Chris Hansen is the God King of the single-map WAD, and virtually his entire two-decade body of work, outside of the occasional community project contribution or collaboration with Paul Corfiatis, fits that mold. Hansen has been doing what he does, and doing it brilliantly, for a very long time.
So, of course, here comes Monument to change all that.
Monument is Chris Hansen’s greatest hits album. Most of the Episode 2-styled maps he’s released throughout his career are assembled here as part of a nine-level episode. That includes last year’s award-winning The Wailing Horde (diced into three more manageable chunks), the triumphant return of High/Low 2 (a personal favorite), and even the resurrection of a pretty unknown 1998 map. Considering the makeup of the WAD, it seems a little unnecessary discussing how well it plays. All of these maps were great when they originally saw the light of day, and they’re just as strong today. Of all of Mr. Hansen’s work, I’ve always been the fondest his Episode 2-inspired stuff — and that feeling gets validated again and again playing through Monument.
If you love the highly-interconnected, trap-heavy style Chris Hansen has perfected, rest assured that it’s on display through the whole of this WAD, even going back to maps from more than ten years ago. The only map here that doesn’t quite feel like a Hansen map is Monument‘s M5, a wide-open level in the vein of Mt. Erebus or the Doom II cityscapes. The change in direction is actually quite a nice break from the norm right in the middle of the episode, though I wish it was a little clearer with its teleporters. (I missed a vital teleport pad for such a long time that I tracked down the secret exit far, far easier than the real one.)
That’s right off the heels of the second bite-sized chunk of The Wailing Horde which sits in the M4 slot. Curiously, I think I liked that map better here than I did as one huge map in its original release. The three maps are each a tighter experience with more distinct personality for being broken up that way… though it may just the long-level-hater in me talking.
Really, just about everything in Monument, from the connectivity in its design, to its stellar music choices, to its moody new color palette, is designed to please my sensibilities. Well, except maybe the replacement pain sound for the player (Straight Outta Heretic), an unnecessary change and an out-of-place sound effect. Difficulty is satisfying but survivable on UV, starting at not-too-tough with M1 and ending up in some seriously cruel health droughts by M6 and 7. I never thought health pickups would become such a rare and wonderful sight.
That’s what leaves you feeling disappointed after the final map, which seems to really be going places right before it sputters out unspectacularly. What feels like it’ll be an awesome, multi-wave arena fight turns out to be only an underwhelming single wave, and then some cyberdemon cleanup. And while there’s much ado made of the series of switches that allow you to access the BFG and then teleport the cyberdemons into BFG-brawling range… it’s just as easy to pelt away at them on their distant perches with the plasma gun. Which is exactly what I did on my first playthrough, fully expecting there to be lots of time later to investigate all those switches and the BFG platform. Only there wasn’t.
Were that one hiccup not present, it would be hard to find any faults anywhere in Monument. It’s classic Chris Hansen, and that means quality. The Hansen Touch has never been better than it is in Monument, and I think it can probably only get better. We’ve got the first two episodes of Doom covered at this point, between Monument and CH Retro Episode. Will it be E3 next? E4? To be honest, as much as I’d love to see both of those done, I wonder more and more with each Chris Hansen release… what he could get done with custom resources. I might be wrong, but I’m not aware of a single WAD from our illustrious mapper that uses new textures or monsters. The unique palette in Monument is probably the closest we’ve gotten.
But man — the magic he can work with only stock resources? Can you imagine how awesome it would be if Chris Hansen pulled a Scythe II or a Vanguard? Care to take that next step, Mr. Hansen?
You can consider that a challenge.
Monument requires DOOM.WAD and should run on limit-removing source ports. If you’re not sure how to get it running, this may help. And for more awesome WADs, be sure to check these out — or head over to Chris Hansen’s website for the complete collection of his WADs!