Thursday, July 7, 2011

Doom Must Fall (DMF.WAD)

by Mackey "Avatar" McCandlish

Doom Must Fall is a TC for use with Ultimate Doom, created by Mackey "Avatar" McCandlish. It replaces all enemies and weapons with some actual gameplay changes. It's based off of the game, "One Must Fall: 2097", a vs. fighting game where the combatants control robots via a physical and mental link. The models were all primitive 3D renders, and looking at Rich "Weeds" Nagel's fansite, all of the monster sprite replacements are derived from the models found therein.

The original Doom Must Fall had an incredibly complicated install package and featured a series of deathmatch levels and one single player level. If you're curious, you can still find it in the archives here, here and here.  "Sparky" of KISS Software went through the trouble of repackaging the mod as a single-player only affair, so that there are only three files included. The WAD, the DeHackEd patch, and the .txt explaining the entire affair. Only three weapons were significantly changed. The chaingun replacement fires faster, the plasma rifle replacement fires much faster, and the rocket launcher shoots "mines", basically slow-ass rockets. This weapon doesn't work so well in the single-player level and has some repercussions, but I'll get to that later.

Now, since everything has been replaced by old 3D models, you'd expect that the game suffers some of the issues that the replacements in Hell to Pay did. However, because pretty much every sprite in the game has been replaced, there's no clash effect and it's all rather charming, sort of like going back and playing System Shock. A lot of the monsters also move incredibly fast and have really good action sprites making them truly different from Doom's bestiary. I swear I actually saw the baron replacement moonwalking.

The final large gameplay change is due to the fact that McCandlish bundled health bonus, armor bonus, stimpack and medikit items into one single pickup that starts out hanging at the top of the ceiling. By hitting it with a single shot, it will drift down to the floor, where you can pick it up and get one of the aforementioned items at random. If you hit it too hard, however, it will explode like a rocket, doing damage to everything around it. It adds a decidedly arcade factor to the game, though I'm not sure I'd say it's a successful change.

The story: "You're a bounty hunter hired by the International Peace Council to infiltrate the spaceship headquarters of a powerful pirate organization (Iron Fist) and remove its commander. The pirates have just stolen a shipment of H.A.R.s that were to be used by the International Government to maintain what little control it possesses. With few legal powers, the Government must resort to your skills to counter the pirates' offensive (no doubt under the employment of a higher source). The mission begins in your small spaceship, as you approach the pirate's fortress. Suddenly they discover your presence and begin beaming pirates armed in H.A.R.s aboard your ship! Get to the teleporter and prepare for a totally new experience!"

Doom Must Fall throws you directly into the action; just as described in the plot line, you're sitting in the cockpit of your ship when enemies start teleporting in like crazy. After you deal with the seemingly endless wave, you can access your ship's teleporter and battle the pirates in their own base. And, honestly, it's not much of a base. The layout of nearly every room seems like an obstacle course run into the ground, made more evident by huge signs saying "AGILITY TRAINING" and the like.

It's not exactly awful, and most of these areas have definite themes, but it makes the level pretty banal, and there's not much I can say about a staircase rimmed by robots that throw ball lightning or an elevation maze infested with lost soul replacements (though the robots, which resemble cats with wings, kind of, mew when they charge :3). It's all kind of hard given how tough the enemies are and the unreliability of the mine launcher to deliver its payload in time. The final section is the hardest, involving a long slog up maybe a dozen tiers of platforms, facing down multiple tough-ass baron replacements and getting buffeted by exploding stuff.

The penultimate room is pretty rote, three elevated bunkers with robots firing down on you while a few (including another baron hardass) stalk you on ground level. I just wish the mine launcher didn't suck, except for the final boss fight, which is against a Cyberdemon replacement. Sadly, he still fires rockets, or rather the replacement for rockets, and the challenge is therefore entirely in killing him before he inundates the map with mines, but if you've got a full rifle you can pretty much just start on one side of the boss arena (a giant chessboard, interestingly) and slowly inch your way over until he's done.

I think there's some really cool ideas here and the graphics don't really drag the WAD down; rather, they enhance its rather lo-fi atmosphere. I commend McCandlish for going through the trouble of putting together a single-player level for what is ostensibly mainly a deathmatch modification. It would be pretty sweet to see what a more focused mapper could do with this stuff, possibly making a formidable One Must Fall: 2097 themed megaWAD. As it stands, I'll recommend this for people interested in One Must Fall and DeHackEd / TC aficionados. Your average Doom fan, however, should probably skip this (though I must say I found it genuinely enjoyable).

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