Thursday, July 9, 2015
UAC Secret (UACECRET.WAD)
Lainos is hands-down one of my favorite Doom authors of all time. I love huge levels, and I love maps that you have to twist and turn like a Rubik's Cube. He's been taking it easy since 5till L1 Complex, though, preferring to release the occasional short, experimental level. UAC Secret, released in 2015, is something of a return to form. While not the ginormous sort of map that I was hoping for, It's still pretty big, and all the secrets and switchbacks will pad the length out for a good bit. This is a MAP01 replacement for any limit-removing port that can also play back .OGG files; the author's preferred port is the port of choice for Mother Russia, that being PrBoom-Plus.
There isn't really a story. There's a throwaway line about you having just arrived at the UAC Secret Base, which is apparently loaded down with secrets that you're about to uncover. There are a lot of aspects to the facility that you're going to encounter, like a frozen terrarium complete with snowmen; a prison wing complete with guard tower and graveyard; a hospital wing and a dissection lab where they've been experimenting on Hellspawn; and an outdoor yard where the demons are free to roam. There is a LOT to see and do, tons of inter-connectivity, and a bunch of references that you may not get unless you're familiar with the author. The Clan [B0S] symbol figures pretty prominently; I'm guessing that Lainos is just trying to carry on the spirit since the informal organization is now defunct.
UAC Secret isn't exactly hard. Your most precious resource is health, which depending on how you handle certain encounters, could put you in some pretty precarious situations. There's one berserk pack and one soul sphere floating around and, like, a Brazilian soda cans. Ammo starts out pretty tight, but as you open up secrets you'll build up some momentum. The most dangerous fight in the early game pits you against two pain elementals, which could suck up a ton of munitions depending on how you handle yourself. There's an early chainsaw available, which affords plenty of opportunities to conserve ammo. Knowing the earliest possible moment you can grab the rocket launcher and plasma rifle is pretty handy, since they're incredibly useful weapons in this map. There's also the secret combat shotgun, but that's one of the easier puzzles to solve.
Lainos does a pretty good job at making the most of his arch-viles. The first one you'll fight is one of the worst, since it's at a choke point where you're liable to get other monsters that it will happily resurrect, with you having a limited number of shells until you can bust in. The one in the piping room isn't much better, but you've got a little more cover to play around with and most of the stuff he's going to be bringing back are shotgun guys, so it's probably a net gain. The rest offer some pressure, but you should be well enough off by the time you fight them that you can rest a little easier. I'd be more concerned about navigating through revenant rockets in the big outdoor yard in the midwest or the various cacodemon clusterfucks you'll have to endure in the mideast section.
There is a constant atmosphere of the self-aware that permeates the level. The soundtrack, which apparently comes from a visual novel game released on the Playstation 2, feels oddly appropriate. It's upbeat, bouncy, and has snatches of something that sounds secret...ish. There's also a secret in the graveyard that reveals, among other things, that Lainos believes that friendship is magic. I'm not sure what to make of the graffiti in the prison proper. And, uh, there are a lot of UAC marines that are just watching you like a bunch of creepers. It isn't clear whether they're trapped, or observing, or who knows what. Lastly, there's a Levelord-type message for the cheaters in the audience. I can't read the Russian that frames the fuck-you finger, but the intent is clear, especially since absconding with the megasphere in a normal fashion (which why would you even try if you're cheating) will result in being placed in jail, where you will perish. Not that I'm a cheater, per se. I just had to see what would happen.
As is usual for Lainos there is a lot of eye-candy to go around, whether it's in all the foliage that surrounds the level, stuff like the goofy goo floating in the tubes, or that gorgeous glass floor in the rocket launcher room, which is accomplished by a pretty ingenious cheat. Speaking of glass, I got stuck in the penultimate room. I guess there's more to flipping those switches in the monster chambers than meats the eye, because once I got the console raised that opens up the Cyberdemon cage, pressing it resulted in the HOM described in the "Bugs" section of the .TXT. After mashing the use key on the switches one more time, I found that one of them had some kind of inaudible trigger function I hadn't yet activated, which then let the Cyberdemon fight proceed as normal. My advice is to mash the use key until you hear Doomguy grunting.
UAC Secret is just what the doctor ordered, a theme level with tons of silly sights and puzzles to unravel. I'm glad that Lainos has not yet given up on Doom. Hopefully, there'll be more of this sort of thing in the future. I've heard that there's a bad moon on the rise...