Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Combat Shock (C-SHOCK.WAD)

I've played a lot of maps I could call slaughterfests, but few of them are on the scale of contemporary difficulty, i.e. Sunder, Newgothic - Movement 1, or Deus Vult 1 and 2. Sure, there are classic "slaughter" PWADs like Hell Revealed and Alien Vendetta, but the scale of these works is usually smaller compared to the newschool slaughters and the impressive architecture that almost always accompanies them. Combat Shock, by Doomworld forum superstar Daniel "dannebubinga" Jakobsson, is my first proper experience in this genre I have so loosely defined. That is to say, I've played some isolated crazy levels in contemporary stuff, including but not limited to Survive in Hell and Doom 2 Unleashed. Thinking back, most of the megaWADs I've recently played have at least one newschool slaughtermap, so I'm no virgin. I'm also no vet, as I can attest to my difficulty with this mapset.

Combat Shock's level names evoke some kind of nameless Lovecraftian dread, with words like "Gozu", "Fudoh", and "Messatsu". Of course, they're all film names by acclaimed Japanese director, Takashi Miike, but I think they fit as they're alien enough to me. "Agitator" leads things off with danne's first effort, a constant evolution from ancient mapping standards to something more current as you progress from fairly tame firefights to stuff that will mess you up, poking and agitating the player to get them used to the chaos that will follow. The scale ramps up rather dramatically level to level, from 300 to 1,000 to 1,500 enemies, finishing off with 4,000+. Granted, imps account for a large part of that last one, but it's no less intimidating.

Slaughtermaps are often accused of being tedious, which I can't say for Combat Shock, outside of a few scenarios. There are a lot of dynamic encounters that involve plenty of nimble footwork on your part. Granted, some of the fights will shuffle hundreds of monsters into areas they quickly outgrow, and you may find some tedium in how the hordes seem to be never-ending, but if you don't think these crazier encounters are universally dangerous, you're probably bullshitting. One caveat - Combat Shock has next to no difficulty support. If you play it on ITYTD, you'll get the 50% damage / 200% ammo, but that's as good as it gets if you want to catch a break in these sinister playgrounds.

Combat Shock is not something I can play day in and day out but I had a lot of fun when I really got into it. While I wish dannebubinga wasn't as denigrating to comparatively easier stuff, I can't deny that he's really good at what he does, and that's provide challenging gameplay to a cadre of players that have outgrown the confines of Doom and Doom II. Keep in mind that Combat Shock is pretty hard stuff and may not be for you. If you still want to bang your head against Daniel's seemingly brick walls then go ahead and give it a shot. You'll know by the time you finish "Agitator" whether or not this is your kind of thing. Otherwise, you can load it up with -nomo and just drink it all in. Looking at screenshots is incomparable to bearing witness in person, so to speak.

by Daniel Jakobsson aka "dannebubinga"

Jakobsson leads off with a deceptive opening. "Agitator" is some kind of rusted base with way cool architecture. The colors tend to clash a bit in my eyes but I like the detail he's crammed into the halls, particularly the psychedelic lighting in some areas. It starts out pretty slow, with shotgunning various low-tier monsters, but things pick up when you grab the SSG, subjecting you to a close-quarters brawl with some revenants and mancubuses, a favorite combo for danne, as you'll see them on your way out. The true test is in the northern area, the first with a lower-key imp / Hell knight stream followed by the big one, a massive teleport slaughter with revenants on both sides. I died a lot trying to concoct a strategy; killing the skeletons waiting in the wings and then taking care of the closest monsters with the SSG while infighting disturbed the lower ranks seemed to work for me. The finale is a nice sharp shock, with some clever spectre use.

Rather than pussyfoot around, danne jumps right into it with MAP02. It's a bear of a level with 1,000+ enemies to deal with, most of which you'll fight in three pitched battles. First, though, you'll have to navigate the super-hard courtyard, which has two Spiderdemon snipers you'll have to duck for the entirety of meaningful combat. Plus, it feels like every time you flip a switch, a Cyberdemon appears, who feels useless in infighting because his head keeps getting clipped by Spiderdemon fire. There is some really impressive scenery in the slaughter rooms; the last is my favorite, with its tech and cherry red trappings, but it's all great stuff. Confession - the first (and largest) slaughter was the hardest for me because I somehow managed to miss the BFG. Sploops! There's a seemingly never-ending stream of enemies but the Cyberdemons apparently suffered the same problem as the ones in the courtyard and rarely ever got to serious infighting. The second battle is pretty simple, the only snag being four arch-viles that teleport in as a stinger. The third is my favorite, with an invul making most of it a cinch, but there's a sneaky encounter on exit that might trip you up. Very cool.

A super-tough underground Plutonic slaughter. There is no quarter given in danne's layouts, nor enemy placement. It starts out kind of tame, and maybe a little boring with the imp packs and that huge group of Hell knights, but once you get beyond them things heat up with that ruins area pincered between revenants and mancubuses. Then shit gets real with the big highlight, a huge never-ending teleporter battle where all manner of monsters files in to the empty spaces both surrounding and inside of a cross-shaped structure. It's BFG frenzy madness as you try to make sure you have enough room to breathe, but if you run out of ammo before the crowd thins out, you're SOL. You might scrape by with a few rockets but right around the time you have to start fighting your way toward ammo, danne lets loose some spectres. Yeesh. There's one more surprise left, a huge pack of skeletons with four arch-viles thumping around inside. I couldn't figure out a quick way of handling the madness; the best I could do was lure them to the compound in the center of the main cavern and let them get caught up reviving shit and eating revenant rockets. Exhausting...but satisfying.

"Messatsu" is a culmination of everything explored in the last three levels, dialed up to the max with thematically consistent and gorgeous ruins a la Plutonia with some extraneous dark metal and orange sections that had me salivating. While I like the challenge of slaughtermaps, it's fantastic if they come with gorgeous visuals like these. It's loaded with all kinds of crazy encounters, with plenty of infighting opportunities, which will save you considerable time and effort if deftly corralled, where Cybs / Masterminds do most of your work for you. One of my faves is that HK / Cyb semicircle you can bait out and then run around for maximum fun. I also love the enormous imp slaughter with all the cacos flying in, a great opportunity for BFG play as you plow your way through to more cells. Some of the nastiest bits are the one spot you'll need the invulnerability for, where you saw your way through a host of revenants to punch out a group of arch-viles as fast as possible, and the huge HK room, where clearing that first ledge is incredibly tedious and unrewarding. As a whole, though, I liked it, including that last jab at the player, where a mob of revenants boils out like clowns out of a tiny car. Also love that red key madness.

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