Saturday, September 2, 2017

Nuke Mine (NUKEMINE.WAD)


The first time I heard of Nuke Mine (subtitled "Come Get Some", linking to Nuke before Duke) was, as Never_Again reminds me through an old /idgames comment, through Sverre Kvernmo hawking it in his 1995 release .TXTs. An episode one replacement released in August of 1994, it's a word-of-mouth classic whose only real flaws are just as evident in the Serenity and Eternity episodes, making it an easy recommendation for anyone who digs the more polished works from Doom's early era. It wasn't Jason Hargreaves's first release - that would be PANIC!.WAD, which was heavily revised and released as E1M2 of this publication - but you can still see steps of improvement as you play through with a couple of leaps in his proficiency as an author.


Nuke Mine is all about Nuke, which is some sort of green-colored ambrosia that has a wide variety of uses spanning the range from paint thinner to meat spread. Whether Nuke is a naturally occuring substance isn't elaborated on in the story but it's valuable enough for interstellar mining which brings us to Nexus 14 which is gloaming with the stuff. Apparently things from beyond the door of time want it, too, which is why they tore open a hole in the firmament of reality to pour in from God knows where. That's the most recent update from the now eerily silent outpost which prompts a scouting trip to be performed by you. Your mission: survey the situation for no greater than two hours and then report back to prepare a counterattack. Except you're possessed with the feeling that you can take them all on yourself, thus heading in alone.


Before you get too far, Nuke Mine follows the grand tradition of Serenity and Eternity in that the levels are built for continuous play but possible from pistol start. Case in point: twenty-seven rockets on E1M6 with no rocket launcher in sight, or two boxes of shells on E1M8 with no shotgun to be heard. There are other instances, of course, but the nice thing is that these levels are still capable of being cleared from scratch as a survival-style challenge mode, and with a few exceptions aren't far removed from typical pistol panic gameplay. I highly recommend any initial playthroughs be done continuously.


The combat is a healthy mix of several elements with a lean toward the claustrophobic. You'll have plenty of incidental fights, traps where packs of lost souls filter in, rooms with limited safe ground for the player, and places where clearing monsters forces you into crossfires. Both the Cyberdemon and Spiderdemon make appearances; one is a secret boss and the other headlines the final fight. After the first few levels lost souls, cacodemons, and Barons are just as popular as anything else. I'm actually pretty happy with the set piece fights. They won't win favors with less cat-like players but they do fun and challenging without trying to cram the true hordes of Doom down your throat. Except maybe the big battle in E1M3; that feels more modern when compared to today's standards.


Jason's level design has an eye for the symmetrical but he switches things up here and there so while you may get the general jist of things as you progress you're never sure about what's lurking on the mirrored side. It's mostly orthogonal and dully lit but E1M7 is a quantum leap in lightcasting that might as well have been made by a different author. The architecture itself isn't that far removed from the rest of Nuke Mine but lighting makes such a huge difference in presentation and Hargreaves absolutely nails it from a static perspective. Dynamic, not so much, but I'm sure that it would have come about in Nuke Mine 2: Nuclear Googaloo.


One of the more interesting notes from a historical perspective - Nuke Mine contains zombie sound replacements that come from the infamous Laura Beyer's Doom episode. These sounds also made their way into Top 10 of 1997 inductee, Eternal Doom. Given how highly Sverre Kvernmo thought of Nuke Mine, it seems clear to me that LBDOOM's grunting Canadians made their way into one of my all-time favorite WADs via Jason Hargreaves. Their clips have a dorky sort of charm that place them firmly in 1994, when it was still easy to want really badly to make levels for Doom but not be so serious about what you wanted to put in them. They stick out like a sore thumb but add some much-needed levity to cut Eternal Doom's endless parade of stuffy castlecraft.


Nuke Mine is a dusty gem. It may not have the same overall level of combat or environments as some of its peers, but when it peaks, it peaks! It's nice to see some custom textures, too; an E1 replacement that doesn't just rehash Knee Deep in the Dead is a nice change. I barely remember the nodebuilding errors Jason mentions in his .TXT; maybe you'll be able to look past them, too.







