Alien Vendetta


Fact Sheet

Authors Anders Johnsen Adam Windsor Kim Malde Brad Spencer Mattias Berggren Vincent Catalaa Pablo Dictter Gemini Madani El Hariri Martin Hunsager Jan Endre Jansen Kristian K„ll Anthony Soto Lee Szymanski Metabolist
IWAD Doom 2
Engine standard Doom engine
Date 2001/12/24
Levels 32
Other New music, status bar & screens, some new textures

Review by Colin Phipps

screenshot Alien Vendetta started out many years ago as a project to follow in the style of Hell Revealed. As explained in the text file, as more people joined the project the emphasis shifted more towards a traditional megawad with more emphasis on architecture and fun gameplay. The final result is 32 levels somewhere between the bruising fun of The Plutonia Experiment (Final Doom) and the extreme gameplay and deep atmosphere of Hell Revealed.

With Hell Revealed for inspiration, one would expect the levels to focus on atmosphere and grand architecture rather than detail. So I was pleased to see that the levels were generally up to a high standard of detail. I could say pleasantly surprised, even, since this is the first work I've played from most of the level designers on this project, and in fact many of them don't seem to have any other published wads. Particular credit to Anders Johnsen, whose work is the backbone of the project and the final episode in particular, where his levels are among the most atmospheric.

The levels don't follow any rigid theme and there's not much common style across the whole episode. There are some new textures although these are mostly for particular levels; there are some good new teleport graphics which are commonly used for the exit portals of the levels, and perhaps it would have been better it these were used more consistently throughout. AV makes up for this by having a really good progression through the episodes. Like Doom 2 it has the more earthly maps in the first episode, industrial base maps in the second episode, and the hellish maps in the third. There's a good progression into more sinister atmospheric levels, particular in the final episode.

For gameplay, the levels are a mixture of bruising up-front fights with hordes of monsters, and dangerous traps. The levels are strong on traps and secrets generally, so there are plenty of tricks for the player to watch out for. The levels are generous with ammo and health so the main thing is surviving at any cost — I rarely left a level with less than maximum health, armour or ammo. The good architecture creates plenty of tricky layouts, so the player often has to do a fair amount of thinking and trying out different tactics in order to beat the tough fights.

Well I played AV over a period of a few months and I seem to have been particularly verbose in my comments, so I'll go straight on into my comments on each level.

  1. Sunset by Martin Hunsager — A fairly gentle start level, built around a sandstone and metal yard which vaguely reminded me of The Darkening MAP03. With various firing positions around the yard, and a few traps too, it's a good warm up. There are some good secrets too to get the player kitted out for the action ahead.
  2. Rusty Rage by Anders Johnsen — The player descends into this small nukage processing base set in a rocky canyon. It's not much to look at, but there are some clever fights and traps inside.
  3. Cargo Depot by Mattias Berggren — A nice little industrial level; lots of boxes and crates as one might expect, but also other good details like mechanical gear for lifting and moving crates, and a railway line into the depot. The side areas were bland though, as was some of the action, with waves of imps thrown at the player which were easy with the double-barrel. There are some good tricky fights and traps too, though.
  4. Seclution by Mattias Berggren — A large industrial/tech complex surrounded by a large acid lake. Some of the early areas are a bit bland, but it picks up later on with some more interesting architecture, like the acid lake area reminiscent of Phobos Labs (Doom 1 E1M5). There are some big traps here, and some good secrets, although the fairly easy computer map gives some away.
  5. Crimson Tide by Anders Johnsen — This level is a compact little island hell base, reminiscent of The Inmost Dens (Doom 2 MAP14) with its brown stone, wood and acid theme. It's quite nicely engineered with lots of windows between areas and good views over the acid lake allowing you to see areas ahead of reaching them. There is a good opening fight, and a few good surprises later on.
  6. Hillside Siege by Anthony Soto, Lee SzymanskiMAP06 screenshot The first impressive level of the episode, with large spacious areas, grand cuboid buildings and broad sweeping stairways. The theme of rock and stone yards with brick and wooden structures built around them is excellently done, and there is great use of windows between areas, and good features like acid falls and rivers, and the large scaffold at the start. There are some really good big fights, and lots of opportunity for getting the enemy fighting each other. There are some good secrets too.
  7. Showdown by Anders Johnsen — This level is a nice embellishment of the original MAP07 idea; the courtyard with mancubi on platforms is here, and once those are beaten the player then has to fight the arachnotrons outside the building. The outside area is nicely done, with good castle architecture and a moat, and arachnotrons firing down at the player.
  8. Beast Island by Anders Johnsen, Jan Endre JansenMAP08 screenshot Set on a series of barren rocky islands, this level is a mixture of rocky canyons and flooded underground cave systems. The objective of the level is the large fortress on the final island, heavily guarded. The excellent new stone and rock textures, and the new music, give this level a very distinctive and spooky feel. The canyons are well manned with overlooking monsters, and the fortress contains some tricky layouts and traps.
  9. Castle Gardens by Kim MaldeMAP09 screenshot This is an unusual level; the player starts outside the castle, and inside are a series of long passages and interconnected yards. There is excellent attention to detail throughout, with good use of lighting and torches to give contrast to areas. The level progression is nice too, with the player gradually working their way deeper into the castle, until the final area where a series of very spooky and detailed mine tunnels lead away to end the level. There is a good stream of opposition throughout the level, with a good mixture of heavyweight enemies, and clusters of chaingunners, and some surprises too.
  10. Toxic Touch by Kim Malde — A nice underground acid caverns level — the level is full of side areas branching off of the main progression with small passages of acid tunnels leading to a new room. Each room is nice and intricate; monster placement is variable, sometimes the enemies are rather clustered and easy to mow down, but other areas have better placement and there are some good traps to catch out anyone getting complacent.
  11. Nemesis by Martin HunsagerMAP11 screenshot

