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Reviews: 2nd March 2003: review 1

Game - QUAKE
Maps - Brainstorm Architecture (maps 1 - 7)
by - Leafface
Download - All 7 maps in 1
Overall Verdict - A decent sequence of maps, lots of exploration and featuring hordes of enemies, resulting in an almost Doom-like atmosphere.


These maps were originally written at least 2 or 3 years ago, but were seemingly never reviewed at that time, the authors website then went dead. A few days ago the website returned (via planetquake hosting) with working downloads and another map (lfspplus). Hence, It seems a good time to review these maps. The series is still being worked on, eventually there is the intention of 3 full units; see the website for all the details.The maps do follow on one from another and should be played in the sequence presented here.

As a whole the maps have a "old-skool" feel to them, reminiscent of some of the original id maps in episodes 2 and 3, with many buttons, puzzles and ambushes. Some of the puzzles and progression are slightly confusing, there are hints and tips on the webpage, most are easy enough to work out. Some other problems arise from bad map design, and small technical errors which could have easily been fixed with proper beta-testing of the map, something all authors should really try to do before releasing maps for download.
Finally, I played these maps on hard, but ammo does not seem to scale very well with the increase in enemy counts which on hard skill are pretty high; around 120-150 for most maps. Medium skill might be more suitable for some players.

Map 1 - lfsp1: The nowhere
NOTE: The start map (lfstart.bsp) should be ignored in its current state, it does not take you anywhere, just causes Quake to freeze when you pass through the teleporters, as it obviously tries to take you to a non-existent .bsp. Instead, you should set your desired skill level manually using the "skill" command at the console commandline, at the beginning of this map.

This level is a tough introduction for a first map of a series/episode. There are a couple of technical error in the architecture of this level, like Ogres getting stuck in tunnels to small for them to move. These errors and glitches detract slightly from the feel of the level. Architecture is for the most part basic rather than detailed. The actual layout of the map is good, imaginative and quite unusual, the author avoids boxy rooms and overall instead has crafted a decently built and reasonably well-interconnected map. That said, texturing is rather uniform throughout the map (green mossy walls), more variation and interesting textures and more detailing would have helped break the map up more and given different areas more distinction from each other.

Gameplay is, well.....hard, to put it simply. Density of monsters is high, 4/5 scrags attack, 2/3 ogres and 3 hellknights ambush the player, in often smallish cramped corridors and areas where maneuvering and escape is hard. Ogres are well placed on ledges as well. Eventually the centerpiece of the map, an interesting slime pit with 4 ramps (operated by various buttons) is reached, Gameplay here is very hard.
There is a clear and bad flaw in the map at this point, due to an almost complete lack of ammo. The only way to overcome this section therefore seems to be very cautious with ammo earlier in the map, to keep it in reserve for this point. That said, there are 5 secrets and a Grenade Launcher earlier in the map, but i didn't really try to find out how to reach any of these, these would obviously have helped.

Eventually the blue key and then the gold key (nasty spawn here!) is reached and from there the wind tunnel to the next map.

Map 2 - lfsp2: Sneer of shit
This maps gameplay flows better than the previous level; ammo and health and armor are in better supply, and the GL is finally provided (in an easy to reach spot this time). Hence, the combat is less frustrating as a result, although still tricky. There are a number of large ambushes, including 4 shamblers at the start (hint: look for a button to deal with this, great fun!), and later a swarm of spawns, and a whole room full of scrags. There are some clever little gameplay sequences, culminating in a wind tunnel room, with 4 different wind tunnels leading to nasty sub-sections. This is a fun map with a distinctly *old skool* feel to it.

Architecture in this map is similar to the previous map, maybe slightly better due to more variation in texturing. Lighting is sometimes weak.

Map 3 - lfsp3: Toxic paradise
Another fun map, but this is slightly spoilt by a couple of flaws. The first is in the main room [above left screenshot], where a button can be triggered, accidentally opening the big doors before the player is ready. Then they close again and can not be re-opened later. The second is a possibly too hard ending, although it is easier on lower skill levels.

Aside from these criticisms, its a good level carrying on the style and gameplay of the previous level. There its lots of green slime everywhere and the gameplay continues the nasty ambushes in a crowded room theme. Often the best tactic is cautious, clever play combined with triggering monster-infighting whenever possible (especially, for example in the mega-health room). There are (as before) some very useful secrets which make some nasty areas somewhat simpler, but this is again a tricky map. There are also a couple of nasty little jumping sections and traps.

