Thursday, January 2, 2020

Russian Overkill (RO_PB_2.5.PK3)

by "Pillowblaster"

Gameplay mods are wicked cool things. I don't use them when I play PWADs for review because I prefer to explore the way in which authors balanced their levels. There is something cathartic, though, in blowing through super-tough mapsets that consumed hours of my life (e.g. Sunlust) with a heinously overpowered weapons mod. Enter Russian Overkill. This GZDoom institution was originally released in 2011 and saw several feature updates until 2013, after which it undergoes the occasional under-the-hood retuning. Pillowblaster received 2012's Best Gameplay Mod Cacoward due in part to the convergence of two community developments as well as the mod's specific style.

The slaughter scene was undergoing something of a renaissance. Like-minded players were giving each other encouraging feedback and they even banded together to marshal Slaughterfest 2011. Folks like dannebubinga made huge, gorgeous levels that weren't approachable for casual Doomers. Some didn't even bother implementing difficulty settings for the less vocal players who weren't going to show up, crater on UV, and then complain. As for the others, slaughter-haters liked to (and still do) run their mouths about how simple and boring the setups are in ways that demonstrate their lack of experience in actually handling them. My own reaction to seeing videos of PWADs like Deus Vult inspired me to learn what it took to be able to muscle my way through... with saves, of course.

Everyone has a limited amount of time on this Earth, though, and the clock won't stop for you to pick up and hone the tricks of the slaughter trade. Back when I was a kid in the mid-'90s I spent a lot of time as part of the DQD fraternity since I was more interested in slaying demons than earning stripes. God mode takes all the weight out of the action, though. Overpowered weapon patches have been a thing since DeHackEd but dual-wield rapid-fire super shotguns lacks a certain... style. As ZDoom continued to enhance its modding capabilities with DECORATE, a wave of talented folks hit around and after 2010. Their unchecked enthusiasm would continue to push Doom back into the public consciousness through timely mimetic mods like the vuvuzela or the gateway drug equivalent of Brutal Doom. I'm sure that the advent of YouTube was indispensable since it's so much easier to show a layperson a video and get them pumped to play.

Russian Overkill filled a gaping niche in the community. It granted folks the power to casually wade through the insane bodycount of slaughter levels and it looks damn good while you're doing it. There's a stunning array of weapons available for every slot plus one, each with its own peculiar quirks, so it's difficult to replay a level in an identical manner. Especially when the splash of some of these weapons will easily kill you. It helps survivability that you can stack your health and armor pickups into the tens of thousands. You can even get powerups that make you immune to the blowback from the slot 8 engines of mass destruction. The player must still survive until they can accrue all of these crazy gadgets, though. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

It also has a ton of depth. Pretty much everything has an alt-fire; the reload and zoom keys offers additional functionality for various armaments; and there are three different characters. The archetypes don't really change playstyles but they each have their own unique starting weapons and default slot 1 attacks. Alosha shoots imaginary guns instead of punching, for instance, and Yuri's melee alt is... a giant fart cloud. Well, they can't all be winners. RO also has a combo system using WASD that lets you do other ridiculous things depending on the character. This can range from bicycle kicks to unleashing a homing, rocket-propelled chainsaw. You would do well to read Pillowblaster's documentation.

Slot three consists of shotgun-styled weapons, whether they're belt-fed reapers like the Schwarzer Zwerg or the fiery spray of the Violator. The Quadvolgue is classically ridiculous as a four-barreled shotgun and its alt-fire is a step beyond. The Leviathan only has three but its feedback is delightfully weighty, plus you can dual-wield them. The Pantokrator feels closer the Russian Overkill equivalent of the super shotgun (in spite of the Quad) and has a wider, explosive spread. The Erasus uses shells to shoot lasers, unusual to be sure but effective for sniping with its charging primary and useful in a pinch via its rapid-fire alt.

The fourth slot plays on variations of the chaingun theme. The Matryoshka and Master Obliterator both launch projectiles that in turn have their own. The former shoots mini-guns, which attack using bullets. The M.O. unleashes carpet-bombing jets. The Gorynch is a more classic take with a spin-up time that you can then shut off for silent running. I like the Union; it's a handsome rifle and has explosive bullets plus healing (!) attacks. The sheer devastation of Power Overwhelming was my favorite, though; it mows down hordes of slaughter monsters without smoking up your vision. It has a bunch of additional functions, too. The Antonov's homing flak attacks are versatile and I love the flashy visuals of its shield wall alt-fire.

