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Wednesday 3rd January 2001

Czg07: " Insomnia"
(Size: 6.5 meg. No Alternative downloads. Direct link: Czg07)
Speedrun demos: Czg07b in 0:52 and Czg07c in 0:42

Note: These maps require a reasonable standard PC to run, with GLQuake recommended, and you may need to allocate more RAM to Quake - see the included text and/or Help page.

An awesome 4 map unit, with very distinctive level design, layout, and gameplay. It consists of a start map and 3 enormous, consecutive, single player maps. There's a story, and an ending text, that are just plain weird, while the connection between the levels is very smooth. The start map is a hellish, organic/industrial building, floating in space, reminiscent of Zerstorer's more disturbing moments, the bizarre setting and designs are something to admire, like the cool "teeth" of rock you initially jump across. The first two main maps are Q2-textured industrial bases, with subtle golden/beige walls, lots of grilles and ribbed trim, dark rocks and caverns, and hi-tech light details. The final map is a Q3A-textured gothic bastion, rather colourful with grey stone or turquoise walls, purplish metal beams, a very nice rock texture, a lurid red sky, blood pools and cool bloodfalls (with their own eerie noise), and skulls and runes as details. All maps stick to their theme precisely, with the second map subtly blending the base into caverns and then a gothic temple. The strong styling of all the levels, with their original architecture and complexity, gives them a good atmosphere of awe and discovery.

Architecture is spectacular and expertly built: It eschews small intricate designs and lots of details, in favour of massive structures, excellent curves, and fantastically complex layouts. Buildings, courtyards, and complex rooms are all built into sections of well angled natural rock, and all maps feature water or blood. Designs are huge, heavily built, and complex: Tower-like sections jut out from corners, walkways circle around courtyards, supporting beams arch overhead, and there's always exciting designs to catch the eye. Curves are everywhere, enhancing almost all structures via arches, bowls and domes, with good clean textures that show off the curves well. A couple of weaknesses: The lighting is sometimes a bit bright or flat - more contrast would enhance the atmosphere. And there are a few rooms and corridors that are blocky or simple compared to the more impressive areas elsewhere. But that hardly detracts from the general architectural standard, which is excellent, and as good as anything seen in Quake. However, the higher than average system requirements may be a serious problem for a few players, though in the year 2001 almost everyone should be able to run maps like these.

The map layouts are particularly impressive, due to their complexity and interconnectivity, which sometimes leads to a tremendous amount of exploration. There are several sections where you'll find two or more seperate route choices, so you can explore or backtrack at will - eventually reappearing somewhere you recognise from a different direction. The second map is the most interesting for such exploration, but in all maps you progress through familiar areas via different routes, giving an immersive feel. However, there's an obvious problem with this otherwise exciting exploration: Often you can fall or jump down into previous areas, and have to walk a very long way to get back. A few extra doors and lifts do open to alleviate this, but more would have allowed quicker navigation as you progress. There's a few secrets in each map, generally useful and fairly easy to find - I'd have liked more secrets as there's lots of places for them in maps this size.

Gameplay is great, and distinctive due to the huge amount of monsters and the exceptionally fair gameplay balance. Monster counts are shocking: 230, 206, 194 on Hard skill!! Amazingly, combats are rarely crowded and never overwhelming, with monsters well spread throughout the maps. Large gangs are extremely common, but there's either plenty of room to move, or a good escape route, or you can spot them from a distance. Also, they're susceptible to explosive weapons and infighting - a brawl between 6 Fiends and 5 Deathknights being a great spectacle. The base maps are focused on sniping and using cover well - charging into rooms of Grunts and Enforcers being inadvisable. This, like in Apsp1, gives a great, infiltrative feel. The gothic map allows a less cautious approach, with better weapons and more open areas.

The balance in these maps is really impressive - there's appropriately plentiful caches of ammo, adequate but not excessive health, and the combats are always very fair, even the surprises and shocks (some very good ones) are well set-up to provide excitement without frustration. The challenge comes from keeping calm and playing steadily, rather than dealing with item shortages or nasty situations. Skill settings are in effect too. Unfortunately, the ending is, well, missing - the last map simply finishes with a reasonable ambush, but given what's gone before, the lack of an epic combat is really disappointing, it could have been the crowning achievement on otherwise "near perfect" maps. Even so, with 2-3 hours solid gameplay in some of the greatest maps around, this is an essential release.

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