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Tuesday 12th January 1999:

TMC: "The Monolith Complex"
(Size:1.2 meg. No Alternative downloads.)
Speedrun demo: 1:05

Well, this level is an unusual one to review in that it has not been released before, despite being made in mid 1997, and is a BETA version. However, despite flaws that relate to it's beta status, I found that it was fun, interesting, and impressive enough to be worth playing and reviewing. Again this is a base level, and again is is quite different to the base norm, with a very different style, and different and impressive structures. Firstly, I'll mention and clear up some beta flaws. The author describes this level thus:

"There are only a bunch of new textures in it, though originally I wanted to put in much more. And some corridors are a bit plain - I built cool rooms and tried to connect them... that was a mistake."

Good points: the use of different texture styles is attractive and adds interest, however they are not consistent around the map, and some areas seem blandly textured compared to others. The strongest texturing is the cool blue brick + beige details style, (reminiscent of the Anonca maps), which, in areas that it is used, is used well and matches and highlights the structures effectively. However, in other areas, the texturing does not fit so well with the strong blue + beige theme, and while unusual, is often a bit dull. If the blue + beige theme had been applied consistently, the map would have had more coherence. Related to this coherence is the comment about trying to connect cool rooms: while there is no denying that many of the rooms and structures are very impressive, they do occasionally seem mismatched - a warehouse seems thrown in at random, a power generator seems curiously puny, and a few rooms seem there just to connect major rooms. However, while these are flaws that more work could have improved there is a lot positive about the maps design - there are a lot of meaty and impressive structures (which I have resisted showing in screenshots so not to spoil your first impressions), and some very interesting uses of curves and angles. Highlights include the outdoor front of the complex and the cool power computer room with it's unique support girders. It's this sort of original designs that help make a map interesting to look around and experience, and despite some inconsitencies, this is no exception.

However, and this may be another beta flaw, all these structures come at a price - this map is noticabley slower than average, often dropping to a steady 20 FPS in more detailed areas. While this is not too detrimental to gameplay (I would not review this map if it was!), it is noticable and may cause problems on low end machines. Gameplay is definitely a positive aspect, and the fun it provided also inspired me to reivew this level. It's a pure base level, but with a satisfying 142 Dogs, Grunts and Enforcers to blow into greasy chunks. Although you do get some good weapons, the sparse ammo for them, and the low armour situations means that some of the plentiful gang attacks keep you on your toes. Highlights for me include the enemy reinforcements (which nearly did their job), the dog pen, and a tense fight in the warehouse. As is all too common, though gameplay is finely balanced, there is no climax at the end, UNLESS you play quickly and time your exit just as the reinforcements appear - I am somewhat slower, so I dealt with them part way through the map.

As you might suspect from some hints I've dropped, there is a proper mission here (and indeed a cliched story!) - you must shut a power generator down - this gives a nice sense of purpose, and there is a twist too - pay close attention. Because of this mission, and the map design, there is quite a lot of exploring around complex areas of the map, which is cool, though the vast amounts of water were grossly underused - more fish, more secrets, and more stuff in there would have been better. The main flaw I can pick with the gameplay, and indeed the map, is the use of "wind brush" specials that make a tightrope walk to the gold key truly irritating. This is a nice idea, and I approve of the lack of this feature on Easy skill, but because the tight rope is a long way above solid ground, and the wind currents are completely unguessable, it means numerous attempts, losing 5% health on each failure. If this had been both easier and less damaging, it might have been fun, but as it is it was annoying - so save before this part. Aside from that, the map is fun and impressive, however, it is a *good* map, while if it had been finished and polished off, it could have been a *great* one. (Did a nifty Easy speedrun in 1:05, also on the Demos page.)

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