Thursday, December 22, 2016

KZDOOM7: The Power Plant (KZDOOM7.WAD)

by Kurt Kesler

Kurt Kesler made a bunch of maps. The vast majority of them were released as single entries but he eventually gathered up all of his vanilla levels into a collection - KMEGA. The others had names as befits their target ports: KBOOM for Boom, of course; KZDOOM for ZDoom; and KHILLS for... limit-removing? KZDoom7, internally titled as "The Power Plant", is his final solo ZDoom release and a MAP01 replacement for Doom II. There was a number eight in the works but the author did not finish it at the time he released k-maps in 2003. This isn't the last level by Kurt; he continued to work on two larger projects, Frenzy DM and Ni'mRoD - IXNAY on the HOMBRE, before Still Kickin' in 2005.

Kesler isn't big on presentation and offers zero context for this outing but the opening is one big long camera shot that previews a portion of the level up to the starting point. If he had anything to say I imagine it would be along the lines of how much he loves base-theme levels. Which is basically the nature of KZDOOM7, though like a lot of Kesler's tech installations there's a healthy bunch of outdoor areas to kick around in. It's been awhile since I'd played the rest of the KZDoom series (about a year and a half!) but one huge detail immediately caught my attention. At this point Kesler started messing about with slopes. While he doesn't go overboard, a little bit goes a long way to smoothing over the rocky, outdoor sections of the base and making the character of the interior a tad less stocky. There's also a bunch of polyobjects, mostly as the sliding doors that proliferate the level but add quite a bit of class, as well as large pieces of spinning machinery whose purpose seems anomalous.

Other advanced features include scripted spawns and the deep water with resulting color changes, also showed off in his penultimate Boom level, KBOOM11. The scripted stuff isn't crazy but results in an interesting aspect to the finale... which might easily be the nadir of the entire level. It's a three-Cyberdemon showdown that pretty much pushes the rocket launcher alone. Two of the Cyberdemons have triggers attached to them, one of which teleports in some new monsters, including a pair of Spiderdemons. That can work out pretty well in your favor provided you kill the right one and get your arachnomomma aides! My first try I killed two with the rocket launcher (sigh) and was quickly sliced to ribbons by concentrated super chaingun fire.

The action is what I'd expect from a Kesler map. It's heavily weighted toward the super shotgun in the beginning, afterward favoring the rocket launcher especially given the heavily drawn-out finale, but the author shies away from using bigger monsters when re-populating the relatively smaller areas. Kesler's go-to guys for those scripted teleport invasions are chaingunners. They're actually more annoying than anything since the prevalence of zombies inside the installation will leave you better prepared for them and less for the occasional revenant and Hell knight when they pop up. The southwestern generator room is one of my favorite fights since it has mancubuses and revenants and a sort of awkward track to run around in while you try to combat shotgun-joust. The final room, eh, not so much.

KZDoom7 is remarkable for showing what an "advanced" level could look like in the glorious year of 2001 while still remaining Doom to the core. Yeah, things only got crazier over the years (just look at Ed Cripp's stuff), but if you want a good idea of how to crowbar ZDoom features into a map and not look like you're just throwing spaghetti at the walls - spinning walltexture machinery notwithstanding - you could do a lot worse than using KZDoom7 as a template.

This article is part of a series on
Kurt Kesler's KZDoom series


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