Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Alien Vendetta (AV.WAD)

Alien Vendetta started out as a solo project from Norwegian Doomer and speedrunner Anders Johnsen. The original plan was for something closer in scope to Hell Revealed but it slowly drew away as Anders began to invite other authors to the project, among them his close friends, eventually landing in between something more like what are now considered the "classic" Doom II megaWADs of '96-'97 and more obvious slaughter combat a la Hell Revealed. Like any Doom PWAD, it doesn't need a story, but there's one included in the intermission texts. I'm not entirely sure, but it looks like the UAC has been working with Hell. The demons pull a double-cross, of course, eliminating their benefactors, taking over UAC installations, and then mounting an offensive which you naturally must repel and then push back to where it came from.

What can I say? Alien Vendetta is gorgeous and fun to play. Anders Johnsen, Kim André Malde, and the rest of the team worked their butts off to give you one of the coolest megaWADs that is and will ever be. It's varied due to Johnsen's authorial recruitment which should dispel any feelings of monotony as you play but the relatively tight group of contributors, with most levels coming from Johnsen, Malde and Brad "Vorpal" Spencer, makes for a fairly stable gameplay profile. Some of these works - particularly those either by Malde or involving his hand - are must-plays, not to take away from Johnsen's achievements. Kim was (RIP) a fucking wizard when it came to putting stuff into sector format. "Toxic Touch", "Misri Halek", "Blood Sacrifice"... Holy WOW.

While Malde may be the show-stealer, Johnsen is the project's backbone, shoring up no less than fourteen author credits, or nearly half of the package, including its end run. Johnsen wears his influences on his sleeve, from Doom / Doom II to Plutonia to Hell Revealed to even his best friend's contributions to the same mapset (not that one can help but feel inspired...or crushed...viewing "Toxic Touch"). The only other style I'm able to pull out is Brad Spencer, mostly from a strong parallel between his techbase maps in the middle episode and those of recent author Jordan Saulter (Hell Awakened...) who claimed to dislike Alien Vendetta for its enemy spam, a hilariously ignorant comment considering the bulk of HA's UV gameplay. Spencer's maps have a character all their own with exaggerated architecture reminding me of Michael Krause's stuff and unforgiving encounter arrangements.

As far as difficulty goes, Johnsen was kind enough to establish a sliding difficulty scale a la Hell Revealed, with UV being for "Doom Gods", HMP evoking The Plutonia Experiment's UV standard, and the bottom two being for more relaxed / casual playing. I had a blast on UV; it's true that the last third houses some of the nastiest stuff the authors had to offer, with a leg of thousand-monster slaughters beginning in MAP25. Actually, in the original 2001 release, the chicanery started with "Demonic Hordes" in MAP24, but for the 2002 / Compet-N publication Johnsen put in another Szymanski / Soto joint in the 24 slot, moved "Hordes" to MAP25, and took out his "Valley of Echoes", now only available via archives like DSDA which house AV's first release. "Clandestine Complex" sticks out like a sore thumb amid the episode it's inside but it's a super-fun play. "Valley" is worth hunting down, though, if you're craving more of those enormous, challenging levels.

Alien Vendetta isn't just about slaughter. Some maps are short and punchy while a fair number are large, "adventure"-style levels, best exemplified in Malde's output like "Misri Halek", but also in others, like "Beast Island" and "Nemesis". These works utilize exploration, combat, and architecture in one tasty package that are must plays for fans of projects like Eternal Doom. They are my favorite bits of AV, not that I don't enjoy submitting to the ultra-violent pain trains of the third episode. "Dark Dome" is probably my fave in that category, with "Demonic Hordes" being the one that challenged me the most. Suffice it to say, there's something for just about everyone to enjoy in this mapset.

