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Wednesday 15th February 1999:

TFL4: "The Final Level"
(Size: 1.0 meg. Alternative downloads: TFL4 / TFL4)

The TFL series showcased Quake's varying styles, with medieval, metal, "Wind Tunnels" themes, and finally with this level, the ubiquitous base style - and this level lives up to the high standards of the previous maps. It uses the Hipnotic wad, so contains more varied textures than the base average, which provides some visual interest with terracotta textures as in the screeny above, as well as the smooth corrugated white walls. All the texturing is done well, and the build quality of the map is good. The architecture is equally good, with some good use of angles and details - mostly on the ceiling, but also such details as the fans and lights. There quite a bit of architectural variety too, with open rooms, a few tighter areas, and distinct water and "warehouse" sections. Some of these areas are a bit underused, such as the water and the open "hub" of the level between the gold and silver doors. Other than that, the architecture is good, solid, and well themed. The layout of the level winds around itself in the first part, but becomes simpler later on - this gives a feeling of exploration, but mostly it is linear. The secrets, on the other hand, are most noteworthy: as well as being very important to find, they are cunning in their means of discovery, well detailed, and usually trigger or contain yet more enemy reinforcments - all very worthwhile, though I would prefer some more armour aside from what is just in the secrets.

Gameplay presents quite a challenge for a base level throughout most of the map, with constant sniping from all sorts of awkward angles, and enough enemy surprises. Caution is rewarded due to the intially low health and the universally low armour - in fact there should have been a bit more health earlier on, and perhaps a bit less later on. The presence of a couple of tougher monsters in a tricky situation ensures there is little respite for most of the map, but the gameplay is fairly reasonable nevertheless. The flaw with the gameplay is a common flaw, the end is just too easy given what has gone before - for example, why on earth do you get the Perforator at the end to deal with a big monster, when you have previously faced two of those monsters in a much trickier situation with only a Nailgun/Double Shotgun??? It just doesn't make any sense, and means the map isn't properly balanced overall - the end is certainly easier than most of the map, and thus is disappointing. But aside from that, the rest of the map provides continuous combat, and the level itself is well designed, so it's well worth playing.

Ohzarm: "Ohzarm"
(Size: 650k. Alternative downloads: Ohzarm / Ohzarm)

This is by the author of SP (see Archives 3), this level is pretty much comparable to that, with some of the same features - strong use of beige beams, some interesting textures, decent gameplay, but an unfortunate presence of damaging scenery. There are some new textures in this level, like the ceiling in the screeny above, and some of the wall textures later on, that are quite interesting (though the ceiling can get a bit repetitive) and combined with some non-base Id textures, the level gets a grimy and heavy feel in some places. There is some decent architecture too, but mostly in the horizontal plane - there isn't much whacky 3D or spectacular designs in this map. Anyway, there are some good curves and a few good details, though the former seem used somewhat randomly. There is some non-linearity in the map, you get a chance to explore at the start (which is a nice touch, even if the exploration doesn't get you anywhere), and you get a clear choice of routes later on. Unfortunately your chances of survival depend entirely on which route you take - where one route is very much better than the other, that spoils the non-linearity. Aside from that, the level proceeds in a normal linear fashion.

As I say, the start is quite nice, and things proceed fairly well from there, with some good fighting and plenty of varying combats. As well as base monsters, some heavier monsters are used too. Unfortunately DeathKnights are used, and they just do not fit into the base theme - you can get away with Ogres, Fiends, etc, but Knights and DeathKnights are just too medieval. A minor point but it does distract from the theme. The tougher monsters are used fairly well, and spice up the gameplay nicely. In fact, it's the base monsters that provide a nasty situation at the start - the fighting situation when you exit the water is really awkward and not much fun at all - too hard for the start of a map, I feel. Equally, and unsurprisingly, the end is far too easy - after the nice combat after the silver key door, it just deteriorates into fighting that is much easier than what has gone before. Given that you have good armour and weapons at this point, it's a disappointment - the map is pretty well balanced up to this point (apart from the flaw with the route choice). There are a few other annoying niggles too - a secret that is impossible to reach unless you see it first time, a lift that you can send to an upper level and get trapped with no means to lower it, and a closing door that can kill you easily. All of these add a bit of irritation to an otherwise good map, though it's still fun.

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