THAT IS THE SOUND OF THE POLICE
Horn of the Feds
Having played the two editions of the Classic Episode I decided I should replay one of its main inspirations, Dawn of the Dead. It replaces Episode 1 of Doom. There is a DeHackEd patch supplied, but all it does is change the level names on the map.
It is a rare example of a wad that despite being a beta release is still a classic. You can tell it's a beta because, for example, one of the maps is missing. It's often cited as one of the "classic Episode 1 replacements" but it's not all episode 1 style (the classic episode itself is also similarly misrepresented) It is also quite oddly balanced with regard to booby traps, especially monster teleporters. You can pick up a prize like a key and have nothing happen, but a seemingly innocent object in the corner of a room might release a trap of alarming ferocity...
- Warp Station starts off quite easily in a grey brick techbase. There's a zigzag path over slime later on that's blatantly from Doom E1M1. It's pretty trivial to do.
- The Reactor centres around a large room full of slime, with a bridge over it. I don't know, it's pretty hard to describe, but it's well architectured, with plenty of windows and views of later areas. The secrets are good. You press a button and one of the pillars in the main room lowers and it turns out to have a soulsphere on it and you have no idea how to get to it. And then it turns out to be at the far end of a long run through a maze of slime-filled tunnels! Fun!
- Space Port doesn't have much to do with space... It has a lot to do with backtracking though. From the start area, which is very tricky, you go through some dark corridors with motion sensor lighting, to a couple of large outdoor slime lakes. On the far side there's another techbase-style area from which you get a red key. Then you pick a door and go round the loop. There is a right way and a wrong way to do this; there's one point round the loop that is one-way. So having been round the loop twice you can get into the hangar and get the blue key and then run all the way back to the start where the exit is. And then run all the way back to the far side of the loop to where the secret exit is. This map also features the world's most heavily booby-trapped box of rockets. Yes, box of rockets. Considering what happens, you'd have expected a soulsphere at least.
- Atmospheric Processor centres around a dark rectangle of slime-filled halls. Try to find the secret switch that raises drawbridges, it helps. There's a few side areas; a tech lab obviously inspired by E2M7, another tech lab that has its own thing, this optional bit that's full of slime and leads eventually to a chainsaw (and after all that you'll be thinking "what, only a chainsaw?") The main secret area is also inspired by the computer rooms in E2M7, but the secret it leads on to is more like your E1-style secret route to the outside of the base.
- Outpost 666 is the famous "missing map" of Dawn of the Dead. It is a placeholder, a tiny octagonal room with an exit switch. Map 6 of the Classic Episode is the finished version of this map.
- Fortress of Hate has more in common with The Citadel (Doom 2 Map 19) than anything from Doom. It's a castle. You start outside, and you should run around outside to find the plasma gun, you'll need it. Then you get locked inside the castle, where you are sniped at from windows everywhere. Seriously it's very hard not to run out of health, you really need to know your way around. Eventually you find the switch that opens the inner keep, which gives you the red key and another one of those bizarrely misplaced teleporter traps. The most frustrating thing about this map is the wide availability of bullets, but you don't get a chaingun until probably three quarters of the way through. You're limited to shells, and a berserk box near the start, if you can get to it, which I strongly suggest you try to do (There's also that plasma gun, if you found it, but there's next to no ammunition for it... although for some odd reason, that which is there, is spotlighted...)
- Death Awaits is one of that fine class of maps that I usually call "cohesive" or some crap like that. It does that thing where it crosses over itself and you keep revisiting the same areas but from different angles. Stylistically it's episode 4 more than anything else. The start is ridiculously hard, if you don't run in exactly the right direction you will die. In fact there are several places where if you don't do exactly the right thing you will die. That just makes it all the more satisfying to finish though, I suppose. Also it has these wonderful chains of secrets and teleporters and stuff. It is a pleasure to run around.
- At the Heart of It All is a fairly simple finale map; mainly episode 3 in style, I suppose, starting with a promising view of a castle, you go past a pool of lava, through a lab of some sorts, then a hellish chapel, finally teleporting into a large outdoor courtyard for the usual episode 1 ending of barons, spectres and pentagrams of blood. The main dangers here are the sniping sergeants on the battlements and accidentally being too close to an exploding barrel.
- Hunted down The secret level is achingly atmospheric, due to the incredible lighting. I don't know why its relegated to being a secret level, you usually save your crappy maps for secrets because fewer people will see them. Anyhow, it's a mostly open-air fortress, lit by warm sun in the south-west. Seriously, it really does feel like it's a fine spring day and summer is on the way. It is however quite hard, in particular at the start. There are monsters everywhere, they teleport around apparently at random, and there's no health. The yellow key is on an altar, on the way to which is a fiendish trap involving dropping bars and two barons... shame it doesn't work properly and is totally bypassable, really. Later on you get out the back of the fortress to a chapel, which is for once predictable about trap placement. It's not perfect but the sunshine effect amazes me every time.
In summary, Dawn of the Dead is not without its flaws, but given that it's a beta release, the fact that it's any good at all is impressive. The fact that it is roundly hailed as one of the quintissential Doom episode 1 replacements, and inspiration for so many, is astonishing. Give it a go, and play The Classic Episode afterwards for good measure.