Friday, July 8, 2011

Icarus: Alien Vanguard (ICARUS.WAD)

Team TNT began as a loose assortment of people from the Doom editing mailing list that for a time had batted around the idea of doing a large WAD for Doom II. Most everyone knows that Team TNT made TNT Evilution, which id Software officially licensed. Less but certainly many still also know that they released another WAD following Evilution's production, this one freeware, which because of certain circumstances actually made it out of the gates before its "predecessor". That WAD's name was... Brace yourself... Icarus: Alien Vanguard. The plot...

Twelve years after Doom II and Earth's ships attempted to bomb every trace of Hell from the planet, reconstruction began, establishing a new union in the face of more possible warfare from hostile aliens. The Earth Defense Council created the Earth Defense Force as Earth's line of defense and mode of aggressive exploration, with a number of starships patrolling the solar system and other galaxies. It's been working pretty swell, up until now.

The Icarus, one of the aforementioned starships, encountered a pocket of Hell and through some unfortunate circumstance, it's been invaded and taken over. The EDC wants you to infiltrate a still-infested shuttlecraft base on Earth, fly to the captured spacecraft, and either reclaim it or destroy it for none to hold. As such, the level is split between a variety of themes. There are ship-based levels, where you roam the decks of the vessel, purging it from demonic taint. There are planet-based levels, where you beam down to pockets of hellspawn, clearing them out. Finally, there are simulation-based levels, which are basically holodeck-style adventures with the safety levels off.

There are some neat graphical mapping tricks used, like the simulation of forcefields, the layered textures to create depth in exterior space, similarly used in the simulation maps' entrances and exits. The overall architecture isn't as impressive as say the highest quality maps of the Memento Mori WADs, but it's serviceable and some of the custom textures are quite excellent.

Icarus feels a bit shorter than its commercial counterpart and a little easier as well (excepting a map or two). It succeeds, however, in its attempts to create distinct, appealing environments. Most of the ship's levels are quite nice, though the silver wears a bit, and the planet and simulation-based levels help break things up with novel situations and more abstract, gameplay-centered maps. Team TNT put together a quality product and you'd do well to play it.

by Team TNT

by Christopher Buteau
Very tough opener from Buteau that runs the gamut from stockyard and the general layout of the ship. It's very unforgiving with tightly controlled health and hitscanners. There's tons of awesome stuff, like shooting open the imp cage, the desecrated chapel, the invading imps, and the ship going into space when activating both engines. I'm simply in awe of Buteau's cleverness. The ship's layout is workable without being bogged down in the details and the little touches with the computers at the helm are fantastic.

MAP02Shuttle Bay
by John Minadeo
A lower-key and much more manageable ship map. More health, more armor, less wide open spaces. It's more a practice in room clearing with some great details, like being able to look across from one end of the ship to the other across the space and seeing the engines. Favorite encounter, probably the eponymous shuttle bay. It's not nearly as intense as I thought it would be, though. The silver kind of wears on after awhile, but it's a fun map.

by Ty Halderman
Very short but imaginative outing, most of which takes place underground, though with a clear view of the exterior. The main area has some zombies slumming around and caged up imps. There's an easy puzzle involving the cages in order to get your ticket out, after which you can explore the surface, which features the map's namesake as well as some neat-looking windmills.

by Jim Lowell
Quick romp through the engineering deck. Encounters are pretty simple but Lowell has imps crawling out of the airducts (awesome) with an airduct leading to a gruesome cache (even more awesome). There's some crates, too, but the centerpiece of the level is the giant pit in the northern section of the ship, though there's not much action around it.

by Mark Snell
Short obstacle-course style level. Each wing has a design gimmick that the author follows unerringly. The central area is a good course in dodging projectiles. The blue wing uses arachnotrons cleverly to put pressure on the player. The teleporter wing is cool, but unnecessary, and a little tiresome on later attempts. The yellow door wing has an interesting layout, but is otherwise unremarkable.

MAP06P.E.T. Rescue
by Gary Gosson
Short ruins-style level. It's a tight layout but feels more like a piece of a much larger puzzle. Favorite segment is the hallway with the marble faces, though battling demons in the water in the yellow door room is a nice stressful battle. The final area is a great moment to witness that gorgeous sky, too.

by Tom Grieve
A silver space level in the vain of MAP02 but much smaller. It's got some cool bits like the slaughter room with blood coming under the door or the warehouse slobberknocker, the standout encounter. The mancubus room is rather plain and easily surmountable with the nearly 50 rockets located at the end of the hallway. I do like the layout of the sickbay itself.

by David "Mentzer" Hill
Interesting brick and mortar theme. The main building has a small courtyard presaging a nice fight and a cistern from which a cacodemon or two will emerge, a detail I missed in my earlier playthroughs because I was too focused on dodgeball. The meat of the level is based around the yellow key puzzle, though, a tricky series of switches and timed doors and teleporters that left me grasping for spatial awareness. I'd say the monsters here are used equally as intelligently, especially in the stasis chamber portion.