You should absolutely play Alien Vendetta, unless 1) you hate PWADs that aren't very theme-story driven, 2) you hate PWADs featuring a variety of styles, 3) you hate PWADs that use a lot of Doom's stock textures, 4) you hate classic Doom II gameplay, or 5) you just hate megaWADs in general (which is silly because you can just idclev to any map and play it like a single). There is a reason it is so beloved by the Doom community, and that reason is because it is awesome. It doesn't have to be the absolute best ever but you can do a lot worse than to aspire to the design standards of these authors, homages and all. Blow it up.

by assorted authors

by Martin Aalen Hunsager
Kicking things off with this moody, gothic brown brick starter map. There are some cool must-have secrets like the handy SSG or that deep water cut to the soul sphere. Combat is easy but fun and punchy; the SSG will liven things up considerably, especially taking down the few larger monsters that are hanging around. Visuals are very nice - the lighting sets what I hope is a great standard for what is to follow. Standout encounter for me was the cacodemon room.

MAP02Rusty Rage
by Anders Johnsen
Mix of rust-orange techbase with an E1-core and a bunch of outdoor side areas. In spite of its size it's more of an attrition map due to the amount of hitscanners; there are a ton of shotgun guys stalking around and at least one huge wave of commandos compounding an arch-vile ambush. The only other major traps are single revenants that may nonetheless surprise you. Very cool; I like the exterior segments and the yellow key area, the meat of the level, has some nice combat dynamics with the various monsters peeking in.

Cargo DepotMAP03
by Mattias Berggren and Kim André Malde
Something more low-key with this cargo base set on some kind of harborside. Some very cool visuals like the blasted-out cavern or the ship in port. There are a ton of imps, which makes for an incredibly enjoyable slaughter once you grab the SSG. There's also a huge wave of spectres that teleport to you after grabbing the blue key, but that's less impressive and more zen (unless you just wade in there with the berserk pack). It's preceded by a nice courtyard fight with four revenants installed in the corners.

by Mattias Berggren
Another, more traditional techbase map starting out from the railway you left on. Well, thing are a bit different. Berggren stuffed the level with nearly 300 monsters, most of which you'll encounter in two big fights. The first is the nastiest, a cramped corridor slaughter I was lucky to get through my first try what with all the imps, demons, zombies, and that baron heading up the rear. The other consists of a veritable army covering the exit door, but they're much more easily handled given that no one is trying to sneak behind you. Very fun; see if you can find the (obvious) E1M5 homage.

Crimson TideMAP05
by Anders Johnsen
Anders tackles something more in line with the opening map, an open yet restricted brown brick fortress awash in a sea of blood. It looks great and is loaded with monsters, most of which are fairly manageable. You'll still bump up against the occasional surprise revenant, and if you don't know what you're doing jumping into the outer area will result in a speedy death. The side pathways do a good job creating the illusion of a wide-open area, but it's trickier to navigate than at first glance.

MAP06Hillside Siege
by Lee Szymanski and Anthony Soto
Kind of a techbase / Hell fortress hybrid with a lot of outside areas for you to plow through that are loaded with tougher monsters; mancubuses, arachnotrons, hell knights, revenants, they're all here and in spades along with the occasional pack of rocket-friendly imps. Ammo seems pretty tight, but that might just be my new keyboard / mouse combo tripping me up (or the necessity of that handy BFG / invul / berserk secret). The large yard with the Cyberdemon is one of the trickiest to navigate thanks to all the installed enemies.

by Anders Johnsen
"Dead Simple" level with a welcome twist. Your main instruments of destruction are on a ring on the outer edge of the mancubus pit and you've got to warp to them and dodge fireballs so that you can collect and take out the main instigators on the pillars. After that the arachnotron ring is pretty easy if taken carefully, though each side is essentially the same, bar some powerups. Fun and fast.

MAP08Beast Island
by Jan Endre Jansen and Anders Johnsen
Very cool, very large level that starts out in some ruins, makes its way to some sea-side caverns, and then dumps you off at a nice castle. I love the naturalistic areas. It's a bit tricky at first but you should be able to sort through the masses of monsters with your SSG; it's made easier if you find one of the many secrets Jansen and Johnsen have around the island, the majority of which are hanging out in the castle, the site of a standard Cyberdemon battle. It pays to explore, or you'll miss goodies like the plasma rifle or an early backpack. I had a lot of fun exploring the keep, though taking out the towers was kind of a pain.

