Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Codename HYENA: Killer Machine (HYENA.WAD)


Kristian Käll went on to major acclaim for his Legacy PWADs - Phobia, Ni'mRoD: IXNAY on the HOMBRE, and Phobia: The Age - and more recently his Heretic and Hexen projects, Curse of D'sparil and Curse of the Lost Gods. The first two happened during his tenure as a member of Unholy Software and their earliest release was a total conversion for the original Doom, published in 1998. Codename HYENA: Killer Machine gets mentioned every now and then but there's a hint of uncertainty behind the namedrops. It replaces the first three episodes of the original Doom - the last a decidedly Deathmatch dalliance - and has a fair bit of DeHackEd work in order to tweak the values of its core gameplay for a fairly different experience.


The year is 2039 and terrorism has become so prevalent an issue that like-minded individuals banded together to create the Terrorist Force Defence Organization. The paramilitary group apparently pledges allegiance to the United States of America but is self-sufficient, thus having no reliance on the government. You are one of its agents, codenamed HYENA, sent on a retaliatory mission after a bombing at the White House results in the death of the President, his wife, and more. The culprits: Eagle Power, a Satan-worshipping cult living in a jungle of ill repute. Of course, your team was ambushed on arrival leaving you as the sole survivor. It's up to you to avenge the President and your combatant countrymen.


Before I go any farther, there's something you must know. HYENA won't work out of the box with ZDoom should that be your port of choice. This particular affliction may extend to its entire source family though I won't be bothered to test it myself. In order to get Killer Machine to play correctly you'll have to open up the main PWAD in a utility like SLADE3, find a lump called S_SKIN, and delete it. After that, everything should be fine! The TC isn't without some bugs but this small change will actually allow the assets to load, thus enabling you to enjoy the fine fruits of Unholy Software's labor.


As mentioned before, HYENA replaces Doom's initial three episodes. The first occurs in the jungle where Eagle Power is headquartered and ends in a temple dedicated to the ultimate evil. Afterward you are whisked away to the terrorists' actual seat of power where you battle through nondescript locations in a city until arriving at their heavily fortified bunker. The third episode is Deathmatch only but most of the maps have a definite key progression that you can work through in single player mode and "I Want" even has some sparing but thoughtful monster placement. A fourth was apparently under construction and its episode title, Fierce Slain, still exists as part of the package. Judging from the screenshots on the project's homepage, though, E4M1 likely made its way into the deathmatch set as "I Want".


There are a lot of gameplay changes but the core of Doom is basically still in place. The biggest dynamic shift is that all hitscan attacks have some sort of explosive component to them. This appears to be an attempt at simulating ricochets but may come as an unwelcome surprise if you shoot point blank into a wall. This includes striking with the fist or chainsaw replacement. The minigun, which stands in for your plasma rifle, is still safe. There is also no species invulnerability to projectiles. Every enemy will gladly infight at the slightest provocation. Remember this because some of the most brutal monster packs can be passively pacified with a pinch of patience.


Regardless of how cool select levels may look, I would strongly caution against trying to pistol start most of them. At least, I wouldn't try unless you're wanting to engage in some kind of challenge mode that relies on the indiscriminate infighting. I stopped barking up the hardcore tree around E1M3 because the ammo and weapon placement did not appear to support starting over from scratch. Your mileage may vary but the way that the authors handled monster placement, frequently falling back on slaughter-lite hordes of terrorists, leaves me with little enthusiasm for pursuing such a torturous trophy.


The enemies all have sprite replacements to differentiate them from their Satanic majesties. The green-shirted dude is basically the same as the basic trooper but he has an alternative, clad in brown, who drops no ammo. The shotgun guy converts to a horror-movie trope dressed in black with a hockey mask and carrying a boomstick in one hand while toting a chainsaw in the other. The ubiquitous imp is superseded by a rifle-bearing guy wearing a red bandana and shooting really slow projectiles. He has a superior version later on that has more health and shoots sequential bursts of bullets.