The MoatMAP09
by David "Mentzer" Hill
Cool small level. The opening is a complex overlooking a ziggurat with a monster party going on. After you clear that out (and you should, the SSG is too good to pass up) you head back and take the teleporter in the complex to another area where you get a nice little teleport ambush in low lighting followed up with a great sequence in pitch black excepting the illuminated columns. The point at which you let the cacodemons in shows some great architecture and effects. After clearing out the upper floor of the complex, which can be a bit tricky, you've got to have one last go at the ziggurat because you triggered a special friend.

by Ty Halderman
Short but spacious with plenty of room to get really nasty. It's got some nice features like the rec room halls and the main bridge itself has the best encounter, though the general lack of opposition isn't that exciting. There's also a neat little surprise in the western section of the map. I'm not that fond of the computer stacks but Halderman manages to make it relevant with a few choice secrets.

Feeding FrenzyMAP11
by Gregg Anderson
A long, complex city-ish level with plenty of neat surprises. It's a hellish restaurant with booths, tables, and a cannibal kitchen, with an extensive outer perimeter to boot. I honestly love all the little switch puzzles here, though some of the door switches can get to be a bit much. Anderson has stuffed the building to the gills with little nooks and crannies for you to explore, and I daresay it's a much better firefight here than at "Duke Burger". Standout moments include the exit pod reveal (a fairly nasty shootout with the given ammo), several teleport ambushes to catch you in a pincer attack (and to keep you on your toes), and the genuinely hellish southeastern section of the building, which can be a bit of a rude surprise. It's by far the most challenging section of the map due to its close quarters.

by Gary Gosson
Another silver ship level. Anyone who says this isn't hard, well, I salute you. The teleporter you use at the level's opening is boobytrapped. The next few attempts you will spend trying to figure out exactly what you have to do in order to avoid being killed by a) the barrels that explode around you and b) the hitscanners firing at you, which you cannot take cover from. This is my sole gripe with the level, especially as it leaves you in the lurch with precious little health on most attempts. From there on it's a large level with several tiers of access. There's a cargo hold, a supercomputer (with Hellspawn gumming up the works), water treatment, and the hydroponics themselves, with a neat bit where the plants light up near the end. You're also under attack from outside the ship, so stay away from the windows if you can help it.

by Robert Taylor
Abstract and maze-like with plenty of not-so-secret doors. It kind of feels like Wolf3D in Doom, really. The detailing is almost non-existant, with the sharpest looking portion being the Icarus logo in the southeastern section of the level. None of the fights really stand out, either, except for maybe that group of barons near the beginning of the level. It's a shame "Asylum" is so bland.

MAP14Fortress of Evil
by Robin Patenall
It's a small fortress with a moat, a dining hall, a kitchen, a storehouse, and a large dungeon section. It's initially a bit insurmountable as there are four chaingunners to each side sniping at you from the interior of the castle with an additional revenant on the ground, as well as a baron in each corner of the battlement. The map's symmetry kind of drags it down as this emphasis on fours causes all four dungeon segments to look virtually identical, taking what could be a neat diversion and making it rather stale. The map has two good surprises going for it, though. The front gate has a nasty trap that you may not have the ammo for and there's a special friend waiting for you outside when it's time to leave.

Waste DisposalMAP15
by Ken Simpson and Jim Kennedy
Metal sewers with a windy, maze-ish layout. There's two major portions. The blood sewers to the north have most of the action and feature the single incongruity, a chapel bearing medieval iconography. The southern area contains the main waste disposal area and a network of air ducts, all of which are sparsely populated compared to the northern area. No real standout moments. The northern section is my favorite of the two. Excepting the lighting, it really manages to convey running through the bowels of the ship.

