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.

by Jan Van Der Veken

Phobos TerminalE1M1
A short but punchy opener that hits all the right notes. There are plenty of windows into spaces you're going to head - fielding shotgun guys, of course - and there's enough space to move but enough enemies to feel on the right side of threatening. I love the look-alike toxic pits that reveal a later secret, and while the berserk shows up kind of late, it's as part of a neat little center piece ambush. For a simple level, its braid coupled with a few places to explore makes for a pretty complex E1M1. I really dig the early cacodemon.

E1M2Sombrero Hoops
The general layout of this map seems like a riff on "Toxin Refinery", felt most strongly in the opening room, mixed with hints of "Phobos Lab". It's gloaming with monster closets, one of which is a real standout moment. The one that opens while moving around in the blue armor room looks like totally organic level geometry, particularly with that column. The action is fast and fun and there's a secret chain that's about four deep in order to get BACK to that combat armor, beginning with one secret switch. Oh, uh, shoutout to the claustrophobic computer maze with strobe lighting, made more threatening with the specters.

While the homages persist, "Biolabs" feels more its own with its tangled web of hallways and staircases, making for some sort of concrete nightmare. The narrower passages make monsters a more immediate threat, particularly in the locked-in end of level ambush in the secret exit, and mood lighting works particularly well in disguising specters in a map whose moderate action pace propels you further and further into eager jaws. The complex layout gives the monster closets a better opportunity to surprise the player, especially since there are several forked paths to allow for different ambush angles depending on where your attention's focused.

E1M9For Hell Cried Lead
An interesting level that treads the E2 theme in places with a few tidbits from "Military Base" and a showdown in a cool piece of mactrotecture with your first Baron. This is a tough map that's thick with demons and hitscanners with a few memorable locked in firefights, like the slow elevator descent into the level's western annex, or the ambush at the map's end. I also really dig the plasma gun ambush, which feels very cinematic with the demons boiling out of the yellow key cave and the pair of cacos, somewhat similar in execution to the finale. Of course, we start with a Berserk-fueled opening vs. demons and imps that's fun and punchy. I also like the little nooks and crannies. The southwestern room is really well put-together. I also appreciate the secret passage to the yellow key door. Very cool stuff.

Sludge FactoryE1M4
Veken concocts an impressive network of hallways and rooms featuring toxic pits, windows, and staircases that feels wonderfully organic... and completely flush with hitscanners. It's a tough map to blaze through, since incaution will eventually attrition your health to zilch with all those shotgun guys on point. Obscure nukage tunnels lead to a few nice secret chains that you may or may not have the radsuit for depending on how you've handled things. "Sludge" doesn't have quite the level of cool staged fights as "For Hell Cried Lead", but I really dig the substantial secret annexes - like the rocket launcher room to the north - and the slow-strobe computer maze is a nice, tense moment.

E1M5Power Plant
Taking the hallways / toxins angle in a bit of a different direction, more reminiscent of E1M7's "Computer Station". While it's got plenty of zombies, the distance between the interconnected windows lessens some of their sting so that the player might feel slightly exposed but not harried while moving around. The monster closets are toned down, too, though Jan ramps it up for the finale in case you were missing them. You'll still catch the occasional sneaker running down one of those hallways that you walked past. The exit room is lousy with monsters, a full-fledged cadre lying in wait. The rocket launcher will make things very fast, provided you give yourself some room and act quickly.

Tesla/Ohm LabE1M6
An incredibly tight level, rich with atmosphere. The stark lighting, obeservation booths, and various experiments - like the teleporters, the plasma gun, and the imps that appear to be "hibernating" - make this an outstanding map as far as it represents the idea of one of the Mars moon "labs" but with a slightly more concrete setting. The combat has a bit of an edge due to an opening weapon scarcity. You can snag a chainsaw nearby, but there are several specters you'll need to run through. Some of the features, like the "Deimos Anomaly" cherry-red passage, lend the feel of something more akin to an obstacle course. Fantastic stuff.

E1M7Quarantine Area
Another cool level, with the Satanic corruption definitely creeping in at spots. Veken has some wide open base interiors with some neat macrotecture, I think that the only key you actually have to grab is the red one; the blue and yellow unlock some goodies, but they are inessential to the level's progression. There are a few Barons to bump up the threat, a pair of which you'll want to nip around to score a rocket launcher that you'll use to immediately slay them. There's also some pretty good ambushes with the switch that opens up the red key corridor and delving into the red key corridor itself, which results in a torrent of demons. When everything's cleared, the level has a huge, haunted feel.

Satan's DychedralE1M8
A short but sweet boss gauntlet. The opening has a huge sense of pressure; if you back into the opening hallway and try to let the barrels do your work for you, you're likely to be overwhelmed by imps. The demon chambers have what you'll need, including a ton of cells for a secret plasma gun. The Barons are a bit underwhelming, but they're just guardians for the Cyberdemon, who stands out in a cinematic showdown on a huge bridge that leads to the exit. The finale is a nice two-front showdown between demon aggressors coming from the red-rock gateway and cacodemons from behind. A fun finisher.


