Monday, September 1, 2014


by Jon Landis

Jon Landis had a pretty full career in the early days of Doom history. He authored an episode for Doom (Eye of the Beholder), a tricksy minisode of Doom II levels (Eye of the Beholder II), and contributed a few levels to STRAIN. This little level (well, maybe not little) is BERSERK, his first offering, not to be found included in Eye of the Beholder along with his other E2 levels. And, well, for reasons you might find evident on a cursory viewing. Berserk has some of Landis's quirks that he would carry on to his later outings, but it's a very rough construction, released in 1994 for the E2M1 slot.

Berserk doesn't really have a set theme. It opens in a circular chamber with you surrounded by zombies, with a berserk pack close by. Hence berserk, I guess! Tyson masters might get a lot of fun out of this pack and when I felt ballsy enough I started punching imps and whatnot and having a Hell of a time. There are a lot of safe monsters to do this with, but you've also got a rocket launcher, plasma rifle, and shotgun / chaingun if you're in to boring monster whittling down. None of the Landis battles except for the first and maybe that room full of cacos really leave an impression. The Baron / spectre room has some good, clean fun if you grab the invul and just start godmode punching monsters to death.

Besides the quirky beginning, the only thing that really nails this as a Landis level is the practice of mandatory secrets / unmarked secrets for progression. You won't get out of the opening area if you don't search the caco cavern for a door, the only hint being the rad suit on the other end, floating a fairly obvious question - why? The other secret leads directly into a caco cave which has its own secret exit, leading to the baron / spectre area, which has a secret lift (gasp) opposite of which is a secret door (though obvious on the automap) that leads to a long, boring corridor filled with all manner of monsters. It is a full-on turkey shoot if you are remotely adept at quick-strafing from side to side. Yawn.

Berserk doesn't have much of the artistry or panache that gives Landis's subsequent levels their '94 charm, but I've played worse maps, and there's just enough of Jon in this to get a smile, especially with that opening zombie mob. Just don't expect anything on par with his excruciating dickery, unless stuff like that run of secrets has you frothing at the mouth.