Run Buddy is a single WAD by Michael Krause, replacing Doom II's MAP03. Made for the more recent (at the time) Boom engine, it's a very large map, though its population of 400-plus monsters fails to fill it out to any significant degree. It's not a bad thing, it just gives the level a remarkably different air compared to other works. The overall picture to me is like a well-manicured virtual playground, more abstract game than any stab at a facsimile of reality. It's very cool with vast, impressive architecture, worthy of slaughterfests a la Hell Revealed but tastefully outfitted with a monster arrangement more suited to the skills of the average Doomer.
That's not to say that Run Buddy is a walk in the VR park. Krause's enemy placement coupled with the grand halls emphasizes the marine's greatest asset – speed and maneuverability – but there are some aspects to the layout that manage to work against the player, both obviously and not so obviously. First of all, the ever ubiquitous sergeants and commandos turn up in the strangest places. While you may think the rafters are initially clear, the large second tiers mask an unearthly presence that creeps up while you're busy tangoing with revenants and other monsters on the ground floor. They'll also pop out from behind places you haven't fully explored, lured by the sounds of combat, and cover isn't always immediately available.
Wide open spaces mean danger. While you're occupied, rest assured that projectile-throwing enemies from afar are loosing balls of death in your general direction, so you'll have to pay constant attention to both the immediate area and everywhere you can see or risk catching a stray fireball when you're not looking (or more likely a homing rocket courtesy of everyone's favorite skellington). Krause has concocted some scenarios with this kind of difficulty in mind. The yellow key room, for instance, features two Cyberdemons – one up top and one free to move on the floor – accompanied by a cadre of specters lurking in the corners of the room. Ignore the specters and they're liable to block your movement as you're dodging around; you'll also have to be mindful of the center Cybie as the cover afforded by the area's fixtures is not absolute, and stray rockets do nasty things.
I really like the look of this level. While it's very boxy, it's also incredibly clean, featuring impeccable alignment, if nothing else. It's stark, utilitarian, and elegant in its simplicity, with enough abstract architecture to give each battleground a distinct identity. Some of the fixtures are quite striking, like the condor-headed spaceship thing to the northeast or the yellow key room with its Cyberdemon platform and connected dark blue columns. Of course, these aren't really needed to aid the player in exploration – the map is fairly straightforward once you've passed the blue key door – but such spectacles are always appreciated.
Something I haven't mentioned yet but is bound to turn some people off – a lot of sounds have been replaced with SFX from Quake. I can't say it bothered me, though it was confusing at first trying to sort out what monsters I was waking up. Regardless, Run Buddy is a cool map. I imagine you'll find it boring if you have a sweet tooth for eye candy, or need pulse-pounding action every step of the way. I myself am content to wander this curious fantasy born of Krause's mind, unabashedly built for the sake of gameplay and liberally seeded with health and ammo for maximum enjoyment. I also look forward to playing his other levels, secreted among the archives.