Friday, January 19, 2018

AfterDoom 2: Deep Space Pirsuit (ADSP.WAD)

Virgil released a number of PWADs as part of his "appetizer" series (Black and White, Dark Castle, Ash to Ash) while trying to talk up his big project, the main course. As far as I can tell, though, Vick never actually finished it; fair Euterpe withdrew her favor and all we have left is the 2001 pre-release of AfterDoom 2: Deep Space Pirsuit. ([sic].) While the teaser only includes thirteen Doom II levels out of the planned thirty-two, I think that I have a pretty good feeling of how the finished ASDP would play out. Oh dear goodness do I know what the rest was going to be like.

Virgil's given story occurs after your defeat of Satan, destruction of Hell, and subsequent revival back on Earth. While you're sure of your victory, it isn't long before the Evil manifests at another UAC installation, this time assaulting a space station and stealing a shuttle carrying a thermonuclear warhead equivalent to a 200,000 megaton explosion and codenamed "Daymon". The author asserts that the weapon is capable of vaporizing the Earth, but for those of you playing at home, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake released a calculated 9,320,000 megaton equivalent of energy. Regardless of the true threat of the bomb, you hijack your own UAC shuttle and set out to stop them. Which might not be so bad if the chosen carrier for the ordnance wasn't some kind of generation / colonization ship, meant to house 100,000 people, now overflowing with just as many Hellspawn. Isn't space travel dangerous enough? Why throw a planet-destroyer into the mix?

The title suggests an AfterDoom 1, so to speak, which does not appear to exist in any appreciable fashion. The .DEH file further confuses the issue as it has replacement strings for every map slot as well as intermission texts. I'm not convinced that the unused portions of the DeHackEd file serve as a blueprint for the rest of the project; rather, it appears to me that Virgil planned out the original AfterDoom and then used its .DEH as a template for his "sequel". I say this because the strings for MAP20 and MAP30's text screens (and most of the level names post-MAP13) appear to abandon the deep space / ship angle entirely and the ending depicted mirrors the setup dictated in the .TXT: you battle Satan, weakening the adversary to the point that it can be destroyed by the light of God, who then thanks you and places you back on Earth in a rejuvenated state.

Whether AfterDoom was ever actually a thing, a silly nickname, or just After(Doom 2) with a subtitle, I like the idea of the setting for Deep Space Pirsuit. An enormous worldship could boast a huge variety of locales including different biospheres. In practice, uh, there isn't a whole lot to distinguish ADSP's bread and butter from any other techno-industrial complex beyond all the lasers / forcefields. There is a bit where you use the docking tube to get from your tiny shuttle to the orthogonal behemoth and I like the psychedelic black hole sequence of MAP06, going further than the surrounding material toward making you feel like you're actually on a ship. I have no idea what the heck is going on from MAP10 and on, though. I think you use one of the craft's own shuttles in an attempt to bypass so many decks full of Hellish hordes only to get gunned down by a hybrid monstrosity. At first I thought that you had crash-landed on a planet but, given the metal plating, it appears to be another portion of the colony carrier. Which just raises more questions, considering MAP12 and MAP13 appear to comprise a massive celestial city built on the spacecraft's hull. I'm just so confused.

As far as level design goes, ADSP is much closer to Virgil's Dark Castle than 2001's Ash to Ash. In fact, I'd go so far as to call them stylistically identical. Think corridors and rooms stuffed with monsters in order to create guileless, grueling gauntlets of meat betraying little or no awareness of the repetition of combat scenarios both within and across levels. The author declares you not to be a Doom God if you cannot beat his maps on Ultra Violence from pistol start but I would not allow his statement to goad you into this masochist's endeavor. There is nothing rewarding about conquering Vick's worst offerings, whether you're diligently clearing the quarters to flip each switch in "Outer Cubicles" and "Residential Area 8" or slowly trudging back and forth across the ever-expanding track of "Legion of Dis", the final insult being a wave of arch-viles that you will be powerless to stop if you squander your rockets early.

