Thursday, July 7, 2011

Invasion... Level 2 -- The Upper Decks (INVADE2.WAD)

by Andy Chen and Claude Martins

"The Upper Decks" is part 2 of the Invasion story, originally conceived as a 9 part episode, here truncated to 4. Levels 3 and 4 were never released, though there is a "spinoff" map, Invasion: The Siege, that details what happens on the surface of Mars during the main levels. As with "Contamination", Andy Chen and Claude Martins have created a masterstroke in mapping and crammed it into an E1M2 replacement. INVADE2.WAD is everything its forebear was, and more. So much more. It's a shame that this WAD has been largely lost in the annals of time, 'cause it beats the pants off Doomworld's top 10 of 1994.

Just as with INVADE1.WAD, Chen and Martins released prologue and epilogue videos to go along with the map. The story continues from before, with the revelation that a sizable portion of the Inquisitor's personnel survived the initial onslaught. The ship is captured by a giant demon craft (codenamed the "Hulk") and the captain, who looks all too familiar, resolves to punch in the ship's self destruct code so as to take the Hellspawn down with it. Everyone else dies pretty quickly, though, and it's up to you to fight your way through the upper decks and activate the ship's self destruct yourself.

The texturing themes are essentially the same as in INVADE1.WAD, though the level itself is a bit more refined and better-lit. It's still packed with nasties, constantly teleporting them in to meet you. It opens up with the ship suffering damage, with a neat cinematic sequence as the hall blows apart, and you get treated to a smoke texture, which does its job fairly well. You quickly make your way through the wreckage to the elevator, which controls access to the three floors. The middle floor is the med-lab, a short section where you can retreat if you find yourself in need of health and which has some interesting readouts on demon biology.

Most of the battle, however, takes place on the third floor. There's all manner of excellent features that look realistic without bogging down gameplay. The bridge can be accessed fairly early and requires all three keys in sequence to operate the self-destruct switch. It's also infested with imps, so beware. The brig is a small section in the lower-right hand corner that has a scanner and jail cell full of imps that you can seal off with a forcefield if you're so inclined.

The recreation deck and service tunnels take up the middle portion of the level. The recreation deck isn't very recreational outside of a shooting gallery, but it gives a nice view of the sky texture, which represents the interior of the alien ship you happen to be docked in, and also has a nice ambush that may have you backpedaling. The duct work is both less lethal and less intrusive than INVADE1.WAD while still providing a nice alternate avenue to areas around the ship. You'll be required to sort through them in order to escape if you happen to fall in to the pit of the next area, however, the southwestern security wing.

The rest of security has a great atmosphere when you enter. There's a tough fight involving a Baron, some smoke textures to throw you off, and a number of Imps teleporting in. It's got a nice core in which you have to raise bridges in order to progress. It will also through another imp pincer attack, which these guys are fond of, and I don't mind it when the mappers turn Imps into an actual threat. This leads to the laser which maintains the security forcefields and additionally the security vault, which carries oodles of goodies, including the red keycard.

There's an area you can visit that I don't think you even need to (the rec deck and service tunnels are also listed as optional). It's a sojourn into the alien ship in the norhteast through an airlock, and I'm hard pressed to decided upon which encounter I like more between it and the finale. The alien ship is gorgeously detailed, an organic mess with some fantastic custom textures. There's a creepy face I recognize as belonging to H.R. Giger and the main chamber that features an eviscerated baron whose purpose I can only guess at.

It's a great fight, as they choke the area with monsters and give you an Invul as well as basically a full recharge. It's thus very doable with the shotgun and chaingun but I'd suggest you come back when you're packing the rocket launcher and/or plasma rifle. The final area is only accessible after hitting self-destruct; it's an emergency room that contains an escape shuttle. There's a rude surprise when you enter the shuttle, and an even ruder one when you activate it. I won't spoil the ending except to say it's another great fight, and a fantastic end to a fantastic WAD.

You should really play INVADE2.WAD, though you should really play INVADE1.WAD first, if only to preface the story. "The Upper Decks" does everything its predecessor does, only better, and the optional areas give the map a very non-linear feel that doesn't punish you for exploring all the same. I can only imagine what the final two maps would have been like, what kind of climax Chen and Martins would have dreamed up to finish this excellent minisode. As it stands, I have two high-quality maps to enjoy, including a spinoff that I can only assume I'll appreciate. Play INVADE2.WAD. Do it. Do it now.


  1. Almost unquestionably one of the best levels of 1994. It doesn't even look like a 94 level really. I'd love to see more underdogs comparable to this.

    1. brandon, i think this is the best think we got for little-known '94 gems. but if someone knows something different, dont hesitate to suggest it

    2. RRWARD02 looks pretty good, the rest of the series not as much though.

      Nightfall! is a very big level that I used to play a lot when I was much younger. It hit a decent review at the Underground too. Not sure how it holds today though.

    3. probably fine. rrward has been on the list.

  2. I had said TEUTIC was the best episode to come from 1994, but HERE is the best level. Almost can't believe it is 1994 at all! The predecessor was solid but nothing like this.