Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Revolution! (TVR.WAD)


Thomas van der Velden began his shrewdly successful community career with Revolution!, a Doom II megaWAD released in 2001. The enterprising Netherlander would go on to produce his own idTech-based game, Harmony; contribute to the first, third, and elven CCHESTs; and serve as a major and minor player in Plutonia 2 as well as the PRCP, respectively. His most recent work? Only a brand new map secreted away in the Revolution! MIDI Pack, a project headed by community superstar Jimmy in an attempt to close the stock music gap in the original release... but that is a tale for another time.


The plot's epic background draws from Paradise Lost and 2001: A Space Odyssey. There's a "Father" who's analogous to God but in contrast to notions of the Judeo-Christian tradition he is actually the primordial Chaos. There is also a "Son", but he is basically analogous to Satan. God birthed the latter but he rebelled; the plan to handle this ultimate evil involved creating humanity and then seeding another planet with a powerful device called "The Oracle". When mankind had sufficiently matured and expanded to the point that they discovered the now ancient relic, their true purpose would be revealed, setting the stage for the Father's confrontation with the Son.


Except Lucifer discovered the plan when humanity stuck their nose into inter-dimensional travel. The assault on Earth was a bid to nip Chaos's plan in the bud before it could come to fruition. What the God couldn't have expected was for humanity to eliminate The Son WITHOUT the guidance of The Oracle. In the aftermath, God's children enslaved the now cowed offspring of evil and used them to begin rebuilding their civilization... and expanding. They eventually made their way to the planet where Chaos left his contingency contraption, designated "Utopia". The monsters doing all the dirty work found it first, though, and the God used it to re-empower them as his new champions. The reason? The fear of mankind's potential to supplant Him as the master of the universe.


That's where you come in, driving a train transporting some of the enslaved when the R-E-V-O-L-U-T-I-O-N breaks out. They were angry with the man, 'cause he changed their way of life. Now they take their sweet revenge as they trample through the night. For a hundred miles or more you can hear the people cry, but there's nothing you can do; even God is on their side. While the cosmological underpinnings may be unknown to you, you still track the rebellion back to its source on Utopia by taking a teleporter at the end of the first episode, battle through the ill-fated colony during the second, and take the fight to Chaos's domain in the third. Will there be a happy end? Now, that all depends on you.


Revolution appeared to spring fully-formed from Velden's head but he actually cut his teeth making an earlier batch of levels during 1998 and 1999, eventually releasing them in 2004 as a similarly-spirited mapset entitled TV1998. A few of the ideas initially laid down there made their way into TVR, but the levels themselves are entirely new. The most obvious descendents are "Carnivorous Cargo", which is a much more polished rendition of "Train", and "Hausterium", a late-game version of the worm innards brawl that opened the earlier-made mapset as "Dune". If you enjoy Revolution and wouldn't mind a rough around the edges collection of levels in the same general style, then you owe it to yourself to check out TV1998.


Ah, but what is the style of TVR? Velden's levels aren't particularly long; in fact, they consist almost entirely of short affairs that field somewhere around fifty monsters. The playing area isn't necessarily small but the author's execution of the aspect of monster density as part of the level design gives the geometry of the maps enough space to be able to shine on their own without being sullied by a carpet of corpses. Not breathing down the player's neck gives you the room needed to enjoy the details of the level on your terms... provided that you're not dealing with a serial adrenaline junkie.


The physical design of the maps is probably the most important aspect of Revolution's character. If you ever found yourself playing Doom II and thinking "This doesn't look anything like Hell on Earth", well, Thomas van der Velden has you covered without really straying too far from the simplicity of the original IWAD. Just, you know, gently massaged into making things like the "moving" train; crafting maps resembling actual locations such as movie theaters, beachfront resorts, and rocket launching facilities; or just having interactive machinery a la Quake II with experiment (re: torture) chambers and mining lasers.