The previously mentioned ending is a battle against 3 (only 2 on medium, 1 on easy) upgraded hellknights, who now take a *lot* more damage (2000 health!) than normal. See all that ammo and health around the walls of this final room? Good, you'll need it, believe me. The end of the map is the end of unit 1 and leads to the mine entrance.

Map 4 - lfspme: Mine entrance - parts 1 & 2
This level is (in effect) a smallish linking level between the 3 units, and is in a base style. You have to play through different parts of it twice, the first time here, after lfsp3, and the second time after the end of lfsp5. The first time through is just a simple link, killing 6 enemies.

The second time is more problematic, there is a hugely annoying rocket jump run/test against a slowly closing door, this is unnecessary and not much fun, these sort of tests should be left for secrets and such-like, its bad map design to put them in as obligatory, with no option to avoid them or take another route. (update: the author emailed me and said there is a button that lets you avoid this problem). To compound the frustration if the player makes it through that he faces a modified shambler (takes a huge amount of damage to kill) in a small room (hint: try to get in one of the corners and the shambler may get stuck in the middle of the room) before being able to progress. - This map is not really complete and hence is not scored at present.

Map 5 - lfsp4: Warehouse
The first map of unit 2, this is a base map in the classic id-base theme and texturing, with a few added extras. Map build, layout and texturing seems more solid and varied than in Unit 1, with some nice detailing like the train of moving crates throughout the map, and lots of interesting architectural ideas.

Again, there are some small glitches that can produce some strange effects and annoyances. Still the base gameplay is good, with some tricky surprises and lots of enemies to fight through. Overall a solid base level.

Map 6 - lfsp5: Operation central
This level continues the base architecture and theme of the previous level. Its a reasonably complex level with progression depending on finding a number of buttons, which open up new areas and eventually deactivate the distinctive red laser beams that initially guard much of this largish base layout. There is some decent details in the architecture, especially the "cloning" system, and the small outdoors areas provide a good contrast with the rest of the indoors base map. This map has a good choice of routes, there are many different ways the various areas can be played through; there is quite a lot of back-tracking and exploration required.

Gameplay continues in the almost Doom-like Manner of the previous base map, lots of big groups of base enemies and ogres attacking, often in tight corridors, which makes for quite exciting gameplay, although it can be slightly haphazard and unordered sometimes.

Map 7 - lfspplus: The purgatory
NOTE: This map is a "secret map". Get on top of the elevator in the mine entrances-part 2 to access the small runic room which leads to it (see the webpage for more details). Unfortunately the teleporter that is meant to lead you to this map does not currently work. I have emailed the author and he says it will be fixed very soon. For now you just have to type in the .bsp name at the console using the "map" command.

NOTE 2: You may notice that if you turn left at the beginning of the map, you can immediately exit the map straight away. I emailed the author about this, and he explained that the "purpose" of this level is for the player to try to collect the hidden Lightning Gun which can be found somewhere in this map. Once you go right and get on the platform over the first lava pit there is no way back anyway. Hence, if the player does not want to go on this quest for the LG he has the choice to exit the map straight away. An interesting concept, even if its one i am not sure i totally agree with.

It an interesting map, with a few instant-death traps, and in general the layout and progression emphasizes puzzle solving over blasting, although you certainly will need to be good at the latter too. At first some of the puzzles may have you stumped ["what do i do now?"], but give it a bit of thought, exploration and patience and the answer usually becomes clear.

The architecture and theme is grey stone with lava everywhere, giving the map a somewhat brutal atmosphere, instant death is never far away. Just like the other maps there are some small glitches, as well as some useful secrets, in particular a handy red armor. The pathway to the gold key is probably the most tricky part of the whole map, patience is required here. After the gold key, the blue key is also cunningly hidden as well. Once you get both keys progression is more straight forward as you battle your way through a large assortment of medieval enemies, including ogres, vores and spawn. A particularly nasty ending features 4 vores with little to no cover, a hidden quad damage nearby is very useful here.

Overall Scores:

The Nowhere 16/20
Sneer of shit 17/20
Toxic paradise 16/20
Mine entrances - parts 1&2  (not rated)
Warehouse 15/20
Operation central 16/20
The Purgatory 16/20