    This is a huge level, set on a series of rocky islands and in the large hell fortress built on the main island. The start of the level is impressive, as the player starts out on one of the smaller islands, with the heavily manned fortress overlooking all approaches. The fortress contains some impressive rooms; it is based around that classic Doom design, the gigantic central hall containing a cyberdemon (Ultimate Doom E4M6 (Against Thee Wickedly) is cited as inspiration for the level), surrounded by more detailed rooms, well connected by windows and openings.

    This is only half of the level though; the fortress sits above a number of networks of caves leading down from the plateau to the base of the island, including underground rivers and partially flooded caverns, and a network of catacombs. From the archville's crows nest at the top of the fortress right down to the watery caves at the base of the island the level is superbly detailed.

    The gameplay is excellent too, with a great mixture of the open air fights working around the battlements of the fortress and the outside of the island, down to the cramped and intricate caves and catacombs below where good monster placement creates many tricky fights. There are plenty of traps and a good range of secrets too. The very open level progression is great too — you get a pretty free choice of either taking out the cyberdemon first, or working around the fortress battlements instead, or even clambering around the outside of the island and picking off the enemies from outside.

  12. Entropy by Adam Windsor, Brad Spencer — The episode now switches to a tech base style; this level reminded me of the tech parts of Nukage Processing (TNT Evilution MAP13), with its large brick walls, angled corridors and vertical strip lights. The first half of the level is fairly weak, mostly easy shotgun work with long corridors to fall back down when any tough opposition appear. The player then teleports through to the second part of the level, which is completely detached (could have been made a separate level it's so separate) — this half of the level is based around a number of good traps, each quite big and deadly but the player should see them coming. The level does give away the computer map rather easily which helps reveal some of the secrets and does give away some of the traps, but the traps in the second part of the level are big enough that this doesn't spoil them.
  13. Suicidal Tendencies by Brad SpencerMAP13 screenshot An industrial themed level, dominated by a series of large storage areas inside, and a large outdoor yard, with various side areas connecting the level together. The level feels rather bland in places — large blocks of monsters were over-used I felt, and the large halls lack variety. The side areas were often crammed with monsters, and in some places this produced a good fight, as at the start of the level with waves of shotgun men, then imps followed by barons and chaingunners. In other places it seemed monotonous though, with waves of just troopers or imps thrown rather helplessly at the player. Many big fights that keep the player busy including some big traps, although the large amount of rockets and cells takes some of the sting away.
  14. Overwhelming Odds by Brad Spencer — Another tech base, again concentrating on big fights and traps with hordes of monsters seeking to pin the player down. Plenty of traps and secrets keeps this one interesting although the easy computer map gives some away.
  15. Bulls on Parade by Madani El Hariri — An interesting level with a mixture of styles; the player starts out in a kind of tech base, with good monster placement and some nice little traps. This leads to a large outdoor yard and a long descent into an underground hell base, full of dark tunnels and torches. It reminded me of some levels from Shores of Hell due to the many contrasting styles in one level, the author manages the progression nicely here. The later areas are more sparsely populated, instead focusing on a few big fights, but give the player more space to move and enjoy the battle than the previous levels. There are good secrets too, although the secret level exit seemed a bit easy to me.