Not everything was made to resemble an actual, useful location, of course, and some of those largely abstract levels like "Phragmobasidium", "The Sect", and "Zombie or Not to Be" feel as though they could have been part of Doom II and I say this as someone who loves it regardless of whether or not its maps appear to be painstaking recreations of actual, real world locations. I think that these non-representative outings are combat-focused and as a whole more difficult to complete from an encounter-based perspective. I realize that this may be primarily a result of these kinds of levels tending toward the later portions of TVR where the earlier maps are more evocative of real-world locations.


Even so, Velden's encounter design is not as demanding as both contemporary and modern mapsets and their small scale and appealing architecture make for a fast and fun playthrough. The visuals are assisted by interesting layouts including landmarks as well as a handful of custom resources, helping to differentiate it from the original Doom II. The primary motif of Revolution is the sign of eight, visible on the skull in the titlepic as well as myriad textures and flats, the megasphere, and in a smaller form the health and armor bonuses - the ones that look like mere blue and red sparkles. You won't find out until the end, but the death's-head isn't just a stylish embellishment.


If you want to push TVR even further from 1994, then you ought to download the Revolution! MIDI Pack. This community contribution features replaces all of the well-worn Doom II tracks with original compositions written to complement the design of the accompanying levels. It also has some nifty spackling DeHackEd work, which replaces the automap titles and intermission texts. If that isn't reason enough, could you be swayed by the inclusion of a super secret new level from Thomas van der Velden? If so, then good news! "Revoltlover" is well within the spirit of his 2001 work and can be found in the MAP33 slot when using TVRMIDI.


Revolution is one of the most accessible vanilla Doom II megaWADs I've ever played. It's a tough field to compete in with the likes of Demonfear, Scythe, and even the lesser-known Perdition's Gate and Hell to Pay but Velden does a great job of consistently turning up the heat apart from a few big surprises (lookin' at you, "Utopia"!). It's Popcorn Doom at its finest. If you can't see yourself enjoying TVR, well, I'm sorry. Better luck next adventure.







REVOLUTION!
by Thomas van der Velden

Carnivorous CargoMAP01
Starting things out with a level drawing on TV1998's "The Train". It's a short and linear gas-fueled gauntlet that all but forces you into utilizing the chainsaw to take out zombies, imps, and demons. Using animated rather than scrolling textures for the outer area is a much better cheat to imply movement. I also like the twist where you have to walk outside and around the front of the train in order to grab the yellow key. The prisoner pods are a nice nod toward the otherwise inscrutable storyline.

MAP02Depression
Except for the dead marine hanging from the ceiling, this is an action-packed map. It includes the train station you got off at, some storage facility for zombie workers that's flooded with green goo, and a city segment featuring a movie theater. The action is weighted toward zombies, imps, and demons, plus a few big cacos. The weapon kit is pretty rudimentary but you get the shotgun early on and can find both the chainsaw and SSG in some choice secrets. Fun gimmicks introduced: a rain effect, witnessed in both outdoor areas, and a few air ducts where you can go a-splorin'.

InfestationMAP03
Velden shakes a lot of the rust off when he reveals the two arachnotrons on the balcony near the beginning. This journey into occupied territory is quite the step up in difficulty. A lot of that comes from all the hitscanners lurking around corners and behind windows but most of the Doom II brigade debuts here, including one token revenant. The squat architecture is unremarkable but the canal running through the large, eastern section does a good enough job of establishing the map's character. That and the stalled flatbed trailer truck and its exploding cargo.

MAP04Phobopolis
Continuing with the trend of city levels but in a slightly urbane flavor as you navigate fences and jump through second-floor windows in order to snag all three keys. The blue texture adorning the wall that divides the northern area from the south is interesting. I hope to see more of it, especially when used with the complimentary brick pattern seen on the yellow key building. It's a little garish for the blue key structure, though. Again, attrition from zombie hitscanners is the real threat, but I like the way that there are hidey-holes in the sides of a couple of the buildings for some close encounters. The squished hexagon steps to the north feel like a mini-homage to the Surprise Staircase of "Industrial Zone".

