblo roofs. There are maybe two building interiors, though in this case they're a bit more complex and packed with bodies. You've got to clear a safe zone and play it safe or you'll go from 100% to meat in no time. The commando replacements (banditos) make their appearance here. The layout doesn't make them significantly more dangerous than any of the other enemies except in terms of their health. Apart from the very large and two-tiered villa, the only other significant building is the church on the opposite end of town. It's very well decorated and there's a nasty surprise with the demon and spectre replacements wedged inside. The bloodthirsty caballeros will teleport outside and may end up behind you if you idle in front of the door. I'm still not sure what the Cyberdemon noise was about or the arch-vile pain shrieks from the demon replacements (perhaps hinting at a possession?).

YOU'D BETTER WATCH OUT FOR THOSE MAN-EATING JACKRABBITS...
AND THAT KILLER CACTI!

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1995

Fava BeansInfinity
Boothill / A Fistful of DoomH2H-Xmas
The Final GatheringArtifact
Nostromo's RunObituary
The Enigma EpisodeDWANGO5

1 comment:

  1. Total Conversions have never been my thing really, but still it's great to see that I'm not the only one around who still cares enough about this great game to write about it and try to bring it to new players (or new players to it?). Keep up the great work!

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