Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Military Research Complex (COMPLEX.WAD)

by Rex Claussen

Military Research Complex is Rex Claussen's fourth release in 1999 and the fourth release of his career. Like his previous level, Decimate, it's a MAP01 replacement designed for advanced source ports and tested in ZDoom. There are a few really big differences, though. For one, COMPLEX is a HUGE level when it comes to real estate, which is in stark contrast to Claussen's relatively short levels, though it meshes with the swaths of empty space in the comparatively smaller Decimate. More importantly, Claussen's previous releases specifically mentioned that they were not designed around jumping; Military Research Complex is and says as much in the .TXT. If you assume otherwise, like I did, you'll be hopelessly stuck.

In COMPLEX, the player is a mercenary working a contract for the Omega Conglomerate, a paramilitary organization rival to the Union Aerospace Corporation looking to secure the coveted "Planetary Federation Contract", which the UAC has. Your mission is to infiltrate one of their primary holdings on Earth, the UAC Research Quadrangle, and lower their standing in a smash and grab operation. Part of the mission involves downloading research data and part of it involves destroying the experiments resulting from the events of Doom and Doom II. It turns out that the ruthless UAC has been using genetic and cybernetic material recovered from the demonic invaders to modify their test subjects in order to create their personal, private army.

This standing squad of Satanic soldiers is the only thing left guarding the Quadrangle, since your individual invasion is planned for the global celebration during Earth Liberation Day. The rest of the .TXT story plots out your objectives in the order you'll have to tackle them in, including restoring primary power to the facilities which include the Octagon (the central research structure), the Power Plant, the Waste Processing Center, and the barracks. It's a good reference if you find yourself lost since the sheer space of the level is quite large and fields over 300 monsters. You may have to initially guess at the nature of the buildings, but each one has a single point of entry excepting the omnipresent Octagon, which you'll have to dig in to several times before finishing things out inside.

Like I said before, jumping is required. You have to sneak into the Octagon via a vent accessed by leaping across stacks of crates, after which you'll open up access to the power plant. Jumping remains integral to gathering power-ups and progression (you have to jump to initially exit the Octagon, too) so if you're not used to bouncing you'll encounter quite the paradigm shift, hopefully enough to prepare you for what follows. There aren't any lethal jumping puzzles or anything, just a whole lot of things to goat around on and the occasional clever secret like climbing out a window to access a hatch on a ledge you could have clearly seen from the outside.

COMPLEX is also a VERY slow play. Part of this is due to its sheer size, with lots of covering open ground and navigating through the separate, large buildings. Its combat pacing will be the real killer, though. I'd say that half of the level's action is initially fielded with the shotgun and chaingun alone, acquiring the rocket launcher toward the end of the Waste Processing Center with plenty of mid-tier opponents including Barons. The super shotgun is nowhere to be found, lengthening player exposure while using the single shotty, and the plasma gun - with copious amounts of ammo found beforehand - is located in a very late-game secret. The most tense encounter I had involved the southeastern wing of the Octagon, which is full of mancubuses and was more a consideration of ammo left vs. ammo sponges since they all started waddling toward my side of the room.

I wouldn't have guessed it from Rex's less furnished adventures in Babelsitting, but between this and Quo Vadis's Nazi bunker in MAP02, it's clear that his man-made levels (at least the early ones) are flush with DoomCute realism. Heck; the toilet stalls look almost identical. COMPLEX has offices, showers, checkpoints, barracks, lockers, and even a system of roads with a parking lot clumsily rendered using Doom II textures. I say clumsy because the white striping is accomplished through that floor texture made up of small, smooth white pebbles with a similar origin for the blacktop, looking less like a parking lot up close and more like a cargo cult's rendition. Then again, that's not far from the truth as far as Doom authors using things like sector furniture in an attempt to invoke an aura of realism.

Military Research Complex is far from a well-oiled action ride. It has all the pacing of an adventure game with flashes of heavy combat, similar to the smaller, previous Decimate. These are endemic to Doom levels with a pronounced emphasis on realistic layouts; if you have any reservations about these, then you can probably give COMPLEX a pass. If you're a realism fetishist, though, or the appeal of Claussen's mission applies to you, then there's no harm in trying it out.



  1. Just a notice, the download link you provided links to another complex.wad that has no relation with this one