Thursday, February 14, 2013

Batman Doom (BATMAN.WAD)

You never forget your first superhero. Some twenty years ago, my big two faves were the X-Men cartoon and Batman: The Animated Series. I only have one of those on DVD today; you can probably guess which one. It's TAS, by the way, because B:TAS is awesome, and even though I am a much bigger Spider-Man fan, when I go DC, it's Batman all the way. Batman Doom, released in 1999, is a fun throwback to that 90s Batman fever. It pulls a lot more from the comics than either TAS or the movies, but you can see where they intrude. It's also designed for DOS (not vanilla!) Doom II, doing an unprecedented amount of mod work with DeHackEd. Batman Doom comes from the ACE Team - Andres, Carlos, and Edmundo Bordeau. I think this is where they started their work; nowadays, they're releasing actual games for money, most recently Steam favorite Rock of Ages.

Batman Doom tells the story of Batman's vigilance over thirty-two maps. There's no overarching plot; it feels more like a series of episodes where the caped crusader tackles various members of his rogue's gallery. There's Killer Croc, Tally Man, The Penguin, Scarecrow, Two Face, The Joker, and - finally - Bane. There are few if any nods toward his life as (spoiler) Bruce Wayne (end spoiler); instead, the intermission texts seem to describe Batman's slowly slipping sanity as the constant war on crime takes its toll. It probably has to do with how poetic the texts are, and the fact that walking around as the alter ego isn't very interesting from a gameplay perspective.

So. Batman Doom is still Doom at its core. You get weapons, beat up your enemies, and make it to the end of each level. It's...very different, though. This mapset is loaded down with tons of special effects. Exploding walls, train rides, spreading fires, tons of great midtexture magic, and interesting Hackage to make silent teleporters. You'll also see several instances of members of rival gangs attacking each other rather than Batman with no (obvious at least) infighting provocation. It helps to distract from the fact that the awesome sprites don't sit well with the largely unimpressive textures used. ACE Team also does a good job making boss fights feel different, even if most of them come down to high-HP enemies with different missile attacks. The Penguin gets the best gimmicks of the bunch in his appearances.

The team has created a cast of colorful thugs, easily one of the highlights of the PWAD. Many of them have clear Doom analogues, though they don't behave exactly alike, and not everyone is represented. Dispatching them would be pretty straightforward but for Batman's altered weapon set. Thankfully, the basic weapon - the Batarang - is incredibly versatile. It's a projectile, but it's noticeably stronger per shot than the chaingun equivalent, which is mostly good for painstunning enemies but trades that advantage for eating up ammo like popcorn. The other big changes are the limited range and damage on the plasma rifle equivalent, the flamethrower (though what Batman is doing using one is beyond me), and the replacement of rockets with smoke bombs, which travels in a limited arc.

The new range of weapons and enemies leads to some different combat dynamics. And, well, Batman on the UV equivalent is pretty rough. I found myself defaulting to the blastgun much of the time due to its dependability in skirmishes and its ability to take out snipers on demand. I also used the Batarang a lot, surprisingly. It packs a lot of power and is great for ammo-efficient corner popping, though no good in a crowded room. All of the high-HP enemies feel pretty tough; they can be offed with a handful of blasts from the SSG replacement, but getting in close range is a dicey proposition unless you want to eat fire or bullets while you wait for the reload.

Some under the hood stuff... Batman Doom is notorious for its DeHackEd compatibility issues. It works nearly perfectly in ZDoom with one major exception, the Joker, who appears in three different maps, each having a special that is supposed to trigger on his death, but never does. Most of the other quibbles have been fixed, but if you want to play BATMAN out of the box with no hassles, you're probably best off running it (alongside its .DEH file) in something like PrBoom-Plus. Another interesting fact - it was originally designed for Mac Doom, but was ported over by a team of community members - those credited on the website include Anthony Soto, "Laz Rojas", Marc A. Pullen, and Ty Halderman.

