Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Combat Shock 2 (C-SHOCK2.WAD)

I finished my 2012 Cacowards reviews almost a year ago, with one exception... Combat Shock 2. I've been dreading this, not because I hate slaughtermaps, because I don't. I just knew that I was in for a harrowing journey, if quite memorable. Combat Shock is now a series, I guess. The first, released in 2011, showed Doomworld Forum superstar dannebubinga's mapping talents to the world, a tribute to The Plutonia Experiment that went off the deep end after some liberal influence from the still in-utero Sunder. Its sequel, also for Boom-compatible ports, is more pain in the same vein. This time, Jakobsson has broken the experience into a series of minisodes that count down. Three gorgeous green and earthy maps, two orange metal and magma monstrosities, and one long redout. Oh, and a cute little bonus map.

Combat Shock 2 is uncompromising. Daniel is a master when it comes to leaving the player with zero avenues of retreat and this mapset shows the evolution of his talents. Many of the moments that felt like unfun grinds are gone, banished to the winds. In their place you'll find more hilarious infighting opportunities, tactical BFG zerging, and, uh, a lot of saving and loading on my part. I got brought to my proverbial knees on a few of these encounters until I was able to put together a working strategy, mostly in MAP05 and 06, definitely the hardest stuff you'll encounter. I usually feel like a donkey wearing a helmet when working out stuff like this, but the feeling is for the most part sharper.

As usual, hordes of death come with gorgeous backdrops and locales. I like the unity of theme in the minisodes and there is so much to feast your eyes upon as you corral monsters into more manageable blobs. I think the first episode is my favorite as some of the crazy visuals that accompanied the original Combat Shock seem toned down, at least with the orange- and red-themed followups. They're still flush with megastructures, though. And, in MAP06's case, a long trip through the bowels of Hell to a fiery finish. The bonus level has the look of a Community Chest 4 techbase and is clean if not particularly vibrant. It's still quite pretty, much like the rest of this PWAD when you can be bothered to take a breather.

But what am I saying? Chances are, if you like slaughtermaps, you've already played Combat Shock 2. If you haven't, I can say that danne decided to support difficulty levels with this edition, so try things on ITYTD if you're afraid of the big bad revenant. Heck, go iddqd or -nomo if you really have to. I'm not saying that you should pave over Jakobsson's artistry when it comes to encounter design. Just know what your limits are. I got to find out myself, again and again! I think I'm getting better, though, if bit by bit.

by Daniel "dannebubinga" Jakobsson

danne opens things up with these gorgeous, overgrown Plutonic ruins. This map is less about overkill and more about deft maneuvers, as demonstrated by the first big trap, which lets loose two packs of shotgun guys and an arch-vile, with you stuck with your lil' ol shotgun. If you take your time, you can reasonably off all the roamers to clear some room for your arch-vile dance, and that's pretty much the story of the whole PWAD. Play it safe, or go for the throat? Things don't really reach slaughter caliber until post twin-arch-viles, where you have to deal with two large crowds in a small space. At least the second time you're paired with a helpful Cyberdemon who can lock down one side while you flirt with the other. A nice way to warm up the player for the rest of what is sure to be a nasty ride.

Rope or BulletMAP02
This time, you're on an island, and there are like a billion monsters trying to kill you. The opening is pretty low key compared to the terror that awaits you when you walk past the gates to the ground floor. Each of the two keys unleashes a flood of monsters into the playing area - nevermind the ones that are already kicking around - and the Cyberdemon and Spiderdemon can only do so much against so many revenants and Hell knights (and annoying spoiler lost souls). When you finally get shit to quiet down, with both keys in hand, you have your pick of challenges. The eastern chapel is a nice little lesson in maneuvering that's handily swept away with some rocket launcher fire and a few 180 degree arcs between the columns. The other is a massive firefight that involves carving your way through dozens of demons in the hopes of getting the Cyberdemon and Spiderdemon to take care of some of the HKs for you, all the while cacodemons fire at you from the sides. Killing the end of level Cyberdemon with two arch-viles sniping fire at you from the rafters seems so much more straightforward. Diabolical.

MAP03Hone Gumi
The culmination of Plutonic slaughter is this imposing grotto, with water cascading everywhere and an impressive underground sea you must leap across in order to reach the end. The sea clearly divides the two portions of the map between the intense, smaller-number encounters - like the arch-vile / spectre battle for the rocket launcher - and straight up carnage, opening with imps and pain elementals and Spiderdemons and ending with a crowd of revenants you must adequately control before you can afford to circle-strafe them. Getting the skeletons into a nice big glob in the center of the room you battle them in is the hard part. Oh, and surviving the dual Cyberdemons while demons run wild all over the ground and imps, Barons, and pain elementals mock you from afar. Getting past the rocket launcher fight was probably my biggest stumbling block, though in my idiocy I missed the SSG until I'd already exited the spectre den. Every battle has a clear solutions, like getting Spiderdemons to infight or busting out the plasma launcher so you can carve your way through demon flesh. Very fun, and very beautiful.

