Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Zone 300 (ZONE300.WAD)

Zone 300 is another one of the spin-offs of the 100 Lines project, created over a short span of time by continually prolific author Paul Corfiatis. Every time he flirts with giving up mapping, he finds something new to do. This time, pcorf examined 100 Lines, drawing inspiration but finding the original limitation too constrictive. He boosted the total to 300 linedefs per level and over the course of two months whipped up thirty-one "zones" for vanilla Doom II, releasing it in 2013 with practically zero warning (the thirty-second level flaunts his self-imposed limit as it's an outtake from Doom 2 the Way id Did). There's new intermission text found in the usual places but it's your usual "save Earth from another invasion from Hell", albeit with some colorful imagery.

300 is less about working within a set of demanding limitations and more about making a megaWAD of small, more or less appealing Doom II levels. I see a couple of the layout tricks I witnessed in 900 Deep in the Dead, but this feels more like someone making super-small levels than anything given the lines used for detailing. I don't think it ever graces more than ~100 monsters. The action is short and punchy, though it can get a little stale sometimes when you see the same tropes again and again. Thankfully it's easy to pick up and easy to put down since the maps are in bite-sized chunks. My only real problem is with the linearity of the levels and encounters, certainly a trapping of Paul's design decisions. They may not be "scripted" per se, but it still feels like I'm on railroad tracks most of the time. The biggest upshot is that pcorf has composed a brand new set of music that leaves things feeling fresh, and you're free to use any and all of it!

If you want a large set of small levels you can blast through fairly quickly, good news! Here's Zone 300. If you're looking for something with more substance or options, this isn't for you. Thankfully, it won't take long to find out which camp you're in, and you might not find out until you're done with the PWAD. Thanks, Paul, and keep making more maps.

ZONE 300
by Paul "pcorf" Corfiatis

The SpaceportMAP01
Short and simple. A lot of monsters for an "Entryway", plus a nukage pit for a land hazard. Paul starts off throwing some big mobs of enemies at you off the bat, like imps and shotgun guys mixed in by the chaingun secret and a couple of larger mobs on your way to the exit, the second of which has the most potential for messing you up as it's right up on you. Fun little romp, as I bet most of these will be.

MAP02Control Facility
Another techbase filled with larger packs of zombies, imps and demons. The SSG makes an early debut, making you wonder just why Paul made the chaingun the showcase weapon in the level's final ambush. The SSG handles things quite well and when all's said and done, you don't even really use the chaingun. No real standout fights but I like the use of the sluice which serves as scenery and then later as the location of a pincer attack. The enemies that teleport end up too far away, though, for any kind of effective ambush.

The AlleywayMAP03
I like the layout. It's a creek running between two brown buildings with some leaping between them. The buildings are full of imps you'll want to clear, or if you're feeling gutsy, Paul has a not-so-secret berserk pack sitting behind an elevator, which if you know pcorf's style means it's time to fist some demons. The ambush in the southern room really has some teeth; prepare to feel unprecedented pressure, at least in terms of Zone 300. The hitscanner ambush in the dark, not that thrilling with some spray and pray with the chaingun.

MAP04Canyon Hub
Middle of the road action in this techbase to outdoor shotgun slaughterfest. The opening has some pistol / berserk action but once you grab the shotgun it's hitscan all the way. I guess dodging fireballs coming from the other side of the canyon might be a little exciting but there's too much cover to be worried about them.

Skybase 300MAP05
Not very distinguishable from a non-skybase except when standing on the blue key pillar. The opening is a cute fight, appropriately using lost souls in an open space, showing up unannounced. I like the eastern toxic pit room with the zombie / imp track followed by a couple of revenants in a tight space. Well, it's only one in the end, but the other has a different angle of attack. The only big challenge is the huge wave of zombies on returning to the hub room, which is more annoying than anything.