Castle GardensMAP09
by Kim André Malde
Short but effective fortress level with some neat visuals, like those spiraling bookcases or the various castle facades, not to mention an easily-missed viking ship. The lighting is spectacular and there are tons of hidden nooks that are pretty fun to scout out. There's a lot of zombie and demon slaughter worthy of The Innocent Crew but Malde keeps things interesting in spite of the monotypical monster assortment (commandos in the library, hell knights in the tunnels, mancubuses in the rocket room...). That mess of monsters in the blood fountain area is probably my standout encounter.

MAP10Toxic Touch
by Kim André Malde
Completely stunning sewer level. Malde's architecture and lighting is gorgeous with tons of awe-inspiring vistas. The opening looks great but it only gets better as you clip along through his infested underground. As with "Castle Gardens" there are a lot more hitscanners tooling around than one might expect but all the zombies feel very lethal. Some are used quite cleverly, like the troopers standing on the rocket ledge, which make dealing with the mancubuses across the way much trickier. The bigger monsters are used sparingly, which creates an interesting power dynamic. I'm not sure what fight I'd call my standout, though one corridor ambush sticks out in particular... Regardless, a must play.

by Martin Aalen Hunsager
An enormous, gorgeous level composed of two major areas, a marble fortress and the rocky headland it's built upon, including a network of oceanic caverns. It's very cool and very tricky. Getting around is a little weird at first but as you grab weapons and oust your enemies you'll start opening up connections so that you're not bound by the initial layout. Virtually every portion of the map is deadly, with lots of snipers to pick you off in the outer regions and plenty of nasties including a Cyberdemon in the inner sanctum. There are also a bunch of surprise arch-viles - admittedly telegraphed - but "Nemesis" is mostly about claustrophobic combat and the perils of exploration.

by Brad Spencer and Adam Windsor
A big-ass classic-style level with an odd, branching layout rather than the more overlapping / visual styles from the rest of the megaWAD so far. It owes its existence to a now deceased project that aimed to replace all the levels of Doom II with maps inspired purely from the original level names; represented are MAP01-03. Grabbing the secrets is very important, as is something less secret like getting the red keycard and accessing the armory. Get in there ASAP; the automap is invaluable. It's a lot of SSG action with very tight ammo to start but the balance shifts toward trappy rather than survival horror later on, with brutal stuff like that yellow key trap (admittedly hobbled by a secret) or the huge slaughter in the yellow door room. Fun, with a tricky start.

Suicidal TendenciesMAP13
by Brad Spencer
Some more techbase fun. This level is loaded with enemies. It's kind of slaughterish; altogether, it reminds me very strongly of many of the tech levels of Hell Awakened. Was this a major source of inspiration? There aren't a whole lot of teleporter ambushes, maybe three major attacks, one of which is technically a secret (the BFG room). The imps are kind of cute; the arch-viles, though...well, I hope you don't just jump on the key without the invul sphere! Most if it's room clearing with a healthy amount of zombie slaughter. Some of the encounters are pretty tricky. Just try not to catch a lot of bullets and, well, be careful.

MAP14Overwhelming Odds
by Brad Spencer
Keeping on with the slaughter is another massive tech level from Spencer with some more interesting twists. The opener sets the tone as you frantically dodge about, weaving through enemy packs with your SSG, and the odds never let up. Other standout moments to me include the cacodemon ambush in the nuke yard - which I had to do by doing the walkover trigger before the bridge switch - and the "Ascending to the Stars"-esque red key area, where fungineering pays off. Just make sure you have a BFG shot. The base's northern area is more my speed but I love picking my brain to find out what works in the slaughter fields.

