Friday, August 21, 2015

Nuclear Halls (NUKEHALL.WAD)

by Adam "Capellan" Windsor

Adam Windsor has had a long, industrious career of having a hand in a bunch of classic WADs, including Demonfear. He was gone for awhile, but as of 2012's Community Chest 4 he's up to his old tricks. Nuclear Halls is actually a solo release, a single map for limit-removing ports that occupies the ol' MAP01 slot. I'm no stranger to the story, which has you as a lowly security guard at a nuclear waste facility who just wants to get away from the whole "Savior of Earth" thing and forget about Hell. Of course, if it were that easy, we wouldn't have thousands of user maps to play through. Pretty soon, your "guaranteed" gig is a colossal nightmare.

Nuclear Halls is a fairly oldschool map as far as action goes. Most of the early game is against Doom II trash enemies with revenants and nastier beasties arriving later on, with you battling entrenched mancubuses and arachnotrons in addition to the hitscanners prowling around. The health balance feels pretty tight on UV, but I may have just been a little careless. It's pretty easy to suffer from attrition in the early stages, especially with all the zombies that arrive after grabbing the red key. There are two big and beautiful ambushes, though, that add a more modern flair to the difficulty level.

The first occurs at a rather innocuous looking courtyard. Sure, there's a foreboding combat shotgun sitting out in the open, but who would pass up such a wonderful upgrade? And that's when a boatload of cacodemons swarm over the wall, with barons teleporting in to the doorway you just came from. With everything trying to crowd you out, you can either stick it out and make your own holes to dodge through - perhaps sneaking past the barons and out through the entryway - or continue into the treacherous northeastern wing of the complex which has monsters lurking in the dark, including another aerial ambush at the plasma gun. But at least you'll have a plasma gun!

The second battle is, where else, but at that wonderful opening hub area that echoes the start of E1M2 (with a similar homage to MAP02 in another location - and perhaps other homages elsewhere). There are some free roamers to trip you up on your way to the exit, but actually entering the room unleashes all sorts of nasties, like a plethora of revenants and commandos from what feels like several different directions. The layout of the main room makes it fairly easy for the monsters to sneak up on you what with that central structure, such that your situational awareness is paramount. Any difficulties you've had up until now will be exacerbated by the relatively strict health supply, so tread lightly.

Nuclear Halls may be limit-removing, but Windsor is not one to overdetail his levels. Rather, the shift seems like a gentle fuck-you finger to the oft arcane limitations of the vanilla executable. I'd do the same exact thing if I was making "classic" maps. The aesthetic is grimy and dark, but rarely pitch black. As hinted at in the name, it's sort of got a "Nuclear Plant" / "Underhalls" vibe going on, but most of the architecture has nothing to do with either, just some ankle-deep water and the starting area, which I'll add is a pretty fun shootout for a blind drop. Potentially hairy, but I had my fun.

Basically, Nuclear Halls is a solid Doom II map fielding a good number of monsters (250+) that should make for some fast run and gun (and possibly terrified huddling into corners) gameplay. If you don't mind taking a walk on the grimy side, then this may be the one for you.



  1. Thanks for the review. IIRC (it has been a few months since I looked at it), there are only two reasons that nukehall.wad isn't vanilla compatible:
    1. one generalised linedef; and
    2. use of the ability to set Things to be 'DM only' vs 'co-op only' in multiplayer

    1. ah, thanks for the clarification, and for the map!