Sunday, August 26, 2018

2002: A Doom Odyssey (2002AD10.WAD)

Paul Corfiatis released a ton of maps during 1998 and 1999 and then slipped into the background for a bit. You saw a few glimpses of his work making the lineup for the 10 Sectors 2 megaWAD and he also released a few solo levels as part of his Selfish series, but he was working on much bigger things. The first was as a contributor to the ill-fated Doom: Millennium project which he started taking to task in the .TXTs that accompanied his contemporary releases. The other was 2002: A Doom Odyssey, a megaWAD for the Ultimate release replacing all four episodes and featuring the collected works of eight authors... even if pcorf is responsible for half of them.

There are two main versions of 2002ADO available on the archives. The first dates back to roughly two years after the original release. The attempt at polishing also apparently fixed some ZDoom-specific stuff but broke things while bugfixing so that the super-secret exit didn't work right. The second, dating to 2012 (its 10 year anniversary), made a lot of changes. The most concrete involved replacing E4M1; making a new E3M5 and bumping the original to E4M9, in turn relegating the obligatory Wolf3D map to E5M2; fixed the alternate modes of egress; stripped out all of the custom skies and map pics; and added a brand new soundtrack for the fourth episode. I took the time (to figure out how) to crowbar the custom cloudscapes back in for a sort of "best of both worlds" edition if you're wondering what's up with the screenshots. The rest of the package is otherwise unchanged.

I'm not sure about where the plot fits but it could just be the perils of the English language. The re-release's phrasing implies that a recent campaign against the demons which culminated in the death of a Spider Mastermind has just wrapped up. It then goes on to spoil the twist at the end of the third episode which Paul sort of obscured by changing its title from "The Search For Stephanie" to "Torment Ultima". The original summary was written in present tense as a sort of preview of everything that is to occur which makes more sense and places 2002ADO in its own microcosm of pcorf's dreamlands. It almost feels like the update in 2012 tried to place it in the greater continuity of The Twilight Zone / Death Tormention / TWZONE2 / PE4_DT2 saga.

The concrete aspects of the action that are reinforced through the level design should seem pretty familiar, though. You start out in a starbase overrun with Hellspawn and, after clearing it out, move on to the realm of nightmares. Once you break through you take your ticket back to Hell and give the demons another good thrashing. Upon returning home you hear terrible news: the loathsome Tommy the Trooper went out through your in door and absconded with your wife, Stephanie, to some disused and still malformed corner of the Earth. You immediately set out to rescue her, not to say that fighting on your home planet will be any easier.

2002: A Doom Odyssey is primarily pcorf's vision but he has seven other authors backing him up. A lot of these guys ran the same circles whether it was as a part of Team Insanity or other community projects that were in development at the time, like Plutonia 2... or Doom: Millennium. Paul's soul brother, Kristian Aro, comes as no surprise on this roster. They previously worked together on Death Tormention II and would go on to collaborate on both its sequel and Whispers of Satan. Aro has five of his own levels, almost all of which happen in the first / Phobos-like episode. Together these guys are responsible for more than 60% of the PWAD and when their efforts are front-loaded into the first two episodes they make up a lot of its initial impression / public face.

Team PCKA may differ in the particulars of their architecture and detailing but there is a very distinct style of progression that permeates their levels and indeed most of the surrounding material. Some do a better job of hiding it than others but you will eventually come to a hub room with several different key-locked annexes branching off of it and one accessible from the start. The base model is known in the current parlance as the hubspoke, I believe. "Service Base" (E1M7) is notable for having a TTH (time to hub) of zero seconds and leaving it in a banal, square shape. Then, I was bemused, but I did not anticipate that it would be such a critical element of the level design.

There are some powerful benefits to 2002ADO's layouts. The authors try to show you the key up front after which you travel the leg of the level for a conspicuous switch in order to make it available. The flow is linear in practicality; you won't go far without either hitting a switch-activated door or the button that triggers it. The authors effectively prevent players from becoming lost by maintaining total control over where they can wander much like bumpers on a bowling lane. You also don't have to worry about them wandering into enemy territory without the right weapon, an issue that crops up when maps revel in freedom to explore. The architecture features plenty of windows to foster a sense of interconnectivity, though, and forcing players to backtrack to the central hub - often while battling newly revealed monsters - instills the barest illusion of non-linearity.

