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Reviews: 15th June 2005 [Reviewed by Tronyn]

Game - QUAKE
Map pack - Contract Revoked: The Lost Chapters [9 map pack]
main concept and maps by - Kell & Necros
additional maps by - Vondour, Zwiffle, Ionous, Eric.
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Overall Verdict - 9 good maps built around Kell's Lovecraftian/contract revoked universe/theme.

William Shakespeare's Sonnets/ Sonnet CXXVIII [from chapter_vondur.txt, see map 4]

if it were, it bore not beauty's name;
But now is black beauty's successive heir,
And beauty slander'd with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on nature's power,
Fairing the foul with art's false borrow'd face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress' brows are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Slandering creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.

1: start: All Our Yesterdays. mapper: Kell
Start map/Pack Introduction

Contract Revoked: The Lost Chapters is the "Return to Fodrian" - that is, the return to nightmare world which Kell envisioned in the original Contract Revoked. In addition to the 7 regular levels, there's also a start map and a finale, and some custom content.

The most important custom content is 3 new monsters: there are some tiny arachnid-types which echo Doom3's Trites visually but fight like a Fiend with a much higher metabolism. There's also a new enemy, reminiscent of the Tarbaby, which showcases some excellent design (as I'd argue the tarbaby itself does, though many would disagree). It's attack is somewhat like a rapid-fire scrag, and it can become invisible for short periods of time which it does through an incredibly cool animation. Like the Tarbaby it can be dangerous to kill, for it explodes into dangerous glowing "fragments" when it dies; it looks like a gaping mouth of fangs. The highlight is the Drole, which has four tentacles and walks on hooves - it kind of fills in the vacant place of a monster the level of a "Hell Knight' (and I mean in the original Doom) in the Quake pantheon. It can sometimes outrun nails that are fired at it, and charges you menacingly, possessing both melee and ranged attacks. The only thing I think could've been changed is that the symmetrical, 4-tentacled thing looks a bit star-fishy, I can see the sort of idea Kell and Necros were going for, but i think something less symmetrical and orderly would have been better. Three or five tentacles perhaps.

Anyway, these are some of the best new monsters for Quake, and fit in both with Quake's regular enemies and with the Contract Revoked theme. Best of all, you have to develop new ways of fighting these new monsters - they really do create and fill new niches in the arsenal of Quake monsters, they aren't just clones of existing ones with a new attack or new model. There are also some new map objects, consisting mainly of new types of lights or torches and new types of tortured zombies. If you use a custom engine you'll also be treated to a nice and appropriate skybox. Good stuff.

The start map is itself very impressive, being an indoor library with water at the bottom as seen in Contract Revoked's second map, towers and walkways, and so forth, but also containing sections of flesh and windows to rocky, outdoor scenery (first done so well in Scourge of Armagon). Most of the new map objects appear here, with all kinds of interesting visuals to look at throughout the map. I had fun just walking around the map checking things out and seeing all the different level entrances.

2: chapter_kell: And Wear A Golden Sorrow. mapper: Kell

This map incorporates all of the things that made Contract Revoked so cool in the first place. This, of course, isn't really a surprise since this map comes from the creator and master of that style and theme, Kell. The map isn't on a huge scale, but never feels cramped, and what space there is is used very well throughout the map. It should go without saying that the map is extremely visually appealing, built in the tidy-but-busy style that Contract Revoked did so well. I thought that the architecture in one room, where you get a gold key, was particularly appealing and well-designed. That particular spot was also the map's gameplay highlight, with a tough (but not unwinnable) ambush of Droles and Scrags coming at you upon stealing the key. Though the map was not very innovative or experimental with the texture set (as some others in the pack are), it does come across as one of the pack's most successful levels. Excellent design throughout, and challenging but fair gameplay.

Score: 16.5/20

chapter_secret: He Falls Like Lucifer. mapper: Kell

Wow, a Contract-Revoked void map! This takes place in a creepy black void, with all sorts of nasty things floating around, often with tortured, rotting zombies tacked on to them for good measure. This map, however, is not so much like Coagula as it is like a one of Contract Revoked's maps, only with a void instead of walls. The change works very well - this is probably the most surreal and creepy map this texture set has seen as of yet. Only some flesh, which is disappointingly underused in basically every map with these textures, could have made it any better. Kell somehow makes right angles work in a way that no other mapper can, using angular towers and platforms as in Contract Revoked's second map very well. Of course, there are also lots of vertically oriented arches, and the usual bookshelves and cryptic details.