The cacodemon and lost soul show off some of the more interesting replacements. The terrorists have manufactured hovering Terminator-style endoskeleton plasma dispensers. They're not as durable as big-mouth floaty thingies but the robots are just as dangerous. Flaming skulls are supplanted by drones bearing a passing resemblance to Duke 3D's sentry bots, minus the screeching and considerable durability and exploding as their only form of attack. The inhuman devices do blow apart with burst damage upon destruction, though, making for one of the largest dynamic departures from the original Doom.


HYENA's signature monster appears to be some kind of cyborg with an arm attachment. They come in three varieties, recognizable via color. The green shirts basically function as demons while the gray garbed guys are Barons of Hell, down to the death sound. The reds arrive later and work basically as beefy commandos, making them one of the most dangerous monsters that you'll encounter. The augmented adversaries make up a large portion of the HP you'll have to carve down. A turret the size of a tank replaces the Spiderdemon. It isn't nearly as tough and it appears to be stationary but it's still pretty dangerous on the rare occasions where you encounter it. The single-player episodes don't have a Cyberdemon replacement but there is at least one vanilla rocket tower secreted within the deathmatch episode.


The level design is basically peak '94 and '95 (including Metallica MIDIs and... The Offspring) with all of the positives and negatives that implies. E1M8, for instance, spells out the opening words of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown's "Fire". Whether Unholy Software was pulling from that or one of its many references in the history of pop culture, well, only Kristus or Nimrod would know. Oftentimes you'll run into computer textures that have no business being slathered on every wall and floor of the place you're fighting through. E1M3 features a huge-ass rocket ship and E1M5 a realistically rote prison. E1M1 has a heroic stab at trying to render an abstract jungle but Joe Zona does a more convincing job in Real and Twilight Warrior. I do like the militant outpost in E1M9, though. E1M6 is probably my favorite of the whole bunch, from the micro-"Chasm" hub gauntlet to the teleporter-navigated outdoor area to the west.


The second episode appears to be slightly more grounded at first but seems to vacillate between tight layouts and cavernous psychedelia. E2M2 looks like a city block and has a "Containment Area" style warehouse but a large portion of the playable space is given to an enormous chain of secrets, much like E2M4's dystopian piping nightmare which dominates almost half of the level yet appears to be completely optional. E2M7 is somewhere in between, opening like the smaller outings before exposing two enormous setpiece areas to the west. One is a plain if huge toxic chamber while the other, well, I wouldn't want to spoil it in writing.


Unholy Software love traps and are very big on hordes of enemies. The pack placement gets a bit better later on but wading through the mindless masses of terrorists seen in E1M2 and E1M3 gets old fast, particularly when health appears to be an incredibly scarce resource. Additionally, while the crew cuts down on the sheer number of enemies the total HP probably goes up with the inclusion of elite monsters, more cyber torsos, and turrets. Proceed at your own risk and consider the potential frustrations of tons of hitscanners, miserly health placement, wildly unintuitive level progression, and hitscans potentially generating explosions. A point-blank hit with the shotgun can easily kill you.


I was actually dreading playing through this based on screenshots of wallpapered computer graphics. In the end I was pleasantly surprised yet ultimately disappointed when the third episode was revealed to be exclusively Deathmatch and the fourth did not really exist. I skimmed through the multiplayer stuff anyway and saw some interesting things. A portion of them implied to me that a few of these levels were originally single player but got gutted for one reason or another. E3M6 is the only one that maintains a relatively full kit so if you're still hankering for some counter-terrorism action then you might do well to warp there. I've included descriptions and screenshots of the third episode for curiosity's sake.


HYENA is recommended to anyone whose blood runs hot for 90s Doom clones, pastiches of 80s action movies, or wild and weird level design from the early days, sort of like Mayhem Mansion. In fact, I think that desk lamp looked kind of familiar. Killer Machine likely has little appeal for anyone looking for polished total conversions or the relatively fine-tuned experiences of Memento Mori and beyond. I doubt whether it will be your particular brand of madness but I couldn't say for sure.





CODENAME HYENA:
KILLER MACHINE
by Unholy Software

EPISODE ONE
THIS MEANS WAR!