  16. Mutual Destruction by Brad Spencer — A good tech base level, with an interesting layout and plenty of detail. Plenty of action all the way through.
  17. Nukefall by Anders Johnsen — An unusual little level, with an odd mix of ideas. The brick style reminded me a little of Aztec (Plutonia MAP03); the map consists of three areas — the cramped start with a cyberdemon, a courtyard with hordes of revenants overlooking on two sides, and the far area is a kind of small fort. The revenants seemed a bit pointless as almost wherever you stand they can't hit you, and to save ammo you can chainsaw them through the bars that open into their ledges. Nor am I sure how you are meant to fight the cyberdemon — I got lucky and happened to get him in a fight with the archvilles in the exit room who did most of the work for me. I'm not sure if this level is meant to be strange or whether I just played it a strange way...
  18. Lake Poison by Anders JohnsenMAP18 screenshot A big, sprawling level, some kind of nukage processing base, which reminded me of various levels from Plutonia in style. The player starts in a flooded tunnel leading up to a lake and the outside of the base. The base itself has some good traps and secrets. The real big fights come later on though — there is a fun fight against hundreds of imps teleporting into a network of nukage tunnels. The biggest is the penultimate area though, a gigantic hall containing several nukage lakes full of arachnotrons and barons, overlooked by ledges with spiderdemons and revenants. It's a daunting fight, but once the player starts to advance it becomes easy enough to get them fighting each other, which makes for an impressive fire-fight. There's a huge excess of health and ammo but it's fun nevertheless.
  19. Alien Resurrection by Madani El Hariri — A dangerous level. It's a strange mix of architectural styles, with an underground marble hall at one end, some acid ponds, and a large library area with some interesting tricks reminiscent of Monster Condo (Doom 2 MAP27). This level is all about traps, with monsters being released or teleported in behind the player at every opportunity. There are some nice twists to the traps which keeps the player guessing. The final area has a broad horseshoe shaped passageway into which several waves of new monsters are released as the player explores side areas, cumulating in a release of some archvilles and a cyberdemon — although this fight seems to have been a bit miscalculated, since the player is given an easy spot from which to get the cyber to kill everything else off.
  20. Mishri Halek by Kim MaldeMAP20 screenshot

    Maze levels have generally had fairly bad press in Doom, apparently because lots of people dislike them — they're probably afraid of getting lost. Well there's no need to worry here — you're certain to be completely lost in this vast maze under an Egyptian pyramid. You start outside with a good view of the pyramid, with other distant pyramids and such in the distance for scenery. Entering at the top of the pyramid, you gradually descend deeper into the network of passages underneath — the pyramid is full of traps, bars closing behind you, and collapsed tunnels which draw you deeper. The route is constantly branching in different directions, and each can be a long diversion that after half an hour's exploring leads you back to the same spot with a new way forward.

    The architecture is outstanding. The sandstone tunnels and crypts of the pyramid are decorated with imported graphics of wall paintings to give an Egyptian feel. There is also a large rocky canyon to explore, and several networks of lava tunnels and caverns underneath the pyramid.

    The level is full of traps, and despite the maze-like structure does manage enough connections between areas to allow you to see glimpses of the level ahead. There are plenty of traps and some good fights; however there are some rather gratuitous cyberdemon fights, and some of the action does get repetitive. And this level suffers badly from a pet hate of mine, piling multiple ammo boxes on the same spot so you have no idea how much is there. It's a pity, without those drawbacks this one would be a classic.

