Wednesday, November 2, 2016

PC_WOLF, a Wolfenstein Classic (PC_WOLF.WAD)

I grew up playing Wolfenstein 3D and while I'm not against retreading that worn path it's not something I look for in Doom II levels. There are some who can't get enough of it, though. Paul Corfiatis continues to cram Wolf3D-themed maps into his work as late as 2015; back in '97, he was doing the same thing with his his brother Joe. PC_WOLF is a collection of what pcorf calls his sibling's best levels - MAP01-04 - and two that Paul hadn't yet shown to the world. Released in 1999, this six map episode will probably find favor with a select few Doomers who, like Paul, enjoy slaying SS Nazis in boxy rooms ad nauseum.

The good... The brothers Corf have included a science fiction sky and it's completely at odds with the surrounding material. The backdrop looks like something out of Star Wars; Bespin Cloud City, maybe? It's also got some decent action scenarios though they're almost entirely confined to Joe's MAP03 ("The Dark Secret") and Paul's own MAP05 ("The Solved Trick") which both use a fair variety of Doom II monsters. There are the occasional interesting rooms and bits of detailing; they sort of freshen up a format that some may argue hit its peak with its debut in Doom II.

Every bit of non-Wolf3D detailing and architecture sticks out like a sore thumb, reminding me how dull said format is, at least in how it's typically presented. I think it's okay for a laugh and the occasional secret level but I wouldn't want to base the main event around large, rectangular rooms and SS Nazis delivered in groups of four. I think it's perfectly possible to create Doom II levels using Wolfenstein 3D as a theme and I'm sure that Laz Rojas's WolfenDoom PWADs fit the bill. Not to forget stuff I've actually played such as "An Inglorious Basterd" (Zones of Fear), Xaser's divine "Wolfenstein" (Doom 2 In Name Only), or Paul's own "Hitler's Theatre" (Doomed Space Wars). The Wolf3D stuff is just the least interesting to me. Bring on more elements like the cacodemon room with the two corner mancubuses.

This PWAD also has its own soundtrack but the tracks are among Paul's least appealing. MAP02 has the most "normal" but like the rest it's a very short, simple loop. It's got sort of a feel of building atmosphere but none of the pieces ever develop. While I doubt that a rockin' series of tunes would significantly change the way I feel about this collection, the more or less ambient orientation makes already lackluster action drag. Well, it's presumptuous of me to assume that these songs are actually pcorf's, but nothing in the presentation leads me to believe otherwise. I feel like I've heard MAP01 from somewhere but it's more a nagging feeling than anything substantial.

I'm still part of PC_WOLF's target audience. Though I'm not the kind of user who digs MAP31-style levels, I AM the sort of person that would play Corfiatis's lesser-known PWADs (or obscura in general). Call it completionism, curiosity at how Paul was doing stuff back in '97, or the pursuit of something worth sharing with people who haven't... And there is!

a Wolfenstein Classic
by Paul and Joe Corfiatis

Nazi Base
by Joe CorfiatisMAP01
The opening segment is okay as far as Wolfenstein 3D stuff goes. There's a not-so-Wolf-ish staircase leading to a basement with what I assume is a swimming pool. The path to the north is a series of functionally identical rooms with monster cages in the center and pillars on the sides and it's pretty blah. One of the chambers has an automap that reveals the location of the red key, which is hidden in a secret. The blue key is in a similar situation but there is absolutely no marking whatsoever. Spoiler: it's in one of the various Hitler pillars in the northwest room. The crossfire in said area would probably be dangerous but Joe has given you an invul sphere.

Stairway to Heaven
MAP02by Joe Corfiatis
Things start out pretty rough. The opening area is almost pitch-black with torches defining your path and Nazis and zombies on the other side of the object barriers. Both paths to the east lead you deeper into the level, one without a weapon upgrade for some time, unless you're hot for fisting SS Troopers. The other passes you by a shotgun guy which will be quite a relief. Things are pretty pedestrian afterward but you get to see the sky and it looks fairly cool. I'm guessing that Joe nicked it from something Star Wars-related. This level has two secret keys but they aren't hidden on the automap. The rising monster pits coax a little more variety into the stodgy layout.

The Dark Secret
by Joe CorfiatisMAP03
Paul's brother makes a few interesting design decisions. He's got windows so that you can see the lovely sky a bit more often. He's also used one dynamic light which immediately precedes a... scrolling Hitler... thing. Psychedelic. My favorite moment was happening across a megasphere, rocket launcher, and plasma gun, only to be taken via elevator to a room full of nasties. Cut loose! The hitscanner yard of death immediately prior is a decent obstacle, if ultimately solved through judicious chaingun use.

Crackin' Amongst the Crates
MAP04by Joe Corfiatis
Significantly less interesting, this map is an orthogonal jumble of rectangular rooms with UAC crates and a bunch of Commander Keens stuffed into alcoves. Once you've seen one room, you've seen 'em all. Well, a couple of the largest rooms to the southeast look okay, but it's Nazis and cover shooting all the way down.

The Solved Trick
by Paul CorfiatisMAP05
A short map that's mostly fun in spite of itself. I didn't figure out where the secret ammo stash / backpack was until after killing everything else but you'll probably have more fun handling the decidedly Doom II-centric encounters by orchestrating a lot of infighting. If you didn't get the secret then this will save you some shells to give you a healthy margin against the exit guardian. The red key tries to flush just about any good will away, though, with a winding trek through 10% damage lava featuring a Hell knight at the end and a paltry two medikits to tide you over for the return trip.

MAP06by Paul Corfiatis
A long string of boxy rooms. They usually have packs of Nazis and sometimes they do not. The little bits of window dressing that the author has put here and there, like the embedded light sconce right before the cage room, only underscore how sterile this Wolf3D stuff feels. That and said corral are just about the most interesting segments of the level but the caged lost souls are a curious feature if not at all dangerous. Paul also hid a Romero head in the level but you'll have to cheat to find it. A private joke, perhaps?



  1. You probably have heard MAP01 somewhere! Its the first pattern of notes from Twilight Zone 2's first map. In TW2 it developed into an ominous opening track, but here it just repeats. I don't recognize the other tracks from anywhere, but its interesting to see how his music developed over time. The simplistic nature of the tracks sorta goes hand in hand with the simplistic maps.

  2. Well my brother experimented with making Doom maps himself in 1997 and 1998 and only stuck to one style. The music is horrible and experimental in this wad, what I tried to do here is try to make ambient midi music sound like an analog synthesizer and it sounds like a 1000 roosters on LSD getting choked at one time.

    1. interesting! the MAP31 fusion of doom and wolf3D doesn't appeal to me but it clearly had its admirers.