MAP06Whispering Corridor
Something a bit meatier. The "corridor" links the major outdoor areas of the level, one of which is a frantic hitscanner ambush, another starts with commandos and aerials and ends in an imp / Hell knight ringaround, and the last surprises your back with a few revenants and some other trash. I like the blue key segment the most, personally. The demons feel like a pointless grind unless you get gutsy with the Hell knight guarding the SSG.

Ye olde "Dead Simple", minus the arachnotrons and with a bunch of imps on the outer ring. Oh, and a Cyberdemon down a narrow corridor that isn't hard to kill unless you eat a rocket like the klutz you are. It's very straightforward; the only trick is knowing which set of tiers has the rocket launcher so you can make quick work of the mancubuses.

MAP08Waste Disposal Plant
This is a fairly intense nukage plant with a nasty finish. Starts off with a blood courtyard with imps on the falls and a revenant at overwatch plus a baron and spectres blocking off the elevator to the red key. Sounds like a lot of action for the shotgun, and that's because there's a plasma rifle tucked past the baron that will make short work of him. After you get the key and move on to the exit room you'll find a conundrum with two arachnotrons and commandos on the ground, a pain elemental in the elevator shaft, and a ton of imps. That final arena fight is devilish. Fun, if frustrating.

Nuclear Power StationMAP09
A pretty uninspired key chase that sends you through winding silver halls of zombies with a few interesting fights on the way, like the mashup to the north with the pain elemental and the silver hallway that wisely turns into something a bit different. It's still a pretty boring and resource-thin map. The exit room is okay, I guess, and having the Hell knight teleport back like that is a nice jump.

MAP10Cargo Bay
If you see this name and don't think crates, you probably haven't played many Doom levels. It's cramped and slightly claustrophobic but the most dangerous element of the level is the trio of revenants sitting at the highest point. You won't be able to see their missiles past a certain point and the resulting paranoia might make you do stupid, stupid things. Don't miss out on that SSG. I do like all the faux-3D platforming with the crate stacks, usually a staple of the genre.

Starts off with a dumb zero-sum network of narrow brick hallways (don't blow your SSG ammo on the shotgun guys) and then moves into a nice congested imp fight before dumping you into an open-air crossfire, which I appreciated, even if it isn't anything to look at. I would have said screw the goofy "maze" and use those lines to make the main event look less bland.

MAP12Villa of Pain
A pair of outdoor firefights, the first of which is tricky due to the cacodemons and lost souls in the tight moving space and the second being a tad easier as long as you vault past the fatsos, grab the SSG, and unleash Hell. Once the mancubuses go down the rest feels perfunctory, down to the useless baron in the exit closet.

Dark CryptMAP13
A couple death boxes. The first is all about minimizing hitscan attrition; the second looks like a groan-inducing winding corridor but turns into an open-air mix of zombie slaying and demon / Hell knight kiting. The finale is deadly dull, though I like the mix of undergrowth. The trio of HKs sucks, though, especially since I had to bait them out to grab more shells to kill them with.

MAP14The Circle
Starts out with a little cave with monster trash that leads to a fork, branching to a dead end with two revenants guarding a combat shotgun (you can grab it if you're quick) and an exterior courtyard that is chock full of monsters. The outer area leaves you feeling exposed no matter how you approach it; there are enemies up and down the staircases, all over the ground, and a few fliers once you make it near the top. The finale, in comparison, barely registers.

Trouble TownMAP15
Much nicer. You're in the thick of it once you step off the elevator and you'll want to grab the SSG ASAP, and maybe the rocket launcher and plasma rifle, too - once you've thinned out the crowd wandering around on the streets. The building encounter reveals are nothing special; it's all about battling the Cyberdemon on the exit bridge, plus an exit trap that actually threatens. Of course, most of this can be swept aside by the secret BFG and a glut of cell ammo, which feels like a disappointment.