The downside for seasoned veterans is that it may feel like Doom by Numbers. The original cast members don't make for terribly distinguished combat to begin with and when the same premise is executed over an entire four episodes it starts to stretch something awful. You can make up for it in a couple of ways and to his credit Paul has some amazing friends. Anthony Soto's "Back to Base X" while not located anywhere near Saturn is a rock solid offering with amazing combat and excellent architecture; par for the course, really. Joe Pallai explodes past his simple but effective PUREDOOM levels with "Dementia". While it's just as linear as anything else in the set, Joe's careful route braids you through the massive marble fortress to create the feeling of an epic adventure rivaling "Misri Halek"... minus the exotic location.

Virgil has the weirdest of the entries by far. It showcases all of the custom textures which is cool but forces sheer player pressure down your throat. Eventually it becomes clear that you're only meant to survive until you can enter the inner sanctum. It could be my favorite level of his were it not for its gimmick but it certainly remains one of the most memorable maps in my mind. "De-Moon Side" (E4M9) isn't alone in its excruciating execution; Chris Hansen has some of the toughest levels in the set, the worst being "Hell Unleashed" (E4M3). Most of his entries are caustic cocktails of overtuned ammo, health, and claustrophobic combat that brings to mind Richard Wiles's Crusades. They are more representative of his Flay the Obscene Part 3 than the gunplay that he would go on to explore in the made-later-released-earlier CH Retro Episode. His toughest outings feel a bit better balanced on Hurt Me Plenty.

Sam Woodman's stuff is representative of his entire work: tons of ammo, lots of monsters, and very short. His layouts are technically simple but highly detailed insofar as the things one might do in order to polish rectangles. Rory Habich is the one wildcard, a person who had no known releases before 2002. His style seems to be focused on adjoining large setpiece areas and dumping plenty of monsters on the player. It's fun in "The Lost Labs" (E2M3) but gets to be an enormous pain in the ass in "Between Demons and Insects" (E2M6). "Stronghold of Damnation" (E3M3) is a bit better in most aspects but features an incredibly awkward Cyberdemon encounter as well as a drip feed of cacodemons that's meant to force the player toward the exit rather than serve as a challenge to be completed.

Whatever difficulty you play it on, 2002ADO looks good. Some of the maps (Rory's) are more amateurish but pcorf is well-practiced at serviceable architecture and detailing. Kristian goes the extra mile, giving his levels a slightly more realistic bent. Plain ol' Chris pulls out most of the stops by using various texture cheats to create a more complex visual experience. Virgil tosses them all with faux room over room platforms and, as mentioned before, slamming all the new visuals together in one place. They otherwise appear sparingly, enough so that the megaWAD has accrued a reputation for only using vanilla textures.

Two maps were made for the re-release by Paul and the ten-year gap shows. "Blood and Guts" adheres to the Doom Odyssey format but is much more distinct in both its visuals and combat. "Unity" is considerably simpler but also leverages a Berserk-punching gimmick and does it effectively, making it a breath of fresh air in the running order. pcorf also developed an immense, new soundtrack including music for the fourth episode that admittedly can only be heard when playing through in ZDoom. I really enjoyed a few of the tunes but I can't remember them right now for the life of me.

2002ADO is a rock solid release, the main perk being the difficulty in getting lost with the player-driven focus... oh, and all the new content that keeps demonslaying feeling new. If you're trying to pull individual selections, though, you're probably better off dialing the skill level down to HMP unless you really enjoy survival-style endurance runs that rely on finding obscure secrets. While the years since 2012 have been kind with a glut of Ultimate Doom megaWADs and episodes there are never enough. In fact, a sequel is in development as I'm writing this. I'm not sure what some fifteen-plus more years of experience will bring to the table but I'm eager to find out.