R 'n RMAP05
A slight change in scenery as your duct crawl lands you in a coastal resort. The pool comes complete with a diving board and a nearby basketball court. While the beachhead is defended by two Spiderdemons, you get to take it from behind. Or, rather, let the two arachnomommas kill each other and then squirt some plasma on the loser. Afterward you can marvel at the sand castle and check the hotel rooms, a few of which were overlooking the inner yard. Lowering the water level to reveal the blue key is a neat moment. I like the heftier combat, particularly the rocket launcher vs. revenants / demons ambush.

MAP06Wasted!
This is a pretty good sewer level and it begins with a jolt as you start in some poisonous muck. There's a lot of health lying around, though, and a rad suit just behind the first door so that you can dig in and start clearing out monsters, chiefly the Hell knight in the starting room. While much of the floor is composed of nukage, Velden supplies so many enviro suits that it's a non-issue. The zombies get around pretty well in the western network of tunnels so they're always a danger but the big prison / drainage chamber to the southeast is probably the most treacherous area due to the cells sporting revenants and mancubuses. I like the radial hallway that runs around the northwestern leg of the starting area. The exit comes with an interesting surprise, but you can skip it if you round off those corners...

The Valley of DeathMAP07
Falling through a hole in the ground and landing in an underground cavern that leads to an overflow pipe, which itself empties into the titular crevasse. It's a cool set piece, though very little of the combat is based around it; I was expecting more robust opposition. Instead you get a cool little journey to the north end where you pass through a small fortress, a forest featuring a few skeletons, and take one Hell of a shortcut to the passageway previous locked with the blue key. The red key room will be quite dangerous for clumsy players who cannot think on their feet. I like using the blur spheres on the columns outside the entrance to the brick bunker.

MAP08Rockit
It's got a big DoomCute rocket identical to TV1998's MAP10 but it rests inside a traditional-looking facility with a water tower and a few observation alcoves. There's also a retread of the lowering-fluid-level-revealing-cages gimmick seen in the opening of "Wasted!" but without being a damage floor and a more immediate threat in that the cubby creatures are commandos. If you can navigate through the hail of harrying hitscanners then the rest ought to be simple enough.

Wrath of ManMAP09
This reminds me of classic Doom II but still crammed with neat features and landmarks. The biggest one in my mind is the well you have to leap down into where you get your first glimpse of the exit bridge and its five Baron blockade. You'll get to witness it from the other, too, at which point you'll be more than prepared to confront it. The gory red key room is an interesting feature given its successive surprise closets unleashing pairs of revenants; this might ruin your day if you just rush in. The crate room right before the yellow key is incredibly DoomCute with the way Thomas lights up the chaingun and rocket launcher as you progress.

MAP10Lab of the Lost
Another thing released in 2001 where you can activate experiments to torture monsters. I wonder if this stuff became popular after the release of Quake II and its "Processing Plant". The bulk of the level's true action rests in the imp-infested opening warehouse, where you'll encounter an early arch-vile and on return a small force of cacodemons. The rest of the setups, particularly the chain of testing chambers, are too straightforward to offer any real challenge. Except for the mass zombie assault at the end, though; that was surprisingly effective.

The TransporterMAP11
There are actually two means of eponymous egress, but only one of them is your primary objective. The tunnel that runs through the westernmost portion of the map reminds me of TV1998's "Pipes". It's not nearly as dominating a gimmick, of course. Interestingly, Velden opted to make a large portion of this level optional. After all, the northeastern teleporter goes both ways. The encounters are unremarkable apart from the typical initial zombie exposure.

MAP12Utopia
Moving to some more typical brick and mortar constructions. If I were to try and tame demons to build a colony, well, I wouldn't be surprised if this is what I got. The change in scenery comes with a big uptick in difficulty. TV exercises some pretty good area denial monster placement, enlisting a pair of Hell knights, opposing mancubuses, and two groups of revenants on the high ground plus the semicircle of chaingunners guarding the rocket launcher. You'll either be quick or be dead. The Cyberdemon in the relatively tight central building came as quite a surprise. You're also subject to a sizable two-pronged teleporter ambush which while consisting of Doom II trash still means a lot of hitscans and thus shots on goal. The torturous monster placement around the exit emphasizes the importance of tactical movement.