Five is given to more traditional rocket launcher analogues. Pushka is a literal tank turret which can also deploy a repulsion field. The Beef Supreme resembles the Dook's RPG but feels like a tactical nuclear weapon. You can also set it up as a turret. Torchglow is a loveletter to Rise of the Triad, functioning as the Firewall in its primary fire and the Firebomb as its alt. The Steamroller shoots fiery explosives or sticky bombs. The Hotrod has a great look with its sizzling, glowing-hot rebar projectiles though it's the odd man out in its sniper rifle-like style. Rasputin is a grenade launcher and the first of the more complex multi-mode weapons where alt-fire and W/A/D pick elemental effects with different firing patterns.

Slot six is where Russian Overkill gets strong and weird. Cthon delivers a vision-obscuring meteor with a very large area of effect. Colonel Pillskanone and its bouncing red pills are tactilely satisfying and great vs. hordes and single-target. The Gopnik isn't ridiculous on its face since it's basically a mine launcher but its different types are... nuclear, to say the least. The most grounded weapon of the whole set might be the Shurricane since explosive shuriken aren't inherently insane. Its alt-fire, however, is charged with the power of raw hatred. The Comrade shoots grenades which can either explode on contact or bounce for chaos, plus it can STOP. TIME. Lastly, the Mutilator. It's an air compressor that unleashes mini-tornadoes, the latter fountaining forth a rain of Serious Sam kamikazes.

The seventh grade isn't BFG equivalents but where most of the energy-fed weapons roost. The Petrovec blows globs of bouncing, homing plasma. The Ramjet looks like a traditional sniper rifle but it uses dark matter to do its dirty work and can be remotely deployed and controlled as a drone. I wasn't fond of the Tepesch since its primary fire feels underwhelming but the earth-raising alt is intriguing. If nothing else, the Stachanov looks supremely powerful as a bright red laser cannon of death. Instafuneral doesn't visually match up to its name but it's basically a railgun. I got more use sweeping rooms and corridors with the Channeler Mk II since its energy hose really cleans house.

Slot eight is reserved for weapons so insane that a separate powerup exists to protect you from friendly firing yourself. Borsch, for example, unleashes a roaming splotch of dark matter which then seeks and devours monsters. The Gurumaster's giant yellow energy ball looks cool as does its swirly alt-fire rain of death but I'm more partial to the explosive, elastic cloud of the Vindicator. I also enjoy the rapid, red energy bursts of the Yamato and, of course, its far-reaching alt-fire. The Deathhead is probably the most straightforward of the uber-weapons in its cluster / nuclear missile combo, feeling like an Even More Incredible rocket launcher. The Planet Cracker looks great as a simple blue death laser, but it can also bring down the heavens.

Note that three of the superweapons have boosters available to further increase the insanity of their alt-fires. In fact, you can find permanent kits for bullet, shell, and explosive weapons! Russian Overkill has a similarly dazzling array of items. Its unique brand of vodka gives you additional health, increases damage, and compels monsters to run away in fear. You also have three more hostile pinch items that include a plain nuclear missile launcher, a beacon for dropping a super-sized bomb, and the "shitstorm device". You won't want to be in the area of effect for any of these things. The Warpocalypse Control Pad functions a bit differently as it deploys a buddy tank that works just as well in dispatching monsters if not with quite the same level of flash. I already mentioned Shadow Warrior's sticky bombs but you can use them independently of weapons. It's also interesting to see the jet thruster since it looks like a way to bypass the often-demanding platforming segments that seem to feature in slaughter.

There are no less than eleven different spheres available. Some of them - the Enviro, for example - have a traditional effect with a bonus like making you immune to most ranged attacks from monsters. I already mentioned the Battle since it lets you bask in the death-glow of your slot 8 armaments. Red and Blue boost damage and resistance respectively, while Megafancypants is more like the megasphere though not in the actual values bestowed. Weegee is light amp visor plus life leech, an unusual combo, and Salvation is an emergency teleport / heal if you're near death without actually dying. The Shield is your typical Invul artifact with an added wrinkle while the Screamer just makes monsters not want to attack or even look at you.