MAP31Great Balls of Fire
by Jim Lowell
Very short level that switches from green marble to traditional hell then back to green marble to close. None of the areas are particularly memorable, though the first is interesting for having to deal with the arachnotrons with a limited arsenal until you can steal the SSG, and the final fight has a decent "Gotcha!" moment.

by Ty Halderman
This is a quirky little outdoors level with a neat theme. As you progress, the terrain in the main courtyard is altered in stages, beginning with a series of structures which cacodemons warp in from, and ending with a gigantic lake. Depending on your play, ammo is a little tight, and there's scant few health pickups to be found. On the plus side enemies are few and easily handled. The worst Halderman throws at you is an arch-vile and as long as you're still packing some heat, he should go down without a fuss.

by Mike Marcotte
Brown metal base with a more organic section. It's a brutal hitscanner assault as you're under siege from shotgunners and chaingunners, the worst rooms being the first run through the opening room, the blue key trap, and the yellow key room. On the plus side, you get pretty good at stunning and taking out chaingunners. Most of the base is nondescript but the wooden section has a pretty good blackout fight with spectres and imps and the red key section has a great encounter with a Cyberdemon that quickly gets out of hand. It'd also probably help if I'd found the rocket launcher.

by Mike Marcotte
Green marble and beige brick with blood. Lots of blood. It's a fun and semi-tough level that starts off testing your close-quarters combat abilities and moves on to a few open-area fights. The arch-vile at the blood chapel here is particularly effective, though it's a bit easier to dodge him. The red key area has some cool fixtures like cacodemons emerging from behind the blood falls and the appearance of the red key itself. The area beyond the blood tunnels is decent, no great encounters. There's a few cool puzzles, though. I also like the hidden section in the northeastern portion of the map with a callback to E1M8 (except in blood) and a few really nasty encounters if you're not prepared (pack your plasma rifle!).

MAP18Cargo Bay
by Andrew Dowswell
It's a small but tough cargo hold that's chock full of barons and hell knights. Hunting demons in between the crates is pulse-pounding when you are never quite sure when you're going to get pinched between two uglies. There's also a nasty wave that throws an arch-vile into the mix; if you're unprepared, getting back to higher ground could be quite nasty. The final fight is a tough knock with a blinking Cyberdemon. Don't squander your invulnerabilities, though if you found all the secrets in this level you should only need one of them.

Blessed are the QuickMAP19
by Rand Phares
It's a fun little cathedral-esque level that's predominantly wood with stained glass windows and a rain texture that really livens up the exterior. The layout is very simple and Phares uses a lot of demons / spectres to put pressure on the player. You return to the central hub several times only to find it populated once again with beasties. The library is a nice area though it feels kind of empty. My standout encounter would be the red brick ring that cages you inside, followed by the red key surprise.

by Rand Phares
Another somewhat gothic level with an interesting gimmick. There are two teleporters in the hub area. Each leads to an area that is essentially identical to the other, except it's as though someone has rotated the map 180 degrees on the x-axis. Generally this means the second time around it's a bit easier as you know where all the traps and monsters are going to be. The closets with the revenants are a nice way to keep the player moving and keep the map from feeling too empty. Other than that, the only memorable encounter is the exit to the first branch, which features a teleporting trap that causes your foes to blink back and forth to either side of you. I like the architecture, especially the opening of the level, but the method of raising the key switches is rather obscure and it's almost impossible to exit the second wing with the tools given.

Engine CoreMAP21
by Dean Johnson
Short dark metal ship level with a completely optional trip to the eponymous engine core, which dominates the northeastern portion of the map. It's got a very nice layout with giant conduits running from them all the way to the southern portion of the level. The engine core fight is really the only memorable encounter here. When you initially open up the door, you're inundated with a wave of imps and revenants before you can make any headway and it looks like the engineering crew suffered a real massacre. An arch-vile also makes an appearance in a slightly difficult to handle location.

by Gary Gosson
This level has two halves, an outdoor graveyard section and an indoor funeral parlor section with its own green marble chapel. It's very pretty and also very light on ammo. Make good use of any chainsaws and berserks you find. As a direct result, fights are tense with the lack of arms working as a nice undercurrent. The chapel is my favorite section as the graveyard is just a bit too plain, though it can also function as an amusing credits map. The chapel's fight is also full of surprises.

Painful DischargeMAP23
by Brian Kidby
Earthy open sky level in beige brick with some brown metal. It's a fun little level with a few neat encounters, using revenants for optimal surprise and harrying you with imps. It gradually becomes more traversable, with areas opening paths back to the main sections of the level. The central courtyard with the four towers is a great encounter, allowing the player cover while still firing at him from many directions. The final room has most of the map's toughs, an assortment of hell knights and barons, capped with two arch-viles guarding the final switch. They're mostly harmless, but they can still cause an inattentive player some grief.

MAP24The Haunting
by Gary Gosson
Obviously a run through the ship's habitation / recreation deck. There's a movie theater (nothing showing), a popcorn stand, a lounge with a dance floor, and a shooting gallery. The premiere feature of this level is its usage of the ghost bug, to create three different waves of monsters that appear impossible to kill (but more experienced Doomers know better). Excepting the ghost bug, most of the other fights aren't that memorable except for the packed dance floor (made more memorable by the ghosts sneaking up on you) and the short, brutal fight in the cramped projection room. He who hesitates will be lost. I dig the crew quarters but sixteen nearly identical rooms with single monsters inside (and sometimes more in the closet) gets kind of dull.

