Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Black Magnetic (BLACKMV13.WAD)

by "Angry Saint"

Daniel Gimmer's 2015 Doomja Vu contest resulted in six brand new levels based on a sort of deconstruction of "Computer Station"'s (E1M7) layout. But, well, "level" hardly describes any of these offerings. Angry Saint's Black Magnetic is still Doom to the core, but with some important differences in gameplay based on his custom bestiary, and looking very different due to widespread 3D floors and almost exclusive use of Pawel Zarcynski's NMN Corporation textures. The end result is a pretty unique experience that reminds me of Enjay's Gene-Tech, insofar as it's a microcosm distilled into a single map.

The story seems pretty familiar, with a twist that I didn't expect. The enigmatic NMN Corporation has been fooling around with shit that they shouldn't be; specifically, they're performing experiments with demonic genetic material, though the genetic material in question is still somewhat intact. This usually ends up in monsters taking over the entire base, but on this particular occasion NMN is the Gallant to the UAC's Goofus and they seem to have their illicit work under control, with no horrible demonic invasion in progress. That said, messing with demons is a no-no, and the Space Marine organization has sent you to put an end to it.

The most important aspect of Black Magnetic is that most of the enemies you will run into are hitscanners - the actual NMN Corporation guards. You need to have a tactical approach in mind or you'll get swiss-cheesed to death by bullets and while there is quite a bit of health laying around (plus enemies drop health and armor bonuses), it's not enough to allow you to play recklessly. The corner is your best friend, since the shotgun will do most of your work at the beginning, and the chaingun equivalent can't hope to consistently stunlock the troopers. Some of the soldiers are pretty clever, refusing to budge from their superior positioning. Some of them drop grenades on death that explode into radial shrapnel. On the whole, it's pretty dangerous.

While the pulse machinegun didn't seem worth a shit unless mowing down a group of the pistol-equivalent guards, the shotgun and super-shotgun perform admirably, and there's a semi-secret devastator that should make the most difficult fights of the level a cakewalk. The few encounters with projectile-monsters - modified imps, the white troopers, and the boss monsters - come as a bit of a relief when you've got strafing in your blood. While Saint's use of 3D floors starts out as pretty static, I thought all the pop-ups (false floor compartments rising up to reveal enemies) were pretty cute.

The three-dimensional layout of the level is... pretty confusing, as only true geometry can be. I had a devil of a time figuring out how to get to the various segregated tiers since the layout when coupled with incumbent enemies distracting you leads to some total self flim-flams. That said, once you eventually wrap your brain around the way the level is structured, it's pretty easy to get around. The structure of the base is pretty solid and I dig the little bits of colored lighting. I also like how Saint mixes up the setting by breaking up the base segment with another journey to the outdoors / crate storage area. Oh, and that little bit of ambient scripting with the steam tunnel.

Black Magnetic is a pretty cool little adventure. You don't often get the chance to duke it out almost exclusively with hitscanners, which comes as a wakeup call when you're used to Godlike mobility, and the presentation feels like a slice of an entirely different game. It's great to see the competition thus far as abandoning any pretensions of resembling classic Doom, not that I dislike it, but because there is an infinitude of untapped imagination out there.


This post is part of a series on
Realm 667's Doomjá-vu competition

Mouldy Old VoidPut Up Your Dukes!
dead.wireBlack Magnetic
The Heart of StoneCelestial Site

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