Things seem even longer as the action is painfully weighted toward the shotgun and its double-barreled counterpart. The first time the author gives you the BFG it's almost solely used to grind down an army of Cyberdemons before your two invul artifacts wear off. You occasionally get to cut loose with the plasma gun and to a lesser extent the rocket launcher, usually leading to uncharacteristically enjoyable bouts of demon-slaying, but shell-using armaments are the workhorse weapons. You've got a recipe for a major time sink when the typical arms are coupled with an abundance of high-HP monsters like pain elementals and arachnotrons.

Further amplifying this temporal dilation is a sound replacement for the menu-closing noise, a two-line clip from what Google tells me to be Cypress Hill's "Illusions": "Some people tell me that I need help / Some people can fuck off and go to hell". I've heard a lot of obnoxious .WAV files but this is the worst in my memory. You're much better off just opening the WAD in something like SLADE3 and deleting it. While you're at it you might as well remove the player alternate death noise, too, which samples Adam Sandler's Goat skit, leading off with "Fuck me in the goat ass". It isn't nearly as prevalent but it's just as out of place considering how mirthless the megaWAD otherwise appears to be.

Virgil's vespers aren't entirely joyless. For all the painfully redundant flesh-pounding, the author occasionally lucks into fun encounters, usually in spite of whatever the surrounding material may be. One of my personal favorites is a congested, plasma gun-fueled brawl in "The Outer Perimeters". It really feels like something found in a more modern slaughter-oriented level. There are also quite a few battles where he successfully leverages the panic that comes with arenas featuring relatively restricted mobility (whether it's barriers on the ground or fliers in the sky) and having to handle monsters from just about every direction.

MAP06 is worth a look all on its own. The opening shot of the research station / satellite structure is a great spot of world building; I like its lonely sentinel appearance. The big brawl that follows once you reach the inner yard is thematically appropriate, with an outer ring of monsters manifesting on the edge of the infinite and then blinking into your personal space. The black hole warping / noise effect is ugly as sin but it isn't something that I've seen before, at least not to this extent (remembering the dust clouds of INVADE2), and it successfully accentuates the custom boss battle.

Speaking of power plays, Virgil has incorporated four super-monsters and while you will only fight two of them over the course of the "teaser" the other two can be summoned for your evaluation. They're sort of interesting, particularly since the uber-"cacodemon" that spits lost souls uses the Spiderdemon's chaingun whenever it finds itself in melee range. The execution is bugged, though; I'm not sure if it's just an issue with ZDoom but the author does not appear to have altered the sprites used for the frames; for instance, the "cacodemon" spends much of its time looking like a pain elemental and metamorphosing into a Spider Mastermind whenever it gets too close. It's also regrettable that the battles become feats of endurance as well as tests of patience due to their greatly inflated HP. The Cyberdemon, for instance, boasts a hefty 4,000 while the frailest of Virgil's villains careens about at an unwieldy 10,000.

ADSP is a hard sell to play as Virgil prefers it unless you just really enjoy grueling slogs through relatively pedestrian environments. And I'm sure that some of the people reading this do! After all, Vick appears to have made these maps for his own enjoyment at the very least. If you are really hankering for nominally spaceship-themed maps then I would try this on a lower difficulty level. For all the agony I'm glad to have experienced "Black Hole Ahead..." so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

by Vick "Virgil the Doom Poet" Bobkov

A short start on your own besieged shuttle. The first two opponents are a pair of Barons and while they may seem really annoying to take down with the obvious gunsnammo there's a secret BFG that can do a lot of damage. The docking tube is clumsily crammed full of imps and the monsters on the other end turn things into a 64-wide corridor shootout. I sort of like the base components, as ugly as the facade of the other ship is.

MAP02The 1st Horde
Battling through something resembling a cargo hold. It's painfully orthogonal tech spaces accented by some laser effects, which are kind of cool. The combat, while still Virgil to the core, is pretty breathable. The opening has monsters flooding in through something that appears to be a tear in the walls and if starting from pistol must be conquered using the Berserk fist. The stasis chamber has a manageable mix of imps and sergeants to start with; not too lethal and flexing plenty of maneuverability on their end. Afterward it's typical monsters packed like sardines into corridors / doorway fatal funnel nonsense, though the imp / Hell knight squads in the force fields were kind of fun. The combat shotgun and plasma gun come relatively early, helping you clear out all the meat. The Cyberdemon showdown arena looks interesting but the fight is by the numbers super shotgun jousting.

