Friday, November 7, 2014

Countdown to Extinction (TICKTOCK.WAD)

Obsidian spends a lot of time organizing the Abyssal Speedmapping sessions. As I recall, the Abyss was the home of some of the NewDoom expatriates, so it's nice to see some small part of that spurned community live on in its own fashion. Anyway, it's no wonder that someone knee deep in the speedmaps would build a speedmapped megaWAD. Where wunderkids like Khorus and Valkiriforce made each of their levels over the course of a few days, though, Obsidian knocked out each of these little offerings in one hour, tops. The final product is Countdown to Extinction, a full replacement of the Doom II megaWAD... with really tiny levels.

Even a mapset this micro has a plot. Since Hell can't beat you in a head-on invasion, they've taken to using "entropy bombs" seeded across the world. If even one manages to explode, it will spread the reality-altering evil taint across the planet, obliterating all that is good in the world. Unfortunately, it's a race against time, as all of the bombs are counting down and if even one emerged from the Stygian chaos there are sure to be others along the way. Your task, then, is to disarm the bombs already on earth, and then find the source in the bowels of Hell so as to destroy it.

TICKTOCK is a very fast play full of setpiece-style maps, many of which have clear gimmicks. Some of them are pretty easy and a few are right bastards to fight your way through. They're... really ephemeral, kind of like a series of challenges rather than "proper" levels. I prefer maps that are a bit longer than Countdown's, but Obsidian does a good job at holding your attention all the way through with vanilla special effects and maps like "Immolate" (MAP21) where you must hold your own against an arch-vile until you are given the tools to defeat him. The architecture and detailing are far from sub-par, but the tight areas and time limit means that they're rarely distinguished.

Still, it's a fun series of levels if you're not going in expecting epic adventures, and how could you at sixty minutes an entry? While I'm not a fan of super-tight speedmaps Obsidian clearly demonstrates that he has a lot of talent and craft that he continues to hone. Maybe he'll up the time limit the next time he starts counting down. See you next mission!

by "Obsidian"

A ho hum entryway, staffed by a handful of zombies to kill and a few imps, all by pistol. Nothing very threatening. The 3D bridge is a nice detail. I ponder the point of the switch room; it seems like there could be some kind of computer console in there.

MAP02The Yard
Something a bit rougher in this nondescript inner sanctum. Obsidian ups the damage factor by exposing you to zombie attack from several different locations, though the health and munitions means that you're not in any real danger unless you do something really stupid in a cage full of imps. There's too much room for the demon / cacodemon trio to really threaten, but it's MAP02 after all. Lots of blinking back and forth.

The DatabaseMAP03
This mainframe offers another welcome step up in difficulty, and very much so. Revenants and surprise chaingunners add some much needed tension when the levels are this small. Demons put pressure on you while on the ground while the group of monsters chilling on the database itself confuse you on a higher tier of action. The commando pit was a nasty but fun trick.

A heavily trap-based tech morsel which is built around laying down suppression fire on arachnotrons so that they don't toast you with plasma fire. No chaingun means you have to be semi-competent about dodging revenant rockets, considering the pair occupying the exit room. Throwing all that meat at you in the opening is a good kickstarter.

It took me a bit before I figured out the bit with the computer cores. Anyway, this map has the first major stumbling block, that Hell knight / zombie / demon fight in the basement with the arachnotron overseer. Getting baby brain to spark some infighting seems like a crapshoot investment with the cramped space down there and you with the lil' ol' shotgun. It does lead to some tense failures, though.

MAP06Time Bomb
I don't think that there's actually a time bomb in this little installation but the monsters aren't thick enough for it to really matter. It doesn't hurt to play fast, at least. The red key on a timed switch platform is a cute touch. The real draw is the bomb, though, which has two switches that detonate the bomb and one that disarms it, revealing an angry arch-vile you you then have to play peek-a-boo with around the bomb, which is way less dangerous than it sounds.

Seven monsters for the seventh slot level; as you exit the installation, Hell strikes back, it seems. The only way you'll tank here is if you hit the switch before grabbing all the items. Well, the mancubus crossfire at the end is a little tricky, but the obvious soul sphere secret should give you plenty of wiggle room to stunlock the first two fatsos and then use the shotgun on the bulks up top.

