Monday, May 23, 2016
No Sleep For the Dead (NOS4DEAD.WAD)
Jan Van der Veken made a big splash in 1997 with Dawn of the Dead, an episode replacement for the original Doom, and followed through with contributions to The Darkening, The Darkening E2, The Classic Episode, and finished with the latter's sequel, Singularity Complex I. That was, of course, before No Sleep For the Dead. Released in 2016, NOS4DEAD is Veken's first mapset in more than ten years... and it's wicked cool! Jan replaces the entirety of Knee Deep in the Dead, along with a bonus map in the E2M1 slot, for another trip to the likeness of Phobos that's sure to delight Doom players from all walks of life.
The .TXT frames No Sleep For the Dead as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, though the story is left mostly unexplored. DODEAD took place on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. Earth established several colonies there after the discovery of some simple lifeforms and then terraformed it using Atmospheric Processors. Uh, surely this didn't have any negative impact on life that depended on the native habitat. Anyway, time spent on Europa revealed the presence of an ancient alien civilization with some parallels to our own. Namely, they were in the process of developing teleportation technology. History repeated itself and you were sent to stymie the Hellish invasion. In NOS4DEAD, you return to the colony after Hell's hordes spent a good long while regrouping... except the first level is called "Phobos Terminal". Maybe it's the part of the spaceport for arrivals from Phobos.
Veken has always been an outstanding author, doubly so for his vanilla-rooted elegance. NOS4DEAD is no exception; these maps look sharp. Of course, there's also a lot of love for the original Doom bundled in here, and seasoned vets may or may not have fun picking out the various homages and aesthetic parallels. E1M6 aka "Tesla/Ohm Lab" is one of the most unique levels in this regard. Sure, it's got a big fuckoff "Deimos Anomaly" St. Peter's cross, but the atmosphere and emphasis on contrast and light casting give it a feel that immediately distinguished it from the rest of the set... at least, to me. Your Doomage may vary. E1M9, or "And Hell Cried Lead", is another of my faves, with its berserk-fueled opening and modern-ish encounter design where a pretty varied and meaty force backs you into a corner. There's also the tall, wide architecture of "Quarantine Area", feeling more like a palace than an outpost.
This particular set of UAC complexes is open and dangerous, with tons of windows giving the appearance of interconnectedness and allowing the numerous zombies - and imps - to take cheap shots as you explore. Veken is well-practiced at the art of Romero style monster closets, giving your foes a fighting chance at surprising you after wandering in from somewhere else, not that you won't have to survive more blunt surprises and teleport ambushes. While the starts gradually increase in challenge, none are quite as immediately punishing as E2M1, aka "As For the Cowardly", foot firmly planted in the E4 tradition of difficulty. The maps' secrets are very helpful, but figuring them out and accessing their creamy, nougat centers will be a challenge in and of itself, especially when some of them are several secrets deep. Many passages loop back to earlier parts of the levels, serving as handy shortcuts. It's all deliciously intricate, the only exception being E1M8, which is about as straightforward as you'd expect.
If you love the Phobos style or the style of the original Doom in general, then No Sleep For the Dead is a must play. It shows why Veken isn't just fondly-remembered; this has been fondly anticipated since about 2011! I can only hope that Jan has more levels to come. One can never get enough Doom.
NO SLEEP FOR THE DEAD
by Jan Van Der Veken
SLEEP IS FOR THE DEAD