Another Fine MessMAP25
by Michael Bristol
Hard outdoors level with some bloodfalls sections. For a long time, you'll find yourself pressed for ammo. It's got a neat setup. You get the red key at the beginning, but the teleporter is tantalizingly out of reach. As you progress through the level you also happen to see the path you'll have to take to get to the exit, until eventually they link up and you virtually retrace your steps. There are a lot of neat areas; I particularly like the interior of the first building you come across, with its solid black walls, and the entire bloodfalls section looks and plays great, especially the bridge and the walkway leading to the yellow key. There's also a pretty neat final battle. Just don't jump the gun, you're not under any pressure. Well, except for that mass of imps at the very opening.

MAP26Weapons Bay
by Jim Dethlefsen
A fairly transparent but fun deathmatch map filled out for single play. The "Weapons Bay" does indeed house every weapon in one handy location. It's also got a trapped BFG, though you'd have to suicide in order to do yourself in. The western and southern portions house the meat of the actual fighting, but even with a Cyberdemon thrown in it's pretty simple as long as you have the high ground.

by Ty Halderman
A short, bizarre world that uses Icarus's non-ship textures very well. It begins with an ominous arrangement of obelisks with a nice shootout between cacodemons and arachnotrons. From there you take a long walk down a tall staircase before ending in a giant underground cavern with a large building inside. That's pretty much the entire level. The opening bit is the most challenging part, just because getting to the SSG to use most of the ammo you have available is kind of tricky. It's really the standout moment of the entire map, what with the strange construction.

by Steven Phares
This map looks great and has some excellent enemy layout. It's also hard as hell, scraping the bottom of the barrel ammo-wise. In fact, Phares originally designed the map with LESS ammo, intending to deprive the player of all gains made through MAP01-27. Dust off your knuckles and get to punching. Every monster you punch to death is ammo saved, and you'll need it. You don't necessarily have to punch a baron to death, but if you can, it helps a lot. Both main fight areas get inundated with pain elementals, so enjoy. I particularly liked the Kentucky Fried Castle, though the lava falls in the level are some nice details as well. Also, the blue key trap. Harsh.

by Mike Ruete
Difficult, tricky level set in a series of isolated challenges. Use your resources while you can because you're generally not able to return to restock on the supplies you didn't need between the tiers of play. The opening has some pretty brutal, tight gameplay which carries on to the blue key room, containing several waves of enemies and little ammo or health in between. That's probably my favorite area, but the Cyberdemon encounter in the circular platform section is a neat moment when you figure out how to handle him. The final section is okay and has a long elevator ride to the exit, which can be tough when you get sniped by chaingunners near the top.

by Ty Halderman, Brian Kidby, and Jim Lowell
The fastest boss arena I've played yet. It's a little trippy with all the colored lights, but otherwise unremarkable. I suppose with this, the good ship Icarus is finally laid to rest? Or was this the source of its corruption, and it was saved? The world may never know.


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


  1. Thanks for this review of one of my favorite Doom II megawads. :)

    I have fixed the problem of Icarus having no custom storyline implemented. If you are using ZDoom, you can get a small addon here:

    This provides a MAPINFO with all the level names and a plot based on the readme file. You will also learn what actually happens after you destroy that reactor. :)

    1. Can you make .deh files for Icarus and other MegaWads as well? I want to play this MegaWAD in Vanilla Doom (with Chocolate Doom) but I want a dehacked file in which displays Level Names correctly on automap and maybe modifies the intermission texts.

  2. I started yesterday this with AEOD and I'm at MAP14 right now. I haven't died once as I used the best class from AEOD. I even uploaded a video on YouTube of first map but I haven't started a playthrough.

  3. I'm at MAP22 now. Been a bit lazy with this one (even if it was too easy, maybe because I played at HMP and not at UV?). I still haven't died so far (I'm really impressed by how much luck I have compared to other MegaWads, even original Doom 2). I also recorded few gameplay videos with AEOD 5.29.1 on few maps (MAP14 and MAP32). Want to see them at YouTube? Please let me know what do you think about them.

    1. In all honesty, I'm not that interested in watching other people play Doom unless it's speedrunners (always a treat), much less with gameplay mods, especially randomizers.

    2. OK. Anyway I finished it and I want to say that it was the easiest megawad I have ever played. Fun fact: it was so easy that I didn't die once! And I played on HMP (not UV) maybe that's why it was so easy but I still loved the maps (and music too).

  4. This was the very first megawad I ever played. So many memories.