Rapid FireMAP04
danne kicks it up a notch with this immense slaughtermap, and the beginning of a new theme - dark metal and bright orange. It's enormous, has a kind of step pyramid motif going on, and has tons of enemies. As per usual, things start out micro before going macro, and you'll have to muscle through a very personal slaughter encounter fielding imps, mancubuses, and a few Cybers. It isn't that threatening if you're apt at crowd control; I was way more threatened when I returned and fought the wave of pain elementals, a battle element you'll see again. It took a few tries to get the yellow key fight down, saving BFG blasts for emergencies and arch-viles until you're ready to cleave a path out and mop up the Hell knights and demons. It's all about the big one, though, the massive room to the south, which does a good enough job infighting that you can just pick your way through the aerial cacodemons and watch the vast majority of the beasties burn themselves up. danne throws a few surprises as you make your way up and down the grand staircase and then reuses the revenant obelisk as an arch-vile station, but it's not nearly as nasty as the surprise waiting behind the double doors to the south.

MAP05Boiling Point
Part two of the dark metal and bright industrial style increases the threat level with an even more demanding series of obstacles to conquer. And, for the most part, I'm willing. There are so many fights that I can't really describe them all without dragging things on. The northwest section of the map has a definite motif going - fending off a horde of monsters from the molten banks while undergoing some kind of pressure from behind. A few, like the Cyberdemon and Spiderdemon rooms, can be manipulated with a little more finesse to knock out the worst of it. You're not really ready, though, until you make it to the middle and endure some gorgeous clusterfucks. The northernmost bit with the opposing rows of arch-viles and revenants wasn't too hard to figure out, and the cacodemons vs. the revenants has to be seen to be believed. The whole western leg is particularly nasty but fun, with an oscillating pipeway choked up with Cyberdemons leading to a nasty aerial plus spectres colonnade, ending with a huge, fun BFG blastfest. And then, well, there's the red key fight, which is the only thing in the entire map that rubbed me the wrong way. I died dozens of times trying to clear it as the combination of demons on the ground, revenants on the tiers, and three arch-viles in the back row of tiers punished me again and again. The fact that there's no guarantee as to which tier the sorcerers wind up on made trying to adopt a strategy difficult. At the end, all I could do is try to BFG zerg one as fast as possible and then pray for an opening while making my rounds, occasionally thinning out the demons. The final fight is very fun, though. Just run past, hit the switch, and unleash Hell.

Where to begin... Well, for starters, danne adopts a new theme, this one the dark metal / brick and red of Hell. And, yes, you're certainly in Hell. As if the huge runner tracks full of hitscanners or the stationed Cyberdemons or galleries of revenants and Hell knights didn't tip you off. It's all about finding your bearings and then working on the clear from there. After that, you've got three skull key challenges to work out. The eastern one was for me the most frustrating, but it doesn't have anything on the fun that awaits you once you open the door to the north. It's platform time, and if you screw up too much, it's back to the beginning to reraise the pillars. Nothing bad, and when you open up the blue key door, it's another proper slaughter, absolutely riddled with Cyberdemons. Stepping inside the main chamber treats you with some leftover monsters (possibly Cyberdemons) and a back row of mancubuses. I tried to leave these guys alive for some infighting, but it was a foolish proposition considering the switch locks you in with a hundred Hell knights and you have enough to worry about already in your limited real estate. Nothing too hard to follow - mostly tactical BFG zerging - and you're in the home stretch. The revenant / Hell knight portal storm is fun and the chaingunner pack is laughably ridiculous. That final clutch of monsters, though... Just pick a good corner and shell rockets for as long as you can. Beautiful, and a total ass-kicker. Ow.

MAP07Shocked For Life
The bonus level for Combat Shock 2 is at odds with the rest of the collection, and that figures, because it's a bonus level, duh. It looks like it could have been a Community Chest 4 outtake, though it's purely for funsies, and a nice way of winding down after having your nerves put through the wringer. It's a cool, solidly built techbase with lots of room to move (for the most part) and some neat architecture. It's still tough, but scaled down, with a nasty hitscanner crossfire opening and plenty of tough monsters thrown at you in close quarters. The true finale is a lite-slaughter of ground enemies followed by a bunch of aerials you'll want to hose with plasma. Fun and tight.


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2012 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Doom the Way id DidWhoDunIt?Beyond Reality
Strife: Absolute OrderBest Gameplay ModMasters of Chaos
PutrefierRussian OverkillFrozen Time
5till L1 ComplexMordeth AwardPlanisphere 2
Community Chest 4Community Chest 4Coffee Break Ep. 1
The EyeCall of Dooty II
Combat Shock 2Mapper of the Year
Winter's FuryKhorus
Base Ganymede: Complete


  1. This. This right here is my go-to wad for a relaxing slaughterfest. Map 4 is a masterpiece.

    1. yeah, i love the precision of sunlust but for the sort of "doomguy invading Hell which seems to function as a gigantic organism" this one rocks