Saturday, November 25, 2017


by Joe Pallai

Before he went on to contribute to community darlings 2002: A Doom Odyssey and Plutonia 2, Joe Pallai had every intention of making a one man megaWAD. PUREDOOM was to be its name and it probably would have been regarded as a classic release or at the very least enshrined by word of mouth in the perennial underrated lists that continue to crop up. He only ever finished four of the levels, though, three of which saw an official release. The Gate, a single map replacement for the MAP08 slot published in 2000, was the first of the mapset to be uploaded to the archives to be followed by Entryway (MAP01) and then Crossfire (MAP04).

The overall framing narrative is a barebones primer that mainly outlines a lack of vigilance on humanity's part in preventing continued Hellish harassment. The powers that be have placed their trust in an inescapable ban on teleportation experiments as well as the newest UAC technology, something called "dimensional seals". Ever the skeptic, even after a parade of reassurances, you wait for the inexorable machinations of murderous monsters to make your move. My initial surmisement of PUREDOOM led me to think of it as a Doom II retread but Joe had a different thematic progression in mind. The incomplete previous level would have had you visit a shuttered Gate Research Facility in order to bring the fight to the demons. MAP08 marks the first stop on a dimension-hopping adventure that could have taken the player pretty much anywhere in the following twenty-two levels.

THEGATE is composed of two castle-like brick and mortar areas connected by teleporters. The starting area is a nice hook since it offers a tantalizing glimpse of a soul sphere a la E1M3 and it's not at all difficult to get to, it just takes awhile since it's later on in the level's progression. You quickly move on to the main event, a massive arena in the shape of an oblong octagon with shades of "Fortress of Mystery" (a pack of cacodemons in one corner and a squad of Barons in another) and various other devils lurking in the periphery. The large room's geometry is kind of blah I think because it feels so flat. It features a locked exit staircase sitting in the middle of a perfunctory-looking yellow cracked damage floor but the latter does a nice job of limiting your maneuverability in a level where circle-strafing would be even simpler.

The main gimmick involves taking the teleporter closets near the marble step-off pad you initially arrive on and then following the little side-areas to their ends. The first two are progression related and while the third isn't required it leads to the other side of the starting area and besides the soul sphere offers a plasma gun and some more inspired level design. It's closer to what I would expect out of a Pallai map, having played through Entryway and Crossfire before this one (though I do understand that The Gate was released first). If you decide to avoid the second area you can confront the end-of-level Cyberdemon directly in a stolid showdown with the super shotgun. Visiting the extra zone lets you use plasma and makes the finale slightly more interesting by dumping an arch-vile and whatever specters you don't quickly kill back into the opening, a neat touch.

The nastiest bit here for me was the annex with a caged revenant gallery accessed from the southeastern viewing area. My first instinct was to grab the rocket launcher and let fly at the Barons which left me with the normal hitscan weapons to tackle the skeletons. I probably just got sloppy, especially since they tend to bunch up on the north end of the cage making their rockets easier to control. The battle for the plasma gun looks like it's going to be really chaotic but what I imagine is an authorial oversight has blocking lines rendering the pain elemental and lost souls worthless making the cacodemons the only real threats.

It isn't one of the coolest levels I've played but The Gate is a solid and speedy Doom II outing provided that you don't mind wide open spaces forcing you to corral a sizable number of enemies. We may never see what Pallai had planned for the levels to follow, which is too bad. It might not have been as crazy as it could be with the default textures, but I'm sure that I'd enjoy it.



  1. Well re the last paragraph,2002ADO E4M6 and PL2 Map23 offer a portrait of what Joe produced a bit further down the line. But no solo release.

    1. Obviously, since those levels were explicitly mentioned in the introduction to this review. Did you not read it? The real speculation was as to what an entire megaWAD of Pallai maps from 2000 would have looked like.

    2. 2002ADO's E4M6 might be one of those big maps that is just a little big for its own good (not saying it isn't better than these), but if they had been similar to PL2 Map23, I suspect we'd have a treat in our hands. These earlier maps could use to be overhauled by then, though, for consistency, unless his intent was to do one of those 'watch my learning curve' megawads.