Friday, May 16, 2014

UCA (UCA.WAD)

UCA
by Eddie Nguyen


Not to be confused with anything UAC, UCA is a single map for Doom released by Eddie Nguyen back in 1994. It's the beginning of a series of single releases that were ultimately meant to be played as a series (the UCA series, duh), so if you plan to move on to the next bit - TALPOIDA - make sure you load it along with UCA so that you don't subject yourself to some survival-style gameplay. This one occupies the E2M1 slot, by the way. The .TXT has a fairly well-developed plot detailing the goings-on at the Uca Crater on Mars's Deimos moon. I thought it ended up in Hell, but I guess it came back after you saved the universe? The story suggests that Phobos was the only incident that ever happened. Anyway, demons are building a base in the Uca Crater using stuff they stole from Phobos, and the previous teams that established this information are all dead. You're the only surviving member of the third team, and after a close encounter you get a second chance to complete your mission.


If you haven't already guessed based on the info above, UCA is one of those levels that attempts to fuse tech and Hell. It doesn't really resemble The Shores of Hell, though. The opening is in the actual Uca crater, I think, after which you struggle through some very tight red rock tunnels, with a couple of techbase rooms breaking up the cavern crawl. The criss-crossing tunnel gimmick is decent, and I like those Hell columns in tech settings. They're pretty square, though, and there's an obligatory crate maze that kind of works due to its inclusion of lost souls. At the very least, Nguyen puts pressure on you early on by forcing you to run from some barons if you hit the wrong switch at the beginning. No big deal, though. You can lure them into one of the slow crusher tech pillars if you don't want to wait until you grab the rocket launcher.


The second half of the base has some tech halls that feel slightly more Deimos-y. That red portal on the wall is a pretty cool feature, though it would probably look better if the final bits were truly far away. I also like that tech pyramid with the soul sphere, a primitive but cool detail and the site of a nasty shootout with all the barrels, demons, and other beasts. At least, it had me running a little bit. The second half is probably my favorite, even if it has a mostly useless invul (unless you waited until the very end to kill those barons). The only big problem - and maybe it won't take you that long - is figuring out where the exit is after you grab the red key. It's actually a largely unmarked secret door in the opening area. I say largely because I'm pretty sure that section was tinted slightly darker than the rest when I found it, but that kind of subtlety might be lost on players using higher gamma settings or what have you. I don't think I had a problem the first time I played this map (as part of Jive's EPIBEST compilation, which itself pulled from a handful of other compilations), but unmarked secret doors, especially as a means of progression, will taint this experience for some individuals.


Everyone "knows" that '94 PWADs were terrible, and by today's standards, UCA will be looked on unfavorably. It was a pretty fun (re)play for me, though, and as far as Doom's early days go, it's a far less-embarrassing endeavor than others. If you love old '94 PWADs, techbases consumed by Hell, or OG Doom maps, you should give UCA a shot. And, well, if you liked this, you should probably check out the rest of the series - I know I will!



CRABBY

This post is part of a series on
Eddie Nguyen's Uca series

UCATALPOIDA
DIOPATRASAPIDUSB

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