Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Insertion (INSRTION.WAD)

Insertion is an episode for vanilla Doom II, released in 1998. I've seen the episode touted as kind of an extension of the Memento Mori series, drawing from some of the same talent. This is true in part, as regular Adam Williamson shows up, along with Stephen Watson of Memento Mori II fame. As for the other two authors, there's project organizer David "Tolwyn" Shaw, known more for his plethora of Doom soundtracks than his smattering of solo releases. Finally, Thomas Evans, who published some maps back in 1995, described by himself as Team TNT's biggest fan.

It looks like Insertion had a pretty long development time, judging from Tolwyn's accolades in the .TXT. Regardless, they finished the episode, which serves as a follow-up to Doom II. While the rest of Earth's population waits in orbit for the planet's cleansing, its elite fighting unit, working in Operation INSERTION, locates the remaining pockets of demonspawn and, more importantly, the gates they used to access our fair planet. You're about to be honorably discharged and spared the agony of more fighting, having just recovered from the trauma of Doom / Doom II. Then everything goes sideways, more demons pouring through whatever gates remain. With most of your comrades slaughtered, you're of course returned to service.

Insertion features classic '95-'96 era gameplay set in what is mostly a few handfuls of techbase maps, all backed by a wonderful soundtrack courtesy of Mr. Shaw (with a great mashup in MAP11). Difficulty quickly escalates so that you're battling most of the Doom II regulars fairly early, though I guess when the span of action is compressed into a single episode, it's bound to happen. It also doesn't want for puzzles (or secrets), with a few instances where your means of progression aren't very clear. It's all good fun, though, with plenty of good fighting (and some frustrating parts), and feels very much like any of these maps (well, maybe not the opener) could have been pulled from the Memento Mori projects.

If you love the classic era of Doom II PWADs (particularly the community projects), you owe it to yourself to play Insertion. It actually holds up better than its contemporaries in some areas, due to its bite-size portion and the unity of map themes. Admittedly, I'm not sure its visual flair holds up to the others (no custom textures to be found), but INSRTION is another solid entry in the library of Doom II WADs, one you really shouldn't miss. Enjoy it today, or your money back!

by assorted authors

by David "Tolwyn" Shaw
Cool little starter map beginning at your bedside, investigating some machinery in the basement and a cavern below. The cavern is the standout encounter, luring you out into the open where you're liable to catch an imp fireball to the back of the head. A few tricksy puzzles; the method of acquiring the red key isn't clear, but adding the simulated light effect is a nice touch.

MAP02Abandoned Station
by David "Tolwyn" Shaw
Not really abandoned, but you'll find that out. It's a short-medium size techbase with several teleporter waves; most of the action is shotgun weaving with some chainsaw for good measure. Shaw knows how to make the warp ambushes interesting. That is, you usually have to watch for the monsters on multiple fronts. The final fight cracks out the cacodemons, which should be no problem if you're worth your salt (picked up the obvious SSG). I like the main computer room and the little basement annex.

by Steven Watson
Watson busts in with a large techbase map with a fair number of tricks and traps, like the crusher-heavy eastern wing (beware!) and a number of monster closets to keep you on your toes. The revenant in particular makes a strong showing, requiring some deft maneuvering on your part. One nice touch – two map wings have secret areas connected to "sister" wings. These areas have triggers you can use to get a bonus in the sister wing. The soul sphere and combat armor, not so important. The rocket launcher / SSG room, though? Don't miss it. Favorite encounter is the west wing showdown, filled with a number of enemies you'll have to keep an eye on while you dodge, including those wily skeletons.

MAP04Inner Sanctum
by David "Tolwyn" Shaw
Another small-medium size techbase that requires a bit of back and forth through the tunnel section, which kind of slows down gameplay between the several elevators and the winding ducts. I like the eastern room and its demon packs, which you'll have to visit twice. You can get potentially stuck on the second visit, depending on how you walk off of the soul sphere pillar, but the beige brick chamber has a pretty good fight with a clever pain elemental turret to gum things up. The southwestern chamber is probably my standout encounter, letting in successively more dangerous monster packs into the chamber until you remove the arch-vile's shield.

Barracks of HellMAP05
by Thomas Evans
"Barracks" is a large, symmetrical techbase that branches off to different sections to the north and south. It lacks a couple of key weapons, limiting you to the shotgun and chaingun unless you know about the BFG secret, which is entirely necessary for 100% kills (especially that potentially painful yellow key room, probably the standout encounter). The north side is just a bit more manageable, but this map's action drags like nothing else due to the limited armaments. A SSG would help out with the numerous barons, or perhaps a rocket launcher / plasma gun. Regardless, I like the Wolf3D-style exit. And that red key trap is just super dirty.

