level: in hell
author: steve "doomi" kirbst
email: doomerland AT (NOSPAM) web DOT de
click here to download "in hell V1.1" from filefront.com
3D gamers edge gold award winner!
- incredibly atmposheric
- superior audio
- exception item placement
- professional presentation
- superior action
- excellent scripted events
- great layout
- awesome secrets
- brutally challenging
- good architecture
- no plot
- no PDA or flashlight
- excessive button-pushing
- not much variety in regards to environment
-note- this review is based on playing at skill level 2
a year and a half in the making, "in hell", a massive 340MB DOOM3 mod featuring 19 single player levels is finally available! there are eight levels that you play through twice, a final boss battle level, and two hidden secret levels. it took me around 6 hours to get through the first eight maps, approximately 5 hours to do the second run-through, and there is an additional 30-60 minutes of gameplay if you locate the two hidden levels. that is nearly a dozen hours of free gameplay, expertly crafted and presented bug-free by doomi. i personally have been watching the progress of this mod by reading doomi's website updates regularly for the past 14 months. i am glad to say that it was worth every second of that long wait.
doomi states in his read.me file that the mod is based on the game Ultimate Doom on the PS1. having never played it, i cannot comment on the similarities it may or may not share with that game, but i can say that this is not DOOM as was presented to us in the retail game and expansion for DOOM3. gone are the high-tech environments, highly detailed architecture, NPCs, PDAs, and even the flashlight. instead the gameplay takes place in a world of fire and brimstone, medieval architecture, abandoned and ruined indoor environments, ominous ambient sounds and non-stop brutal action. action and challenge are the name of the game here. the enemies are everywhere, and the challenge is nearly always high. your weapons have been modded to have increased capacity, and you will need every bit of it. with action elements reminiscent of the original DOOM, you will frequently empty clip after clip of ammo, only to find new demons spawning in waves. frantic strafing and strategic weapon selection is the order of the day if you want to stay alive long enough to face the next demonic invasion. doomi doesn't exhaust and overwhelm the player though. the challenge does let up from time to time and there are a few arenas which feature a glut of ammo and health so that you may mow down the hell spawn without worrying about shortages. these breathers are needed, and appreciated, as the frantic gameplay would otherwise become too stressful and frustrating.
the architecture on display is solid, if not breath-taking. the design is inspired and suitably hellish, although it tends to be a bit simplistic. this is probably necessary to facilitate the massive battles is large, open, outdoor areas. framerates would slow to a crawl if you were facing up to a dozen enemies at a time in the complex environments of mappers such as Kaiser or Creutzenberg. keeping the player immersed despite the throwback architecture is an ambient audio track taken from the PS game Ultimate Doom. i really enjoyed this audio, as it fit the environments perfectly and really kept me feeling the creepy atmosphere. also adding to the awe are a slew of scripted events that range from mildly cool, to absolutely amazing.
but "in hell" is more than just a collection of maps, it is a mod, and as such it features changes to the standard gameplay. as mentioned above, the weapons have been altered to allow for increased ammo capacity and clip size. some have also been given an audio overhaul that lets the shotgun really stress your subwoofer, and the chaingun sound like all hell breaking loose. there are also changes to the amount of health the enemies possess. for example, there are mancubi that take 10 rockets to bring down instead of the standard 5. there isn't always a way to know if you are facing a beefed-up demon, or a regular one, which serves to keep the player from falling back on routine gameplay patterns. you can never assume a shotgun blast at close range will take down that imp, so beware when you retreat into dead-ends or corners! also changed is the gift of unlimited stamina. this isn't just a help, it is an absolute necessity in the frantic and overwhelming battle you will face.
to address my problems with "in hell", i turn to some mild complaints. first and foremost is the complete lack of any kind of plot or story. had there been something in that respect, i believe i would have given this mod a perfect score of 100, despite my other minor gripes. these include: the lack of a flashlight for reasons i simply do not understand; cheats are disabled, which makes sense in one respect, but makes it annoying for a reviewer to do his job thoroughly; overly excessive reliance on button pushing to advance; a lack of variety in location and environment; one totally illogical and very frustraing instant-death trap puzzle; and excessive use of fog, which gets annoying from time to time.
these complaints aside, "in hell" is a simply amazing mod for DOOM3 fans. the action is exceptionally well-paced and the challenge is very high. also available are all four skill levels, so you may fine-tune the challenge to your play style. the ambient audio creates an environment that is truly otherworldly and completely immersive. these maps are simply kick-ass fun to play through, and will challenge even the most battle-hardened DOOM3 players out there. i'd like to offer a truly heart-felt "Thank You" to Steve Kirbst for spending so much time crafting this mod. this is quality gameplay folks, and if it were a retail product that i spent $20 on, i would feel that my investment was well worth every penny. however, thanks to Steve's generosity, "in hell" is free for all of us to enjoy. i unreservedly recommend this mod to anyone who reads this review!
a final note: i found every secret in the game except for the second secret level. the first secret level, Kai Moosmann's reimagining of E1M1 is deserving of special mention. this level is amazing folks, and even if this mod doesn't sound like your cup of tea, it is worth playing if just to access it. this is a map i would easily rate a 98 or maybe even higher. it is not a simple vanilla remake of E1M1, it takes that classic map and uses it as an inspiration for a wild ride that will blow your mind for the 15-20 minutes it takes to play through. it is wickedly challenging, and features fantastic music and jaw-dropping scripted events. congratulations, Kai, this level is a real treasure!