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Saturday 6th March 1999:

Rubicon: "Rubicon"
(Size: 2.75 meg. Alternative downloads: Rubicon / Rubicon)

Made by the author of Chaos, and if you thought that map was good, well made and original, wait until you see this! Is this the best looking and best made base map ever??? Well I'm not getting dragged into answering that, but it gives the infamous Iksp5 a very good run for it's money - you decide =). At any rate, it looks *fantastic*...using the author's custom textures, this is a seriously industrial base level that is so far removed from the primitive beiges of Id base levels it's barely the same game. What you have is a dull grimy green riveted metal texture, combined with a dark ribbed maroon floor and wall textures, as well as some organic piping ceilings, and occasionally detailed with bright slime, ribbed neon blue lights, industrial striping and logo decals. The overall effect is at once dull and grimy, and actually quite colourful in a subtle way. Mostly the textures look great, though for some of them I would prefer slightly finer details (like smaller rivets and tighter piping for example). This style is continued through the whole map, and provides an excellent overall look.

The architecture (and architectural details) easily matches the quality of the textures, and is consistently excellent. With the exception of a couple of plain corridors, the use of angles, buttresses and large scale details, and varied and well made rooms is very pleasing. When finer details such as frantic fans and numerous pipes, and great lighting (check it out in the gold key door corridor, and also the final room) are added, the look of the map is very high quality indeed. Suffice to say that there are few faults I could find: some computer terminals (and such like) would have added to the immersive look, some corridors could have been spiced up, and custom water would have been nice - that's about it really. The layout is good too, winding continuously around itself, rarely visiting the same areas, but tightly connected and using the space well. There is a little exploration and some minor route choices, unfortunately there is only one secret - really there is potential for many more. One unusual thing I like about this map is the doors leading to areas you can't get into - like the South Observation Tower above - to me, this added to the feel of being in a real place.

Onto the gameplay, and the author claims he had a tough time making base enemy challenging - hmmmm, well he's done a damn good job if you ask me. Not much health, lots of enemy, some enemy in pretty mean sniping positions, and limited weapons all combine to make this map a worthy challenge. However, a lot of the time this leads to a "run into room, see lots of enemy, run out and let them come to you" situation, which is fun enough but not exceptional. In a few places, more complex room designs and large ambushes lead to much more excitement, with some mini-climaxes. The gameplay is well balanced and consistent throughout, though more health at the start and less at the latter half of the map would have been better. As for the ending, well it is NOT the usual disappointment, oh no, it's a hard and hardcore ending which has you seriously outgunned - great stuff, though it might be worth saving at some point. On the downside, as well as the minor flaws mentioned above, some may find this level rather hard in places. Aside from that the gameplay is good, and the architecture is just great, and overall it is one of the best base levels ever - go play!
Note: This map also includes an appropriate start map, and a completely unrelated secret level. The secret level is nothing to do with the main map, thus I did not consider it worth reviewing.

Mrdrinc: "Murder Inc."
(Size: 1.40 meg. Alternative downloads: Mrdrinc / Mrdrinc)

Hmmmm, a map I still can't make up my mind about - is it a work of a genius with a few offputting flaws, or just too obscure and OTT to be fun??? Perhaps the review will exorcise my uncertainty, perhaps not... One thing is clear, stylistically and gameplay-wise, this map is very different to the average Quake map. Firstly, the looks: the map is liberally clad in a whole variety of Id, Ikbase and the the author's own textures. All of the textures used are interesting and original - the prominent grey and orange texture is a little bit primitive, but rather cool, with a nice 3D illusion on it. Some of the new floor and ceiling textures are pretty cool too, and of course the Ikbase textures are legendary. The problems arise when the textures meet the designs - the architecture in this map is continually complex, interesting, varied and well angled, which is good. However, the large variety of very colourful textures used clashes with the complex architecture, and the overall effect can be rather messy in places, with textures seeming ill used and generally too brash - they sometimes obscure the architecture rather than highlight it, which is an important point I feel. With architecture this complex, the textures are best done simply and subtley to let the designs do the talking, and though this is accomplished in some areas, there are some conflicts that spoil the effect. If the author had stuck to a smaller palette of textures and colours, and applied them with more care, the look would have been fantastic, as the architecture really is great in many places (though in a few places it is also a bit confused). So for looks the map is a mixture, both good and not so good.

The same applies to something I rarely have the opportunity to mention in detail: exploration. Most SP maps tend to have too little exploration, as SP is misperceived as necessarily linear, but this map has a bit too much. Sometimes the map is fairly linear, sometimes there are a few route choices and side outings, but in the main complex it can get very confusing. It's not like Wishes, where you can explore at random, because that map was fairly simple with an easy layout - rather in this map it is often hard to find where you have to go next. In fact, it reminds me of Half Life in a way, in that you get no information or pointers, and just have to explore everywhere and retrace your steps until you find new areas. Is this good or bad??? Well on the first time I found it too confusing and frustrating, even now I can get lost with all the levels and spiral stairs - I guess it really depends on how exploratory you are (yeah I'm sitting on the fence here :P). At any rate, it is an important and unusual feature of the map, for better or for worse.

Going along with this is a proper mission and story: the mission and it's execution is good, though the story is nothing to do with Quake. Finally, gameplay, and it's mostly good, with a mixture of base monsters and lurking heavies that spice it up quite a lot. It's generally fun and well balanced, with a lot of shooting first and asking questions later. There are also some cool features like the mini gun turrets, which are a nice touch and not over-powerful. Again with the gameplay there are niggles: part way through the map there is a large climax, then at the end there is no real climax. It struck me as so obvious that after the mission was complete the player should be made to return through the map and face this climax, but alas this potential scenario was missed. And again there is an "exploration" problem at the end - rather than the exit opening for you, you have to find a semi-hidden button - I only found this when noclipping for screenies, so I played this map twice without exiting - too obscure, not good. Overall the basic structure for a truly excellent map is there, but it although it's quite interesting, it would need more careful texturing and the ending rearranged before it acheived true greatness.

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