JungleE1M1
Basically one big open area boasting a healthy number of basic soldiers running around. Since the trees don't offer you any cover, it's more than a little dangerous. The abstract texture meant to resemble the thick rainforest sort of works but the secret area plastered with various computer screens and things feels highly out of place. It definitely helps to set up your expectations.

E1M2Nuclear Plant
This is the most laughable rendition of a fission-type power station that I've seen in a while. The basic hitscanners are about in abundance and the only health is available as a tucked-away soul sphere equivalent. The wrecked car kind of reminds me of Doomsday of UAC. The crate areas with the imp surrogates offer the best gameplay so far. The balcony to the north is a neat enough landmark. I'm not sure about the moon logic that's centered around what appears to be a mess hall; it's odd mixing banal realism with abstract progression.

Rocket RampE1M3
Well, I like the big ol' shuttle prop. Almost all of the monsters are in a big ol' clusterfuck at the end of the northeast maze, a mixture of shotgun guys and budget tech plasma dudes. It's a real pain to fight through, especially because health is so scarce. The dangerous hallway in the maze is a different gimmick but since you won't see what's killing you or infer the logic of the level design I imagine that it's mostly frustrating. Having to enter the ship's engines is, uh, less than intuitive; the hatches look nothing like doors. You're expected to discern it from the automap, I suppose. I have no idea what's going on inside the southwestern annex. Maybe it's the key to entering the innermost recesses of the ship.

E1M9Military Base
The facade really does look like some sort of jungle outpost complete with trenches ready for an assault. This has a slaughter vibe due to the masses of opponents and how they're staged - never mind the fact that almost all of them are hitscanners. Thank goodness you get the chain- I mean, "Automatic Mayhem Ho Ho". At one point you mow down nearly eighty bottom-tier troopers as they stumble out of their sardine-can garages. I like the opening view and also a secret annex featuring a mysterious structure that appears to be the edge of a castle. A brilliant splash of architecture.

StationE1M4
A big, boxy level with room cavities stuffed full of terrorists. The landed ship from E1M3 is the most interesting feature, seconded by an inexplicable death's head shrine and maybe the room featuring two towers near the center of the map. It's mostly a grind but the teleporter system offers a bit of a twist and an unwelcome one if you happen to teleport into the closet staffed by two imp dudes.

E1M5Prison
It actually does look like a penitentiary but with all the problems that entails. At least the cells are barred, preventing you from having to individually enter and check out each one. The basement to the south has some kind of fatal flaw in its construction (at least on ZDoom). Once you enter in, its entire hallway collapses and you won't be able to access any of its rooms or return once you leave. This makes a secret teleporter that takes you back a little awkward. Thankfully, the optional blue key is not in the cellar but in a tunnel system off a semi-secret yard. It grants access to a truck load of supplies - presumably the administration / guard facilities - as well as the restrooms.

Temple of Unholy LavaE1M6
The level design in this one is actually pretty inspired. The first half is a chamber of seven doors routine where you run through either twisted corridors or precarious "Chasm"-esque tightropes. One of the latter will fuck you up with a bunch of those exploding drones unless you wake them all up and then wait for them to appear. The western area is a cool sort of damned by lava village thing where all of the islands have hitscanners swarming all over them. Then you kill everything and get to go island hoppin', exploring several ruins. The skull switch at the end of the dark tunnel to the northwest really creeped me out.

E1M7Worship Satan
A labyrinthine mess with vague occult trappings. The plasma gun replacement appears, which is nice, but this level has a major choke point in its northern outdoor area. Its floor is literal lava. I hope you have full health when you reach because trying to handle all of the monsters crammed into the two bunkers will sap a lot of it. After E1M6 this feels like it came much earlier in the careers of the authors. The skull maze following the weird sacrificial chamber is kind of surreal but very raw and saturated with enemies.

God of Hell FireE1M8
Unholy felt obliged to make a Crazy World of Arthur Brown reference. The opening "I" strobe is disorienting but the rest of the leadup to the showdown is banal. The big battle is against all the Hell knight / Baron replacements in a crossfire quadrant that's kind of a pain to move around in with the stairs on the edges and the pillars in the center. Hopefully you still have a bunch of rockets left over and "bullets" for the minigun. The two hordes of hitscanners in the actual exit are more of an afterthought.


