Friday, May 8, 2015

Hoover Dam (HOOVER.WAD)

by Michael Reed

Early Doom authors often looked without for inspiration as much as they looked within. For every slavish reinterpretation of Knee Deep in the Dead, you had people making their own houses, work places, etc.. Michael Reed went big with this one, building his level after the Hoover Dam, on the borders of Arizona and Nevada perched upon the Colorado River. It's a pretty big MAP01 replacement for Doom II, published in 1995. The thrust is that the demonspawn have given to Eco terrorism, infesting the Dam facilities with the intent to bust it wide-ass open. You who are filled with nationalistic pride must confront the insurgents and reclaim... a reclamation structure.

Most of this level is bisected by the valley resulting from the dam. It's a lot of dead space, but you're free to ignore it as you work your way up the north and south cavern complexes in your bid for control. The dam does look pretty cool and I like the naturalistic scenery. It's just odd to have pretty much nothing to do in the valley itself besides maybe pick up some stimpacks if you get scratched or take the teleporter back up if you get clumsy and fall off. And you might, depending on how brazenly you move around on those ledges. It wouldn't hurt to be cautious since the only snipers you really have to worry about are imps.

Hoover Dam is basically a "Living End"-lite. Your major goal stands before you - the top of the dam - and all of the level progression takes place along the outer edges of the body of the level, with the valley serving as a more forgiving no-man's land. Once you get into the artificial structures that jut off the tunnels, things get more abstract, since Reed saw fit to avoid most of the actual mundanities of hydroelectric power production. The closest thing he has is some unholy conglomeration of generators (that are pistons) and control room, but if I started railing against Doom levels for not being realistic enough, I'd be arguing for the rest of my life. There are a few cool cinematic features as you play, the main one being one of the ancillary structures of the dam beginning to collapse into an ominous, Hellish fissure.

It isn't that difficult a map, especially since every major weapon is found in an arsenal near the start, but when Reed hits, he hits you hard. One of the nastiest bits is the big brown maze to the northwest, which is filled with lots of trash monsters but has a few close encounters with bigger monsters. The pain elementals aren't bad, but the revenants can throw a wrench in any of the 64-wide hallways you encounter them in. The caco-ridden climax on the top of the dam is actually pretty lite fare, excluding the arch-vile, which could quickly turn the fight into a save-or-die situation depending on how much health and armor you carried up there. I can't imagine having any real trouble with it, though, unless you are a serial bumbler. The only other encounter that sticks out in my mind is the barrel-ridden concrete spiral, basic but that's mostly due to potential hitscanners raining lead from on high and is pretty simple when taken at a leisurely pace.

Hoover Dam is a pretty cool Doom II level that attempts to target a more realistic setting and it kind of succeeds, even if the whole thing falls apart the moment you abandon the main vista. It's certainly worth a shot excepting those of you that are highly allergic to ancient Doom. It's worth a look, at least, if only for the main shot of the dam.



  1. The first PWAD I ever played... There's some memories; such as being so impressed that something like this could be done that I wanted to do so myself. A true classic, IMHO! -Phobus

    1. It's definitely good; it's got me interested in checking out the rest of Reed's work, too

  2. IIRC this wad was highlighted in an early PC gamer magazine. I compiled all of Reed's doom works into Mreed_K.wad and played it with 1-life survival online in Zandronum. We actually found the maps fairly difficult. The author seems to love large groups of hitscanners, and the monster count was always in the 300s (sometimes dipping 400). Was a blast, even if we had to skip the "rabbit hole" map.

    Oh and naturally the compilation was loaded with a personal collection of hip hop midis in HIPHOP.wad. Any time I host a wad with default music, we explore another midified genre of tunes. This particular map got "Changes" by Tupac.