If you're interested in seeing it in its original glory, it's still available on /idgames right here:


by Paul Corfiatis et al


The EntryE1M1
by Paul Corfiatis
A short bit to get the blood pumping. It's a pleasant level and while it shows some of the symmetry that would dog Paul through his later career, he does work to subvert it at the computer station fork in the road. If anything I find it more interesting how the hallway and shotgun guy corridor to the north serves a symmetric extension of the key annex while not feeling as such in the map's flow. Nothing very threatening except for possibly getting mauled by demons in the blue key room. The scattered zombies between the stacks in the northwestern chamber are underwhelming.

E1M2Helicopter Bay
by Kristian Aro
Something a bit meatier. Aro goes for player exposure, hinted at by the first imp in that little world-building tower and then exploding with the genius catwalk room where you have two imp cages on your sides and a pair of demons running up to pen you in. The yard featuring the landing pad is the most apparent use of this theme since it's so wide open and littered with hitscanners above and below to slowly whittle away at your health. It's a tight, good looking level. I liked the weird barricaded switch and what I assume was meant to be a pump room.

The Doomed LabE1M3
by Paul Corfiatis
This is one big coiled, torturous snake that's just waiting to strike. The author sends you on myriad braided pathways, instilling a sense of interconnectedness. My favorite is the hallway that runs past the yellow key door, routing you back to the starting area only to reveal a pretty sizable ambush for you to tackle. It's definitely my favorite combat moment, especially when paired with the northwestern chaingun area. The eastern annex is the most blatant, though, sending you on a looping track and then back only to find new monsters revealed where the walls once were.

E1M9Lugano Base ZRX
by Paul Corfiatis
A dense techbase to explore with a pinch of cabin fever as you find each switch required to open the next door. Paul employs a few wall of flesh ambushes, creating some moments of classic Knee Deep in the Dead difficulty. The zombie slaughter in the swastika balcony is more The Innocent Crew, though. The individual annexes coming off the zig-zag catwalk room all have their own distinct character. The northern one that continues the nukage theme is pretty good but the starting area is my aesthetic favorite what with its UAC foyer's curved steps or the initially isolated imp cage.

Substation 537AE1M4
by Kristian Aro
Aro puts more pressure on the player but also revels in some high-profile traps. The most dastardly of these will sideswipe you with barrels when you're not expecting it a la Cameron Newham. You might ragequit. Me? I laughed. The others involve a very lethal shotgun guy congregation and a good ol' horde of monsters bearing down on your location, only the very best original Doom tropes. The latter uses the walls of a zig-zag minimaze to store its monsters. Didn't we just see that in E1M3? Its linear switch-fed progression echoes the style seen in his Brotherhood of Ruin.

E1M5Combat Station
by Paul Corfiatis
A bigass base consisting almost entirely of large setpiece areas. There are a few big monster closets but most of the combat is pretty straightforward stuff with a slight edge of player exposure. The southwestern nukage room looks cool and the secret chain that gives you the plasma gun is neat. You'll want it for the big end-of-level ambush since the glut of specters should keep you jammed up in the relatively tight red key room.

Toxic Treatment PlantE1M6
by Kristian Aro
Some of the scenes do a good job of selling the player that you are in fact walking around a toxic treatment plant. The grating room right outside the exit looks snazzy but there is also a pair of storage vats, a cool courtyard, one of those packed to the gills warehouses, and some kind of packing / shipping facility where all the crates are stuck on a stopped conveyor belt. The action is humdrum but Aro still shows his devious side by forcing you to jump down into a poisonous pit with some specters in order to kickstart the progression.

E1M7Service Base
by Paul Corfiatis
At this point the author doesn't even try to sugarcoat the hub and spoke design. Conquer the first annex to receive a key and move on to the next. The southeast area looks pretty neat and has a bit of Doom psychedelia because of the angular catwalks. The western leg has a bridge raising gimmick but I'm more fascinated by the method required to obtain the secret rocket launcher. You'll have to chew through an enormous pack of demons on your way back to the exit door; could be interesting if you get surprised. The way the Barons are introduced feels more like Paul wanted to steal Aro's thunder.

by Kristian Aro
Even in a level as small as this, you cannot escape the hub and spoke. It's a linear trek featuring some minor combat in order to set you up with the supplies for the final fight. Most of the sideshows aren't bad but the last major trap has the best opportunity to really fuck you up. The boss encounter works since there are more Barons than "Anomaly" and they share the relatively tight playing area. The corrupted base aesthetic comes as a bit of a relief.