The Extremesphere turns you into a sprinting and leaping engine of death, basically Vodka minus the fear effect plus Megafancypants, Invulnerability, and quad damage instead of the Red's double. Oh, and it plays ridiculous heavy metal music. I'm sure that the Fork Sphere is a reference to something but I don't know what. It turns you into the "dark deity of pitchforks" and lasts until you change levels or turn it off by pressing reload or swapping weapons. The good: you're invincible! The bad: your attacks don't have the verve or even power of most of the Russian Overkill toolkit so it's not nearly as fun.

Pillowblaster did include a complement of slot 1 weapons and most of the silly bits are confined there. You probably didn't download Russian Overkill to smack monsters around with a flail (that's more of a GMOTA thing) but you can. You can also beat them to death using grenade maces - two at a time, even! The Perestroika is a motorized handsaw and can shoot the blades as projectiles. ROTT makes another appearance here in the Excalibat, appropriately RO'd to excess. You might find a literal Berserker pack, turning the player into a stomping goon with roided-out forearms. For a more galactic angle, consider the  Powercube. Its cosmic lightning effect looks great and I appreciate the nod to excess shells in PWADs with its convert-to-powerup function.

I'm glazing over a lot of functionality which includes more co-op-centric effects. Some of these absurdities allow you to rain medikits or deploy ammo / health dispensaries. To this end, the author also has a patch available that creates specific kits for classes in order for players to 1) fit more strongly into a niche and 2) not feel so overwhelmed by the sheer variety of weapons. You also have a broad selection of difficulties which - among other things - multiply the health totals of monsters. 6x is portrayed as a decent challenge and while I agree I think that no amount of health buffs can make Russian Overkill feel as though it's "balanced" appropriately for smaller-scale levels.

Recalling seven-year-old IRC conversations, part of Combat Shock 2's 2012 Cacowards push was Xaser on the basis that the levels both looked outstanding and were super fun to play with RO. For the sake of my review I tried the mod out on some of the higher-volume slaughtermaps from my checkered past. This included C-SHOCK2 as well as Sunlust and Hell Revealed II. The first was the most fun of the three, due in part to the sheer volume of enemies. It also speaks as to the weight of Death-Destiny's influence in the second since its smaller scale isn't quite as viscerally satisfying (or easy) to plow through. You don't just spawn into something like "Go Fuck Yourself" as a demigod; the player still has some footwork to do in order to become one.

HR2's "Playground" was unusually challenging (if still significantly less) since you couldn't depend on the weapon spawns to give you something appropriate for tackling its congested layout. That was at 6x health, though; Pillowblaster's favorite setting is entirely in your favor as far as monster durability goes, turning all of your foes into popcorn. I still can't see myself using Russian Overkill to take a fun run at something like Revolution! but I could definitely go for a casual stroll through some of the bigger-scale slaughter stuff. You know, things like Speed of Doom or darkwave0000's speedbumps in 3 Herues d'Agonie and 3HA2.

Some notes: RO had two "expansion packs" since its release. The contents of Reinforcements From Moldova have been folded into the current version. The Sickle Pack did not but it was originally positioned as "cut content" and thus remains a collection of outtakes considered too similar to the already bountiful elements. The author has also included new menu text composed of stuff that makes sense in retrospect but none of the actual options have changed. Keep this in mind as you're treated to the wicked cool TITLEMAP. The difficulty settings even more indecipherable but each one tells you what it does in the confirmatory window.

Russian Overkill is great. I know that the detail of this review is already excruciating but there are even more things for you to see for yourself if you decide to load it up. If you've always wanted to blow your way through the impressive vistas of slaughter maps but never had the personal firepower to do it then I highly recommend trying this out. Heck, some of the weapons still feel pretty appropriate - if strong - for classically-styled levels. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to throw out one rocket-powered chainsaw.


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2012 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Doom the Way id DidWhoDunIt?Beyond Reality
Strife: Absolute OrderBest Gameplay ModMasters of Chaos
PutrefierRussian OverkillFrozen Time
5till L1 ComplexMordeth AwardPlanisphere 2
Community Chest 4Community Chest 4Coffee Break Ep. 1
The EyeCall of Dooty II
Combat Shock 2Mapper of the Year
Winter's FuryKhorus
Base Ganymede: Complete

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