AmokMAP13
This is way more like "Pipes" than "Transporter" thanks to the inclusion of the graveyard where the dead crawl out of their graves to keep you from snagging the combat shotgun. There's a dash of Plutonia, though, that I see in the chaingunner pillars aligned to the western teleporter and the sheer number of revenants lurking in the exit room, even if it's relatively easy to shell them into oblivion with the rockets provided immediately prior. And, uh, while the final surprise didn't actually hurt me, it did catch me off guard.

MAP14Dead End
An awkward but short challenge level where you have to move down to go up but the staircases are arranged in these humps, cresting at three points. The segments between teleporters and destinations are populated with meaty beasties that you can kind of kill from safety but still don't have much room to do it in. The central observer is a Cyberdemon but all you need to worry about is dodging his rockets. The big success is the design of the central platform which really looks like an island of corpses contained within cage walls.

BattlegroundMAP15
The transformation of the exit to a cage to begin this level is a nice bit of continuity. The purpose of the rest of the facility appears to be inscrutable but given the starting area and the two burning pits to the immediate northeast, it's possible that it serves as the finishing blow for any champions who made it through the previous death trap. The title doesn't come into play until you step outside for the first time and even then it only really amounts to one tank (which I admit is DoomCute) and a couple of bits of battle damage. The only real standout fight for me is the opening fisting party.

MAP31Raw
Sort of like a dingy sewer level but instead of nukage it's molten lava. The orange stuff is a very real hazard and you'll have to make a few mandatory runs across the coals. More importantly, however, is how Velden has attempted to make the arch-vile the star of a few encounters. The first will no doubt piss a few people off and has him working as a resurrection engine to a bunker lined with commandos that you must run all the way around. The other is a blink-a-thon battle where you have to wait to strike and run up on whatever pillar he stops on in order to avoid getting cooked yourself.

'Zombie or Not to Be'MAP32
This is a really cool abstract brick and metal level and it feels like it would be right at home in the original Doom II. Well, except for an enormous tower that you raise at the beginning of the map and which serves as the main set piece and nexus for all the action. The answer to the question is "Zombie", I suppose, because the only monsters you are going fight are of the former human variety. As a result, you're a stone's throw from being turned into Swiss cheese marine at all times. The commando snipers feel extra sneaky but the only real teleport ambush is thankfully toward the map's beginning.

MAP16Utopia Factory
The initial building facade with the burning barrels used in the smoke stacks is Hell of Doomcute. The general shape of the level is sort of like "Rockit" but the outer area isn't a complete ring and the eastern portion is nukage that you'll have to wade through in order to grab the red key. Combat is quite meaty to start, with the first and second rooms fielding mancubuses and arachnotrons respectively, and the pitch-black foyer sets you up for failure against the pair of undead lurking within. There's a lot of running back and forth once you reach the final 10% of the map in stark contrast to Velden's usual economical progression.

The MinersMAP17
A fun, medium-sized underground level rich in low-tier Doom II enemies. I like the large promenade that dominates the northern section of the level; it's got a lot of routes running through it and plenty of vantage points and hidey-holes for the monsters to keep you on your toes. Thomas also showcases more of that semi-interactive Quake II experience with a mining laser prop encountered near the level's exit. The standout fight for me was the initial crawl through the facility exterior but when it comes to surprises there's just something about being mobbed by demons in an enclosed space.

MAP18XS
A tricksy, abstract trek through an underground gauntlet. The network of octagonal chambers is a nice feature, especially as it's joined to the large lava-carpeted cavity with the descending "Chasm"-esque platforms that lead to an infernal chamber. The cavernous compartment is kind of dangerous since it's got an arachnotron at the end of the straight walkway and a couple of revenants in the far balcony but you ought to be good if you just head straight to the furnace. The goofy teleporter maze is not as punishing as "Last Call" but it's still more than frustrating since breaking the not quite discernible lines dumps you into the very lethal lava which WILL kill you with enough errors. I like the look of the Spiderdemon showdown room. Not sure about the window / platform thing right before, though. It's just weird.