E2M1Station Alpha
by Paul Corfiatis
The move to Shores of Hell-styled maps is mighty welcome; the additional monsters and heavy teleporter usage breathes some life back into the key-locked hub design and walls-fall-down monster ambushes. The latter debuts the lost souls in a classic moment of skull-induced panic in a dark room with previously jagged hallways. The hub's two-tier layout is a nice change of pace and I like the irregularly shaped lift.

Station BetaE2M2
by Chris Hansen
Stealing the show with a fantastic, cramped base. It's a very dense level and the author amps up the claustrophobia by including a lot of switch activated doors to pen you in. He also has no hesitation dumping big teleporter ambushes full of demons and specters or just pink waves in general. My favorite of these involves a cinematic finale while you ride a slow moving elevator to the top. Among the other really cool things are an overgrown sewer section and a toxic pit, the back half of which has been given to Hell and blood. Great stuff.

E2M3The Lost Labs
by Rory Habich
I initially rolled my eyes at the highly orthogonal layout but the author won me over through all of the DoomCute machinery and making the difficulty easy enough to be able to play recklessly while also dumping so many monsters at you at a constant pace that you'll be surprised at what's still coming out of the walls. If the continuous parade of Doom trash monsters and lost soul cubbies is stale to you then you might enjoy the locked in radiation area fight where you'll have to handle several waves of monsters and a Baron before your timer runs out. What on earth is going on with the water processing machine?

Shotgun BluesE2M4
by Paul Corfiatis
The layout's more cleverly disguised and pcorf has included some actual sights to see. There are two unforgiving gimmicks to this disused base. The first involves monsters teleporting behind you, usually shotgun guys, and if you're not tuned in to the enormous secret chain that leads to the ZDoom-only exit then you're going to be hurting for much of the map. The second is a dearth of ammo to the point that the plasma gun, which you'd normally be excited to get, ushers in four Barons into the level and you have barely enough ammo to kill the one that's with you in the lost soul closet. It will definitely help if you can find the secret chaingun shrine. There's some cool stuff here; I especially like the dark canyon crawl to the south and its marble teleport ambush shrines. The catwalk segment to the north, not so much.

E5M1Surfing the Mighty Green
by Paul Corfiatis
This is a very basic marble E4 level. The soundtrack makes it a little silly and the combat gimmick, facing down almost forty cacodemons with the chaingun, is meta when compared to the rest of the megaWAD. The sheer number of floaters and the main weapon leads to inherent player pressure especially in those areas like the northwestern key shrine. You'll also acquire a BFG but you'll want to save some of those cells for the inevitable Cyberdemon showdown. The author does have a little fun with room shapes like the blocky northern lava pit chamber.

Fortress of FatalitiesE2M5
by Paul Corfiatis
The building facade makes for an impressive visual, the perfect way to start a journey that takes you through cursed halls and infernal tunnels. As was the case with E2M4, this level is pretty tight on ammo and thus tends toward survival style play even should you manage to elicit some of its many secrets. The ammo and armor cache would be a major turning point, more so than the rocket launcher. There are at least three areas where imps are installed in cages as environmental hazards so you may best be served by leaving some of your foes for later.

E2M9Dungeon of Hate
by Paul Corfiatis
pcorf tributes Heretic in this short, lopsided level. I like the layout but most of the action is a brutal avalanche of shotgun guys who will quickly shave down your health. At least you won't run out of ammo! The trident room with five cacodemons is your hint to turn around and go back the way you came, thus snagging a secret plasma gun which will make clearing them out so much easier. Things sort of mellow out after that. I mean, the first of the Cyberdemons can't chase you and the second is meant to be neutralized in a weird "Gotcha!"-esque cage match. Neat architecture, especially toward the end.

