Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Wailing Horde (WAILHORD.WAD)

by Chris Hansen

Chris Hansen was part of the millennial wave of Doom authors, earning a place in history as one of the contributors to 2002: A Doom Odyssey before launching his own, highly-lauded mapping career. The Wailing Horde is as of this writing his latest solo release, a single level for Doom's E2M1 that's meant (but not guaranteed) to be compatible with pretty much any port, with potential VPOs being the main exception for vanilla players. WAILHORD has no story; "Just kill everything and do it well!"

Chris has done a lot of work for OG Doom and he draws his own comparison to Rip It, Tear It, Smash It!, which I haven't played right now but am considering stepping up on my timetable. This is definitely a take on the "Shores of Hell" theme with its nonlinear layout, but the level is massive and crammed full of enemies, numbering in excess of four hundred. It's also too action-packed to emulate that "creepy" feel that some people tend to associated with Doom's second episode, not that there's anything wrong with that. If you're expecting anything atmospheric, though, prepare to roll in guns-a-blazing.

Hansen starts you off with a claustrophobic fight in the starting area, liberally doused with nukage, before sending you down a blind drop to confront the intricate labyrinth of layered hallways and rooms that comprises his main base layout, starting with a good look at your future objective - the red key. The early game hooks you immersion-wise with monsters lurking in the shadows and in up-close monster closets. Since you're new to the level's layout, there's some hesitance in every step as you never know when you're going to kick up another hornets' nest. There's also plenty of leeway as to where you want to start clearing, though all roads will eventually pass through the same major milestones.

The Wailing Horde is almost entirely about skirmish fights, with you rarely taking on any more than a handful of monsters at a time. Hansen does a decent job at positioning them so that they can sneak up on you, but if you're watching out you won't have much to fear from incidental combat. The most you'll ever see at one time is the massive influx of meat that happens toward the end of your tour in the main area, composed of pretty much every regular Doom monster. The lower walkway keeps most of them from coming at you, though, and once you've taken on your tier you can drop down to cleanse the gutter to make things safe before you go exactly where Hansen wants you to.

Another memorable fight for me was that pillar area to the midwest, but dropping some cacodemons into a room where it's hard to maneuver is always a great way to put pressure on the player, same with the wave of gasbags to the northeast. If anything I was a bit let down by the finale, but that's what happens if you tote the secret BFG and any great number of cells in with you. The two corners full of imps would be enough of a threat on their own in the ensuing crossfire, not to forget the final clutch of cacos. I'm not sure that the barons would be anything other than a timesink, given the open area.

I love big maps with a layout that you have to unravel, and Hansen delivers with all of the tricky routes required to reach all of the map's various areas, including some interesting use of teleport pads that work as walkover buttons. That he does this in a way that everything feels connected is to his credit. Throw in the constant flow of combat as you battle your way through and you have a tour of Deimos that keeps you completely occupied until the final evil is slain. And, uh, I'm gonna have to take a look back at Hansen's back catalog sometime soon, even if he considers this one of his top three works overall. Cool level, dude.


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. Chris Hansen as made quite a few maps in the OG Doom style:

    E1 style - CH Retro Episode (full 9-level episode), High/Low 1, Gamma Labs, Meek, Frontier Settlements Distress

    E2 style (in addition to this map) - Rip it Tear it Smash it!, High/Low 2

    E3 style - High/Low 3, Bloody Realms of Hell

    E4 style - High/Low 4

    1. this looks like a nice primer for whenever i go down this road

    2. Cross off the E2 style stuff and just replace it with Monument. There's updated versions of every E2 map he's made in there.

    3. It's your blog obviously but I don't get it...why write reviews of 8-13 year old versions of a bunch of maps when they've since been repackaged and updated?

    4. since "it's my blog" isn't cutting it, i'll offer something more thorough.

      monument isn't the only 2015 episode for doom that comes from rejiggered maps. both hadron and oblivion came from episodes you might think of as "inferior" products, and while both have been improved in some ways, there are some aspects i liked that were completely cut out, more so in oblivion. they are a snapshot of the author's sensibilities at a certain point in time and while the before and after are part of the same line of development, they are pretty different experiences. i don't imagine that chris hansen has done a lot of major retinkering in the original releases that you're asking me to kick to the curb, but I'd still like to see what he's done, rather than just brazenly assume that there isn't some aspect of the original that I would have enjoyed more than the "update"

      besides that, the format I have settled on for pwad reviews gives single maps what is usually an in-depth look that is not afforded to individual levels in multi-map releases. Hansen originally published these things as small packages (with the exception of the ADO level) and they'll get reviewed in a format as befits their debut. i would hate to link to High / Low 2 or RTS on series / cacoward tables and have them be buried in an episode review, and I would prefer not to write the longform reviews based on their updated appearances, which will confuse old players.

      this conversation reminds me of one i had following the release of Resurgence, which built off Surge. i am spending more time than i would like to thinking about and then talking about this dumb shit. stop talking about this dumb shit, please.

  2. I remember playing this before it was uploaded to the archive; it's nice and bloody in the interior and has some interesting room concepts (like the two-level pillar-forest in one of the screencaps). Does well to repopulate some of the early areas for the revisit, as well, although the last battle is a bit limp (granted, it's harder to make a good climax in OG Doom).

    It's an enjoyable map, as typical for Chris, but having played both the majority of his older work and the majority of his newer work, in stuff like The Wailing Horde I do miss the cutthroat edge that was usually more evident in his older stuff. Maybe there's some interesting commentary lurking somewhere there.....some of his older maps are fairly nasty because they do things that are somewhat more taboo these days than they were when these maps were contemporary (E3M6 of 2002ADO is the first example off the top of my head), one wonders what he might do if he partnered up with a modern purveyor of dickery, would be interesting to see.

    1. 2002ado has been mentioned so much in recent conversations that i feel compelled to move it to the short list, should be interesting to see hansen in his infancy

    2. His maps in 2002ado (all are in the style of the episode they're in): E2M2, E3M6, E4M3, E4M4, E4M5, E4M7. (Yes, fully 80% of his E4 style map library - all but High/Low 4 - is in 2002ado.)

      Some quality recent releases for Doom II he has made: C'mon I got Tigerblood!, High/Low 5, and Flay the Obscene Reversed (a remake/re-imagining of one of his older maps, but played backwards!).

      He also released a map for Doom's 21st but it didn't get to the archives (yet).

    3. hansen is one of those authors that i'd love to do more exhaustive work on. at the very least i am almost done with kurt kesler, which is another catalogue down.

  3. Hansen doesn't let Doom I restrictions stop him from turning up the heat here. This map, to say the lest, is large, tough, and excellent! E2 didn't get a whole lot of attention in 2014 but this level as well as Phobus' map for Walter (ph_walt.wad) are well worth the price of admission.

  4. This map has got some upgrades and been split into 3 maps (one is just the ending) in Chris' latest work 'Monument'. It's the only maps in Monument that come from anything you've already reviewed.