SIGIL | Review

After a long and anticipated wait, game developer veteran and conditioner aficionado John Romero has returned with a free, full-length episode for The Ultimate DOOM as a belated 25th anniversary gift to the series, albeit with a badass name: SIGIL! To wrap it up nicely in a tight package of a summary, SIGIL is a bang-up job that packs in some delightfully devilish missions to rip ‘n’ tear through. They’re by no means flawless, far from it, yet it was still worth the wait.

After the events of The Ultimate DOOM, just when you – the DOOM Marine – thought you could escape Hell for good… well, it doesn’t happen. That cheeky git Baphomet glitched your teleporter, thrusting you even deeper in the pits of Perdition. There’s only one solution, and it doesn’t involve warm handshakes and peaceful protesting. The whole thing wraps up with a brief and underwhelming text intermission when all is said and done.

Expect lots of cracks in the floor.

You know the rules – kill everything, collect the goodies, plunder the secrets, and live to tell the tale. Romero certainly hasn’t lost his touch;ven by using the basic assets of the first DOOM game, he’s still able to create some brilliant levels with some complex designs and great texture work. Quite a few of them feel a bit narrow at times, with things like tight walks and narrow tunnels stuffed with baddies, but it’s not enough to ruin the quick-pace of the game. There tends to be just enough ammo, though it’ll go quickly if you’re too trigger-happy on the higher-difficulties. Same goes with radiation suits. There’s some impressive lighting across the board, but also a few cheap traps as well, like bullet-sponge enemies clogging up passageways.

“Cages of the Damned” peels itself to reveal more sections of the map with armies of baddies to boot, while “Paths of Wretchedness” offers three routes for you to go down in whichever order you want, one of which features a very tricky crusher puzzle. The secret level is pretty good, and requires a bit of hopscotch to escape a Cyberdemon. Too bad the final level is a little anticlimactic, since you can just arm yourself and sprint past the bosses to get out of there. Turning it into a murder map would’ve been a bit more fun.

Rivers of lava will no doubt annoy. Then again, it’s Hell, so…

You know the rules – kill everything, collect the goodies, uncover the secrets, and live to tell the tale. Romero certainly hasn’t lost his touch; he’s still able to create some brilliant levels with a nice flow to them, topped with some great lighting and texture work. Quite a few of them feel a bit narrow at times, with things like tight walks and narrow tunnels stuffed with baddies, but it’s not enough to ruin the quick-pace of the game. A fair amount of ammo is on offer, though it’ll go quickly if you’re too trigger-happy. Expect some heap enemy placements and traps, i.e. bullet-sponge enemies clogging up passageways and slow crushers blocking your path on occasions, too. Plugging away at Lost Souls and Barons (remember, this was made for the first DOOM game, not the second) with a shotgun gets tiresome quickly, and it’ll make you wish you were puncturing Mancubuses or rattling Revenants with a super shotgun instead.

In any case, what’s on offer is impressive enough, and will definitely put up a good fight on Ultra-Violence difficulty. “Cages of the Damned” peels itself to reveal more sections of the map with armies of baddies to boot, while “Paths of Wretchedness” offers three routes for you to go down in whichever order you want, one of which features a very tricky (and frustrating) crusher puzzle. The secret level is pretty good, and requires a bit of hopscotch to escape the wrath of a Cyberdemon. Too bad the final level is a little anticlimactic, since you can just sprint past the bosses to get out of there. Turning it into a murder map would’ve been a bit more fun, since you’d probably already have a room-clearing BFG9000 by this point anyway.

It’s best played on Hurt Me Plenty difficulty on your first try, as Ultra-Violence squeezes in more Barons and Cyberdemons to annoy you.

The deathmatch levels are nowhere near as complex as the single player missions, and that’s a good thing. Instead of twaddling around across seas of lava and waiting impatiently for lifts to whisk you away, Romero’s packed in some suitably simple maps with a few chunkier ones as well. They’re built in the standard levels but are inaccessible in single player, which is a good way to save up space. It’s of no surprise that there’s a nod to the beloved DM map ‘Dead Simple’ from DOOM II tossed into the mix as well. Providing you’ve got the tools to get the online multiplayer to work (this is where the modding community shine once again, like they have been doing for the past 25 years), these maps won’t blow your mind but should be enough to quench your thirst.

DOOM is well known for is blend of Metal-inspired tunes and ambient tracks by composer legend Bobby Prince. SIGIL packs two different soundtracks, however. The tunes you hear in-game are in MIDI-format, composed by James “Jimmy” Paddock (download here), a talented music-man from the DOOM community with some invigorating and catchy tunes. The MP3 soundtrack created by Heavy Metal goliath Buckethead (available here) pack in some tasty riffs that last for well over 10 mins. You’ve got some cool stuff too, Mr. B.

See those green eye-arrows? Shooting those activates bridges or opens doors. Keep your eyes peeled.

SIGIL is tasty stuff. Romero has an eye for detail and has made some challenging, intricately designed levels with the limited resources on offer. Some underhanded tricks, dodgy enemy placements and a flat final mission taints the experience to an extent, however, but not enough to ruin it. Its soundtracks are certainly worth a listen, too. DOOM fans, fret not. It may not be a smooth ride, but trekking through Romero’s domain still fun as hell… most of the time, anyway.

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