  21. One Flew Over the Cacos Nest by Pablo Dictter — The final episode of the megawad returns to a hell theme; with lots of gory decorations and a green stone and wood theme, this is definitely the Inferno theme (Doom 1 episode 3). This level certainly excels in detail — with hardly a stretch of wall unbroken by lights or icons or decorations — but lacks almost anything else, since it's basically flat, linear (well, the chain of rooms snakes a bit but that's all), and dull, with small rooms, small groups of enemies, only a couple of weak traps I can remember, and enough little blue bottles that my health never dipped below 180%.
  22. Rubicon by Brad Spencer — A nice mixture of hell styles at this level, with the Inferno-like red stone start, the large hot lava cavern ala Spirit World, and the more conventional green stone, marble and wood areas toward the exit. Some interesting fights, such as the mancubi overlooking the walkway through the lava cavern, but most of the opposition are hidden away in traps, so it's these that dominate the level — there are some good tricks here.
  23. Blood Sacrifice by Kim MaldeMAP23 screenshot Contrasting styles at this level — the first part of the level is in a bricks and metal style familiar to Doom, while the far part of the level is in a medieval castle theme which is more like Heretic. This latter part is particularly good, with plenty of battlements and turrets, and plenty of time has been taken to make the turrets round to give a more authentic feel, and to give the player plenty of views of the outside of the castle, which sits in a large lake. The gameplay is a mixture; there some good traps, and some smart use of archvilles; in other areas the level is rather linear and straightforward.
  24. Demonic Hordes by Vincent Catalaa, Metabolist

    The name is an apt description — a level consisting of a series of enormous fights against hordes of monsters. It is composed of a series of large battlegrounds — the first half of the level includes a large demonic church surrounded by cacodemons and revenants, and a canyon containing a stone building into which teleport practically everything (IIRC it starts with cyberdemons and revenants, then there's imps and demons, then some revenants and barons appear when you next return, and finally arachnotrons and spiderdemons). I completely lost count of the number of cyberdemons and spiderdemons; the total number of monsters is over 1500, and it plays more once the archvilles have had a go. It's one of these levels where you can get the monsters to fight each other mostly, but it takes quite a lot of work and skill to do this with the numbers involved. There is a massive amount of health and ammo so the main job is to avoid getting caught out — there are some good secrets too.

    The second part of the level continues in a similar vein, with a large stone yard containing some buildings and with a number of side areas. This part of the level has some very stylish architecture; the yard itself is very Heretic-ish, decorated with lots of nice torches and stained-glass windows, and the side areas have some good new textures. Each side area contains yet another wave of enemies to take on — there are plenty of fun fights at this level.

    The final area of the level is a kind of giant underground lava cavern, packed with more cyberdemons and lots of revenants and archvilles firing down from the high sides of the cavern. It's another fun fight, but seemed to have been a bit misjudged — like many of the other fights you can get the enemies fighting each other easily enough, but the start to the area gives good cover and the enemies can't enter it, so the player can just get them fighting and then sit it out.

    My main complaint about this level is that it doesn't end in the right place. The two halves could perhaps have been better used as two separate levels; as it was I left the first half expecting to find an exit and instead finding a whole big new area in a different style with yet more huge fights. Demonic Hordes doesn't give the player a good idea when it's going to end; there always seems to be another area, and leaving the player with a feeling of things dragging on is not good.

