Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Congestion Control 2 (CCT2.WAD)

by Karthik Abhiram Krishna

Congestion Control 2 actually started out as Out of Phase 4: Interview With the Cyberdemon. It got a little out of hand for K.A. to file it alongside his light-speed OPHASE stylings, though, and thus became CCT2. There are a few other little details worth mentioning, too, like it being published on Karthik's 21st birthday. More on that later. This 2003 MAP01 replacement is the author's first limit-removing release but it also has bonus features for players using ZDoom. It takes advantage of the MAPINFO lump for a few extra bells and whistles whose absence won't mechanically affect your playthrough.

CCT2 has an internal package, CCT2-EXTRAS.ZIP. It has- among other things - a one-page comic that gives you the story. It's actually pretty simple though it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. You're visiting a space marine buddy but he betrays you, knocking you out with poison gas and lugging you into a teleporter. Pretty soon you find yourself in another infested corner of the universe, fighting your life. What did your former comrade stand to gain by carting you off, though? A promotion? Is he allied with infernal powers? Or is he just covering up another future failed UAC experiment?

It really does feel more like an OPHASE level. This is a restrictive marble and tech fortress that appears to be built on a floating island in the sky. Karthik's theme for the original Congestion Control was an installation whose corruption and flat-out pockets of Hell were occasionally bordered by reality-fraying seams. It was in some ways similar to "Hazmat Hazama" from Japanese Community Project. You don't really get any of that here excepting some infernal accoutrements, which were just as evident in Out of Phase 3. The coolest development here is a big, outdoor yard / canyon to the south, separating the main base from a smaller bunker which houses the red and blue keys. Abhiram doesn't deal with a great many open areas and this one is roomy enough for the end-of-level Cyberdemon.

The layout itself is fairly straightforward. The only thing that really tripped me up was the elevator up to the western balcony. It seems as though I ran afoul of a tiny recessed switch in the adjacent wall. This sort of issue also bit me while recently playing No Quarter. The only other unintuitive thing is the security gate in the southern bunker. It won't open for the demons but as a living, breathing human you can activate it using that body-scanner looking thing! It's a neat, DoomCute feature. The architecture fits together pretty well since it's built around a large, central hall with overlooking balconies.

The combat is pretty much par for Karthik's course. You can play this as a punchy super-shotgun grind but the author has also made the plasma gun available early and given you a ton of ammo for it. The rocket launcher can be just as helpful but is of course selectively useful based on your current confines. OPHASE3 had several moments where Abhiram dumped small groups of cacodemons on you in relatively open, outdoor areas. This trend continues in CCT2 but the sizes of the playing spaces are much larger. You can still expect to do close-quarters battles with revenants and Hell nobles. Some of the teleporter ambushes live up to the Congestion Control name. Arch-viles aren't as heavily featured but the first is probably the most potentially troublesome. The level has a secret BFG, too, which will make the last 25% or so incredibly easy. Not that you're hurting when you have the plasma gun.

Going back to the intro, this PWAD is sort of Karthik's celebration for his 21st birthday. We should be so lucky to be given gifts! If you decide to party with Abhiram then you can find his secret art gallery (built using a Quake II theme) and slay some Nazis; always a good time. K.A. had a similar annex in the original Congestion Control but those pieces were basically all associated with Doom. This one points the way toward the rest of his career as it has sketches of other cinematic entertainment figures in addition to the id Software stuff. From it you can see that he was really looking forward to The Matrix: Reloaded (and it was incidentally released on his birthday) and followed Sarah Michelle Geller. Today, Karthik goes so far as to make daily drawings from movie materials.

This is one of Abhiram's more fully-realized outings and ought to be a cinch if you prefer the artistically-grounded Out of Phase stuff to the multi-theme madness of the original Congestion Control. The combat is a bit more easygoing, too, making for a quick blastathon. It's certainly worth checking out if you don't mind slightly cramped techbases with the occasional breather.


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