Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bloody Steel (BLDSTLP.WAD)

Big Memka was as one of the main contributors to Whitemare 2, the Russian Doom community megaWAD of 2014. His maps had a high level of visual polish and tended toward compelling, if linear, gameplay, excepting the now-infamous "Gloominarch's Realm". Bloody Steel, Memka's first solo release, gives us a deeper look into his personal predilections, free of the artificialities of speedmapping. Another foray into Russian realism, Memka delivers a nine (or ten if you're generous) map episode that's more varied in gameplay variety and, again, practically dripping with detailing. The levels were designed for Boom-compatible engines, I believe, but are best experienced in GL ports (GLBoom / GZDoom) mainly due to the skies. I made it all the way through in ZDoom before realizing, with only ugly visual bugs to show for my ignorance.

I'm not sure I quite grasp the plot of Bloody Steel due to some losses in translation, but I'll try to be as accurate as possible. The UAC is involved, of course, this time having built a secret base within a Russian industrial complex called "Red Cacodemon" that is surrounded by shantytown slums, I believe the living quarters of its laborers. Of course, the UAC can't help but conduct experiments in traveling through space and time. Something goes wrong, releasing a deadly virus that slays every person in the area, followed by your bog standard invasion of Hell. You weren't around when the virus did its work, thankfully, but upon returning a mysterious force knocks him unconscious ("covered with echoes of that cataclysm"). When you wake up in the outskirts surrounded by acid, it's plain that something must be done, and you're the person to do it.

Bloody Steel covers a lot of gameplay themes. One of the tropes you'll encounter is the cover shooter, where Doomguy carefully crawls through open areas populated with hitscanners and other unsavory things and must contend with death by attrition where his supplies are limited. MAP01 explores this at its slowest level, since you start with a pistol and are facing mostly rifle / shotgun zombies and imps, but you'll see it in plenty of other places. Memka is not afraid to use some commandos to leave you feeling exposed or even introduce timers like rad suits into an already precarious situation where every moment you stand still is wasted protection, like in MAP08. You quickly learn where your priorities as a player lie.

When you're not being locked down in wide open spaces, you're usually fighting through cramped caverns and rooms where your maneuverability feels compromised, just in a different way. Having endured Congestion 1024, I'm not particularly pressured by this bag of tricks, but your mileage or lack thereof may vary. Slaughter-type scenarios intrude from time to time, filling all those previously open areas with demon hordes. MAP07 is almost pure in its pursuit of mass attack gameplay, and if you don't mind the shantytown-on-steroids to the north, you might hit this up for your slaughter fix. Eternal Doom fans will want to check out MAP06, a massive French chateau filled with monsters and some nice visual cheats. It's even on the light side as far as switch hunts go.

Memka outdoes himself as far as visuals go. The industrial areas are filthy and the slums of MAP01 and MAP05 look more realistic than they have any right to, reminding me of some of the bandit shitholes of Borderlands. Excepting the unintentionally hilarious wheels, the sector vehicles are about the best I've ever seen, and you're usually treated to a ton of moving parts that really bring home the factory environment. The time-travel areas are a nice shakeup; I was kind of hoping for more levels of this themed and expansive nature, and maybe Memka will put out more of this sort of stuff in the future. I'm not sure about the significance of the posters, though context clues lead me to believe that they're satirical in nature. I liked the musical selections, though I don't know about Kavinsky's "Roadgame". It just seems too... climactic, to me, for an opening track.

While its gameplay can be difficult to break into with its exasperating monster placement, I had fun with Bloody Steel. It has a few visual themes I haven't seen in Doom before (not that I've seen anywhere near everything that's been done in Doom) and the overall experience is a satisfying journey through present day, the past, and chronol chaos. I can see that Memka is a more versatile author than his Whitemare 2 selections, and it's cool to see another author that is devoted to creating adventure maps for Doom. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

by "Big Memka"

Memka starts things out with the closest thing I've played to a cover shooter in Doom in a long time. You battle your way through a visually striking steel shantytown where zombies are scattered and health is scarce, turning it into a cover shooter where you need to be a crack shot with the pistol, sniping away at your own snipers. There is a bunch of cover, and a few pitched fights, too. The berserk pack battle might get out of hand if you aren't used to punching demons, but death will probably come from a lack of health in the early game, after which you can pretty much strut back the way you came.

