|Tower of Babel
11 dec 1996
author: Marc Fontaine. this level is actually babel.PAK; you have to give it it's own directory and rename it to pak0.pak and run -game babel from the command line. i've been noticing that a few levels do this, and, while it may be necessary, i personally find that the extra keyboard gymnastics required to install and run a level like this should be rewarded with above-average gameplay and design. unfortunately, this is not the case with babel... but i will say this: it's worth the download for the novelty value alone. i realize that this particular application requires a .pak file to run properly without giving away the secret, so i won't here. it was fun, though it was a bit easier than i had expected.
|My Badass Level
BADASS.ZIP -- 1,059k
23 jun 1997
author: Derrick Dela Cruz. this level comes as a .pak file and must be installed in it's own directory. thankfully, the author has named the map "start" so you don't have to do any console gymnastics; however, you must manually set your skill from the console (or command line) and restart. this level seems to be two levels... well, not entirely, but there is a definite point where the structure and flow of the level changes significantly. the first part of the level has been done extremely well. the architecture is interesting, widely-varied, and believable. secrets are well-marked, or reward the explorer (i found three of five, and two were of the "exploring" variety -- but i couldn't figure out how to get to the yellow armor). the flow and pacing are good, but the monster count is a bit on the light side for Hard. once you go over the lava river and through the teleport, though, the character and style of the level changes dramatically... and not for the better. the rest of the level is one large complicated room, with monsters teleporting in at intervals that you can control (via a pop-up message clue), and a lot of ammo and health. predictably, this area ran slowly; a little at first, but by the time the endgame monster appeared, i was running at roughly 9 fps, due to all the bodies on screen. this makes the endgame monster incredibly tough to defeat; not only are you fighting him, but you're fighting the chop as well. all in all, though, the first part of this level is definitely worth playing -- it's high-quality work, and i'm hoping the author's next release will emphasize the artistry i saw in that first part more.
29 mar 1997
author: Chris Spain. this level starts you off in a sinking boat, and you have to fight your way out past the guard (the story's in the .txt file). the level's layout and design show attention to theme, and some of the detailing has been done well. the outer church courtyard runs rather slowly at times, and more than a few of the doors show the effects of texture truncation, especially at the bottoms. however, a number of texture inconsistencies were noted, such as the same texture being applied to all sides of a button brush (exposing the button itself on the edges). flow is good and pacing is steady. enough weapons and ammo are provided, but not too much. in the three-button room with the zombies, one of them got stuck halfway between the coffin and the ceiling and became unkillable (or is that unREkillable?) after i failed to gib him; he wasn't able to rise from his "dead" position. the endgame is nicely done, though it was pretty easy since i had the rocket launcher. good attention to theme and flow... the overall monster mix, however, could have been tougher. messages were informative and appropriate. a strong first level.
BADLAND2.ZIP -- 628k
23 jun 1997
author: Chris Spain. this level begins where the previous Badlands level (reviewed here) leaves off. you've infiltrated the enemy's island base, and now you're going to see what's going on. this level is done in an "outdoor military base" theme, and it's been done very well architecturally. proportions are good, the buildings and structures make sense, and the flow is linear and continuous. one major drawback to this, however, and that is that this level runs extremely choppily at the start and through the first major outdoor section, especially during combat. the continuity of the base itself is remarkable; the watchtower is well done, the bunker is terrific, and i loved the reinforcements that arrived in (are you ready for this?) an armored personnel carrier. (try tossing a grenade down the hatch where the enforcer is... watch the gibs fly out the back!) this level has a definite plot -- advanced well by the pop-up messages -- and it adds a degree of tension that was surprising. (wait until you see the missile loading; way cool.) due to the limitations of the medium, though, the countdown and subsequent events were unaffected by the player's actions -- you couldn't stop the countdown, you had to wait a certain amount of time to deactivate the missile, etc. the endgame/escape was also well done and fun. aside from the severe slowdown, this level is definitely worth a look... and i'm even more amazed by it after reading the text file, because the author created this level in Notepad! wow.
BADLANDS1.ZIP -- 151k
23 jun 1997
author: Chris Spain. this is the skill-setting level for the Badlands missions. some interesting architecture and pop-up messages.