XenocracyMAP19
I don't really get the name of this one; it's a reach for what appears to be a chain of "x"-themed titles. The level itself a brick and metal ruin linked by tunnels that are inundated with toxic blood, but there is a relative dearth of enviro suits compared to the earlier, easier "Wasted!". Attrition is a real threat alongside all of the heavier monsters including several instances of caged cacodemons, certainly a more durable monster choice than imps for such a role. The blue key fakeout is cute but my real favorite moment is the arrow backed by tortured spirits, the spectral signature disappearing once you have the yellow key in hand to exit.

MAP20X Marx the Spot
Another fairly straightforward challenge level that comes in two parts. The first is the western area, which makes up the bulk of the map and puts you in a sort of roundabout crossfire with heavy hitters. The arrangement is a tight circle instead of the more open "Dead End" but here the player in the center is the focus where MAP14 all the action is accomplished in the map's periphery. The other section is a barebones finale with a handful of monsters on pillar platforms but you DO get to shoot rockets into a big ol' "X", fulfilling the promise of the title.

HausteriumMAP21
Crawling through the innards of a massive subterranean slitherer. This level is more readily obvious as relating to TV1998's "Dune", down to the face of the worm but not the exact contents of its stomach. It's mostly cacodemons with a handful of revenants and a couple of odd demons out, all of which will be fought using shotgun shells and a sprinkling of rockets for flavor. The crushing guts section looks imposing but there are plenty of safe spots to avoid certain death. I'm not sure what's better - the badass feel of slaying the worm in TV1998 or having it merely swallow you and be apparently no worse for the wear. The latter adds a bit of a cosmic horror angle.

MAP22Beyond the Oracle
"Hausterium" wasn't actually "Beyond the Oracle", suggesting this world was anchored to ours with the worm either inhabiting or serving as part of the connection. Regardless, you start out looking at a big pyramid - your end goal - and then take a teleporter to the place where the red key can be accessed. The sandstone-like ruins are a nice aesthetic to start and it contrasts well against the dingy green in the main gameplay area. There's a lot of space to move around in and the action heavily favors the combat shotgun, though it starts out feeling like a waste when killing single imps. The opening arena fight is my fave since Velden sneakily teleports in a couple of mancubuses behind you while you back away from the one just inside the doorway.

Pyramide of PainMAP23
Underground ancient ruins where the combat has a strong lean toward tricks and traps. The first one that comes to my mind is a barred-in crusher, but other unsavory delights include a drop-down demon pit and a successive skeleton monster closet gimmick previously seen in "Wrath of Man". There's also the finale, which has a pit full of imps and can really go all Sandy on you if you wake them up and then retreat in surprise. Just a fun play all-around as long as you don't hate traps.

MAP24The Sect
The title, I assume, refers to an interSECTion of sorts rather than a religious one. This is a tangled bunch of catwalks and bunkers that smacks strongly of "The Inmost Dens". The combat is all about exposure, as evidenced by the arch-vile sitting on the clearly visible exit platform as well as an island dedicated to chaingunners with more lurking behind the many darkened windows. The watchful eye of the Satanic sorcerer requires extra attention when handling the multitude of skirmishing scenarios. Until you grab the rocket launcher and a few rockets, anyway.

The PrefectMAP25
A mancubus lords over this little corner of Chaos. The playing area consists of an outdoor section dominated by a moat and an inner fortress that sports an assortment of small, DoomCute rooms furnished by beds and bathtubs. The exit is behind the start but it's blocked by a bunch of pillars and you can only open them up from inside the mansion. The roundabout has the main trick since the four revenants posted in the level's corners make gameplay anything but leisurely but racing around the edge with a shotgun will let you clear it all without too much trouble. I like poking about the manor's interior; the symmetry hardly stings in a level this short and Velden has a few embellishments to trip you up.