Batman Doom is not Doom. It is also not a Doom reskin. It is almost a brand new game in the Doom engine, one of the most fully-realized TCs it has enjoyed. If you want to see just how far Doom can be pushed with DeHackEd, or want to play around as the caped crusader as a first-person shooter, you should really give Batman Doom a try. About the only reason I would not suggest you try out BATMAN is if you hate the title character, you monster. Just realize that you're in for a different experience than the usual fare and download Batman Doom today.

by ACE Team Software

The SubwayMAP01
Throwing you right into the action with a bank robbery in progress. Follow the trail of criminals on to a very cool moving train effect that appears to stop at a different station - regardless of what your automap might think. After that it's more city streets through a hotel that dumps you off at an alley showdown while your adoring public watches from behind a chain-link fence. Very good at exposing you to level mechanics.

Just a short trip to the Batcave. The first look at bat-memorabilia is nice and the computer screen touch with Killer Croc is appreciated. The secret here awards a utility belt and some Azarael's armor (200%).

The SewersMAP03
A quintessential sewer level replete with Doom II sewer textures (and some fresh stuff!). It's cramped and full of uglies, but it only serves to highlight the odds Batman fights against. First appearance of smoke bombs, here, which due to the throwing arc aren't as useful as you'd think, especially in this claustrophobic network of tunnels. Most of the interesting stuff happens in the latter half, when you have all the criss-crossing catwalks and raising the water level. The big surprise here are enemies that spring out of the water. One of them got me to jump!

A pretty long trek through more city, some park, and sewers before the big bad himself at his wooden shack way out in the styx. The little city is neat, with enemies up in the belltower and from afar taking pot shots at you, if a little basic. That mine in the two-story building is a rude surprise. This also debuts the killer birds, which apparently have it out for Batman. Emissaries of the Penguin? Croc starts out a nasty fight as the boulders he throws are pretty dangerous but after he clears the area on his own you can circle-strafe him into oblivion. It's still a pretty cool effect.

Return to the Batcave. The only major changes are the computer graphic and the secret; this one is a timed switch that reveals the shotgun replacement, the blastgun.

A massive city crawl through the gang war-torn Chinatown district. The blade dude from the end of the subway becomes a regular alongside some generic Asian gangsters who have throwing star attacks. It's mostly an attrition battle, trying to make your way through the streets to the next pick-me-up which will let you strike deeper into the heart of the city. There are a lot of rooftop acrobatics to be had - much appreciated - but the real surprise is the fact that the authors manage to get the two different gang factions to infight where they meet. Standout encounter is the finale, where the rival gangs compete in a series of pit fights with the gamblers looking on, and you're the star attraction.

The HelicopterMAP07
This is another rooftop level that introduces sniper enemies, which will wait to line up a shot and then attempt to hit you with an explosive projectile. While the snipers add a new dynamic to the battles, the true standouts are an assault from two aggressive aviaries at the height of the map and a joyride on a helicopter that's unusually well-staffed with thugs given its actual size, which suggests it rather belongs to the Joker...

MAP08Tally Man
Another large level, changed up by taking place on some kind of , I don't even know. An oil rig of some sort? There are definitely a lot of crates, though whether it's some sort of exclusive aerial Gotham storehouse or just some other industrial wreck Tally has appropriated is unclear. There are lots of cool catwalk stairs controlling access to different planes, which you'll need as the level has a lot of height variation with thugs perched on the wildest places. There's also the chaingun replacement, which is very nice. The Tally Man boss fight isn't too interesting as he's a hitscanner, but the health on pedestals (which you'll likely need) are a nice touch.

You know the routine. The Penguin is wanted for crimes against the city. This level's secret - which will likely baffle most until you look at it with IDDT or something more powerful - houses Azaael's glove, the SSG replacement.

Another city level. Not much rooftop action; instead, you're scouring the streets for the key to enter the bird's casino, after which you have to do a bit of non-Doom thinking in leaping over the fence (if you didn't already do it at the start in the first place). Once you're inside you're open to some abuse, but the big surprise are the exploding penguin bots. At least, I hope they're robots...

