Tuesday, June 11, 2013


by Kurt Kesler

Kurt Kesler made a boat load of levels for vanilla Doom II, almost as many for Boom, and slightly less for ZDoom. His pair of KHILLS levels are unique in that they're source-port agnostic but still require raised limits. KHILLS.WAD (not KHILLS_1) is the first of the pair, a MAP01 replacement for Doom II released mid-1998. Stylistically, I guess it fits in among his K_BASE series in that it's a techbase, but the HILLS designator is for the terrain that surrounds the base. KHILLS is thus built within some kind of crater, so prepare to do some hiking and some spelunking while you're running around the base offing its corrupted denizens.

Really, the most interesting aspect of the level is just how misleading it is. It seems a little underhanded with its use of lower-tier monsters, with former humans lurking around corners and in a few spots imps doing a great job of sneaking up on you. After you do a lot of footwork with the shotgun and chaingun, something happens and it's on to stage two, with you having to clear out hell knights and revenants on your way back to the red key door, after which Kesler mixes things up with a large monster variety. That exterior area with the bridge is one of my faves as it couples the lurking zombies with a swarm of cacos that has you looking in every direction, except you don't have enough eyes to keep track of anything if you rush in, not that penultimate area with the mancubuses and pain elemental isn't dangerous either.

Of course, all of that and he has a pretty sneaky finale, with an arch-vile that teleports behind you. If you know it's coming you can take shelter and not worry but as a first experience, it's a little frightening. But the combat isn't the only strong feature of the mapset; I love Kesler's architecture. The base is very clean with plenty of hidey-holes for surprise attacks and the wilderness that wraps around the installation (and through it) is very nice. Actually, there are a few nice faux-3D cheats, like that section of crater wall that divides the base interior through which you access the elevator to the red key rim, plus some moving machinery. The lighting is also quite nice, if understated, which I've come to expect from Kurt.

KHILLS is a nice little limit-removing level for Doom II. I guess if you're tired of base maps you can give it a pass but it's quite a bit of fun with some dirty tricks for experienced Doomers to push back against. It certainly affirms what most people have been saying, that virtually everything Kesler made is worth downloading, and I don't regret this one. Give it a shot.


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