MAP26Phragmobasidium
Another rock solid action outing. The opening is a zombie nightmare that could have come from any Sandy Petersen level. After you move to the sewers and reach the main area it ends up feeling more like a descendent of "Circle of Death" where you navigate offshoots built into the periphery while keeping your eyes and ears out for a central island populated with a sensible number of revenants. If you get hung up and can't figure out where to go, remember that the enviro suit placed at the end of the sewer pipe is there for a reason.

NecrosisMAP27
This one starts out kind of weird; a marine in his death-throes dissolves into green goo. Afterward is a relatively innocuous section of a city with a canal running through it... IN HELL! It's a neat level and features a cool break from normal progression where you have to climb out a window and then through some ruined masonry to pick up the scent again. I'm also a fan of the moment where you step through a teleporter and wind up inside a coffin that's being fed into an incinerator. Standout encounter, uh, probably the cacodemon ambush.

MAP28Exodus
Getting pretty tense, here. This monster-filled gauntlet debuts a new metal texture scheme. It looks cool but it's easily overshadowed by several large-scale battles. The revenant-heavy battle in blood is an early shock that draws you into monster herding while also prepping you for the scale of the other two big ones. The crammed crusher corridor is more straightforward than it looks, though the squishers themselves are probably troublesome for blocking shots. My favorite fight is the finale, a fun imp slaughter with a Spiderdemon guarding the exit and a boatload of cell ammo.

Hall of MaimMAP29
A little more of that metal theme but at a relatively leisurely pace. This is another fortress but it's the last one which is probably why Velden decided to bust out the titlepic iconography for the wall art. The action is easy to manage, especially since the author hands you the combat shotgun up front with a bunch of rockets later on. The worst thing that could probably happen is the arch-vile key guardian catching you off-guard before you can run behind one of the four pillars in the red key room.

MAP30The Forgotten God
All the weapons and a ton of health to combat Chaos as he sits on his throne and conjures up more of his Son's Hellish offspring. You don't have to ride an elevator up and then sort of guess the sweet spot but the moment you step on the shooter platform it starts to sink into the ground. You can either clamber on and hook your shot in as quickly as possible or  sprint to the shooter platform before it reaches its apex and just pound the shit out of him. Neither one is at all hard to do at the beginning but if you screw things up and the monsters start to pile up it'll get bad and fast.

ONCE UPON A TIME SCIENCE OPENED UP THE DOOR
WE WOULD FEED THE HUNGRY FIELDS 'TIL THEY COULDN'T EAT NO MORE
BUT THE POTIONS THAT WE MADE TOUCHED THE CREATURES DOWN BELOW
AND THEY GREW UP IN A WAY THAT WE'D NEVER SEEN BEFORE

6 comments:

  1. Damn... a megawad review!! Looking forward to getting some coffee and reading this one!

    Looking at the later screenshots, I need to give this mapset another try, apparently.

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    1. Never a bad time to play some fast and fun Doom!

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  2. Great site man, realy enjoy ur in debt reviews of wads,

    I first playd doom back in 95, but i dident excactly kick ass, nuff sayd.. lol.. iddqd etc..but since a year or so i started playing on a daily basis, first started out with doomsday, then onto gzdoom and now I use crispy doom for vanilla and for other prboom+,
    Realy enjoying alien vendetta and Plutonia 2 (hope u will review that wad some day) at the moment, pistol start no save uvmax..

    Keep up the good work!!

    Greetz

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    1. Plutonia 2 is definitely an objective but I'm a long way away. You are going to see Kama Sutra much sooner than Plutonia 2.

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  3. I usually skim over the story summaries in your reviews but that one was pretty unusual sqq justifying the time you spent detailing it! If I ever get around to hammering out my idea if a minisode called Hypnagogic Euphoria and gave it a story, it might be something like that.

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    1. it's a little longer than it really has to be but the original release had NO information in it and the DeHackEd from TVRMIDI has SOME of the information with the Doomwiki article carrying the other portion so I wanted to put it all in one place. Plus some liberal quotations from Cerrone's "Supernature".

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