Gas TrapMAP11
A very different scenario. The Penguin entices Batman with some hostages only to fill the hospital with poison gas. It's apparently a timed map - at four minutes and thirty seconds - but your only real antagonists until the end are penguin drones, some of which appear in droves. The poison gas clouds are more dangerous, but you don't have to walk through any of them. The finale pits you against a cadre of molotov cocktail-throwing truckers (?).

Busting in on the Penguin's mansion. It's a fair bit of room-clearing with a few big dramatic moments like leaping from one balcony to that of an adjacent building (and don't miss or you're toast). The lack of freely available health makes the main leg kind of dangerous but the traps in the adjacent building are more lethal, followed off with a helicopter battle with the bird himself, which would ordinarily be kind of boring (it's basically a flying hitscanner), but the penguin drones that trickle on to the rooftop keep things slightly complex. Nice twist!

The Scarecrow is holding Mayor Kroll hostage. The character, like Tally Man, is one I'm unfamiliar with as I'm far more versed in TAS than any other Batman universe. Still, he's the mayor. The secret here can be found via wallhumping, though it's counter-intuitive, and awards you with a soul sphere.

MAP14Gotham Tunnel
ACE explores a brand new gimmick. This time it looks like someone's used explosives to collapse the tunnel section of the Gotham Gate Bridge. A lot of the action here involves carefully navigating reams of explosive booby-traps, with the only real combat conquerable with a handy taser. I'm not 100% sure how the traps are supposed to function; at least one may have failed to go off. Still, there's a cool bit toward the end where store room walls blow up allowing some tougher enemies in to the tunnel to take a crack at the caped crusader.

House of FearMAP15
A trip through a semi-disturbing funhouse. Those blue heads that scream the death sound caught me off-guard. The killer clowns are kind of nasty monsters given your weaponry; that first fight with them in the atrium can be killer. Like the last map, there are a lot of obstacles to battle through. It looks like the main theme here is fire, with plenty of flame-spewing grates to dance across. The finale is vs. The Scarecrow, who shoots homing clouds of what I can only assume are fear gas (or is that just a manifestation of your fear?) while Kroll sits strapped to a chair with a bomb on his chest. I assume there's a time limit to saving him (thus reaching the alternate / secret exit), but I didn't run in to it when I played.

Whoops! That darn Scarecrow escaped already! The bridge is out and the fiend is at large at some kind of construction site. The unfinished steel frame brings a nice effect to a level that's basically looking for switches and dodging surprise attacks from ol' Scarecrow, who appears to be in almost every building. The real challenge is in getting to the secret map, which won't happen if you're trigger-happy. You just need a little help from your friendly neighborhood clown...

Uhhhh, looks like the guys were having fun with surrealist paintings. The soft clocks are definitely a trademark of Dali's but I have no earthly idea where the mountain with eyes made of eyes comes from. If you do, please tell! It's a pretty easy map; the monsters only fire Batarangs, so the available supplies are good enough. Definitely a weird break, and a weird level to top all "weird" levels I've played.

Back to something more normal but different. This is appropriately enough a long walk through what must be Gotham's corn-growing suburbs, complete with a few corn mazes. Nothing too rough for Batman though those birds could prove to be trouble. The fading scarecrows might surprise you but the real attraction is the farmhouse showdown with the boss, which has a cool aside with a stack of papers going up in flames. Same fight as MAP15 otherwise.

Something about a prison breakout at Blackgate Penitentiary. It's not clear whether Two-Face was incarcerated or is attempting to break some other schlub out. For once, the secret doesn't involve something outside of the normal play area, so be observant (what's missing?) and get yourself a flamethrower.

Oh, so Two-Face is breaking out, or so it appears from him getting airlifted out in a helicopter while hanging on to the ladder. Oh, spoiler: you don't stop his escape. You do have to run through Blackgate and beat up a ton of thugs, though, including the introduction of the nasty flamethrower fighters. Lots of cool special effects. There's the helicopter, of course, but you also have the opportunity to set off a metric ton of explosives, which blast some major holes open. Some of the hardest combat in the game so far. The athletics yard comes to mind, with the corner shooters as well as the guys who're mixed in with the ring of Cheungs, plus the two heavies on the ground.