E2M1As For the Cowardly
Taking a sharp left turn into Thy Flesh Consumed territory with this beast of a map. The monster density is thick to begin with, starting you right by demons, imps, and a Baron with no safe place to run. You'll have to carve something out or die trying and then start exploring from there. Veken also has a few dense teleport ambushes up his sleeve to drive you further into forsaken ground, like the demon / imp alcove and the sizable swarm of hardbodies that appear upon grabbing the yellow key. I like the semi-outdoor look of the east and west areas, including the imp ledges. A cool level, showing again that Veken isn't just a Phobophile.



  1. A very good episode indeed, dripping with classic Doom flavor. It's a worthy successor to its 19-year old prequel that largely avoids all the differences you'd expect to see in your Doom levels between the two vastly different timeframes. Nostalgia at its finest, for sure! It's worth mentioning E1M6 is actually an almost completely exploratory level, with nothing but a quick jolt through a few rooms being mandatory.

    Only perhaps slightly odd thing is why does the biggest level come in the middle of the episode (E1M5)? It's not a problem though, and the original DoDead had the same thing to some extent (though obviously not on E1M5, which was non-existent there!).

  2. > Only perhaps slightly odd thing is why does the biggest level come in the middle of the episode

    It's mostly because level design isn't always as "planned out" as it appears. Levels sometimes have a way of going their own way and becoming something the designer hadn't intended when he started out.

    E1M5 is such a level. It's one of the first levels I started on this set (I believe it has its origines as far back as 2010), but it's the last one I finished. Originally it was meant for the E1M2 spot (go figure!), and it was supposed to be a sorta modern remake of dodead's E1M2, but it grew out of control.

    So in the end I had to decide: do I put it near the end because of its size, or more near the middle because of its theme. I really wanted to have consistent thematic progression with this wad, so it went to the middle.

    1. A very delightful inspiring map set. I never was very fond of DOOM I for lack of a super shotgun once DOOM 2 was out, but this was the ride I needed to embrace some real back to the roots goodness. Thank you for whipping this up.

  3. @KMX E XII

    Thanks for taking the time to write this extensive review of my WAD. I appreciate the feedback and I'm glad you enjoyed playing through the levels. Judging by your comments, the experience appears to have been pretty much as I intended it to be.

    BTW little known fact: the bonus level E2M1 has a connection to Dodead too. Back in the day, I made an alternate end level to dodead, but never published it. Only some friends/testers played it. Later, it was stripped from all monsters and featured as one of the deathmatch levels in the Darkening E1 but I doubt many people ever played anything other than the single player levels.

    Anyway, E2M1 was an experiment in re-imagining this level, starting from scratch. If you're interested in seeing how it compares to the original, I dug up the old version (file date 09/04/1997!) and uploaded it to dropbox.

    It runs on E1M8

    1. no, I uh definitely never played the DM levels of either Darkening. this original, alternate take is pretty interesting; the Cyberdemon caught me by surprise. I definitely see how DM-centric it is, what with all those tricks to get the good stuff. the timed doors to the teleporters to the BK / invis / BFG are pretty cute. the rocket secret cache gives you plenty of ammo to blast away but the cramped layout makes it a risk v reward tradeoff. thank you for sharing it!

  4. A nice E1 replacement. It just felt good to play.
    Felt a bit strange to me that Tesla/Ohm Labs was so short and simple being the third to last level. Also the bonus level reminded me that yes, I don't like E4 style maps. Or E4 for that matter.

  5. I am a bit sad that this didn't get a Cacoward. But with everything that was released in 2016 being of such high quality, I can certainly understand the decision. Though in my opinion, at the very least this mapset deserved a runner-up award. Long live Jan Van der Veken!

    1. unfortunately the biggest pull for NOS4DEAD was me (eliciting yawns from the others) and i just loved the doom gone slightly wild of the other doom episodes a little bit more. while it won't complete my penance, i namedropped it in the alpha accident article as well as my foreward, maybe not the recognition i would have liked but the best i could do considering the circumstances.

    2. It does make sense I guess. Most of the award-winners went out on a limb more and featured new and fresh ideas(Ancient Aliens, Absolutely Killed, etc.), whereas even though NOS4DEAD was brilliantly crafted and perfected, it is definitely something that has been done before (E1/Romero worship). It's amazing how talented mappers have become 23 years after Doom's release.

  6. Definitely the most 'orthodox' of 2016's UDoom episode releases. But it's lots of fun, regardless! Maybe just a few more slightly bigger maps. Not Alpha Accident, just a tad more extensive.

    1. actually i am wondering whether dave billing's E1 ep might be more orthodox

    2. Dave Billing? I can find it.