Monday, August 3, 2015

Return to Hadron (HADRON.WAD)

Doomworld Forum superstar Cannonball made a huge splash in 2013 with a megaWAD for the original Doom, titled ConC.E.R.Ned. The whole thing was an outgrowth of Powell practicing mapping, starting out with an E1 theme (CBSPEED) and then moving on to E2 and E3. After finishing his run at E4 in 2014 - Thy Flesh Turned Into a Draft Excluder - the author decided to go back and retool the first episode. And now, we have Return to Hadron, another limit-removing episode one replacement for Doom, released in 2015. It's just more good news for those players with a distaste for the expanded bestiary of Doom II.

The story isn't a replacement for the first episode of ConC.E.R.Ned. It's actually a sequel. I guess the reality-altering properties of the hadron-collider-turned-device-that-tears-open-reality-to-usher-in-the-newest-wave-of-invasion-by-Hell had some effects following the previous story. That marine is still trapped in Hell, or something, though. Here's another nice mess that they've gotten you into. Toxic waste is practically everywhere; it's even flowing from the peaks of the nearby mountains. It's obvious from all the defender-bending  that the first guy didn't exactly finish his job, so you're the clean-up crew.

Return to Hadron is an odd duck, coming from someone who experienced Cannonball's growth as an author through all three episodes of CONCERN to make the stunning DRAFTEX. So many of Draft Excluder's levels are based around solid gameplay hooks while the former reserved its paradigm-breaking funsies for stuff like the secret maps and the finales. Hadron develops the clean E1 style with more advanced architecture, nukage, and some powerful gimmicks. Cannonball even eschews the big, sprawling bases that were my favorites to explore in CONCERN's E2 and E3. I mean, sure, you get the hitscanner heavy "Withered Gardens" and "CB Reactor INC", but neither reflect the slow-cookers that numbered among my more memorable moments.

Three levels are what I'd call arena-style. "Prototype" gives the player a lot more room to horse around in, since its monsters are introduced through teleports and sequential closets in a wave-style arrangement. "Gateway Lab" is complete mayhem from beginning to end, though, forcing blind players to hunt for weapons in a haze of panic, eventually making some sort of a stand until the worst of the invasion is over. "The IMP Crowd" is somewhere in between, since it's a bit less open than E1M9 and the two tiers of play - the pit housing the fountain and the column-bedecked upper floor - make it easier for enemies to hem you in and surprise you.

"Nukage Disaster", E1M2, is a true anomaly, having no ancestors in the original lineup. It's more substantial than E1M1, which works as a scene setter but is otherwise unremarkable. I think its true strength is to show the first rumblings of Powell's overwhelming monster ambushes and work to develop the setting with the lovely nukage-filled valley and those imposing silos in the distance. E1M3 is then where the true action of Hadron begins, throwing the player into all kinds of instant ambushes - just add monsters! The most off-putting thing you might encounter, beyond all the massive waves of Doom enemies, is the final encounter, which is probably baron poison.

It's a cool consolation prize for those who loved the later levels of ConC.E.R.Ned but couldn't reconcile with the megaWAD's humble origins. If you liked the originals, then good news! Powell isn't eliminating them. They will forever be part of his original Doom trilogy. For those that have been waiting to see what Cannonball would do after stamping E4 in his image, there's Return to Hadron.

by Matt "Cannonball" Powell

The BreachE1M1
A nice intro to some E1 action. It's all Doom trash and speedily dispatched with the shotgun, but Cannonball makes things interesting with some barrel placement for some explosive action. He does a good hand at making the playing area less flat, though the main bit of progression is comically enough a ledge Doomguy should be able to just climb up. I dig the trench. Hiding monsters in the muck in the final area is a good surprise.

E1M2Nukage Disaster
And now for something completely different! This is a pretty cool level based around a toxic canyon that's overlooked by three huge towers, or nukage silos. Probably nukage silos. There are a bunch of low grade snipers and some other things to distract you as you make your way toward safe ground on the other side, but the action is pretty light until you get the red key, which ushers in a wave of cacodemons on one end and shotgun guys on the other.

Toxic TreatmentE1M3
This level gets a much needed tuneup. The bottom tier is still empty but it builds a little atmosphere until a bunch of shit running around on top. Sneaking through the secret nets you a chaingun and a berserk pack, which should speed things up vs the imps and demons. Several sniper points of shotgun guys keeps you on your toes. Powell has two big ambushes to endure. I like the dynamic of the red key fight since the cacodemons close in across the pit which prevents you from just standing in the center and chipping away at the demons and specters. The battle for the yellow key switch is basically rocket hazard claustrophobia. The outdoor area and all the crushers / machinery are great additions.

Very much improved. The wheel layout is retained, but Cannonball turns it into one giant arena where the stakes get progressively higher as you open up more and more chambers, starting with the big curtain drop. There are ample rockets to be had, so smiting the clouds of cacodemons and the eventual barons that finish the map out should go by pretty smoothly. The main thing is making sure that you sort all those zombies out while you run around or you'll just get attritioned to death. Dig those different if functionally similar outdoor areas around the periphery.

Withered GardensE1M4
This level improves upon the chaos of the original by diversifying the threat. There are a lot of monsters prowling around the grounds besides shotgun guys, and there's a cute detail where the ones guarding the rocket launcher compound spawn lost souls once they die. Since it's pell mell packs of Doom enemies, there isn't much to say beyond keep your head down and your feet moving. Well, the baron closet at the crusher trap was a nice scare, and the pincer attack at the yellow key is pretty dangerous. I like that the outdoor area feels more naturalistic and that the buildings on the edges have been... developed. No more conference table, though. Rats.

