Sunday, February 12, 2017


by Rex Claussen

Rex Claussen got his start in 1999, making levels for ZDoom because of its limit-removing feature. He was apparently inspired by Ian Wilson's Herian 2; Wilson subsequently played the master to his apprentice as Rex - as Gurkha Boy - learned the ropes of Doom editing. Decimate is Claussen's third career release, coming in the later part of 1999. It's a MAP01 replacement for Doom II, just what you need to get your motor D_RUNNIN. While Rex tested these levels in ZDoom he does not appear to have used any of its more specific "features" so they ought to work fine in any limit-removing port.

Decimate returns to the European theater for its setting, but the setup lacks the extravagance - not to mention historicity - of Quo Vadis. You're a search and rescue team member looking for a group of hikers who went missing in the mountains of Central Europe. Each operative had a particular assignment. Yours is the "infamous" Carpathian Gap - so infamous, in fact, that this PWAD is the #3 result on DuckDuckGo when searching the Internet for "Carpathian Gap". While hiking the trail, you discover a tunnel and go in blind, blundering through absolute darkness until arriving at an unnatural hollow containing a lake of lava and a fortress accompanied by two tall towers. That's when the metal bars slam shut behind you. Better make sure they don't have to send in a second team member!

I'm starting to see a familiar thread in Rex's levels. The scene of PUGILIST was an islet; Fear Island was, what else, but an isle in a sea of lava; and though Decimate may be ringed by a tall circle of granite, the bridge you cross bisects the moat of lava that surrounds the hexagonal platform on which the fortress is built and the northern and southern towers adjoin. Looking ahead, I'm surprised that Claussen's next release - Military Research Complex - isn't surrounded by some sort of fluid body. I'm glad, because a bordering liquid flat isn't the only commonality between this map and FEAR_ISL.

The dullest aspect of Rex's previous map was its bilateral symmetry and Decimate has similar issues, except it cuts from west to east where Fear Island ran north to south. The fortress interior switches things up a bit by staffing the combat shotgun chamber with former human sergeants followed by Hell knights. The rocket launcher room contains commandos trailed by revenants but the superficial monster variation crumbles when you're subjected to the sequence to retrieve said SSG and RL. That is, flip the switch in the room beyond, go outside to the associated tower, press button in said spire, fight a pair of cacodemons, then run back into the fortress and claim your prize, after which you're punished with an arch-vile. Once, exactly like this, for each of the weapons.

Things are a bit better once you flip both eye switches but you might not remember the passage at the beginning if you just rushed ahead. The northwestern room is a big ol' demon brawl, a fun exercise if you snagged the secret berserk pack. It's a long walk, though, and you'll have to go back to use the yellow key and handle a decent revenant / arachnotron ambush. I like the finisher, a pair of Cyberdemons with one guarding the exit bridge and the other loose on the platform to hunt you down. The secret plasma gun and scads of cells will hasten their demise and you have the option to either lure the free one where the guardian can't see you or just dodge both at the same time, risky but faster... supposing you don't die!

Decimate is quite clean; it has the aesthetic sense of, say, one of the Master Levels for Doom II. Not complex, just smooth minus those tiny, cramped staircases that you constantly bang your forehead on. The downside to its polished look is its sterile look sterile when combined with the bilateral symmetry feeling more like real, sensible architecture than a Doom map made for slaying monsters. The lightcasting is pretty cool, though, and for all its simplicity I really like the ominous demon chamber with its splashing light fading toward the periphery.

Rex has created a nice enough setting and there are a few neat fights. I'd be hard-pressed to recommend it, though, unless your idea of fun involves traveling a pretty long distance to snag the major weapon upgrades. It's got more of an adventure game feeling in that regard, a factor often at odds with the action-oriented Doom II.


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