Friday, June 21, 2013


Joe Zona is probably best known for his "Golden Triangle" level in Twilight Warrior, but the resources that made Black Shadow's jungle levels so engrossing had their origins in Zona's earlier release, the Real Doom II conversion, published a year earlier in 1998. Real is a short episode, fielding six real maps with an eye-candy finale, that tells the story of a marine sent in to clear out a Brazilian UAC base that tempted fate and is now overrun by Hellspawn. Your goal is to clear the nasties and find the base generator in order to rig it to explode in Hollywood fashion so that you can put an end to UAC's gateway experiments on earth.

Real falls in line with contemporary works like Roger Ritenour's Earth and Phobos PWADs, which were generally more concerned with memorable scenery than scenarios. Ritenour attempted to use teleporters to make semi-random monster encounters, which rarely ended up in anything more than a clusterfuck. Zona goes so far in the opposite direction so as to make monster density at an all time low. The first five levels have less than twenty monsters each, with one as few as eight. The final is more typical, showing almost eighty, but it's all done in a flash and in spite of some oddities later on the entire pack is beatable from pistol star on UV.

Most of Real's appeal comes from the jungle scenes, which are linear crawls, albeit kind of pretty with all the ambient noises and waterfalls. They don't have the kind of textural wizardry Ritenour exercised but Earth got bogged down in...boring brown earth, and as interesting as the man-made environments of Phobos were, the green jungles of Real are a nice, if minor, diversion. Some players might find the Real-isms annoying, like all the false wall secrets, but if you look at your automap, you'll see everything you need and more. One of my favorite bits was the rocket launcher offshoot in MAP02, where Zona makes it so that the actual heat of the lava is dangerous, not a precedent for normal Doom but perfectly at home here, where there are no other damaging floors.

If Zona had spent more time blowing up the size of Real and making it less linear with more cool sights, it would probably be mentioned in the same breath as the other favorites of 1998. As it stands, it's a neat progenitor to Twilight Warrior and an interesting curio. I think it's worth playing, especially with how fast it is bound to blow by. Do note that Real has a DeHackEd patch which you'll need to load alongside the files or many of the ambient noises will not properly convert from their monstrous origins. If you see a revenant in the first map (or at all) you've done things incorrectly.

by Joe Zona

A linear but quick jungle crawl dispatching some imps and demons. The waterfall scenario is about the most complex fight you'll have and the prettiest scene in the level.

A little more interesting is this underground level with a few neat features. It's less linear but exploration is a good idea as poking around will net you all the major weapons, from the berserk pack to the rocket launcher. Monsters are still light fare but the lost souls and cacodemons make an appearance in some neat locales, like the lava section (with searing heat!) and a neat ruins facade.

Another linear advance, this one through a decent looking (if incredibly rectangular) temple. Only thirteen monsters to speak of, plus a BFG, which you can use to dispel some of the bigger beasts. It has a cool pickup moment as some ambient music plays on walking in; Zona plays with a restricted bestiary but adds some class to his level set with the little details.

MAP04Night Jungle
"Jungle", part deux. It's highly linear with some off-branches leading to ammo and other goodies; the SSG right of the beginning is practically a necessity, so if you press on and get rebuffed by some imps and demons, you'll know to return to the start and explore that other path for your essentials kit. The rest is bleh, the only real threat is bumping into spectres who camouflage nicely in Zona's texture selection.

Barely even functions as a setpiece. It's got eight monsters, five of which are zombies and three of which are arachnotrons. There is just barely enough ammo to take down all the monsters if you do some fisting to save bullets and shells but I don't know if I trust the RNG enough to comfortably kill the spiders. I guess the survivalist challenge (from pistol start) is the only way to make this patch of land remotely interesting.

A simple techbase in a cross-shape with plenty of bits of realism creeping in, including standard sector toilets, sinks, and conference tables with little square stools. The actual combat is meh, you're pretty much confined to using the shotgun, chaingun and SSG for most of the room clearing, whose cramped encounters are more incidental than anything, robbing you of any danger. The finale is where it's at but with all the ammo and a freebie plasma rifle, you should be more than equipped to take down the sinister arch-vile.

The EndingMAP07
Your cue to quit the game before encountering DeHackEd oddities. It's another Zona jungle but a bit more appealing with all the open areas. There are no enemies to kill; just sights to see.


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