Friday, July 6, 2018

Flay the Obscene - The Third (FLAYOBS3.WAD)


by Christian Hansen

The artist formerly known as c-cooper started out trying to build his one man megaWAD one level at a time before moving to a more sensible one and done pace. His Flay the Obscene series marked a return to a serial format, the first two entries seeing release in 1999 and 2000. The Third, published in 2001, would be the last... until 2014's Reversed. FLAYOBS3 is a MAP15 replacement for Doom II, almost certainly because the previous levels originally spanned from MAP12 to MAP14. It has no secret exit so I wouldn't waste my time looking for one but there is at least one cheeky jab at the player whose purpose I only just now realized.

Hansen actually worked to establish some semblance of a plot. You're part of a super-secret contingent of UAC marines that serves as the man on the wall, keeping extra-planetary terrors at bay while the rest of the world remains blissfully unaware of so many brushes with annihilation. Your superiors sent you on a mission but it didn't make sense on its face. You're supposed to dispatch an alien intelligence whose level of technology was described as "neanderthal". As you battle your way through its unusually composed brick and metal architecture, though, you make two key observations. First, you see elements of functional technology in the structures as you explore. Two, there are a lot of things moving around that look like the walking dead. Formerly human soldiers, to be more exact.

Just what is going on here? Why are you having to step over the corpses of fellow marines? Are these the results of earlier, failed expeditions? Surely the UAC would have briefed you of subsequent difficulties. Supposing that you weren't sent here with the expectation of failure, meant to die as an experiment in order to collect data on the combat capabilities of the creatures you were meant to destroy. There are some pretty disturbing implications when this is placed on the timeline. For instance, a teleporter situated on our planet prior to the events of Hell on Earth since anyone post-Doom II would have no doubt as to the nature of this opposition.

The series prides itself on a sort of gothic brick and metal theme with occasional dalliances toward something that would be just at home in a techbase and Shrek the Third is no exception. The overall effect when moving between rooms is more patchwork as the individual chambers may have significantly different characters. A few contiguous areas work very hard to promote the essence of Flay the Obscene, though, two large courtyards that also share some of the more maligned features manifest in Part Two. Well, the northern area isn't quite so big, but it's highly interconnected and spiritually similar. Just, the stakes are upped because it hosts a Cyberdemon.

FLAYOBS3 is pretty cruel to the player on several different fronts. First and foremost, Hansen shoves three commandos in your face right out of the gate after pressing a super shotgun into your eager hands and there's a little porthole overlooking the starting zone that has some sergeant snipers. These sort of claustrophobic combat scenarios come hard and heavy putting immense pressure on the player with cacodemons, pain elementals, revenants, and other such unsavory delights. You feel it all the more because ammo often feels tight and health is definitely at a premium, riding the ragged edge of survival-style gameplay. To make things worse, there are several instances of permanent turrets that you're not meant to eliminate. All but one of them are arch-vile / commando resurrection machines with the last being the aforementioned rocket-launching skyscraper, found near the climax.

There is an invul sphere left tantalizingly on a table but it's a trap as signified by the corpses laying below it. I could mischaracterize it as another merciless moment but it's actually meant for players who are playing in source ports that allow the player to jump, like Legacy. You can't otherwise get onto the surface to cross the teleporter line and you can actually use the time-honored technique of bumping to snag the power-up, which is how I initially picked it up. I didn't figure out that there was a telefrag trap until I went digging for some way to kill the essentially invincible turret monsters. You won't find one either, by the way.

Hansen still has difficulty settings so you're free to enjoy all of his little embellishments. One of the more extensively used cheats utilizes upper and lower wall textures through the use of zero-height cavities. The same effect could be achieved by using a custom resource but it's an ingenious indulgence when sticking to the elements available from the IWAD. I also appreciate little details like the water canal room with the two commando coffins and a similar setup where an animated fire texture is used something like a forcefield alongside the key shrines and the final room's teleporter chamber.

It's a long way from the very simple Ad Infernos series and serves as a fitting capstone to Flay the Obscene... at least, it did until Hansen revisited it again some thirteen years later. Proceed with caution; I strongly recommend against UV play unless you really like to sink your teeth into conventionally unfair gameplay.



  1. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Man, I was such a dick back then! I think maybe I looked a bit too much up to people like Richard Wiles and thought I could do the same gameplay wise. Except maybe I didn't fully understand that starving the player of health items wasn't the right way to go :( But I'm still proud of my earlier work as it was made in DoomCAD and today - with a powerful tool such as DoomBuilder - I can't make them look as good as this. Thanks for the review and for going easy on me! :)

    1. It's clear to me that you had a watershed moment on player difficulty somewhere between helping out on 2002: ADO and doing your RETROEPS... more on that later ;)

  2. Hehe! Looking forward to it.... I think :D