Sunday, March 29, 2015

KZDOOM2: Cacodemons Revenge (KZDOOM2.WAD)

by Kurt Kesler

First, there were the vanilla Kesler maps, collected in KMEGA1. Then came the KBOOM levels, which Kesler almost discontinued due to bitching about his mapping for Boom, but wisely ignored. Finally, KZDOOM, where Kurt fudges around with ZDoom's advanced features. KZDOOM2 is - duh - the second of Kesler's experiments, this one with the unusual distinction of a title - "Cacodemons Revenge". There's actually a tiny intro and outro to this effect, plus a seemingly never-ending trickle of big red balls, so as far as story goes Kesler has absolutely delivered, with the exception that the cacodemons do not get their revenge. You're the fuckin' Doom marine, after all. If you played KZDOOM1 and had your stomach turn at some of the monster and sound changes, don't despair. The only real thing change here is the faster shotgun.

Thematically, this level has strong echoes of Kesler's "Death Valley Fortress" from the 10 Sectors competition, in that you're doing a lot of fighting in a canyon and move in and out of some tech installations that are built into the walls. It's understandably more ornate given the lack of limitations with features like faux-3D with some floor trickery, a dam, and an enormous outdoor expanse where you'll take down many of the invading Hellspawn. It's also got some moving machinery plus swinging and sliding doors and feels very much like a fantastic Doom II level that's been truly enhanced with ZDoom effects rather than something heavily leaning on custom monsters and crude flash to disguise poor map design.

The map has two major areas. The industrial facility is loaded with claustrophobic battles where the combat shotgun shines as long as you're quick on those revenants. The great outdoors have regular mancubi plus the cacodemons, some of which will probably sneak up on you just from the sheer constancy of their assault. There are a lot of hitscanners, especially shotgunners, but all the health and ammo make them easy prey. I'd be more concerned about those mancubi, with ZDoom's quirks making the trees deadly obstacles when you start shooting that rocket launcher off. There's only one encounter I thought of as feeling dirty, right at the very end, but anyone who has trouble with skeletons in close quarters might need to knock the difficulty down.

Kesler doesn't get a whole lot of mileage out of some deep water, but it's there, along with tons of ambient noise effects. I'm wondering what he's going to pull in the rest of his ZDoom series, especially if he steps outside his techbase comfort zone. Someone of his talent could be... dangerous. If you're looking for "enhanced" Doom II levels but hate all the custom monsters and weapons, you should try this out.

This article is part of a series on
Kurt Kesler's KZDoom series


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