Between Demons and InsectsE2M6
by Rory Habich
I was pretty on board with this underground marble base chimera, even the fire chamber chock full of former human sergeants, up until the teleporter gate thing. Four switches for you to press, each one unleashing an identical drip feed of monsters including one Baron. God forbid you should make it there without having max ammo. Imagine if you tried to stick it out in the room with the rocket launcher and clear all the goatmen before moving on. There's a secret plasma gun once you manage to make your way through but it's really meant for you to wipe out the end-of-level Baron guardians. Some neat looking stuff... and a teleporter-fed slog.

E2M7Puzzles to Solve
by Kristian Aro and Paul Corfiatis
A bigass infested base. I don't see any puzzles to differentiate this from the rest of pcorf and Aro's switch hunts but there is yet another hidden cell devourer you'd love to have. This level looks great but it's crammed full of Barons and cacodemons and if you don't, say, pick up the shotgun in the gatehouse on the floor of the storage area, you might have a bad time. The whole trek through the facility ends with you opening up the blast doors in the starting area; that and the following caverns were a nice way to cap off the progression. Standout encounter, probably getting locked in between cacodemons and Doom trash monsters in the marble annex to the northeast.

Total DisturbanceE2M8
by Paul Corfiatis
Starting out in a plain base area only to return to the granite tunnels that ended E2M7 seems like a missed opportunity. Why not just leave the opening as caverns as well? You quickly mow through a bunch of zombies before running into a massive outdoor area where the Cyberdemon and cacodemons pose no real harm. Supposing you don't get distracted while trying to swat the gasbags, that is. With such a generous supply of ammo you shouldn't have to struggle at all.


by Sam "Metabolist" Woodman
Not a bad way to kick things off. The red brick and gothic skylights definitely says Inferno and the monsters are just lining up to eat your shotgun shells. My favorite section is actually an homage to "Hell Keep" though it's underground and full of monsters including a few specters that will be difficult to sort out given the low light.

Caves of BosniaE3M2
by Paul Corfiatis
The caverns are definitely the star of the show but there's also a pretty cool library outpost. While pcorf uses some lava you're never under enough pressure to be forced to marinate in it. Ammo starts out a little tight but by the end you'll have slain so many shotgun guys that the main focus is on killing cacodemons and lost souls fast enough to not be overwhelmed. The chainsaw helps, I think. It's a fun map and I really like its appearance. Standout encounter for me was the sheer wall of meat unleashed upon grabbing the yellow key.

E3M3Stronghold of Damnation
by Rory Habich
The title is a bit grander than the squat reliquary you actually fight through but it definitely feels like there are enough demons to staff a bastion of sorts. The intro is by far the best part since you don't quite know the lay of the land and you're already getting mobbed from all three potential routes. Afterward, well, the clusterfuck at the bottom of the mineshaft isn't at all fun and the finale has more cacodemons than you could conceivably kill without having the backpack and a full stack from one of the previous levels. The Cyberdemon shrine looks great but it's no fun to fight in, even with the secret plasma gun.

Halls of EbolaE3M4
by Rory Habich
This one is more fun to play since it's about soldiering through something like three different enormous teleport ambushes. Oh, and a little bit of switch-fu since it isn't always immediately obvious where some previously locked doors open. The process of elimination is quick, however, with a layout this simple. You'll also be well-served if you can find the plasma gun / BFG secret for perhaps the most intense of the invasions. The entryway, altar room, and outdoor bridge / cave section are pretty neat.

E3M5Blood and Guts
by Paul Corfiatis
This one was made some ten years after the original release... and it shows! BaG is a very fun Hell level and features a lot of cool shit to see. While the author continues to abuse the whole "walls fall down and reveal the monsters between" thing (much as is 2002ADO's style), using lost souls and cacodemons makes things more interesting. Other inspired segments include the large catwalk with the elbow facing the imp / shotgun guy bleachers; the dark warehouse where switches unleash skirmishing groups; and the boss fight. It's a teleporting Cyberdemon encounter but he has a pretty wicked awesome arena. I also enjoyed the aesthetic of the psychedelic / cherry red / blood brick wing that starts you out.