As a bonus, moving platforms are also used, some with monsters on them which works well. Scrags are used very well, they perhaps work best in void maps with multiple vertical levels and cover for them to emerge from behind. There are also a lot of Ogres and Death Knights, but the Droles are also used. I only found one secret, but I found the level to be fair - you'll have some close calls, likely, but there's nothing too ridiculous. Regular knights are also used well in the smaller, enclosed areas; and of course, Shamblers and Vores must make an appearance somewhere. Kell definitely has a good grasp of what makes things bizarre - you exit the level through a vertical tunnel of books. Though I'm always impressed by Kell's Q1SP design, I really think that this map is his best yet.

Score: 18/20

4: chapter_vondur: False Esteem. mapper: Vondur

In Vondur's map, you creep along ledges and are transported on platforms, almost invariably above lava. Your enemies are most often scrags, a choice which works well with the moving platforms and vertically-open nature of the map. The map is mainly composed of these "stacked hallways" as well as a few towers, one of which has some nice lava-involved scenery at the bottom. I found the supplies adequate, though some of the enemies - particularly the Droles - rather difficult to fight in such a dangerous environment (I fell in the lava a few times). While the architecture was always put together well, and the lighting and texturing were similarly well done, I was hoping for a set piece or two, as in Nastrond. The map certainly has an interesting concept, similar to sections of "Satan's Dark Delight," but I think it would have worked better if it was more spacious.

Score: 15/20

5: chapter_zwei: Born Of Madness. mapper: Zwiffle

This map at first seems like a smaller version of one of Kell's originals from Contract Revoked, but after a closer look it definitely has its own vibe. It's a medium-sized dungeon romp with two floors, and it's very interconnective. I think what impressed me most about the layout is that it really seemed unlike a rooms-and-hallways affair, more as if the entire level was really one large room with a variety of blocks/catwalks/sub-areas. It somehow reminded me of the better-designed id maps, such as Dm2, which really get away from rectangular hallways for the most part.

Very impressive, and the gameplay makes good use of the space, having you progress logically through the areas while fighting a mix of old and new monsters. Most of the time it was a challenge, although a few times I felt that it went a bit too far. The floating green Tarbaby-type creatures are a cool enemy, but perhaps a tad too difficult. Twice I was left with two health after killing one of these guys, and they did manage to kill me a couple times too. Another time, a Shambler appears in front of you, and in my case I had to retreat for quite a ways and fire at him when he emerged from around a corner in order to actually take him down. Though ammo is always sufficient, I think that near the end of the map there wasn't enough health. Of course, you'll have to see for yourself. I should also mention that the lighting was top-notch, coming from the sky particularly. Inventive and interesting architecture keep you looking around throughout the level, when you'd perhaps do better to watch out!

Score: 16/20

6: chapter_esw: Beware The Ides Of March. mapper: Eric

This is an interesting take on the Contract Revoked textures/theme. At first I thought it was a void map, coagula-style, but then I realized it was more just supposed to be a landscape (the crosses and tombstones at the side of the level are supposed to be stuck in the ground, I suppose, rather than floating), the moon is visible (a nice touch!).

Anyway, this map has a unique and excellently done setting. The first section is a mausoleum, with some very nice details such as the broken metal fence. You then progress into a huge library/hall, which is excellently lit (in Darkplaces you'll get some coloured lighting), with crisscrossing shadows and very tall bookshelves. After a detour through a "Demonic Library/Void" (as in Contract Revoked's first map), you'll find yourself a a giant, outdoor, lava-filled finale. Combat throughout was challenging (that one Scrag in the Demon Library was the death of me a couple times!), the finale was not too difficult but certain ominous. Monsters seemed always well placed, appropriate attacks and monsters in appropriate areas. The visuals were appealing throughout, very atmospheric level. I think the thing I liked best, however, was the emphasis on cool touches, some of which I've already mentioned. The lone hung zombie in the demon library is another such. In conclusion, though the outdoor setup is mostly new to this theme, it works very well, and I enjoyed the map a lot.