Bulls on ParadeMAP15
by Madani el Hariri, Yashar "GeminI" Garibzadeh, Anthony Soto, and Anders Johnsen
A nice breather after the past two slaughters. Madani (and his merry men) have a pretty cool basic map that starts out with precision room clearing before moving on to a few slaughter arenas. Highlights include a cage trap mitigated by a blur sphere, the teleporting revenants (which is a nice way to jazz up an encounter in such an open space), a low-key descending elevator fight, and the map's namesake, a slaughter arena packed with pinkies. The last is definitely the greatest with skin walls giving way to cells housing more enemies and powerups while you wait for the slowly-revealing teleporter.

MAP31Killer Colours
by Yashar "GeminI" Garibzadeh and Kristian "Ebola" Käll
Something different. Yashar and Kristian take you to the wonderful world of color, starting with blue, going on to green, and then ending in red. Each level is themed down to the enemies that populate it. Spectres are omnipresent due to their lack of color but you'll find cacos in blue, hell knights and arachnotrons in green, and then revenants, barons, and a few other nasties in red. It starts out with cramped, efficient gunplay with the plasma rifle and then expands to all-out slaughters like the revenant fight, my favorite, which involves some deft use of teleporters and safety pits in order to survive. The finale is easily handled with the provided invul sphere, a nice thematic closer as all the colors of the visible spectrum combine to white.

No Guts No GloryMAP32
by Anders Johnsen
Clearly drawing from "Resistance is Futile", "N.G.N.G." distills its inspiration to its essence - clearing the monsters from the yards while remaining aware of every threat. The opening makes it pretty tough to get situated with the installed arch-viles but every Cybie can be telefragged in the usual manner and if you're tricky you can take the archies out from a safe position. After that it's doing as much damage with the BFG as possible and then ducking out before you're retaliated against. The chaos of the first leg is pretty nasty but the second is just as tricky, where you'll want to run in to the back area to lance some pain elemental packs and then out so that you can deal with the Cybers on your own terms. Very fun and quite forgiving.

MAP16Mutual Destruction
by Brad Spencer
The monster count looks more sane, and indeed, it's a more muted tech level compared to Spencer's other works. It's not all fun and games, though, particularly when you access the blue room full of revenants. Don't blow all your cells or you'll short yourself critical BFG / invul time when you have to oust the six Cyberdemons in a very restricted playing area. There's a short glance at Hell for a finale which is more awkward than anything while trying to conquer the revenant / mancubus placement. That Cyberdemon fight is my standout encounter; I just wish I'd had more cells going in.

by Anders Johnsen
Another underground sewer level, inspired by the previous "Toxic Touch". It's a tricky map that starts out in commando crossfire before a deadly tango with a Cyberdemon in order to grab the BFG. If you don't kill the Cybie - a nasty task - you won't have much chance of progressing, and it's the roughest part of the level, so just do it. Things quiet down afterward apart from the shotgun guys on the battlements or that storm of arch-viles at the exit, which is still easier than nabbing that supergun. While not as awe-inspiring as its origin, it's memorable on its own, tricksy terms.

MAP18Lake Poison
by Anders Johnsen
A super-cool Plutonic slaughtermap, the front half inspired by "The Omen", with the underground portion pulling from "The Sewers". The opening is pretty hectic, with damage sources everywhere (and a neat bit with the sunken carts). After that it's on to the criss-crossed sewer lines which will fill up with imps at the drop of a hat. The rooms inside have some nice punchy challenges for hte keys but nothing overwhelming. It looks very nice. The big finale has Hell Revealed architecture, but as far as slaughters go it's quite forgiving, making for a fun romp as you clear out halls of imps, oust the stationed Spiderdemons, and finish with an underwhelming (but amusing) Doom-ish slaughter.

Alien ResurrectionMAP19
by Madani el Hariri
Interesting beige brick fortress map from Hariri. Starts out pretty tight for ammo (especially when you hit the red key area) but shakes it out after you start grabbing the advanced weapons. There are a lot of teleport traps to navigate, the largest of which is the centerpiece from which it derives its title, where several arch-viles teleport in to a large curved hallway along with a cadre of monsters. In general, though, it's kind of easygoing, at least when you're not dodging revenant rockets like in the map's opening. Nice visual in the exit area.