Secret Wolfenstein LevelE5M2
by Paul Corfiatis
I knew that the leader had included a Wolf3D map; in fact, I would probably be disappointed in pcorf if there wasn't. This starts out a little nonlinear with a few optional areas to explore off the main track and then retreats back to the safety of the hub structure once you use the blue key. The author took the trouble of adding SS Troopers with DECORATE but almost every other variety of monster appears including both the Spiderdemon and Cyberdemon in two separate dick moves. Otherwise, well, I hope you like killing Nazis.

E3M6Obituary Written
by Chris Hansen
Another gorgeous infernal outpost from Christian. The main stumbling block is in how austere both the health and the ammo are. When so much of the map is swaddled in damage floors you may easily find yourself unable to progress. At least the shrine in blood where you start out isn't swarming with monsters. The author does include at least one instance of linking disparate areas together through later-revealed passages but I wish there had been more to cut down on the deadly backtracking. Especially when trying to figure out the hidden exit. The secret BFG is pretty easy to find and might make for a good panic button. I couldn't figure out the plasma gun for the life of me. Standout encounter, probably the lights out quickly followed by Baron. Mostly because of how meager my supplies were through the whole thing.

The Lost ChordE3M9
by Sam "Metabolist" Woodman
This simple slaughter comes as a bit of a relief. You're almost kicking over boxes of shells so it's clear that Sam doesn't want you to fail from not having enough ammo. The layout consists of opposing marble halls, detailed but orthogonal. There's one good brawl upon grabbing the blue key but after that it's straight to the finale where the Cyberdemon in the mosh pit is in real danger of being incapable of striking back at you while you hose him down with plasma. It's nice to be able to relax a bit. Look out for the author's little embellishments like the torch sconces.

E3M7System Central
by Paul Corfiatis
This is a big techbase with some Hellish trappings here and there, sort of straddling the fine line between E1 and E2. The outer yard where you start out is a fun-looking area; too bad you don't spend much time there. The author does a better job of disguising its hub nature but you're still doing a lot of back-and-forth hammering switches and stuff. The neutral annex where you acquire the red key encompasses the longest stretch of gameplay; you'll be raising bridges like it's going out of style. I liked the infernal cavern with the floating marble facade and the cacodemon cliff walk. The level is just fun to plow through since health and ammo are plentiful and the BFG secret is quite obvious, allowing you to blast apart some of the more grindy segments. Be on the lookout for an E1M1 homage.

Spider TempleE3M8
by Paul Corfiatis
The temple looks cool but doing the back and forth key thing especially in an area this small is getting tiresome. Even more so when pcorf drops five Barons through the structure as a sort of seek and destroy thing. Sure, you got boxes of shells, but it's a dull grind and its artificiality stands out when the rocket launcher and plasma gun are nonchalantly pressed into your hand with oodles of ammo in a little side room. The marble annex featuring blue highlights leading to the yellow key door had a nice, different aesthetic. I did enjoy the enormous hall that boasts a steel gate; definitely building up to something. If you're not keen on blasting two Cyberdemons down, even with the invul, then there's an easier way to complete the map.


by Paul Corfiatis
pcorf's wistful for a fistful! The berserk pack and glut of demons / imps points in the Tyson direction. While this holds up for the beginning and end, the middle section has Barons, cacodemons, and lost souls, not to mention a big teleporter-fed invasion featuring the original Doom trash monsters. The playing area is simple but interconnected by way of clever touches like the shotgun pillar where the platform raises to meet it and the exit "U" that is clearly visible from the ground floor before you backtrack to it. The step pyramid rising up in the outer area to reach the blue key was a cool touch.