Score: 16.5/20

7: chapter_ionous: Last Syllable Of Time. mapper: Ionous

This map is large, open, and straightforward. Ammo and health are all over the place, which could lead to the map being too easy early on and much too hard later, if you aren't careful and don't preserve supplies. You're fighting Hellknights, mainly, mixed with Scrags and the odd Shambler. A new enemy, kind of like a tarbaby, also makes its appearance. Infighting proves very useful here. Vores are used some, they are tough to take down given the weapons the level gives you (no explosives that I found), and they seem to be an enemy particularly well-suited to this environment. Architecture is too large for the sparse amount of detail; while windows (open and stain glass), arches and bookshelves ornament the areas, the level basically comes down to a series of square rooms open to the sky, with little variation on this. This could have been hidden better with more use of insets/outsets, and extra architectural bits or decorations. Lighting was too low-contrast for my taste; the whole map was gloomy, but there weren't many dramatic shadows or anything unexpected. On the plus side, however, the light was sourced (sky, windows, spotlights), but I think more light sources and more complex architecture would've added much to the level's visual appeal. The last room was one of the more interesting areas, containing a well-crafted skylight and a unique and nasty new enemy. All in all, the gameplay was enjoyable if straightforward, but the architecture probably needed more work.

Score: 12/20

8: chapter_necros: Undreamed Shores. mapper: necros

As soon as I started I could tell this was a Necros map. Huge, outdoor areas, with monolithic buildings, and, as I was expecting, large-scale battles as well. It reminded me of his earlier map Once Upon Atrocity, and although it was in a new texture set, the blood-stained windows and huge city streets were very reminiscent. Very difficult hordes (and I do mean hordes) of monsters, including the largest amount of the Droles I've seen so far, will assault you in this map. Even with the perforator, and red armour (and eventually the lightning gun), you've got a challenge on your hands.

There's a few places of architectural oddity/interest, but the focus here is on blasting rather than detailed architecture. The finale will probably cause you a few deaths; I found it possible only to pass the level (with 100% kills) after entering the final battle room, noting where particular types of monsters were (Droles in isolated perches, vaguely reminded me of Doom for some reason), and where ammo (particularly cells) were, dying, and then coming back a couple times until I'd figured out a good route to keep cover and ammo. All in all, a good piece of horde combat, which could've perhaps used a bit more architectural work (some more rockwork would have been nice around the map's edges, but I realize there was a brush limit).

Score: 13/20

9: chapter_finale: Through Nature To Eternity. mapper: Kell & Necros
End map

There is a finale map, I will not describe the boss other than to say, that there is one and it is new. I found it very cool (it can only be described as it, I think), very difficult but in a nice twist the fight includes both the "blast at it eternally" boss fight component and the more interesting Quake variation first seen with Chthon. The map itself is a kind of floating, partially ruined temple, reminding me of Doom3's hell level somewhat. All in all, it's a nice set piece for a suitably climatic finish.

Pack Conclusion

The pack as a whole is actually quite monumental when one considers it. Nearly ten levels, of varying quality of course but all worth playing, and all of this new stuff, and for once not only is it all well-designed it is also all very "Quakey." Some of the maps are really great, and the pack contains some very cool ideas, setpieces, and other areas where excellent combat situations are to be found. In its unique scope and concept, The Lost Chapters really stands alone. Not only is it proof that Quake is still alive and kicking (or gurgling and munching on victims, perhaps), it is also proof of the singular talent and vision of Kell. He really has picked up on the Lovecraft-inspired thread running through Quake and taken it to new levels. We must also credit Necros for his many talents and his continual vision of some evil, evil things.

uwf notes:
[1]This map pack was organized as an open map submission/competition by kell. The main limit on maps submitted was to keep the total brush count for each map below 1666.
[2]The authors recommend FitzQuake as the engine of choice for playing The Lost Chapters.
[3]Although some of the individual maps may not be good enough to rate at the highest level of quake mapping, the overall originality, scope and ambition of projects such as this should be recognized and strongly encouraged.

Overall pack score: 17/20