MAP02Underground Factory
Another work of Doom realism. The sector trucks and forklifts actually look pretty sharp, as does the cavern area. There's honestly not a whole lot of factory; most of the area is shipping / receiving. The more open areas are littered with snipers, with some more exacting gameplay in the smaller areas, like dancing with revenants and Hell knights while using the shotgun. There's an amusing little interlude with a barrel maze in the northern section of the map, though there isn't a lot of threat unless you just can't avoid pulling the trigger. The baron / arch-vile fight in the piston room to the northeast is a nice little fight. Nothing crazy memorable, though.

Blast FurnaceMAP03
This ornate map has a lot of height variation, particularly in the outdoor railway area, and a ton of moving parts in pretty much every location. All of that sector machinery can be overwhelming, but it gives an industrial ambiance which can trip you up while you're in the throes of combat. The action is based on finding and locating all three keys, located in various bits of the refinery. The outer area is textbook sniper suppression though most of the hitscanners and imps aren't that dangerous. I'd be more concerned with the revenants and other beefy monsters lurking in the eastern section's more congested areas. About the most threatening thing I faced was the wave of cacos plus pain elemental after the yellow key grab.

MAP04Alarm at Factory
This is a huge, exploratory industrial zone with some vaguely sandbox-style gameplay. After a tense, claustrophobic office crawl, you dump out into the main area, which has some impressive visuals as far as the electrical towers and working smokestacks go. You can explore in several directions, but your progression is gated off by the red and yellow key gates as well as a handful of barriers that section off the rest of the yard. I wandered around for awhile before realizing that the yellow key was in the river, but after that it was pretty straightforward, realizing of course that you'll have to return to some obvious progression points. There are some pretty cool pitched battles in your future, like a bog standard demon punch-out with some other monsters overlooking the action, and that central yard ambush, which has just the right amount of obstacles to make maneuvering tricky without being impossible. Grabbing the plasma rifle early is a must, though, especially considering the crowd of enemies that will be waiting for you after the ledge maze in the northeast area.

Horror in the MineMAP05
This map is a hybrid of a lot of stuff and actually manages to pull off the intended, intense atmosphere in its opening moments. Those sequenced lights are pretty ominous and the strip mine where you spend most of the early game has a sense of mystery due to the low lighting and perilous enemy placement. That swarm of monsters that chases you about when you grab the key are a rude wakeup call. After a fairly boring chokehold slaughter, you move on to the shantytown, kind of an echo of "Slume" but with horror houses to investigate and what turns out to be the secret UAC base in the basement of the church. Is that a Quake symbol on the Bible, or a wrench? Anyway, there are a couple of traps that might catch you off-guard with the close-quarters arrangement (like the two viles) but the slaughter that ends things can be circle-strafed into oblivion with a touch of delicate maneuvering and a lot of crowd control. Pretty neat adventure level.

MAP06Mixture of Ages 1 Part. 18th Century
Memka takes us back in time to what looks like a gorgeous chateau propped up with some visual cheats that's been populated by demons, with the stink of the UAC nearby. It's a rough map with some cheap shots like sniper monsters of varying types in pitch black windows but a lot of the indoor clusterfucks can be brushed aside with some careful maneuvering and doorway camping. The outdoor areas are trickier with a lot of player exposure. The backyard is the scene of two nasty fights. The dual arch-viles are just in a bad spot given all those window shooters. The blue key switch unleashes a slaughter that you'll have to survive until the BFG is given, after which it's a quick mop-up and then exit. A fun fight, though. I like that Memka included the image of hedge mazes without actually making them mazes. When I finished the level I couldn't figure out how to leave the front yard; turns out I'd missed a switch in the eastern hedge annex. That's your warning. A fun, long level.

Mixture of Ages 2 Part. 3th CenturyMAP07
The second tour of time hints of Rome but it's really just an enormous setting for a slaughtermap in five parts. The opening is a giant track coated with imps and other enemies with a Cyberdemon on the central structure. To the north, a bazaar with an oppressive opening that echoes the shantytown cover fire of the earlier maps, but with many more tiers of action. To the south, an enormous cavern that's a pain in the ass to clear with its sniper windows. The west is an obvious setup for an invul-fed BFG zerg where you have to seek and destroy the arch-viles if you want to survive. The cacodemon placement to the south is annoying, though. The east, the coliseum, is surprisingly light fare, but after all the shit you go through to get there, it's kind of a relief. The north section is about the hardest to break into, I think, and took me the longest to complete. I really like the western balcony Cyberdemon / revenant / Hell knight clusterfuck. Detailing and architecture are very neat, not that you have time to appreciate it with all the running you'll be doing.

