Post number one of three today
I was inspired to write this by Games Radar's 59 levels to play before you die, of which I have experienced precisely two - Tomb Raider's dinosaur experience, and a very brief flash of the N64's version of Rainbow Road, complete with crash barrier, which meant far less scope for The Computer to be A Cheating Bastard than the SNES version did.
When it comes to finding extra levels for my favourite first person shooters, there's nothing I like more than a truly enormous level. You know, about ten times bigger than any of the levels in the standard game, likely to be themed around a castle, something so huge and easy to get lost in that if it was reformatted for Quake (where there was no automap) it'd be damn near impossible. In short, the equivalent of a 20-plus-minute Moonsorrow masterpiece.
I was going to find one for all of my favourite FPSs, but as I haven't been able to play Duke Nukem 3D since ditching Windoze 98 about seven years ago, I'll have to restrict this article to the id Games Trilogy. Onwards, with part one.
DOOM II: Warpzone (standalone level)
It is said that the words "screaming apoplexy" were invented purely to describe the reactions of Doom kvltists when presented with a level that requires a source port to work. There's nothing I like doing more than winding up said kvltists, which is one of the reasons why I've picked this level, as any player will inevitably find out when presented with one of the many obstacles which require a jump key to be defined. Did I say many? There's a good reason for that: the sheer scale of this level has to be seen, and played, to be believed. Put it this way: in regular Doom, Refueling Base (level 10) has the highest number of monsters on Ultra-Violence - 279. Warpzone, by comparison, has 1,114, and it's no joke level like Nuts is. The attention to detail is strikingly high - but, again, not ludicrously overblown like the notorious Gothic99. And neither is it one of those moronically hard levels designed for those lifeless nerds who play Doom every waking hour of every day, in which the player, armed only with a pistol and three bullets, is routinely attacked by sixteen revenants at once in a confined space with no hope of escape and woefully insufficient means to fight back - roughly the equivalent of being asked to survive a direct hit from an atomic bomb. I've never worked out why such endless praise is heaped on the likes of Hell Revealed. This level puts all those criticisms right, because for us mere mortals, it is possible. Of the 1,114 baddies, one is a Cyberdemon fought in a wide open space with plenty of room to dodge his missiles - just the way it should be, one is a Spiderdemon, five are Arch-Viles and there's an all-new boss at the end. The rest are the general minions of Doom, in an near-perfect mix of weak-and-easy footsoldiers and the tougher baddies which need several huge blasts to dispatch. Best of all, though, the whole level plays like a Hexen hub - it's split into three distinct parts which all have to be revisited several times to find keys or hit switches that open doors in the other part. And as I've always found Hexen to be the favoured game of the trilogy, this is probably the ultimate Doom experience that I could ever wish for - to the point that it might just make the Heretic and Hexen levels I'm about to describe look just a little bit tame. Even on an IDDQD/IDFA 100% kills run designed to batter through the level as fast as possible (so that I knew how many of the final bosses there were in it), it took 63 minutes, so you can imagine how long it'd take to clear if it was to be played properly - which I highly recommend. Never before, and I suspect never again, am I going to see any level in any game that requires the player to concentrate so hard for so long. You know what this level is? It's the Viides Luku: Hävitetty of Doom. Marvellous.