NUKE MINE
COME GET SOME
by Jason Hargreaves

E1M1
Starting things light with a symmetrical but dingy brown techbase with a few free-roaming zombies. A lot of the monsters including all the imps are behind cages in the sole nukage room, a cross-ways catwalk that makes for a decent crossfire. It's pretty easy to pulp the occupants with the generously-placed explosive barrels, though. The outer area to the west is a nice surprise.

E1M2
Starts out looking just as symmetrical as E1M1 but then subverts expectations at an important fork in the road. This level is a comparatively larger affair using lifts and other nonsense as well as some disorienting teleporter effects to take you through the depths of the installation. Demons and specters make their debut; while they don't have a lot of teeth for me in 2017, I imagine they'd make tough fare in 1994, particularly the winding walkway room to the southwest. The red key sequence is pretty cool switch-fu.

E1M3
At this point, I've got to wonder how Jason intended these levels to be played. There are a ton of lost souls that will be more than happy to soak up your ammo; if you want to make sure you're kitted out, you'll have to go north through the tech alcove and deal with the caged cacodemons. I'm sure the crusher trap will be more than accomodating, leaving you free to grab the two boxes of shells and set to steam roll the rest of the map. Well, kind of. There are a ton of cool-looking rooms here; I love all of the shit that goes crazy when you enter the blue key room triggering an E1M9-style ambush with even more theatrics. Great stuff.

E1M9
Lots of Barons, a Cyberdemon, and invul-fed rocket punching to kick it off. There are some cells, too, but no plasma gun. Must have been in a previous level? You can do a lot of damage among the demon love-in at the beginning and the layout has plenty of places for you to escape from rockets. The other half of the level is a neat looking ambush that works great visually but is otherwise about hijacking the route the monsters tried to get you with and slaying the onlookers, the worst of which are a few cacodemons.

E1M4
Potentially brutal stuff; the glut of goodies in the nuke pit at the beginning is quite the jab at the player. You'll want to head west, first, where you'll find the red key that grants access to a few ammo caches. Your time in the east wing is limited since there are only a few rad suits and you'll waste the first one watching the Baron and cacodemon flirt. The southern area is a more typical Doom experience, just replete with barrels. The teleporter trap just past the red key door is an interesting proto-Impossible effect.

E1M5
A refreshingly simple level where you can get most of the ammo you need from some lurking shotgun guys. The cages of imps that stymie your access to the yellow key are pretty cool and I like how the mini-maze of monsters is dispatched. The symmetric ambushes for the red key aren't at all interesting but the blue key area with its gapped walkways and shotgun guy / imp corners makes for a very interesting crossfire, one of my standout encounters of the whole set. There's some great usage of floor space to limit maneuverability at the exit, too.

E1M6
Tan brick and some poisonous dregs alleviated by a few enviro suits. Firmly answering my question presented in E1M3, this level is significantly more difficult without bringing in a rocket launcher from a previous map. You can still make do and the two barons inside the blue key area cage can't follow you but we're talking about survivalism vs. blowout, here, since rolling in with the accumulated wealth of previous maps will turn it into a steam roll for more skilled players. The infighting exercises are sort of fun; without them, the only real thorn would be playing a duck shoot from the blue key alcove while the barons and cacodemons pace back and forth.

E1M7
More acid-soaked nightmares. E1M7 isn't that distinguished from the rest of the episode in its combat and architecture; it's safe to start from pistol provided you don't mind shotgunning the whole thing. The beginning is a little dire since you start out in the nuke and there isn't much health outside of a semi-secret soul sphere. The latter is a stunner regardless of how you start the level, though. Where E1M7 really shines is the lighting. Hargreaves brought his A-game when it came to lightcasting, elevating this map to an entirely different level. The careful contrast and fading in the red key room and the nuclear nexus south of the starting area is outstanding. I really do think that, when it comes to vanilla mapping, lighting is king when it comes to detailing.

E1M8
A turkey shoot that gives you a copious amount of cells and a totally unnecessary stash of shotgun shells to destroy a Spiderdemon, two barons, and two spectres. Thank goodness Jason remembered to give you the plasma gun! The angled walls and stair platform give you plenty of cover to work your magic and if the sight of the nukage floor disturbs you, don't fret! It's the non-toxic variety. For added flair, take a running leap from the platform into the exit teleporter.

YEAH, PIECE OF CAKE

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