by Christian Hansen
Saturday, April 23, 2016
by Christian Hansen
by Christian Hansen
Chris Hansen was one of the original members of the 1998 crew; don't let that 2000 time stamp fool you. Falling into the same crowd as Paul Corfiatis and Kristian Aro, he's had his work featured plenty of times in the several incarnations of the Cacowards. Quail is his fifth released level, made toward the end of 1998. It's also the fourth and last level in his Doom 3: Ad Infernos series, slotted in at MAP25. For those following at home, that's MAP01 to MAP22 to MAP03 to MAP25. Kinky! Quail differs from the previous three levels in a lot of pretty important ways; before that, though, here's the pitch.
After stomping all of the demons into little lava holes at the end of Doom II, you use your dial home device to return to UAC HQ, deep in the heart of the Cheyenne M-- Texas, presumably to help prepare for humanity's return. But, well, time makes fools of us all! Or, rather, demons wielding time travel technology that is precisely imprecise to the point that it can pull your quantum being in transit and then redirect it through the strands of time, back when all the demons weren't dead or dying due to acute Doom marine overdose and by the way they've been told to amass for a fiendish welcoming party. How embarrassing, then, that you arrive nowhere near their ambush location. I bet the test run went great.
The most important aspect of Quail is that it's an E1M9 remake, because the demons built a twisted replica of the military base in Hell. I guess, like Chris, they liked the layout. If the idea of playing through a Doom II version of "Military Base" turns your stomach, then you'll want to give this one a wide berth. It's appropriately Hellish, reminding me of John Anderson's transformation between the initial release of Dante's Gate and the version he made to align it with his Master Levels aesthetic. The layout is pretty much identical, including secrets, but there are a couple of key differences in the rooms that will give you some pause.
The southern room, for example, has narrow catwalks leading to a thin ledge that surrounds the central pillar, and while the basic shape of the area and the overall level progression is the same, the "peek out over the lips and wake up cacodemons" gameplay is very different. The secret room right off the exit is a larger break with tradition, since it collapses the pillar room into an unassuming metal platform bridge with a few shotgun guys guarding it, and a surprise once you grab the goodies, though it's way more dangerous to stay and fight the arch-vile sniper than it is to just run on past. Oh, yes; there's an arch-vile. I'd be more worried about the few handfuls of pain elementals, though, or the cadre of revenants that guard the exit switch.
The actual combat skills required to finish Quail are higher than any of the previous Hansen levels, especially with that skeleton showdown; however, you won't be suffering due to lack of ammo. The first encounter of the map starts off with cacodemons in the central cage and shotgun guys boiling in from the staircases, so you will be flush with shells throughout your entire ordeal. The one classic fight that's remained mostly the same is the teleporter battle, but the darker environs and texturing make the spectres extra-lethal, especially when it's so tempting to rush in with the super shotgun. Of course, there's also a liberal sprinkling of chaingun guys, but they weren't much of a concern for my playthrough.
Quail is interesting. I would hate to be spending my most of my days playing Doom in Doom II remakes, but Hansen does it pretty well for a sort of SwitcheDoom experience. Not enough to blow my mind, but it goes down smooth, unless the thoughts of revenants, arch-viles, and pain elementals paralyze you with impotent fear.