Hangar ControlMAP03
This is more of a silver spaceship interior, but it's still a thinly-veiled delivery mechanism for Virgil's brand of cramped slaughter. Most of this map is a grueling grind with the combat shotgun, moving between rectangular rooms through a small network of cramped corridors and then standing outside said chambers while you slowly clear out the opposition. The absolute nadir for me was the pain elemental army waiting on the staircase after grabbing the yellow key but it's not like you couldn't see the signs in the early shotgun guy / Baron brawl that serves as the first major battle. As far as successes go, I like the relatively understated teleport ambush that triggers on grabbing the blue key. The final room looks more like a massive temple to technology than anything else and while I'm okay with one Cyberdemon staircase showdown, four in a row is redundant to the core.

MAP04Outer Cubicles
The best part of this pathetic fuckfest happens while you blow all of your cells on the big horde of imps in the first leg of the jagged corridor. There are two more packs, though, which make up half the total enemies altogether, and twelve small and identical "cubicles" (personnel quarters, I think) fielding one of three different monster arrangements. You have to clear each one to flip the switch inside which will lower one of the twelve forcefields and dump a revenant (and, later, a Baron) at the end of the hallway. At the end, Spiderdemons fought peek-a-boo style, one at a time using the shotgun and recently-acquired rocket launcher.

The Outer PerimetersMAP05
Big fights on rusted metal platforms in what purports to be the outer recesses of the ship. I'm really unenthused with the opening and its cluttered imp balconies linked by awkward ribbed hallways, but the plasma-fed slaughter that follows the Baron / revenant link is crazy fun in spite of itself. You can really cut loose with all the cell ammo and it's an unruly horde to tame no matter how you try to approach it, making for a lot of dodging when you finally stand your ground. The final run is a wide suspended catwalk with Virgil pop-ups. It starts out humdrum but when the doors open and the cacodemons unleash, it's pretty easy to get overwhelmed. Vile Vick moments: killing the Spiderdemon and stepping inside its room only to have a second one pop up. Oh, and the ineffectual pack of pain elementals that spawns west of the arachnotron room.

MAP06Black Hole Ahead...
This is actually kind of cool. Or am I just saying that because I have "Outer Cubicles" to compare it to? Virgil abuses the renderer for a congested, unearthly melee for the "outdoor" ambush which features most of the monsters you'll fight. You will eventually figure out where the outer walls are but you can basically bounce back and forth around the outside and let infighting do a lot of your work while taking potshots with the super shotgun. What I really like is the garish noise that simulates the reality-bending powers of the black hole. Ugly as Hell and hard to see through, but DoomCute and almost all of the monsters you fight in it are imps or specters. The boss battle completes the image, even if it's basically a specterized arachnotron sporting an enormous health pool. It's just hard to see, especially since you'll always be moving, making your target somewhat elusive.

Waste ProcessingMAP07
A bright silver gauntlet with a couple of token splashes of nukage flowing through the walls. The opening imp / shotgun guy and shootout immediately followed by the Baron / chaingunner crossfire is classic Virgil In Spite of Himself, after which there's a steep dropoff in entertainment. The "core" area looks okay but the liberal mixture of zombies, imps, demons, lost souls, and Nazis leaves a lot to be desired and resignation sets in as you climb down the awkward metal staircase, killing arch-viles every two steps using one of two shell-consuming weapons. The revenant BFG frenzy in the pit is okay but the network of hallways you open up to the southeast are pure tedium, starting out with plugs of pain elementals and mancubuses and moving into invul-fed Cyberdemon obstructions. The first three out of the whole seventeen can scarce prepare you for the buffeted drudgery that follows; if anything, the second and third will fool you into wasting critical power-up time.

MAP08Sewage Sector 13
Well, this isn't too bad. It's a dark and dingy slice of sewer tunnels that dumps into a common drain, the site of the big finale. The opening has a few monster closets but nothing especially dickish, just tough luck maneuvering around revenant rockets given the bumpy floors. Grabbing the plasma gun triggers a "hold the line!" battle against an enormous influx of cacodemons and lost souls but you can stand your ground just as well sitting in the tiny alcove where you get the rifle. Even the enormous pack of arch-viles becomes merely the world's most dangerous door as Virgil isn't so cruel as to dispense with the monster blocking lines, without which the fight would be impossible. The final battle is a 360 degree teleporter clusterfuck where you're kitted out with ammo but the main action is plagued by potentially frustrating crowdsurfing. Most of the offending monsters are cacodemons and pain elementals (as well as the resulting lost souls) that appear from the periphery and hang out in the air.