MAP08The White Sea
Shit gets real in this psychedelic amalgam of themes past. There is a constant pressure in the form of the toxic swamp which has you looking for rad suits as you pick your way through these realms of hopeless exposure. The invul is a fairly obvious yet indispensable secret. The early game is pure attrition as you navigate the outer ring, but once you cross the way to the incinerator you make your way to slaughter-tier as you deal with noxious hordes and the dangerous claustrophobic garage. The finale is a drawn-out teleport ambush with a lot of room, the major players being two Spiderdemons that have intermittent cover, making them kind of tough to bring down. Once they're gone, though, you can pretty much take your time as long as you have a few spare rad suits. The ending in the belly of the beast is... cute, if nothing else.

The End of Bloody SteelMAP09
Bloody Steel's main story is over. Enjoy that crazy tear-in-the-sky effect. And, uh, move on to the bonus map, if you wish.

MAP10Circle of Death
This is a pretty straightforward more abstract level built in the image of some mines branching off a circular cavern that's part inside, part outside. The main gimmick is the circle, which is made almost entirely out of crushing ceilings, except for certain safe areas like monster-occupied alcoves and the holes in the ceiling. The rest of the level is built out of cramped, close-quarters gameplay, with a few very rude revenant fights, the ones guarding the switch to the south gate in particular. The northernmost room is lifted wholesale from Plutonia's "Congo". Well, not the fight itself.


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2014 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Going Down32in24-13Bauhaus
The Adventures of SquarePushBloody Steel
Back to Saturn X: Episode 2Rage CTFMayhem 2048
PlasmaplantBest Gameplay ModWhitemare 2
Shadows of ChronosDemonSteeleYou Dig
Monster Hunter Ltd. 1/2Mordeth AwardThe Wailing Horde
ResurgenceDoom 2 in Name OnlyReconstruction/
Mayan MishapMockawardDecomposition
Urban Brawl: Dead of WinterBrutalist Doom
Thy Flesh Turned Into a Draft ExcluderMapper of the Year


  1. I just finished this myself, it was my holdover WAD between finishing BTSX E2 and the DWMC starting Going Down. It seemed like something of a loveletter to 'Hell Ground' to me (there's one for your future itinerary, btw, I'd wager you'd quite enjoy it), e.g. a WAD with a story/diegesis that functions as a way of tying together a bunch of different maps that are vastly different in terms of both theme and gameplay style. Memka's actually a little more disciplined in Bloody Steel than Eternal was in that WAD as far as theme goes, and the overall sense of adventure is similar, but it was hard for me to overlook that Bloody Steel is quite a bit rougher around the edges. There are the recurring visual/construction errors (I think it's closest to working properly in GLBooM, but there are faults even there), a few pretty questionable instances of monster placement (e.g. certain hell knights in map 04 that are impossible to target without mouselook, a couple of gasbag swarms in map 07 that tend to get stuck wholesale in parts of the environment, etc.), and even the possibility to outright break a couple of maps by climbing/straferunning in ways Memka didn't intend. That last one bothers me a little more than it normally would, since the little bits of 'parkour' progression that he uses in places is one of my favorite things about the set. Still, despite the relative lack of polish, it's a decent mapset, but mark my words, there'll be vastly better/more well-realized stuff from Memka someday if he keeps mapping.

    1. very well said. im not exactly sure about the hell knights, iirc i managed to clear the whole map. are you talking about the dudes on the smoke stacks in the northeast side of the big outdoor yard? agree on the cacos though, especially in that big fight to the west. actually the reliance on caco swarms feels a little perfunctory since they pretty much close out every area clear.

    2. Yeah, the dudes on the smokestacks. Not being able to cleanly kill them isn't really the end of the world, of course (not like they're a very credible threat unless you stand still for half an hour at a stretch at just the wrong place on the opposite end of the map....), but it is indicative of that certain lack of polish. The way the gasbags in map 07 are used after every key-get seems off because the ones at the bazaar, which would otherwise be the most threatening given the terrain, can be ignored entirely, and the largest open space of all (thus the best venue for a BFG vs. big fleet scenario) in the tall water-canyon gets the piddliest injection of them.

    3. you can actually get on top of the smokestacks. i dont know when the secret triggers but you can run back into the building you came out of at the beginning and one of those doors will be open with a teleport up there. i think i found it open when the level was p much done though so it and the soul sphere up there are p much a waste

  2. These maps are pretty fun. Though I find the author went a little too far with the detailing.

    1. b-but it's got the most hyper-realistic vehicles made out of sectors to date! what's not to love???

    2. There are many times where I bump into little things, and certain details look a bit goofy, IMO.

      I dunno. I'm not usually a fan of raised limits detailing that goes into extreme sector/linedef usage.