E1M5The IMP Crowd
I adore Mark Klem tracks, so Cannonball is already ahead through song choice alone. This level retains its huge central area but the new design gives you more cover to hide behind... and more ways for enemies to sneak up on you. The opening has the chaos of "Withered Gardens", while the reliance on the central area for repeat battles evokes "Prototype". The giant pit with fountain is tougher to navigate, though. The east and west wings have some decent fights, with an outdoor trip for a plasma rifle to the east. All of the best action is in re-clearing the center room, though.

Gateway LabE1M6
A pretty thorough redesign. It's pretty easy to break by getting the shotgun guys to blow the barrels up for you. I can't see this as being anything but intentional, though. It's a calm before the storm map, since pressing the switch behind the blue key bar unleashes Hell, with a ton of gateways opening up to flood the level with all kinds of monsters. Sure, there's only one Cyberdemon and a few scattered barons, but the cacodemons alone are enough to put a considerable amount of pressure on the player. Survival will be tough if you don't know (1) where the plasma gun is and (2) where the rocket launcher is. I guess (2) is more important, since you can kind of sit back and lay down suppression fire until you've cleared out most of the monsters on the upper tier. The plasma gun area has a secret chain that grants access to the BFG, though, which will make the majority of the clearing much, much faster. If you don't exploit the shotgun zombies, it's quite action-packed.

E1M7CB Reactor INC
Powell knocks it up a notch with this large, monster-infested level. He's retained some of the most striking areas from "Reactor" and put his own particular spin on the new layout. The opening shootout has you ducking from area to area as you explore, fight, and grab some ammo and weapons. There's a chance you might get pinned down by some cacodemons as you roam, but quick players should be able to squeeze past them. Once you get comfy, you can entertain grabbing either one of the blue or red keys. You'll need both to unlock the yellow as well as the secret BFG, which should make the finale - a flood of cacodemons from two directions and a Cyberdemon for good measure - a bit easier to handle. The big key ambushes to the east and west are more or less the same, composition-wise, but you trade space for safety as the more open area requires some rad suits while the more restricted places no such timer on the player. Oh, and the nukage area has a bunch of barons just waiting to engage. Pretty cool map.

Collider ControlE1M8
The finale is pretty atmospheric, as there's a healthy amount of area before the boss fight. It's one Spiderdemon in the center and about thirty barons that come in from an outer ring that's initially hidden. It's pretty easy to get the barons to kill the Spider, but you'll still need decent crowd surfing skills to make sure they bunch up around the central pit and not up on you. Then it's just the long, slow process of taking them out with your weapon of choice.

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2015 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
SunlustDon't Be a Bitch RemasteredDoomed Space Wars
ErkattäññeChaosCore CTFCrumpets
SkulldashBest Gameplay ModPrime Directive
Swift DeathDoomRL ArsenalPinnacle of Darkness
BreachMordeth AwardOl' No Name
ValiantChaosCore CTF32in24-14
50 Shades of GraytallMockaward
Sheer PoisonInstaDoom
dead.wireMapper of the Year
Return to Hadrondannebubinga


  1. I find it interesting how cannonball seems to take a pretty different approach with each of his episodes (compare this to Draft Excluder and the gameplay is definitely not the same) but nonetheless his maps remain pleasing including stout entries into recent/currently ongoing community projects.

    1. i definitely feel like i know what a "safe" powell map is vs. his use of strong gameplay hooks

  2. Awesome episode, just wanna say that Cannonball in my eyes is currently the best in dw at making sandbox maps. Looking forward to his next thingie, whenever that comes out.

  3. Thought I posted on here before but must have not gone through.

    Anyways, part two (in sequential order by release date) of the 'trinity' of UDOOM episodes this year re-imagined from earlier work by the same author. It's hard to believe we have three just this year because I don't even think there is one a year on average. I can't know if the idea came from Resurgence, Oblivion (it's an earlier release date), the DWMC play of Concerned, or any combo between the three. I do suspect though Resurgence played a big role in getting this trend started. And I'd never mind to see more; there's no shortage of old efforts by authors that could be improved overall when done in the author's modern style.

    1. i believe that cannonball was mostly motivated by the DWMC's playthrough. i doubt that resurgence had any real influence. the true inspiration is an ubiquitous desire to go back and retouch things that disappoint you in retrospect. paul has done this with a lot of his oldest releases, but the scale is a bit smaller there since his edits are mostly cosmetic rather than completely re-drawing and re-imagining them. i agree about authors going back and expounding upon old work, but only because it brings something new to the table. the older stuff is still out there, you might argue for worse. but i will never call it the new stuff the "improved" version.

  4. Another award for cannonball here! I have to say I was a bit more surprised this made the final cut than I was with 2014's Draft Excluder, but it's definitely a well done episode if you like the gameplay style and much more 'spicy' feeling than the rather generic original.

    1. hadron was the one award alfonzo was dying to give and he was totally willing to fight for it, which is cool, since he's usually not that passionate in the judging booth. i had no interest in fighting, of course, since i also liked hadron.

    2. I can sure tell what Alfonzo thought when seeing his write-up! and as you said it's clear by this review that you, at bare minimum, like the episode as well even if you feel Oblivion (the other 'remake' episode) was just as good.