MAP20Misri Halek
by Kim André Malde
An immense, claustrophobic masterpiece, one of (if not the) premiere adventure maps. Malde drops you off in front of a pyramid which you will utterly explore. There's certainly a bit of backtracking to be had but you never have to walk far to figure out what passages you've opened. Most of the combat is handfuls of monsters at a time but danger always lurks, especially when you're berserk punching through the first leg of your journey. Malde mixes things up with several breaks in between pyramid sections, like a great journey through some gorgeous Hellish caverns, or that winding back and forth climb up to the top of the northeast section of the ruins. There's at least one really dirty trap, an instantly lowering hole in the wall with a ton of hitscanners behind it that might tear you up, but I love it all, even those tricksy Cyberdemons in the vast staircase area in the level's center. If you haven't played Alien Vendetta yet, you really should, if only for this level alone.

One Flew Over the Caco's NestMAP21
by Pablo Dictter
Short and brutal survival-style Hell level. Ammo is tight so fisticuffs is a great way to make sure you have the scratch needed for killing the bigger monsters in a safer manner. There are also a lot of damage floors you'll want to stay off of, as many of them are quickly lethal, especially with the relatively high danger level. Nice atmosphere of desperation, though as a whole the map is both flat and linear, feeling strung together.

by Brad Spencer
Along the same lines as the previous level, this is another Hell map that's gorgeous and pretty tightly-balanced. Health was - for me - at a premium and there are a few tricks and turns you'll want to watch out for. There are two big teleporter ambushes that I believe you can skip, not counting the Cyberdemon who you'll probably want to deal with. Those cherry red wall openings are a nice hook. Standout encounter for me was the underground cavern that housed the red key, which can be done either slow and steady or fast, and with a rocket launcher in hand.

Blood SacrificeMAP23
by Kim André Malde
Malde's last entry starts out looking like a brown metal base, albeit a gorgeous one, before veering off into a fantastic castle complex capped with an intricate keep to the north complete with intricate, looping faux-3D bridges. It's got its share of secrets, most of which I'd say are necessary to complete the level comfortably, unless you're into boxing demons. They're pretty easy to find, though. I love the plasma rifle hideaway. Like "Misri", it's got a lot of incidental combat with the occasional arch-vile or Cyberdemon to considerably spice things up. One exterior ambush involving some cacos sticks in my mind, as does the fight on the bridge over water. Great stuff.

MAP24Clandestine Complex
by Lee Szymanski and Anthony Soto
Taking a break from Hell for another techbase level from Szymanski and Soto. It's a very cool level with neat setpieces like the fallen bridge you'll have to work around or that dip into the sewers. Lots of neat fights like that first pop down the elevator or just trying to plow your way through to the sewers the first time as you fend off monsters from nearly every direction. Other surprises include that arch-vile who has a tendency to climb the nearby stairs and there are a ton of secrets involving exploration by jumping, always a favorite. Fast, fun and furious!

Demonic HordesMAP25
by Vincent Catalaá and Sam Woodman
Uh, Vince and Sam blast you to the next dimension with this 1300+ monster nightmare. It really is all about the hordes as you move from battleground to battleground beating back the armies of Hell which seem to constantly teleport into your personal space at the slightest opportunity. It's hard to single out an encounter when a lot of it is about suppression fire with the rocket and BFG but if I had to pick a personal fave it would be the wave with the imps and demons. Very simple fight but the imps peeking over the valley walls is a phenomenal visual (along with the red striped corridor that took you there in the first place). The ending cavern is just sadistic; I didn't bother trying to kill everything.

MAP26Dark Dome
by Anders Johnsen
The masterful "Dark Dome" feels like a more manageable "Post Mortem" in spite of its starting total of 900+ monsters, starting with the fact that the floor is NOT lava. Johnsen is more forgiving in many parts (though less in others, like several triple-Cyberdemon fights you'll want to save invuls for). It's also got a more exploratory feel with its various locked-away areas to the north, south and west, all with their own pitched battles, like the maelstrom ambush or those crazy pitched fights at the water inlet at the south end. I'm very grateful for the eponymous feature, a neat lighting trick that adds a sinister character to the map's northern area. Johnsen actually lets you nip off before the final ambush, but real Doomers will grab that megasphere and see what's left. Excellent, and loaded with gorgeous visuals.

