Thursday, December 22, 2016
KZDOOM7: The Power Plant (KZDOOM7.WAD)
THE POWER PLANT
by Kurt Kesler
Kurt Kesler made a bunch of maps. The vast majority of them were released as single entries, though Kesler 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, a MAP01 replacement for Doom II. There was a KZDOOM8 in the works, but Kesler did not finish it at the time he released k-maps in 2003. KZDoom7 isn't the last Kesler level; 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, offering zero context for this level, even if 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. And that's basically what KZDOOM7 is, 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, and 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 that serve some anomalous purpose.
Other advanced features that you might already be familiar with include scripted spawns and the deep water with resulting color changes that he 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 beginning and then moving toward the rocket, especially with the heavily drawn-out finale, but with a lot less heavies re-populating the relatively smaller areas. Kesler's go-to guy for those scripted teleport invasions is the chaingunner, who's actually more annoying than anything, since the prevalence of zombies inside the installation will have you more 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" Doom 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.