Rubicon 2 by metlslime and czg
- Download: rubicon2.zip
Probably the longest-in-development-ever Q1SP has been released, and it is awesome. Rubicon was a base map with custom textures from the early days of Quake, but its sequel has much more than that. First of all, there are still the custom textures, but the set is massively expanded. It is probably the first created-for-Quake custom texture set in years. I don't know how many textures were in the original Rubicon, but I'm guessing the texture set here is now 3x as big at least. There are also tons of neat touches, like waving flags with the Rubicon 2 logo (repeated on crates, walls, etc as well throughout the episode). There are custom exploding barrels, custom laser traps and other hazards like steaming pipes, and lots of other custom content like new sounds (all of which sound very oldschool and awesome) and even a Rubicon 2-specific help in the start menu. This is an episode that deserves to be played and replayed to savour all the cool little enhancements/touches. There are three new monsters as well, a pyromaniac enforcer who charges you with a flamethrower (awesome), a sort of R2D2 robot (pretty cool), and coolest of all a flying enforcer which makes for a very original flying enemy (awesome). In addition, grunts and enforcers are now slightly more dangerous (at least it seemed that way), so the map set is challenging but never ridiculous.
The start map introduces the episode's style, many of the features here will be repeated later. One of the coolest things about the map set, is that the cumulative effect of not just the suite of custom features, but the repetition of architectural designs (giant x-beams for examples), is that a very distinct, coherent style of environment is created. I was actually reminded quite a bit, when I started playing this, of the first time I played IKSPQ5 The Secret Installation, in terms of a distinct base environment with a its own look. However, in terms of the amount of custom mod stuff, it is probably more comparable to something like Operation Urth Majik. The map set is not linear, in the start map you pick what maps you want to play in whatever order. I started with "Hydroexploitation Plant," then played "A Thousand Years Into the Past," and then finally "Subterranean Spookworks."
Hydroexploitation Plant is the map that some of us remember seeing screenshots of a long time ago. The map begins with a tribute to Quake's e1m1, but soon shifts settings into a complex network of underground tunnels, store rooms, and canyon areas. For me the setpiece highlight was the outdoor dam, sort of like some of the stuff early in Travail in a more compact way. The architecture of the dam is impeccably curved, which is interesting since not a lot of maps do this anymore, and yet the map doesn't do it just to show off curviness but rather it does it where appropriate. The overall sense of this map is of well-proportioned, well-judged architecture. In terms of layout, while the map has a lot of twists and turns, the layout is so well-designed (I'd imagine this was all sketched out beforehand, or edited and redesigned quite a bit) that it is always clear where to go, you are almost by default always heading in the right direction despite the complexity of the setting. I thought this was the easiest of the three maps, but that doesn't make it a pushover, you cannot run in too fast and it's a good idea to use the shotgun to snipe enemies far away so they don't snipe you.
A Thousand Years Into the Past is CZG's map, with a slightly different take on the Rubicon 2 theme (different skybox, fog, somewhat different architectural style). Most of the map takes place in a massive underground facility, with platforms and bridges spanning yawning chasms, between large support structures and with plenty of pipes and crossbeams. It's quite atmospheric, and has probably the largest amount of open space out of any of the maps. The gameplay is quite a bit tougher than the previous map - whereas I didn't die there, I died several times here. The layout is similarly complicated, but the gameplay path is usually pretty clear. The map involves disabling laser traps, getting keys, and of course killing plenty of robots, enhanced enforcers and other base enemies. I'm not sure exactly what to compare it to, perhaps Subterranean Siege or The Lost Mines. Basically, with this map you will get an increased challenge, in an impressive/atmospheric environment.
Subterranean Spookworks is the last map I played. It centres around a central atrium/hub, with a curved tunnel encircling it and three major side areas guarded by laser traps of different colours. I think this might be my favourite map in the set. While the layout isn't as complex as either of the other major maps, it is more obvious and logical, especially when you see the outdoor areas and realize that they are basically bunker-like entrances to the whole underground complex. I found this the hardest map, not because it had the most enemies in it, but just because it seemed health was scarce (even with exploration which can be helpful). There were some pretty nasty trap "labs" in this map, so you have to make sure your aim is good. I really liked the concrete theme of this map, and the lighting was especially good.
To conclude the review, what we have here is a very nicely made mod serving three very well-made base maps, with tons of extra features, a nice start map, a cool theme, some challenging combat, pleasing layouts, and a great expansion on a classic oldschool theme / texture set.