Back to Base XE4M2
by Anthony "Swedish Fish" Soto
Just a solid classic-style techbase skillfully using ambushes that momentarily overwhelm but never keep their foot on your throat for long. You don't get a sense of the true character of the combat until the computer room ambush. The author tends to attack you on several fronts. You might have a big ol' horde in front of you but look out behind for the newly-revealed teleporter pads. Health and ammo feel about ideal. The raw action is top notch and I especially loved the fight at the rocket launcher area. I also like the long coda through the sewers to the regular exit.

E4M9De-Moon Side
by Vick "Virgil the DOOM Poet" Bobkov
A celebration of all of 2002's custom textures rendered in frustratingly frantic gameplay. You're immediately under assault with monsters spread out everywhere in a confusing outdoor area containing a ton of baffles. A large portion of the monster count is tied up in a near-infinitely respawning cage of imps that sits on the western edge. I doubt whether you're meant to kill everything, especially given how meager the supplies are outside. If you can cut your way through to the objectives - bypassing all of the barons - and make it past the red key door with plenty of ammo and health, then you'll be doing pretty well for yourself. The interior area is cramped and has monsters coming out of the walls but it's a memorable moment. There's a sort of exacting, specific beauty about all of the detail work both inside and out. Just don't blow all those cells; you'll need it for the overlord after you goad him into slaying the peanut gallery.

Hell UnleashedE4M3
by Chris Hansen
Flashbacks to Crusades, here, because of the overwhelming emphasis on painful Baron and cacodemon clearing with the shotgun and highly limited maneuverability. The rocket launcher trap sets the tone; when it's done, you will ultimately have less ammo than you started out with and probably zero rockets. The bit after you grab the blue key may be one of the nastiest moments in the whole set. The blackout ambush behind its associated door is far more compelling an encounter compared to the unforgiving grind of pulling teeth. It's very pretty! Just exhausting and exacting.

E4M4Disreputable Stronghold
by Chris Hansen
Holy Moses this is so much better. The style is a sort of E4 wood and metal theme. It's got a lot of fun stuff like a key shrine, a balcony, a cave that you visit from two different sides (for interconnectivity), and a big outdoor catwalk area with hazard imps. CH keeps the ammo flowing and spares much of the soul-crushing meat grind that dominated the previous level. You'll still have to shotgun down a handful of Barons but there's only one fight at the very end where it's easy for them to pen you in. The northern section is really fun to play through. I enjoyed the ambush that attempts to pin you down in the yellow key shack by way of land, air, and bridge.

Indomitable HauntE4M5
by Chris Hansen
Another cool level. It's based somewhere in the blood pits that dot Hell's incalculable granite mountains. The gimmick revolves around the north and south yards and the way each one transforms to accommodate separate major ambush. I wasn't expecting the metamorphosis of the starting area; very neat stuff. This level has both a secret rocket launcher and two hidden chainguns. The RL and the second CG are pretty easy to find and you'll definitely want to have both, the latter if only to bring some mercy to the cacodemon dodgeball finale.

by Joe Pallai
A massive marble fortress on the coast, gloaming with monsters. While it's a huge adventure you're hardly in any danger of getting lost because the author has carefully engineered your single pathway. While you may find yourself braided back through somewhere you've already been, the way forward is usually close by. "Dementia" is ultimately very forgiving and while it would not hurt to have the secret BFG in hand for the final minutes it does not seem to be a necessity. Some cool moments... Beginning in the caverns establishes a sense of place for when you step inside the main event. It's also funny that you ultimately enter in through a side area and don't find yourself atop the facade you first lay eyes on until you're almost finished. The Cyberdemon initially appears as a cameo before teleporting away. It gives you something to anticipate and the way he lords over the platform of impaled victims cements the aura of a big bad. Too bad he ultimately just squats on the exit teleporter! A fantastic outing.

Odious GroundsE4M7
by Chris Hansen
A dark fusion of marble, wood, and metal. The amount of HP roaming around isn't on par with "Hell Unleashed" but the ammo is still overtuned, turning what could have been a jolly penultimate bout into a slog. Nevermind the fact that there's precious little playing area. The combat is highly claustrophobic and the meagre health dwindles quickly between the scrapes and the damage floors. It's weird when the sewer section feels like a relief, and that's with getting completely mobbed by a mosh pit of demons.