Stench of EvilMAP27
by Anders Johnsen and Jan Endre Jansen
Another enormous monster-fest from Anders with partner in crime Jansen. It's got a lot of cool visuals, like the cherry red areas playing on light and shadow, and a lot of homages. The E4M1 "NIN" bit is one but it's not the only section that seems to emulate part of Thy Flesh Consumed's layouts. In spite of the number of fiends you'll encounter, most of the combat is pretty intimate, with only a few huge battles in outdoor areas, some of which can sort themselves out with a little direction. There are a lot of paralleled secrets so be on the lookout for double-dipping. Standout encounter for me was actually the tricky teleporting hallway grid of red brick hallways early on, but there's plenty of action to carry the day.

MAP28Whispering Shadows
by Anders Johnsen
Slightly less demanding but Anders refuses to fail on the delivery of demon-slaying action. It's a pretty large and varied map, with green marble sections, red rock tunnels, and outdoor Hellish landscapes where you'll endure swarms of cacos. There are a lot of tricky bits to navigate, not the least of which are the Cyberdemon fights, which you'll either wait to handle with the BFG or just grind down with the SSG for sheer peace of mind. Architecture and lighting are gorgeous. Standout encounter, well, that first Cyberdemon is an effective gatekeeper.

Fire Walk With MeMAP29
by Anders Johnsen
"Fire Walk With Me" feels more manageable but has its share of overwhelming monster packs, the most memorable of which is a blind drop into an underground tunnel chock full of revenants. There are a few instances of commando hordes but they don't feel threatening; I'd be more concerned with sneaky arch-vile placement and the scattered Cyberdemons, one of which determines whether or not you're worthy of a coveted souls phere. As with MAP28, the level looks phenomenal. Johnsen still has tons of cool visuals, especially those hanging imps. One bit has you enter some kind of infernal parasite in the map's northwestern area. Very nice setup.

MAP30Point Dreadful
by Anders Johnsen
Your typical three-rocket boss shooter. If you can get the timing down the only rough part is racing up the tiered platforms to the switch that lowers the shooter platform; there is basically no leeway on getting to that first elevator, so all monsters must go.

If you want to play "Valley of Echoes", you'll need to grab it from somewhere. I suggest you...

Valley of EchoesMAP25
by Anders Johnsen
Draws from a variety of styles, opening with something more like Plutonia's "Twilight" before moving on to the overscaled naturalistic landscapes of Evilution's outdoor areas, the visual highlight being a huge dam near the exit. There are scads of commandos in the first segment, thankfully held back in the open-air slaughter zones where you'll rack up the body count. Mostly, though, you're going to be using your BFG and rocket launcher to eliminate entrenched monsters so that you can get a bit of breathing room down in the chasms. I think that island of Cyberdemons gets to be a bit much, but apart from that and the commando tunnels in the center, I had a lot of fun.



  1. Very nice review =)

  2. This and Icarus are the best megawads, ever.

    Rest in peace Kim!

  3. I've played a lot of the classic megawads, but strangely I never got around to playing through this one (aside from random cooperative sessions on zdaemon/skulltag years ago.) This sort of motivated me to give it an honest run-through. Nice review =)

  4. Good to see that you're no longer committing a virtual crime by not playing this wad. One of my 5 favorite megawads for sure (and maybe my second favorite ever, after Scythe)

  5. If any megawad (pwad) was ever a truly timeless classic, this is the one.

  6. This wad made me poo myself.

  7. Clandestine Complex is out of place in E3, in both thematic setting, and difficulty. I get that it was replacing an E3 map, but they probably should've placed it in E2 instead, and moved One of the late E2 maps into E3. But oh well.