Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Invasion... Level 1 -- Contamination (INVADE1.WAD)

by Andy Chen and Claude Martins

Invasion was originally conceived as a 9 part story. The authors must have realized they were a bit ambitious, because Level 2 breaks the news that the story was shortened to 4 parts. Sadly, Invasion's full plot was never to be told; levels 3 and 4 never materialized, though level 3 was hinted at in the .TXT of the spinoff project, Invasion: The Siege. What Andy Chen and Claude Martins leave in their wake is some of the best mapping to ever have come out of '94. I mean, seriously, after playing through this E1M1 replacement I'm surprised it wasn't listed on Doomworld's top 10 of '94.

First: Chen and Martins made short videos to open and close the map, found as separate .ZIPs in the archives. You can watch these easily in Dosbox; just unzip, mount, and run the included .BAT. There's a transcription included in case you don't feel like watching either, but they barely take up any of your time and are neat bits that go above and beyond your typical WADmaking effort. The story is pretty simple, set after the original Doom. After singlehandedly preventing the invasion of Earth, you return and are debriefed, only to find shortly afterward that Hell has set its sights on the UAC's headquarters on Mars proper. They give you a battalion of marines and send you in suspended animation to the base. When you wake up, however, you find that hellspawn have taken over your ship, your crew has been turned, and you're the last man standing.

Contamination is set aboard the good ship Inquisitor. As such, it's almost entirely tech textures with a few understandable dalliances. It isn't a very large map, but it's stuffed full of enemies. There's a monster around every corner and you'll find upon returning that there will often be more monsters around the same corner. Chen and Martins leak hellspawn into the map constantly, such that the ship is constantly INVADEd, and that you can hardly do anything against its CONTAMINATION. One nice feature that you find in generally every area is that many rooms begin darkened until you step into them, after which they light up. Very cool.

The opening moment of the map is by far the best. You emerge from cryosleep and the cryo deck is full of imps and zombimen. You can grab a weapon quick, and do so, because monsters will continue to assault your position, keeping you under pressure until you've slain upwards of 50. When you're finally finished holding your ground the area serves as a nice safehouse since it's stuffed with ammo and health. From here the action spills into the main hub, the ship's hallway, which runs north and south with small east and west branches in the shape of an "I". You can see outside into space from here. The view can't compete with, say, the complicated backdrops of Icarus's portholes, but it still looks great.

From here you have two areas to access. The northwest branch of the ship houses a mess hall and the computer which controls the ship's forcefields. You'll need to go here to be able to move into the rest of the service passageways. The tech tunnels are cramped and filled with imps, with even more teleporting in. There's two great moments here, with the imps coming out of the walls as a nasty surprise and an assault on your position when you locate a key objective, after which you have access to the southwestern portion of the ship, the cargo hold.

The hold has some trash running around and a nice controllable forcefield. There's a clever bit with some cargo equipment but the meat of the encounter is the jaunt to the red key, which is found in a vastly different portion of the level that also carries a very nasty trap. Of course, you could always just grab the key, retreat, and then seal it off with the cargo hold forcefield, but you wouldn't do that, would you?

The final large section of the level is in main engineering, the south eastern portion. It's got all of Doom's toughs running around in it. Sadly, they're not that threatening as the monsters that choke up what I can only assume is the ship's reactor are pretty easy to snipe from the surrounding windows, which you should do, since there's no other way you're going to be able to hit them. Finally, the northeastern portion of the map houses the exit. Queue the epilogue and congratulations, you've survived CONTAMINATION.

You should play INVADE1.WAD. No, seriously. Conceptually it blows most of the other '94 WADs I've played out of the water and manages to come up with challenging, difficult moments at the same time, none of which I can really flag as bullshit. It's even got an excellent soundtrack. Granted, with the number of monsters onboard it can feel pretty long, and the HINTS1.TXT that comes included in the .ZIP even has places recommended for you to save your game to act as checkpoints. It's a gorgeous spaceship level, and the prologue and epilogue movies are just icing on the cake.


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