Battergate is another city area rife with thugs. You'll do some rooftop hopping, where the most notable aspect is being able to enter the buildings from the stairwells at the top, and it's done pretty seamlessly. The little video bits from Two Face are cute, though there's some comic book logic going on when he has enough time to leave these recorded messages during your pursuit, where you see him lift away in an elevator. Combat is pretty tight health-wise, especially when the main area is repopulated with enemies on several occasions. Bits like the bank heist in progress and the parking garage foray make the level very interesting.

MAP20Two Face
There's a riot goin' on and you're in the middle of it. While it may seem like ordinary street clearing for Gotham's dark knight, this showdown features a ton of higher-HP enemies, especially fire starters. This reflects well in some of the buildings which are either on fire or in which fire rapidly spreads, becoming a somewhat organic danger. The finale is pretty dangerous, mainly because Two Face's rockets are both incredibly fast and, owing to something I do not care to understand, translucent to the point of being nearly transparent. Still, if you mow down his accomplices, some tried and true circle-strafing will bring ol' Harv down.

The intermission texts are becoming increasingly less lucid. I assume this plot point is based on Batman, where the Joker makes his poisons at the Axis chemical plant. Your mission, therefore, is to shut down his pipeline and capture him in the process. The secret isn't as well-hidden as many of the others, though you might be thrown off because it runs counter to the escalation seen in the previous five Batcave levels.

MAP22Axis Industry
A fairly convincing facsimile of a nasty old chemical plant. Also debuts the rocketeer-type enemy. There are a lot of barrels to blow up and some nice sector-built vehicles to admire but most of the combat is uninspiring, dealing with enemies in wide-open rooms, though the catwalk shootouts are appropriately dramatic. Progression becomes pretty obscure in the latter half, with switches semi-hidden in the caution-colored barriers you'll see among all the steel girders. There's a neat finale, though, with a big-ass explosion as you detonate...some vital piece of machinery, I imagine.

North MansionMAP23
Another mansion level, but this one built on a lot more land than the Penguin's ritzy penthouse. There are some cute touches, like the Joker's defacing of art classics, but the level is by and large normal room-clearing, with the trickiest section being the stage / ballroom, where clowns bust in through the side doors while you dodge flamethrowers and other things. Eventually you reach the massive secret area beneath the mansion, with wine cellars and some very sneaky explosive booby-traps, where the flamethrower enemies start to show their true lethality.

Things take a left turn into castle territory, an odd change of pace for this normally urban WAD. It's basically a straight shot through tons of enemy territory to the theater with a few surprises, like enemies pouring out of previously closed doors. The big surprises are much more devious mine placement (seriously, it's nasty in places) and the poison tank that the Joker attempts to trap you in. It's a ho-hum boss fight when you finally catch the jerk, but hey, the Joker was never that impressive as a fighter.

It's a massive (and impressive) cathedral hearkening back to the end of Batman. Of course, there's a lot more ground for the caped crusader to cover, with some nice spiral stairs and large, faux-3D bridges to clamber across on your way to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight. Joker's second iteration whips out the trademark longbarrel pistol, which behaves like the arch-vile's attack, so just dancing won't work in this fight - a nice twist. He's still got the darts, so you can vary it up however you feel like it.

Well, here we are with the beginning of the end. Apparently Bane's suspected to hit the 43rd Armory and you're just the winged mammal hybrid to foil his plan. The secret, like the last, is found in a place you've probably checked in all the previous maps (if you're not using cheats) and awards a soulsphere for your troubles.

43rd ArmoryMAP27
The U.S. Army flag is pretty underwhelming but Bane's thugs are anything but. You'll see virtually everything here, the standout fight to me being the pit battle vs. a ton of Cheungs and a few Slum Lords as deltas. The special effects aren't as prevalent but ACE has some nice-looking semis at the end area, along with those peel-out tire tracks that show that you've just missed your target. Could be a little more health, though.