EPISODE TWO
HELL AWAITS YOU

E2M1Dungeon
A small, linear escape made tedious by the weapon placement. You'll probably have to punch a few green mask dudes to death which is more slow than anything since they can't come down the stairs to get you. The minigun can be found in a secret so once you grab it the rest is pretty much a cake walk.

Killing AreaE2M2
Starts out almost like a city map with a little library and then goes full warehouse a la "Containment Area". Somewhere along the way you may find a switch to opens up a secret within the crates. This turns into a long and treacherous side area that feels like it could go on forever. It eventually stops but not before a couple of crushing corridors and an acid gauntlet. This also marks the debut of elite versions of normal foes, clad in red. It feels like one of those epic Blake Stone maps; you start to pull a thread and the main game starts to takes a backseat. The wooden bridge area, where the primary and secret areas collide, is a cool piece of abstract architecture.

E2M3Secure HQ
Well I wasn't sold on the opening which looks just as garish and ham-fisted as the ugliest levels from this set but it gets better. There is a green key without an associated door which comes as an odd red herring. I also see some midtexture furniture toward the exit. Woe to the hardcore player as the final segment of the level is locked behind a one-shot switch puzzle. There are a plethora of buttons to press inside the room but you need to use two and only the right two. Otherwise, you'll be stuck and have to reload.

Eristic QuestE2M4
And now for something completely different. This map starts out looking like some kind of water treatment facility but turns into a surreal, cavernous piping nightmare once you enter the western section. The dystopian cavity is also apparently optional to explore. I love it as a piece of bizarre Doom level design. The "elite" demons are really dangerous here and the staircase that descends into the tubing terrace is a clusterfuck horde of imps and shotgun guys. A lot of them will climb up to get you but you can't see whatever's down at the bottom and the remainders migrate toward either side of the staircase, making them difficult to dispatch. The little aqueduct to the south is a nice bit of world building.

E2M5Shattered Flesh
A confusing map that must be navigated using the four teleporters in the opening room. Major sections will open up as you poke and prod around but walkover lines work a lot of the triggers which makes deciphering it quite reliant on reruns. The first major destination has a huge wave of monsters and while you can weather it you'll find that the author intends for you to cheat it with a crusher. Another murder room is probably meant to be tackled using the hidden BFG, which makes its first appearance. The wall stairs leading up to another not-so-secret is oldschool cool. There's an alternate exit here but it appears to be only accessible from a deathmatch spawn.

El Tenador del DiabloE2M9
This one has a bit of that "Military Base" vibe at first but it fades fast. It's also nearly bereft of ammo so you obviously weren't meant to warp here, especially when the monsters appear in such huge waves. The red mask guys really twist the dagger here but they come in handy for the final fight where you can exploit a key locked door. This is also the first appearance of the Spiderdemon replacement, a huge fuckoff turret in a weird poison canal that also has a cadre of robots and drones. The architecture of the eastern outdoor area is unusually inspired.

E2M6Carnage
An abstract level without a whole lot going for it. The room shapes are... exotic, at least. Many of the enemies come in packs so you're better off exploiting their potential for infighting, particularly the group found hanging out in the poison pit room. That said, the author still dumps a ton of ammo on you so the infighting is more of a convenience in health conservation. The most compelling combat comes from the ugly northwestern chamber. Getting in isn't very thrilling but the monster closet ambush actually got me engaged.

Old FactoryE2M7
It's kind of a nightmare to explore but I really like the architecture, particularly the northern and southernmost sections. The toxic colonnade is a surreal scene and I like that there's a secret switch to disarms the trap. The weirdest bit is a drop into a pit which somehow has a terrain destruction cheat. The way out is through the fire because the panel traps you forever. The most dangerous fight is a layered ambush gloaming with Baron replacements. There are tons of cells but unless I have the wrong of things you can't be toting the BFG at this point. Which would make it a much faster and safer fight.

