by Jason "rf`" Allison
Saturday, June 11, 2016
rf 1024 (RF_1024.WAD)
Exquisite Corpse begat Congestion 1024, which begot the now maligned 1024 fad of Doom mapping. Jason Allison, aka rf`, was on the train back in 2006, adding an additional constraint. Now, ten years later, he's created a whole megaWAD for ZDoom and Eternity (make sure you have infinitely tall monsters off) - rf 1024. If you didn't already know, the premise of a 1024 map confines the area available for player movement to a size of 1024 by 1024 map units. The map itself could be as big as you wanted, and indeed many 1024 levels involved copious amounts of teleport coffins to turn a tiny level into a full-fledged slobberknocker, or various ledges and elements outside the playing area for detailing, world-building, and monster perches.
Jason went a step beyond his peers as far as constraints go. The ENTIRETY of these levels, including all the behind the curtain shit like monster teleporters, fits inside the 1024 grid. On the one hand, this means that there are no cheats to absolve the levels from feeling cramped, not that it's anything other than an illusion whether it's a wall or a guard rail. If anything, allowing monsters to attack the player from outside the playing area creates a feeling of exposure. On the other hand, confining all of the machinery to the 1024 area means that there is no possibility of drawing things out with endless monster teleports so that the player spends as much time in the level that they would in something of a more normal size. What you see is mostly what you get, and you can generally tell what's in store since the arch-viles and other things are thumping around in pillars and stuff, waiting for their big break.
rf 1024 has a host of gameplay changes that accentuate the punchy claustrophobia of 1024 levels. Most of these are to the player's advantage. Many of your weapons, from the lowly pistol to the rocket launcher, have a faster rate of fire, making them that much more apt to pull you out of a bad situation. Both the double-barreled shotgun and rebranded machine gun become God-tier skirmishing weapons, particularly the SSG. I'm not sure if the plasma rifle's been tweaked, and I'm not cool enough to puzzle out DeHackEd to figure it out, but the sound is way less grating. The BFG received an overhaul, though, becoming the BFG 1024. You won't be able to pull off any of that BFG zerg shit, since it sends out three super-explosive projectiles that will blow you the fuck up.
For some reason, I had this feeling that the enemies got some tweaks (like, unusually consistently low revenant rocket damage and super-powered commandos) but by the time I finished the megaWAD I was pretty sure that that nothing was touched beyond the stuff that was outright replaced. I think the new sounds threw off my hardwired Doom reflexes, the price of hardcore conditioning. The SS Nazi is swapped out for some sort of tough cyber-zombie dude who is usually outclassed by his demonic peers and all but vanishes in the map's later levels. There are two iterations of the final boss monster (MAP15 and MAP30), taking the physical threat of the Spiderdemon and Cyberdemon and giving them the mobility of a Baron for the Overlord of Hell. Also, a fairly authentic Nazi Guard appears in the super-duper-secret MAP33, a cute touch from a dude who loves his shareware-era PC games.
rf 1024 has no real story and no concrete themes beyond the grid, preferring to posture itself as an exercise in cramped firefights that makes for fun, frantic gameplay. The only strike I could level against it is the bracingly regular usage of arch-viles as level finales, swooping in to let you know that the map is pretty much done. I've got nothing against archies, and I know that the 1024 setup doesn't really lend itself to varied firefights given the inability to create battlegrounds for orchestrated encounters, but there's only so much one can take before encounter fatigue sets in. The new sounds might be a bigger aesthetic change than you're prepared for, though. They didn't really bother me aurally, but I suspect that my Doom reflexes are so utterly attuned to what I normally hear that I was stumbling a bit when starting out.
All that aside, this megaWAD is rollicking good fun. The action is constant from "Go!" to the exit switch. Sometimes the difficulty is in establishing some sort of foothold a la Swift Death, where the opening moments are the toughest. At others, you're gritting your teeth and waiting for the inevitable swarm of arch-viles after clearing out yet another entrenchment of Hellish fiends. Of course, if you're not into congested gameplay, you probably won't have much fun. Then again, there's no better time to learn how to dodge and surf than when you have no available alternative; I got my close quarters wings in Congestion 1024, after all.
If you're looking for bite-sized action, rf 1024 shouldn't disappoint. The weapon changes tip the balance pretty hard in the player's favor, making clearing faster and hastening monster pain chances through the sheer volume of hitscans. All in all, I can think of few better WADs to serve as an introduction to Doom trench warfare.
by Jason "rf`" Allison
by Jason "rf`" Allison