  25. Valley of Echoes by Anders Johnsen — The style here is definitely an echo (geddit?) of The Abandoned Mines and The Twilight (Doom 2 MAP26, Plutonia MAP15); a metal base set above a series of rocky canyons. The base itself, where the player starts, is a tricky fight with lots of traps and secrets. The latter part of the level is in a series of giant canyons with lots of heavyweight enemies both on the ground and firing down from the ledges around — some fun big fights.
  26. Dark Dome by Anders Johnsen — An interesting variation on the Living End/Perfect Hatred/Post Mortem style (Doom 2 MAP29, Ultimate Doom E4M2, Hell Revealed MAP24 respectively), this is a kind of hell base build inside a network of flooded underground caverns. The vicious start in particular reminds one of Post Mortem, with tons of revenants, barons and cyberdemons overlooking the player, forcing them to drop into the drink and flee to a safe corner of the level — which takes some doing, because this level is crawling with enemies. Although there are piles of ammo everywhere there isn't actually the huge excess that one normally expects in levels like this, given the vast number of monsters, but the player can get them fighting each other comfortably. It is a great level to play, with the complex architecture of connected areas and overlooking ledges and cages forcing the player to put some thought into how best to approach the main areas. There are some good frantic fights and traps too.
  27. Stench of Evil by Anders Johnsen, Jan Endre Jansen — A long level in the wood, rusty metal and marble style of Thy Flesh Consumed (Ultimate Doom episode 4). There are some quite novel bits in the level, such as the dark winding corridor with bright red oscillating shutters, and the blue watery archville maze — but neither of these were particularly challenging. There are some clever fights, but some dumb ones too — there are several fights where it would be almost impossible not to get the enemies fighting each other to such an extent that they are almost wiped out with no effort at all. Plenty of deadly traps; a lot of good secrets.
  28. Whispering Shadows by Anders Johnsen — This is quite a stylish level, with an Inferno-like decor of red brick, wood and metal, and some very distinctive decorations. Lots of courtyards with a mixture of monsters on overlooking ledges make for some interesting tactical fights, and there are plenty of good traps and secrets to keep the player busy.
  29. Fire Walk With Me by Anders JohnsenMAP29 screenshot A sinister, atmospheric level, where the player works through a series of lava canyons and caves to gain access to a marble hell base. Although the difficulty is certainly lower than many earlier levels — the traps tend to be in front of you rather than behind, and there are some easy opportunities for getting them fighting each other — but there are still some good fights & secrets here.
  30. Point Dreadfull by Anders Johnsen — A conventional MAP30 clone, but at least it addresses the weaknesses of the original. I never liked the original MAP30 — even setting aside the fact it's a one-trick level, the player can also largely ignore the ledges packed with monsters and just ride the platform a few times knowing when to shoot. This level uses a much better idea, making the player fight all the way back to the top ledge to lower the firing platform.
  31. Killer Colours by Gemini, Kristian K„llMAP31 screenshot The secret level is very, er, different. I've never seen a level quite like it — the level is divided into three zones — blue, green and red — each of which is in a single colour. It's very striking and not dull as it might sound at first, there's some good architecture here and the areas each have their own strange atmosphere. The gameplay is good too, the monsters are chosen to match the colours and there are some very extreme fights here. My only gripe is the the absence of a way to retrace your steps — perhaps this is necessary to stop the strongly themed areas losing their impact on the player, but I have a habit of leaving stuff behind until I actually need it, grumble. Anyway, a very striking and fun level, just what a secret level should be.
  32. No Guts No Glory by Anders Johnsen — The main part of this level is clearly designed to be like Resistance is Futile (Hell Revealed MAP22), with a large yard with high brick walls and a winding acid river crossed by bridges. The cyberdemons on the bridges, river packed with hell knights and hordes of monsters are familiar, but the level plays quite differently — where Resistance is Futile drops the player into a yard crammed with enemies and nowhere to hide, forcing the player to move around frantically and outmaneouver the enemies no the ground, No Guts No Glory starts the player in a safe house, and the enemies on the ground are packed but not very mobile, so the main danger comes from overlooking barons and cyberdemons while the player runs around clearing up the ground area. It's a tough but reasonable level requiring strategy from the player. The last part of the level is in a new area, which the player can just run past but is also not too hard with the right strategy.

The Doom interface is given quite a make-over by this WAD, not least the new status bar, which is hi-tec in style, and replaced the text for the different ammo types by pictures of shells etc. The startup, intermission and credits screens are all replaced. The menus are replaced too, with orange text substituted for Doom's normal red. The main menu replacement is slightly annoying though, because the menu is replaced by a single graphic rather than the individual menu items being replaced — this means the menu items are in the wrong order in Boom-based ports unless you set the "traditional_menu" option. Overall though, the replacements are stylish and good.

The music is changed for all the levels. A mixture of tunes are used from the original Doom games, music from Heretic, Duke Nuke'm and Rise of the Triad (better known to many of us from Hell Revealed), as well as other midis picked up from around the Internet. It's a good selection and the music is well matched to the levels.

Overall, an excellent episode, with plenty of great levels. MAP20 and MAP31 are definitely classics, albeit with some minor drawbacks; my favourite of the set is probably MAP11, as the level that really got everything right, from the impressive fortress on the rocky island down to the subterranean caverns. Honourable mentions too for MAP06, MAP08, MAP10, MAP15, and MAP26. The text file says If you're looking for a challenge combined with atmospheric levels, Alien Vendetta should be right up your alley, and I couldn't put it better myself.

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