Uh, it's another tech installation but the approach is a little different, with some trench warfare you'll want to indulge in to avoid getting sniped. Nothing serious, mind you, just some imps and zombies. There's not a whole lot that will ruin you here if you're using cover excepting maybe the revenant in the yellow switch room but I like the opening sequence.

This is another tech installation but involves fun time with teleporters, where picking the wrong one leads to some kind of a trap. If you guess right on one of them you'll miss out on the best fight Obsidian has packed in here, where the bottom falls out and some shotgun guys and a mancubus storm in. The pain elemental duo is more grindy than anything when you're stuck with a lowly shotgun.

A little tech arena that is navigated solely by rockets, which makes the opening parallel packs of demons a tricky situation. Once they're handled, though, it's smooth sailing, even if the east half is under the duress of revenant rockets.

The VortexMAP11
Another rocket-centric map, though it opens up with an elevator gimmick into the descent of the base where you chainsaw spectres in a crowded space. After that it's a quick blow through imps before engaging the main battle, where switches unleash monster waves into a very crowded ring with the exit teleporter at the center. With the available space and the rocket launcher, you may be in for a few rude surprises.

A more naturalistic look, this time, in a canyon attached to a short cavern complex. The opening is a nice warm-up but all of the fun is in the red rock teleporter room, which spits out an arch-vile after a few imps and a Hell knight, and you're stuck trying to avoid wasting ammo on the Hell knight while taking careful potshots at the vile. The three-revenant finish is a more straightforward threat.

A little castle-type outpost packed with a bunch of claustrophobic ambushes. The melee with the revenant and imps is the best of the fights, as I'm not that threatened by the spectres in the basement, and the arch-vile down the stairs is more about endurance given his spectre meatshields. Best change here is the debut of the combat shotgun, I think.

MAP14Black Books
This tiny library needs some luck and some guts. You've got to race past the arch-vile and some imps to collect the SSG, then try to kill it without waking up the revenants, who are then fought in relatively close quarters. It's all smiles after that, at least until you have to escape the two viles that teleport back into the library. The added revenants the ground floor one resurrects will make things... interesting.

Blackened BooksMAP15
A semi-cinematic level with more cramped, claustrophobic battles. It's got another dual arch-vile fight for the finale, feeling like a boss fight with all that meat just lying around for them to resurrect. One wouldn't be bad; I guess it takes two to tango. The real fun is in the little cinematic bits as one of the library sections explodes, leaving burning embers, and in another you fall into a (very small) lower level.

Plutonia MAP01 in a nutshell, basically. Unfortunately it's a big long grind since you're stuck with the shotgun until the Cyberdemon showdown, making stuff like the Hell knights and baron a tepid experience. At the very least, the surprise shotgun trap makes for an interesting opening rumble.

The gimmick - race the lowering water level to grab all of the powerups that are revealed in sequence. When you know where all the stuff is, you might actually have to wait until the table lowers far enough to start running again. None of the powerups are strictly necessary for the finale but they'll help you out and let you take out the monsters in the first part. The ending is two cadres of revenants and a Spiderdemon, best solved with a little infighting and a lot of plasma spam.

This mineshaft is quickly falling apart. Or at least, it sounds that way. There's a lot of shotgun / chaingun action with the best fight being the first visit to the blue key room, unless you think coming back and killing a handful of demons and then a Spiderdemon with a rocket launcher is riveting.

Cave InMAP17
Oh, well, it looks like it really WAS caving in. And, uh, it still is. This level is a combat shotgun blastathon augmented by tons of crushing ceilings. It's not that nasty; the worst things you'll run into are hitscanners, first with the blind drop to the next area and second with some commandos that pop out of a crumbling wall. I like the imp rush at the end, which almost forces you back into that collapsing tunnel.

MAP18Steel Trap
After fucking this up, I remembered some talk about the level and realized what gimmick I had missed. It's a trappy metal map with a cool crusher room that pins you down with three shotgun / imp trios to work at in between crusher rounds. The big feature is an arch-vile jump, which you can do one of two ways. The first is into the teleporter, where you get to solve the puzzle that fills in the gap. The second is to just jump the gap like a boss, which I did when I didn't kill the arch-vile on my second go.