MAP28Arkham Asylum 1
Can you say... Boss Gauntlet? It's actually done quite tastefully with every boss getting an "arena" appropriate to their skills and it's pretty short as you only have to fight Killer Croc, Two Face, and Tally Man. The Asylum is recognizably war-torn with tons of blown-apart padded rooms and a few nifty secrets.

Arkham Asylum 2MAP29
Second verse, same as the first. The Penguin fight is different as he appears to be content to let his drones finish you off under the protection of his umbrella. There's a different end to this fight that's great. Scarecrow, not so much. He seemed afraid of leaving the dark. And the Joker, well, again not a stressful battle.

Showdown with Bane in the Batcave with all your priceless trophies smashed to bits. The whole thing is predicated on a special weapon that is designed to rob you of any ability to retaliate if you attempt to switch to another armament. Some people might find it annoying, but unless you're using the keyboard, it's pretty easy to put an object between Bane and yourself and then get in a jab while he's busy taunting after his charge. It just takes awhile, is all. A decent cinematic showdown for Batman Doom.

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1999

Batman DoomThe Darkening
Chord GJägermörder
Twilight WarriorDemonfear
Tei TengaHerian 2


  1. I've burned through a solid chunk of Doom maps (mainly using the cacowards as a guide), and this remains my personal favorite.

    There's just enough fealty to the source material that they manage to make a Batman FPS not feel strange.

    There's an ungodly amount of polish, with the return trips to the batcave, the varied boss encounters, the lovely difficulty curve (that, huzzah, actually includes an easy mode that isn't masochistic!)

    I'm sure its fair to say that its all a lot of sizzle, but this really impressed me. A lot of the zdoom map sets turn doom against itself (sprawling levels that lack much point, odd tweaks to the enemies and weapons, weird effects). This still feels like a solid fps in the doom mold, but with a fresh new twist.

  2. Joker: it puts a smile on my face! not having to deal with harley that is...

  3. I get the impression that this particular rendition of Batman is more based on the infamous Azrael Batman of the early 90s. The more battlesuit-ish costume, the flamethrower, the nightmarish art by Kelly Jones (which works better in this mod than it ever did in the comics) -- all definitely come from Knightfall.

    Haven't played in years, think it might be time to pick it up again soon. Never could get it to play nice on most ports, though.

    1. undoubtedly. i am far more immersed in spider-man, though.

      BATMAN runs okay out of the box in zdoom. The only issues I recall were some moving traffic cones in "Blackgate" and the Joker's kill triggers not activating. Someone was working on a "ZDoomified" version. It might work better in Eternity.

  4. What a wad, this was sure something. For the most part, fun, but a lot of things left me unsatisfied. For instance, many secrets demanded wall hunting, and a few unreachable ones. First level has a non-secret section I could not find a way to get in, other than idclipping. Then, I'm not quite sure how well balanced for razor starters it is in terms of ammo, in map 27 I run out of shells and I had almost 100 from the previous map. Also, the chaingun replacement felt underwhelming, or the batarang is too powerful, which is why I used it a lot as it's also cool. Gas bombs are good too but only if the enemy is close to oneself, and on the same height. The other weapons worked fine for me. Enemies in general were ok, the HIYAAA HIYAAA guy was slightly annoying, and the immobile snipers too. I liked the Joker with archie attacks. Penguin robots were funny and deadly!... Bosses were fine, Croc's attacks were easy to dodge but also nice. I spent a lot of time to figure how to kill the Penguin, as I thought my shots didn't do anything other than ringing that bell. And the last guy, Bane, well before killing him I was rofl-ing at his words "YOU ARE NOTHING" "YOU ARE I forgot...

    On the positive side, the layouts looked nice, really old school. I liked the hacks made for the wad, explosions and the train, enemies emerging from water, also the pickups, the slot machines always gave me something different. The soulsphere looked awesome in my opinion, too bad there wasn't a megasphere replacement.

    And finally, levels were pretty short, I started the wad the day before yesterday and finnished a few minutes ago. Nice experience. And you're right, almost felt like a different game.

    1. Forgot to mention, another dislike was that in many levels, after killing one guy or another, the map ended without a warning, and that annoyed me a little.