E2M8Aim and Fire
The single-player finale is a grueling bunker assault where you must destroy a large number of the high-HP turrets. There are twelve surrounding the perimeter and a further seven inside, comprising nineteen out of the twenty-nine enemies. Thankfully the BFG is available in several spots and two or three projectiles (not counting tracers) should be able to root out the trickier opponents. The interior layout is kind of fun to unravel and various checkpoints become open to the outside as you make your way through. If you're hoping for a showdown against the big bad, well, there isn't one.


EPISODE THREE
PSYCHO!

Meaning of LifeE3M1
Deathmatch only. A big, boxy underground cavern with an upper level of catwalks, a lower ground floor, and a large pit of water to the north. Most of the walkways are really wide so it's easy to run around in, though you'll need to use lifts to move between levels apart from the tri-staircase structure. It looks really cool. The showcase weapon is the BFG but it's meant to be played with included file E3M1PTCH.DEH, which changes it to something like a grenade launcher that uses rockets.

E3M2Mortal Kombat Remix
Deathmatch only but really silly. You spawn on a bridge a la Mortal Kombat II's Pit level and get an invul sphere and a berserk pack so that you can punch three Baron replacements to death. The other really notable feature is the MK dragon logo in a room with a Cyberdemon and a grenade launcher / BFG.

The Devils NestE3M3
Again, deathmatch only. There are a couple of funky staircase structures; they appear to be constructed so that players can run up them but not down them. The main playing area is small and cramped and has a tunnel circuit which loops around from the west waterway entrance to the east. I'm amused by a long and convoluted chain of triggers you can pursue to open up auxiliary areas, eventually granting access to the shrine in the northwest section of the level, sporting a BFG and an invul artifact.

E3M4Gone Away
Deathmatch only. It's a man-made island in a toxic pit with a few small bunkers, a large one, and a little warehouse. The sniper enclosures seem like holding points with automatic rifles and a bunch of ammo. The storage area has some choice goodies but there's a single point of entry. It's otherwise surrounded by fencing, either side leading to a couple of goodies of dubious worth considering how your movement will be restricted when reaching each of them.

Fear of the DarkE3M5
A weird one. It's dark and spooky and, like E3M3, has a single player progression style chain of things you can do to eventually progress to a completely different section of map that borrows from Heretic's city stuff. The single player walkthrough was interesting because there are no pickups apart from a rocket launcher and at one point you're suddenly exposed to a horde of twenty Baron facemask dudes.

E3M9Offspring
If the rest of the HYENA set had looked something like this, then it would probably be more fondly remembered. The deathmatch-only "Offspring" is tiny and cramped but has some painstaking lightcasting. The texturing is also far more responsible, particularly the bits using the computer panels. There's a faux-ROR bridge to the northwest and a midtexture catwalk to the southeast to round out the special effects.

I WantE3M6
This is almost a single player map. The only thing it's missing is an exit. Part of the level consists of ugly organic tech and the other is a fairly cool looking ruins area with a giant red arrow pointing toward a room containing an invul sphere. Why Unholy Software made levels steeped in regular progression is beyond me since all players spawn in holding every key. Were any of these rejects from the main campaign, I wonder?

E3M7Metal Pain
A deathmatch version of the nightmarish "Eristic Quest" that cuts out most of the enormous piping cavern to the west. There's a roaming but harmless sentry turret, a Cyberdemon spoiler, and a relatively normal brace of monsters guarding what was originally the exit. Amusingly, the Demon becomes a bunch of endoskeletons on HMP.

GenocideE3M8
An extension of the city block stuff initially explored in "Killing Area". There's a stretch of road and two structures. The large northern building appears to be some kind of office with a massive, open foyer that looks pretty cool in a DoomCute sort of way. The rest of its interior is composed of small, cramped rooms, a few of which have what appear to be... drafting table desks, seen elsewhere in the WAD. The southern structure looks like a bank with a bathroom but no vault.

IT GOES DOWN THE SAME AS THE THOUSAND BEFORE
NO ONE'S GETTING SMARTER
NO ONE'S LEARNING THE SCORE
YOUR NEVER-ENDING SPREE OF DEATH AND VIOLENCE AND HATE
IS GONNA TIE YOUR OWN ROPE

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