Legion of DisMAP09
A long, irregular corridor ringing a giant pit. You push in one direction and then flip a switch, triggering slowly escalating variations of monsters that you must fight through to reach the latest switch on the opposite side. As you repeat this action, slowly grinding down the opposition with the combat shotgun and plasma gun, a powerful sense of shame sets in as you realize how poorly you are spending your life by playing AfterDoom 2: Deep Space Pirsuit. You start to feel like you owe all of the Hellbound faithful an apology for calling its combat dull and grindy. Then you realize that the existence of ADSP doesn't tilt the scale in HELLBND's favor; it just shows how much room there is beneath the bar. Still, you appreciate the newfound perspective. When you trigger the mancubus / revenant invasion, you hear some arch-viles wake up. It would sure be a dick move to spread them out all through the hallway as your last challenge during the final interminable backtracking. Yup. When you finally grab the rocket launcher, don't use it until you make your way back to the starting area. You'll need every bit of explosive ordnance for the sheer meat resurrected on the west side.

MAP10UAC Shuttle Facility
Superdense hallway clearing starting early with the shotgun and using the SSG for the later... third, maybe? There are more Nazis, of course, and a really obnoxious boxed Cyberdemon. You can either slowly grind him down with the regular shotty or just run past and pray that he's still trained to one of the imps or Hell knights in the hallway. It's slow going. I kind of enjoy the central structure, which I think is supposed to be a shuttle. The inevitable assortment of cacodemons / pain elementals that are boxed in behind impassable windows is a little more threatening this go around since the inner bay is pitch black.

The Lord of CacodemonsMAP11
The rocket has busted through the roof, the perfect location for a showdown with... this. The boss looks like a cacodemon but it moves really fast and spits lost souls as a pain elemental. If you try to cheese it by standing in front of it, you'll find that Virgil has given it a melee attack, which causes it to turn into a Spiderdemon and shoot at you. Given the layout the only way to break the attack is to change its state, almost certainly by inflicting pain, which returns it to its cacodemon form. The glut of shells lying around the rocket aren't all needed but if you're having trouble hitting the Lord of Cacodemons or waste enough on the steadily increasing number of roaming lost souls, you'll be SOL. It's a tough fight to get a handle on since the invisible walls defining the actual playing area are bound to fuck you at some point. Not that the boss's attacks are insanely lethal, but if you get boxed in and it bumps into you the resulting gunfire could shave off a lot of your margin.

MAP12Residential Area 8
Essentially the base components of "Outer Cubicles" but rearranged for a sandbox-style layout where all the imps are crammed into the tiny domiciles (twenty-one such enclosures). There aren't a lot of monsters on the ground floor and they're mostly shotgun guys but the cramped and open nature of the map makes for a desperate opening after which you are subjected to the most banal of room clearing since you need to investigate each of the shacks for switches that lower the thick barricade in front of the red door or the various keys required in order to get the crimson card. Two Cyberdemons will appear when you grab it; I highly advocate cheesing the first one from behind the megasphere bars since your hitscan attacks will penetrate underneath the faux-3D bridges. Deadly dull.

Virgil tries really hard and actually delivers a half-assed sandbox level. It looks like a bunch of abstract tech shit, and there aren't nearly enough rockets (or cells) to make the massive number of monsters fun, but at least it isn't hallway clearing. Actually, there's some of that in the interior of the southeast building. Vick also tries to fuck you with totally claustrophobic fights in the northwest. The worst moment for me was killing the first Cyberdemon in the southwest series of towers and on seeing the second realizing that there were probably two more and they would all have to be killed with the combat shotgun if I valued my BFG ammo. You'll want it for the obligatory cacodemon / pain elemental swarm and the reveneant crowd near the end that's augmented with a handful of arch-viles. Not a great sendoff, but I'm glad to be done.



  1. Looks nice, but isn't fun to play. That's the impression I got from it pretty quickly.

    1. I'm not sure that I would even say that it looks "nice" but it's certainly clean.