This is a new take on an old standard - Plutonia's "Hunted". This time, though, the tunnels are poorly lit and a handful of spectres run interference as you try to evade the arch-viles. It felt slightly random to me as to whether I'd be able to survive or not based on whether the arch-viles clumped up in a pack because of a few monster teleport lines, which was usually followed by a spectre getting right behind me for no good reason. It's short, though, and has some nice tension.

"Condemnation" lies outside Zone 300 in that it does not limit itself to 300 linedefs. It's actually a D2TWiD outtake, which kind of shows. It's got a definite "Inmost Dens" meets "Tenements" vibe, I think. It's a fair bit harder, though, and has some definite pcorf-isms, like berserk pack meet demon horde. I thought it was really fun, though, and liked a lot of the excursions, particularly the infernal channel in the northwest and that collapsing platform cutting off your exit in the eastern area. Also, while it has a Wolf3D tribute, Corfiatis avoids using SS Nazis. Thanks! Cool level.

MAP16Bruiser Fortress
A very simple marble keep in a moat of blood. There are some monsters ringing the outside - in fact, most of them are outside - and a handful of beasts including the eponymous bruisers in the interior. It's a very quick play as long as you remember to kill the imps standing between the window and the yellow key, with a welcome wave of aerial monsters to keep you on your toes, plus a shooting gallery arch-vile.

A kind of Hellish map with a lot of blood. The main event is a big ol' damaging blood pit with a ledge around the outside that you have to prance around. At several stages, the corners will lower revealing imps, a mancubus, and an arachnotron. It's a pain in the ass trying to kill all the zombies on the walkway while being mindful of the revenant rockets coming from the central area. Also, the dual Hell knights and barons encounter is super boring. A fairly annoying level.

MAP18Zombie Hideout
A fairly unremarkable city-ish level except for the fact that it's very tight on ammo. When Paul gives you a berserk pack, use it, or you'll have lots of fun dancing with the arch-vile. Infighting is a necessity if you don't want to be reduced to punching barons, and there are three in the final area you'll have to take down, plus a mancubus and two arachnotrons.

The InvasionMAP19
Now this, I can get behind. It's another madcap "fucked from the beginning" level where you're under heavy fire and will probably be overwhelmed if you don't immediately rush to the SSG in the next area and then start to clear all the entrenched enemies (like the glut of spectres roaming around in the blood). The imp galleries aren't much fun to clear once all the heavies have been culled but they're a good source of harassment until then. And, hey, an exit closet that doesn't make me roll my eyes. Fun stuff.

MAP20Death Row
It's got a little bit of "Gotcha!" and a little bit of "The Chasm". It's interesting insofar as it's basically a tricks / traps gauntlet that keeps one-upping itself. Oh, and that bunch of crusher arrows that don't do a whole lot but remind me of Metroid, which makes me really wish someone had a kickass Doom mod that took a ton of cues from Metroid Prime. Sigh. The "Chasm" section isn't annoying, though you'll probably have to hang back and let the pain elemental come to you, and the finale - if done right - can instigate some easy to mop up infighting. Nice romp, especially if you sniff out that BFG at the beginning.

Blood LustMAP21
Hellish map with some tight ammo to start. The middle leg is all berserk demon punching, which should be familiar by now. There are some claustrophobic fights, like the opening imp / demon combo or the Hell knight with cacodemon surprise. The last fight is the nastiest, though, with one mancubus in each corner and a baron at the top of the exit column, not that you weren't already running around frantically.

MAP22Firestorm Tomb
A straight up grind map set in Hell, loaded with barons and a couple of awkward fights. You can use some arachnotrons against the final horde, but they won't hold up for long. There are some rockets and plasma strewn about but no rocket launcher or plasma rifle to use them with, so enjoy rockin' out to the SSG reload noise, and if all else fails, float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. I do like the two intersection in the map layout.

Dungeon of InfernoMAP23
Paul shows some sympathy and lets the player cut loose a bit in this Hell castle level. There's a lot of SSG action, of course, but more importantly there's a rocket launcher situated at the exact moment you'd want it to pound into several columns of enemy packs. Predictable, sure, but oh so satisfying considering the alternative. The final run is a little tricky with the arachnotron placement, but it's nothing you can't handle.

