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Sunday 12th February 1999:

Fromhell: "From Hell"
(Size: 1.1 meg. Alternative downloads: Fromhell / Fromhell)
Speedrun demo: 2:06

Quake meets Jack the Ripper??? Well you better believe it, this level is set not in some alternate dimension, but in Whitechapel, London. Now normally this would be enough to immediately put anyone off this as a Quake level, but happily the author pulls this off with some panache, and though the style of the level is very different to most Quake levels, it actually goes rather well with Quake's cut throat gameplay. The way this works is down to the map's main strength - it is dark, atmospheric and quite spooky in fact the map is at it's best when you are wandering around the dark and eerily empty streets wondering where the next ambush is coming from - and even if it doesn't arrive, it's still unnerving. This is a case of less being more, and the author letting the feel of the map do some work to make it interesting to play - and the atmosphere compliments Quake's violence, allowing this unusual theme to fit with Quake.

Aside from the great atmospheric lighting, the ominous feeling is heightened by the buildings and architecture - because you can only get into a few of the buildings, it feels as if there is a lot more lurking out there that is not accessible to you. Altogether, quite cool. The architecture is fairly simple but actually looks rather appropriate as cities go - the Quake textures are used very well, though some bright windows look strange - and since the city is fairly old and grim, it works quite well with the Quake engine and styles. There are some more typical Quake designs at the end and these are well made and quite impressive. You get to explore the streets a fair bit, though you do have to complete various tasks (including shooting the corpses of Jack's victims!?!) to complete the level.

Gameplay, when it does occur, is pretty solid, though combats are well spaced. However, there are some fun and challenging combats, using Fiends, Ogres, and Shamblers well, as well as some lesser monsters. Some of it is in your face (with some surprises), some requires a more duck and shoot approach. And the end, well that is something special...just a few monsters, but a very cunning combat (make sure you read the text) that shows what can be done with some thought. It's a good end and the level is well balanced throughout, though it could have done with some more combats and ambushes from alleyways and windows to spice it up some more. Other flaws include a couple of traps - one is okay as it is appropriate and marked, the other is pointless and illogical. Aside from that, it's fun and well worth checking out for the atmosphere. (Did an Easy speedrun in 2:06, also on the Demos page.)

Evildead: "EvilDead Cabin"
(Size: 450k. Alternative downloads: Evildead / Evildead)

Another level that is very dark and atmospheric, another level that uses a real life™ theme quite effectively, but also a level that is completely different to Fromhell. This level is set in a "haunted" cabin in a dark and eerie forest, and of course, you are exploring it at night - when else =). Although Quake doesn't do forests very well, the author has cunningly made the forest areas very dark to cover up these limitations, and the effect is fairly convincing if you don't look to close at the textures. It's certainly atmospheric again, with the darkness and cool night sky. The architecture in the forest is, well, sort of foresty, with some tree trunks and a foliage canopy, and a surrounding "wall" of impenetrable trees - kinda cutting corners but the best you can do in Quake. The cabin is plain and quite cabin-like, with some natty real life™ stuff inside, and a more wholesome underground area with fetid water and stone, as well as some good details like pipes, lights and skylights. There's nothing spectacular in the level (though actually the broken bridge at the start impressed me - it looked like some monstrous metal rib cage, and I'd like to see more designs that striking in maps), but it all looks fairly good given what it's depicting.

Again, the dark atmosphere and good use of monsters enables the theme to sit well and not clash with Quake's gameplay - after all, Quake has undead waiting to be used. As you might guess, Zombies are prominent in this level, but also Scrags, Ogres and some nastier monsters feature. The Scrags are well used throughout, popping up in rather awkward places and coverless areas, making them varied and interesting to fight. Other combats are a bit less effective but still fun, and sometimes monsters are used close up quite well (though other times the cramped sections force you close up). There isn't really a climax as such, and the "big" combat is too easy due to it's set-up, though up to that point the level progresses nicely. Nothing really bad about the gameplay aside from the easy end, but it could have been a bit more exciting. Again, a good and worthwhile level, though it would have benefitted from a bit more attention to detail.

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