Alien Vendetta (PC) review
"Alien Vendetta is everything that Final Doom's The Plutonia Experiment should have been, a brutal pack of levels unbeatable by all but the hardiest veterans of Doom II's Ultra-Violence difficulty. Tough enemies aren't tough when Plutonia's level design lets you pick them off and the only choice to be made is whether you'll do the deed with your hundreds of rockets or dozens of BFG cells. It's unsettling to see demons from Doom II's endgame hanging around in the very first map, but the whole thin..."
Alien Vendetta is everything that Final Doom's The Plutonia Experiment should have been, a brutal pack of levels unbeatable by all but the hardiest veterans of Doom II's Ultra-Violence difficulty. Tough enemies aren't tough when Plutonia's level design lets you pick them off and the only choice to be made is whether you'll do the deed with your hundreds of rockets or dozens of BFG cells. It's unsettling to see demons from Doom II's endgame hanging around in the very first map, but the whole thing was built on an "oh shit" factor that wears out after a tenth of it. Vendetta fixes this: those who've not even battled through Doom II on Hurt Me Plenty need not apply, but masochistic types aching for more carnage should skip Final Doom and instead try this for some REAL ultra-violence(1). The price is right.
MAP 06: HILLSIDE SIEGE
Hillside Siege starts off genially, with a horde of the round crimson Cacodemons spewing fireballs at you from above while posessed seargents and demonic infantry pepper you with shotgun shells and pistol bullets. You soon see across a red key door leading to the map's exit, after which you drop into an infested ravine with the red key at its peak... thanks to the drop, though, you can't just head back the way you came. I'd hoped that whatever other path I'd find wouldn't be too vicious, but Alien Vendetta just wouldn't be a good Doom II mod if it didn't crush my hopes and dreams.
Imagine a courtyard.
Now imagine said courtyard is filled with the goat-headed Hell Knights, which can knock off half of your health with just one glob of green plasma. These two-meter tall demons are flanked by Revenants, agile armored skeletons that chuck homing missiles at you, and yet more Cacodemons. In a room beyond lies more Hell Knights, and in a tight corridor beyond that lies a different sort of skeleton that can just ruin your day by reviving its fallen comrades. Dashing past them all is an even more painful option than duking it out, but you might have to; you may be imagining that there are at least a lot of ammo pickups strewn about the courtyard, but you would be mistaken.
Just to add the finishing touch, imagine that there's a Cyberdemon--which Doom II's instruction manual describes as a missle launching skyscraper--lording over this courtyard from a precipice above. Or don't. It won't change the fact that he's there and angry.
MAP 07: SHOWDOWN
Survive all that, as I did with just 1% health, and you'll move onto Alien Vendetta's take on Doom II's Dead Simple. Dead Simple, if you don't remember, was but four platforms in the middle of a square arena. One of the obese, fleshy Mancubi rained down fiery death from atop each, while a few more blubbered about the land if you were one of us hardy Ultra-Violence types. To balance things out, you started in a safe little box with a backpack of ammo and a super-shotgun. Powerups were littered about the map, while columns in the corner gave you a chance to take cover from the constant onslaught.
Alien Vendetta's take on this is very simple. There is no safe-zone, there are no powerups, and there is no cover. There is you, and there is a horde of Mancubi. Whether you're at 100% health or 1%.
MAP 11: NEMESIS
The superbly laid out Nemesis sports a waterlocked castle that would be impervious to attack were it not for the damp, sprawling caverns underneath. Traps abound: one elevator drops you onto a Mancubus-ridden ledge watched over by a trio of chaingunners, for instance, and there's another of the foe-reviving Arch-Viles in the crow's nest who'll introduce you to their secondary ability of setting you on fire. Yet the best part comes later in a tucked-away dungeon that intertwines with the caves thanks to the citadel's crumbling, decrepit foundation.
It's a nice contrast to the pure holocaust of Alien Vendetta's more hectic moments. You're not worrying about running out of shotgun shells and having to take on a dozen Hell Knights with your fists. You're worrying about whether or not there'll be anything lurking around that next corner at all, and what exactly that anything might be. Could it be a lesser demon up close that your shotgun will take care of, or a far-off mutant that you'll have to quickly off with your plasma rifle? You're kept guessing the entire time, an empty trek toward the exit leaving you genuinely wondering if it could possibly be that easy.
Spoilers: it isn't.
MAP 13: SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
Alien Vendetta is not normally as subtle about hating you and everything that you stand for as a human being. Veteran Doomers are sure to have their own preferred ways for dealing with the aforementioned missile-launching Revenants, but strategy makes a quick exit when you hear literally dozens of them on the other side of a wall. Doubly so when you open a door and they pour through single-file faster than you can maim them, forcing a frenzied retreat on your part as they overrun the base that you'd thought was free of opposition for good. Slaughter them and move toward the massive courtyard they were guarding and you'll get another sound cue; this time, though, it's the unmistakable wheeze of the Spider Mastermind that lorded over the original Doom's final map. And before the old lass has even exhaled, you'll hear her sister.
This battle isn't as surreally difficult as it sounds--Alien Vendetta is cruel, but never unfair. There are dozens of medium sized enemies running amok as well, and for once that's a good thing since a clever player can make sure the Masterminds' spray-and-pray chainguns tear into their ranks enough to enrage them. Hilarity ensues. Watching from the sidelines, I saw an Imp, the lowliest of Doom demons, pick a fight with one of the Spiders and win: it clawed away so ferociously that the other poor monstrosity couldn't even get off a shot between flinches. I almost laughed so hard that I forgot to award the victor a proper chainsaw gutsfucking... almost.
The last half of the game doesn't disappoint. MAP20: MISHRI HALEK is a labyrinth pyramid that you're sure to get lost in thanks to its arbitrarily locking gates and generally sadistic design, while the secret MAP31: KILLER COLOURS' seperate shaded areas gimmick works well even though somebody forgot to spellcheck the level's name. Cliched as this may be to say, if you loved Doom II, you'll love Alien Vendetta... because, you know, it is Doom II.
Addendum, 7/24/09: I'm an idiot. Plutonia is actually cool, it's Evilution that sucks. The more you know!
1.) Robert "overdrive" Hamilton, AIM chat (Mount Gilead: July 9th, 2006), 48-51.
Community review by mardraum (July 14, 2007)
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