MAP24Cavern of the Evil Spirit
This time it's a little trip to the "Spirit World" with telltale cavern walls and glowing magma. Getting your feet planted is a bit tricky with all the lost souls you'll fight both before and after grabbing the blue key but the hidden switch should get you situated pretty well for the token Zone 300 winding corridor that is actually setting you up for a larger area reveal. This time, though, the baron draws your attention while the real threat - a bunch of mancubuses - converge on your position. Nice little level.

The dark blue / bright red color scheme might wear thin on some but it's a welcome change from the bite-sized Doom II stuff I've seen so far. This is basically a key gauntlet whose major feature is, again, a fairly tight ammo pool. There's an early chainsaw and a later berserk to help ease your suffering, so use every bit you can because you'll need it for stuff like that pain elemental room and to give you the leeway you need to dart around the Hell knights for the SSG. Still, pretty fun.

MAP26Valley of Brimstone
This is a big ol' valley that starts out overlooked by a Cyberdemon. You can't take him on, though, so you rush into the tunnel for better things. On your way back there's a cloud of cacos you can get to infight him, plus a pain elemental (maybe more than one, I don't remember), after which you can mop up and grab his yellow key. This gives you a Spiderdemon to look down on and a special buddy way behind you. You'll want to have found the secret plasma rifle; it's pretty obvious on the automap. Decent romp.

A couple of loops feeding into a central murder space that is coated with all kinds of organics. I'm not very fond of the big descending hallway that's loaded with static monsters; it's not very interesting. The big clusterfuck with pain elementals and cacodemons is, but as this is a chaingun / SSG exclusive level, it's mostly about picking your choke point and holding them at bay. The arch-viles were kind of threatening, but again, it's mostly about holding them at the doorway.

MAP28Unholy Demise
A little Hellish fort. Enemies get thrown at you in discrete packs; the first fight, a big bunch of imps ready to close in on you with a couple of cacodemons outside, is my favorite. If you try to run away toward the backpack, you'll be sandwiched between a rock and a hard place. If you stay cool and off the imp horde, the rest of the level is by the numbers, though you can get aggressive in that outdoor yard fight, and there are a few arch-viles to trip you up. They mostly made me hump corners, though.

Den of TortureMAP29
Paul does an overtuned challenge map. The opening, with the Kesler-ish SSG plus ammo layout, doesn't inspire confidence, but when you climb up the collapsing staircase and run into a bunch of meat blocking the path to what turns out to be a Cyberdemon while revenants fire down rockets from on high, you'll know fear. The secret rocket launcher - a timed door via a walkover line - is a must. There's also another huge mass of cacodemons and pain elementals, putting absolute pressure at the player. They die so slowly, though.

MAP30Eternal Core
A by-the-numbers boss shooter. Well, flip three switches to raise the steps to the head and then just fire away with your rockets. It's more durable than your average demon spitter, so be wary as you're liable to get smoked while standing up there like a dunce. I do like negative image, though.

If you thought Paul was just going to let a MAP32 without SS Nazis slide by, think again! This is a Wolf3D-ish level through and through. You got Troopers in packs of four, packs of demons instead of dogs, and a showdown with a Cyberdemon. That's... not exactly everything, of course, but you get the gist of it. The final encounter is okay, I guess.



  1. The author himself expresses he regrets this wad and that he rushed it.

    1. Yeah, it's still moderately fun and a lot of people loved it in spite of its simplicity.

    2. Modestly enjoyable is a good way to put it. It just doesn't really fall into the 'concept wad' category. So if it's goal was to fall in that category it kind of fails a bit.

  2. This wad feels more like just a traditional short maps wad than trying to stretch the linedef limit. But I still enjoyed a lot of the maps. No need to be regretful, unless your goal was SPECIFICALLY to use linedefs as efficiently as possible.