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Tuesday 14th August 2001

Alk10: "Permutations of the Rotten"
(Size: 3.2 meg. No Alternative downloads.)

Note 1: This unit requires the Nehahra mission pack to play. Download Nehahra and/or read the review. You should also download the following updates to Nehahra: Nehupdate3 (310 k) and Nehmusicfix (380 k).
Note 2L The advanced dodging AI in Nehahra can now be disabled by bringing down the console (using your ~ key), and then typing in "nomonsters 1" (without quotes). This will give monster movement closer to normal Quake.

A 4 map expansion pack for Nehahra with an unusual background story that doesn't have any effect on the maps themselves. Doesn't matter because the maps are all good, they're a coherent bunch that fit well together but with enough variety to keep you interested. The maps are similar enough that a general description is more useful than individual reviews in this case. Each map sticks to it's chosen theme well: The first blends medieval/industrial styles with caves and caverns, the second goes for a more metal style, with very subtle crimson fog, while the third takes the metal style into a darker, gothic direction, and the final map is medieval/outdoor arena. Architecture is good throughout the maps: Strong, solid designs are featured, with angles that are used both blatantly and subtly, the latter giving a more interesting style. All areas have visual appeal, and there's enough diversity and complexity in the overall map layouts to keep them fresh, though a few areas can be a bit confusing at first. The angular designs are often fairly arbitrary, but equally there are some more distinctive rooms and a few impressive setpieces.

Highlights include the well integrated blend of natural rocks (again, appropriately angled) in the first map, the towering rusty metal beam designs in the second map, and the subtly angled and ominously blood stained walls in the third map. The final arena is particularly notable: Similar in ethos to the finale of Tides of War (review), it too is a church set in natural rocks, and as such provides a much more interesting setting for the big finish than a typical arbitrary arena map. This gives a good, appropriate sense of place to the finish, enhanced by custom music. Nightime skyboxes and fog also enhance the atmosphere, though other Nehahra features are hardly used except for a token gesture at the start, a bit of a pity. Build quality and lighting are good throughout, though the fog gives a few odd effects. Although the map layouts are very complex, and heavily interconnected with two tiers intertwining through each map, there isn't much legitimate exploration. Side routes are barred off until later on, and there's a fair bit of back tracking which is inevitably well covered by enemy reinforcements. There's also an average of only 1 secret per map, which, like the lack of exploration, is disappointing as it makes the gameplay a bit more one dimensional.

The gameplay itself is very focused on continuous - though rarely excessive - action, and having to battle methodically through the maps. Monsters are used to ensure all areas have at least a few monsters to fight, occasionally appearing in ambushes, but rarely in huge gangs. The Nehahra AI increases the challenge, particularly in the first map, which starts nice and easy, but once Grunts and Scrags are faced - often at a distance or from multiple directions, just gets hard and nasty a first map. When tougher monsters are used, things get easier and more fun, though there is a lot of them to blast through. Thus the maps can be rather relentless back-to-back - take a break or two. Items are in good supply: health and armour are adequate, and ammo is quite plentiful - useful as the monsters soak it all up. The finale is particularly good: a blatant arena horde combat, which plenty of space to move (and hide, at first), and much fun to be had unleashing full loads of ammo in a continuous orgy of carnage. Skill settings are used, but are not hugely effective, so the gameplay might be gruelling for some players. Overall, a very consistent and solid unit that gets progressively better.

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