MAP06The Enemy Within
by Thomas Evans
Thankfully, MAP06 has some more traditional techbase action, with an intricate, medium-size level built around some crossroads elevated out of toxic goo. It’s got a bit of a TiC feel, with plenty of weaker monsters that still feel threatening mixed in with a number of toughs. One of my favorite touches – the foyers to the red and yellow key doors begin in pitch black darkness, and when you grab their respective keys, they light up. Not sure what I’d peg as my standout encounter; probably the southernmost room, where a switch pull unleashes a number of dangerous enemies, with your movement (and theirs) limited to the perimeter of the room if you want to take them down. Fun level.

Military TempleMAP07
by Thomas Evans
Another medium-size techbase map with an interesting opening and a not so interesting second half. You move from a descending elevator fight at the opening to several ambushes, both staged and teleported, and have the very cool plasma rifle encounter, which gums the floor up with demons while you’re considering the other baddies at range. The area behind the yellow key door is unfortunately tiresome through repetition. Both the north and south hallways have enemy gauntlets you have to punch through, with virtually identical enemy compositions (zombies, imps and revenants), though they’re both ordered a little differently. At the very least, your limited dodging area makes the skeletons trickier than usual, and the following rooms help to vary things up, with a potentially troublesome arch-vile. Still a pretty neat level.

MAP08Toxic Waste Site
by Steven Watson
Watson busts out another large level, kind of a techbase / city style with a central, main base and outer yards to the east and west. It’s a bit of a puzzler, as there are six teleporters in the center room you’ll gradually unlock. Some of them deliver you to secrets while others are necessary for progression, by bringing you to otherwise inaccessible areas. Speaking of secrets, there’s a cool one here that serves as a breaker room of sorts, allowing you to light three potentially bothersome and otherwise pitch-black rooms. Standout encounter for me was the army waiting for me on the eastern side of the map. There are a ton of enemies, including a solid core of pain elementals, so it’s a great time to start firing plasma wildly.

Running ScaredMAP09
by Adam Williamson
Things get a bit more complicated with an intricate, medium-size mixture of otherworldly themes. Williamson steps up the difficulty with tougher encounters featuring brawnier monsters and tight ammo control; I was just about tapped out by the end, and that's without many bonus enemies from pain elementals or arch-viles. Standout encounter, I dunno. The opening is pretty brutal for a pistol start, but the final room features a series of challenges, opened to the player one by one with the final being the most dangerous, especially with the limited arms. The teleport trap is pretty devious (and lethal).

MAP10Hanford Disaster
by Thomas Evans, David "Tolwyn" Shaw, and Steven Watson
Three heads combine to make this gargantuan techbase complex, built around an enormous pit of nukage. Despite the number of available rad suits, you'll rarely have cause to go stomping around in the drink. It's got a ton of good fights, like the crazy northeastern melee, or the uneven Cyberdemon battle, and some annoying bits like the first entry into the southeastern area, which draws a crossfire of eight chaingunners. The worst, though, is the elevator maze by which you access the upper tier of the nuke pit's upper rim, which has four false exits that dump you back at its start. It's the only real flaw to an otherwise excellent adventure.

Caves of AgonyMAP11
by David "Tolwyn" Shaw and Adam Williamson
The finale is a short and fast dungeon-style map. You'll be lost if you don't grab the weapon / ammo cache at the start, requiring a little fancy footwork. Besides some potentially nasty traps, there's the murder maze in the level's center. It's not much of a labyrinth, but it's filled with marine corpses and spectres with a few revenants, so it's pretty good at evoking a sense of paranoia. Having to run through the level again after acquiring the blue key is kind of lame, especially since the authors declined to leave any extra monsters for you on the way. The finale involves navigating a room flush with fast crusher to hit the kill switch. Pretty cool.



  1. Nitpick: you have two MAP10 screenshots, no MAP04. Thanks for the review!! Oh I've been waiting so long for this one. vdgg

    1. Actually, screenshots for MAP04, 05, 06, 07, and 09 were messed up. Everything is now fixed!

  2. Killer mapset, good to see it getting some appreciation! Going to read these reviews in detail a little later tonight. Map 10 especially stuck out as an all round cool level. :)

    - Deathevokatioooooooooooooooooooooo...................