Saturday, August 9, 2014


by "jameson2_fr"

Looking at the title, I can divine that LABOUAC involves some kind of lab facility that was at one point ran by the UAC. That's pretty much it, though as you walk through the facilities, you'll see that they've been dabbling in plenty of things that aren't remotely related to gate technology... unless they found them as a result of the resulting exploration missions. LaboUAC is jameson2_fr's first release on the archives, published in 2014 as a MAP01 replacement for GZDoom. It's pretty accomplished for a first-timer, if that is indeed the case, though with a level this long I wonder why he didn't come up with something, anything to replace D_RUNNIN.

As I mentioned, this is a very large level, to the tune of 600+ enemies, and it has a ton of 3D architecture. It isn't the kind of stuff you'll see in something like Putrefier, though. LABOUAC is more of the GZDoom equivalent of a realistic office level, with all the banalities. Don't get me wrong - the attention to detail is nice with all the glass tables and stuff and there are even a few holograms. The overlaid bridges in the outdoor atrium are pretty cool and the larger office areas like the cubicle room / cafeteria are neat. The architecture is just too real / stale for its own good, not that the layouts of more interesting Doom levels are well-suited to making you feel like you're walking through an actual UAC lab. It doesn't help that there's brown rock everywhere, which to me clashes with the intended aesthetic, even if jameson gets a decent joke out of it with those boxes that reveal that the brown rock is actually wall tiling.

The whole map is a bear to clear, and you might get stuck trying to remember where certain key doors are or figure out where various switch puzzles lead to, since the 3D-architecture is fairly well-layered. I'm thinking here of rooms like the unfinished wing of the lab, which requires climbing down and then up and then down again through I think five or so floors. It's kind of cool the first time you see it but when you run through it the third or fourth time you're dying for a fast-forward button. The big road block for me was around the final stretch when something I did opened a floor tile in the cubicle area, something hinted at with the added monsters. I managed to walk past it two or three times before I finally figured it out, though, which surely added some dead air to my playthrough of roughly two hours.

The combat is mostly what you'd expect from a semi-realistic level, with a lot of claustrophobic fighting including the occasional open space where, due to balconies and the like, you're avoiding bullets and lots of fireballs. There are a ton of R667 additions, a few of which are one-offs tailored to their appearances as part of the lab facilities (like the killer flowers or the Cthulhu look-alike). I kind of liked the madcap tech silo room with all the super-powered enemies, which is actually made dangerous via a drip feed of plasma troopers. The whole level is mostly about blowing away tons of enemies with the SSG, though, and the occasional horde of super-fast spiders. It's just not very distinguished, same as the map's architecture.

I don't know how I'd suggest the author could make the level's layout more interesting, since that seems to be its major downfall. For the opening's abstract vision of those rad bridges and that crumbling but not yet fallen stone bridge, things are pretty much on par with GZDoom's equivalent of a competent but unsurprising 1994 level. Lots of small rooms full of monsters, not many bits that really show off GZDoom besides layering 3D floors. I think you can get away with some crazy architecture, since corporate culture seems so Hell-bent on spectacle once it moves beyond the cubicle drones. Surely the UAC of all people would build a palace to house their most noisome dabblings.

I don't hate LaboUAC. In fact, I'd love to see more stuff from jameson2_fr, hopefully with more dashes of the abstract. He's definitely something of a 3D-wizard, though not in the same sense as his peers, like Ed Cripps, whose Putrefier is a fantastic example of just what can be accomplished with 3D architecture. Anything that makes the rooms feel less boxy would be a huge win. If you like seeing some GZDoom stuff mixed in with new beasts, give this a look.


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