E4M8Impossible Mission
by Paul Corfiatis
Something light to send you off. Well, nominally. It's a pcorf key-locked hub gauntlet. Enter a door, grind through a couple of surprises, grab the key. I think I had more fun with the cacodemon tower than any of the other normal things. The finale comes in three parts. The first you can intuitively cheese and the second has several easy outs built into it, one of which involves a newly revealed BFG and invul sphere. The last is Tommy the Trooper and I can't think of a better way to end 2002ADO than this one.


Play SchoolE4M1
by Paul Corfiatis
This is a conversion of E1M8 from 2001: A Deathmatch Odyssey which may explain first why he elected to replace it with "Unity" and second why its layout is comparatively nonlinear in spite of being so freakin' tiny. It's a STARTAN and metal base and it's mostly dangerous because of the sheer number of shotgun guys crammed into the parallel hallways that lead to the fountain room. It's a good kickstarter, I think, but the replacement is more memorable.



  1. Played through this earlier this year and it was pretty fun, though looking back at your recaps/screenies, I only vaguely recall a couple of the early levels. And that is partially because I set the WAD aside for a number of months upon hitting E4M3 like a roadblock. This being an older WAD, I played on UV (more modern sets I tend to tackle on HMP) but I also play continuous, and even starting with some guns and ammo I never had enough, not to mention that I started the map around 30% health or so from E4M9. And then Hansen decided to overplay the whole "pinned in a narrow hallway by three barons" a couple times over; not a lot of fun with ~12% health and just a couple of rockets left to my name!

    I did eventually come back to it and spend a few dozen attempts* before successfully squeezing around said barons (and onto the next torturous trap!) and it was worth it because the rest of E4 was pretty great.

    *I did flirt with the idea of pistol-starting E4M4 on HMP, and indeed, that might have been my recourse had I never gotten through M3 successfully. But man do I hate pistol-starting WADs I'm already mostly through, especially when they're already kicking my butt!

    1. I would have guessed that continuous play would really help out there. Maybe I'll have to try it myself. Then again I could also wind up blowing it all trying to max the interminable hordes of E4M9

  2. Been waiting to see this review, it's such a thing this wad with lots of hits but also lots of misses. Probably intended for the casual player with weapon leeway, since the number of barons/cacos and rockets/plasma supplies aren't quite well-balanced for pistol starts in several maps. Chris Hansen seemed to be the meanest of the group, and PCorf kinda failed to deliver interesting boss maps. But a mixed bag is a mixed bag and there're certainly dope levels such as Dementia and e4m1.

    Also, in e3m3 at the ending trap, have you stayed there to kill everything? I honestly wonder what was the author thinking with that nonsensical number of cacodemons, that was endless!!, contrary to my ammo stock which went from full to zero and still 1/4 of cacos alive. Of course on a replay I ignored them all since you can easily skip them.

    1. I did mention that it doesn't seem like you're meant to slay all the cacodemons. I dunno how interesting you can make boss maps for the original Doom without a lot of convoluted sector machinery. I think Hansen only seems the harshes because of his E4 levels going so far toward Crusades that he passed it but Habich's evil extended ambush in E2M6 isn't much better.

    2. I have seen a few innovating end-of-episode maps in more contemporary sets like No End in Sight, ConC.E.R.Ned, or this current project "Deadly Standards" involving lots of talent, but then like you said, interesting boss maps involving the monsters we all know, I can imagine it requiring a lot of work and creativity, specially in vanilla, and 2002 was still an early era of mapping. Since PCorf is in the way of releasing a sequel sometime in the future, I'm curious to meet his newest design choices.

    3. If you want Symmetry, you won't be getting much of it LOL. The new designs are less linear, have more height variations, minimize symmetry (apart from some rooms) and there is virtually no backtracking. You need to wait for it though, patience. Imagine if I made E4M9 of UD, goodness me.

    4. I'm open to being proven wrong but I think that vanilla and the original Doom is too strong a handicap to overcome in terms of boss encounter design.