Another bomb map, and a pretty easy one at that... unless you can't find the super-obvious invul sphere secret. Then, uh, you might have an issue. The cage gives you plenty of cover to take out the upper tier in the beginning, so I wouldn't be too worried about starting the mayhem off.

A dark metal arena that's all about the BFG zerg. The most important thing you have to do is kill one vile and then kill the other, after which you're basically golden. Obsidian pulls a dirty trick with the blur sphere to start the Cyberdemon fight, but if you found the megasphere (probably not with that action-packed beginning), you can afford a little reckless behavior.

This crypt has a cute gimmick where you have to survive the wiles of an arch-vile until you unlock the shotgun so that you can do what you do best. At its height, you're slow-dancing around a pillar as all four layers lower so that you can get the key. He can be a little sneaky as he approaches the final confrontation but the end is just pillar-humping him into oblivion.

Another visit to the library, this one having a much more Hellish bent to its appearance. It's a little punchy with a prime opportunity for pain elemental melee action. My favorite fight is the one with the revenant and chaingunners since it looks so dicey at first. Obsidian uses the blur sphere for nefarious means again with that wall of barons but the single shot with the BFG should speed things up for those among us that gotta go fast.

Mortal ProcessingMAP23
Unless you have some kind of crippling inability to manage pain elementals, this is a pretty easy level that combines wood with gore to create an interesting arena in which you'll eventually battle a Cyberdemon, a fight made slightly demanding due to the awkward room layout since you have to be mindful of that raised area to the north.

Uhhh, maybe Obsidian wanted this to be harder, but the arch-vile ran up the stairs into the opening hallway so he wasn't worth shit. The hardest thing in the map is the mancubus / Hell knight fight in the basement and even that is pushing it. I am guessing he was going for a sweet arch-vile / zombiman combo but it hamstrung itself. The angry mouth that spit revenant rockets back at me was much more interesting.

There's a cute visual gimmick where the Hellish crater changes shape as you progress, reminding me of "Prestidigitation" from Icarus. I like the fights, with the plasma rifle frenzy after grabbing the yellow key working the best (there's always an arch-vile) and dealing with the pain elemental behind the Hell knights at a close second.

MAP26Tread Lightly
Don't get cocky! This spooky level is all about building atmosphere until you wake up all the baddies. The graveyard attack and pain elemental are easily fended off for any player worth his or her salt. The four arch-vile surprise is a different thing entirely, though. If all else fails, they can't come down the stairs, so you should be good down there.

Danse MacabreMAP27
Another tricks and traps-ish scenario in Hellish randomness. The demons in the basement kind of caught me off-guard but they're not that bad. The arch-vile is pretty ineffectual, too. The real threat is the end of level battle where Cyberdemon dodging gets a bit tricky in both avoiding splash damage and moving past if he decides to cross over to your side.

MAP28Hellfire Compound
Rockets and arch-viles abound in this tiny slice of infernal metal Hell. The only thing you have to fear is splash damage, particularly in the final area where hitting the viles on the close ends tend to push you back behind the walls you're using for cover.

Run Like Hell!MAP29
You just have to blitz through this obstacle course and hopefully have enough health to avoid getting cooked on your way to the Cyberdemon showdown, where the invul should make short work of things. Running across those pillars is the hardest part, especially with the lurking lost souls.

MAP30The Architect
The bossmap has a pretty difficult section with a shit ton of arch-viles you have to beat back before raising the field of battle to the boss platform. The architect summons rotten bastards just like the boss shooter, plus shoots rockets and spams mancubus fireballs. He dies like anything else, though, with appropriate weapon spam. The only hard part is not knowing when monsters pop up to eat your rockets.


  1. Oh wow, thanks for the review Kmx! I'm glad you enjoyed yourself, and rest assured that I'll bump up the mapping time from now on. :)


  2. For such short build time a lot of these maps are pretty fun while they last. It's the type of wad I will just pick up and play a level or two from when I feel like some very short maps.

    1. yeah, tho i get more mileage from larger levels, its fun to have popcorn doom around when you need it