22 feb 1997
author: "Bario". five "walkmonster in wall" and two "bonus item fell out" errors greet you upon loading this level. it runs somewhat erratically in the first room, and the monster mix (knights and grunts?) is a bit odd. the opening sequence is brutal. this level has little health available and zero armor (freely available -- there is a yellow armor contained in a secret, however), so try not to get hit. the architecture is adequate; too many visible brush seams for my liking, and some impossibilities, like buildings that are taller on the inside than they are on the outside (through the gold key door is a prime example). there was no definitive theme that i could find. some great combat, though, and even though the architecture isn't consistent or flaw-free, it certainly is interesting. with a little more attention to detail and theme, this author's next work could be spectacular.
22 feb 1997
author: Daniel Mikkelsen. starts off quietly enough in a military-looking corridor. after a few areas of some fairly difficult combat (taking on a pack of enforcers is fairly tough when all you've got is a regular shotgun), you enter a medieval-looking area. the transition isn't too bad. these sections are incredibly difficult due to the presence of (1) narrow, cramped hallways (2) instant-death traps, and (3) non-intuitive puzzles that have to be solved quickly or you're dropped in lava. this level ran acceptably smoothly in most areas, but there were a few that had significant slowdown. the theme here was a bit erratic at times, and the monster selection was... interesting (enforcers teamed with knights)? could have benefitted from some pre-release testing.
BASE-N.ZIP -- 516k
25 sep 1997
author: Andrzej Mackiewicz. this level has been done in the base theme, and sports very erratic running speeds throughout. the beginning is a special treat; you start by dropping into a slime pool. fun. the flow of this level is non-linear, and the pacing is irregular; it was difficult to determine not only where i was but where i was supposed to go. this level has a very dark and disorienting underwater area as well. once you get outside, the slowing is constant. due to the speed and lack of ammo (not to mention the two shamblers on the roof at the end) i do believe this level is impossible to beat on hard.
|Missile Bunker Bravo 7 & The Bastardry
5 feb 1997
author: "Ace". this archive contains two separate levels that are designed to work together. in order:
MBB7.BSP: another level done in the military base style. an overabundance of grunts and enforcers at the very beginning, along with some rather complicated and open-air architecture causes this level to run significantly slowly... at least until the first wave of monsters have been dispatched. if you're a cautious player, you'll get eaten alive in this first section, so it's best to run and gun your way through it. getting the nail gun is possible without having to open the gates (and i loved the message you get when you first try to open them) to the middle section. no secrets are in this level. pacing is good and flow is logical and linear. the lighting has also been done well. attention to theme and detail in this level is evident, and it feels like a real place. there are some memorable areas as well; i positively loved the ship at the end. a fun ride, despite the slowdowns.
BAST.BSP: hahaha. well, good thing i didn't get attached to that ship. i guess the quake dude is a hell of a fighter, but he pretty much sucks as a pilot. the rising castle effect in the first courtyard is almost too cool for words. i'd make sure all the zombies were gone before i hit the switch, though, because grenades won't reach the top of the building. some nice touches in this level, like being able to beat four shamblers without firing a single shot -- you've got to see it to believe it -- and the spike shooters that work against the monsters for a change are fun to play with. the monster selection didn't quite work with some of the architecture, especially in the room with the second set of spike shooters. all in all an enjoyable level.
|Battle at Home
1 jan 1997
author: Jason Ng. there are new textures in this one, and they have a cartoonish feel to them similar to the 'wolf' textures in doom2. this is a simple straightforward thrash through a house-like bunker into some hallways and a basement. it took me about two and a half minutes on Hard, but it was fun, in a way. overstocked with weapons and ammo (especially ammo in the next to last room), but it was fun watching the heads fly. this level doesn't have any outrageous or spectacular architecture, but it's fun to play.
|Beyond Belief - The Unholy Alliance
BBELIEF.ZIP -- 7,149k
11 jul 1997
author: Matthias Worch. this large archive contains no less than nine new levels (eight plus the start map), and all have been incredibly well-done. general observations about all of the levels:
the architecture, lighting, and texturing are simply superb. there are no misaligned textures anywhere. the architecture sticks to the theme in every single level, and the texturing complements the structures perfectly. monster placement and flow are exceptionally well done; though it's hard, it's survivable, and you often take a beating before you realize it. each of the levels truly feels like a real place, and the immersiveness is top notch. the author's use of the "transparent water" VIS utility does slow the game in places (the first level has a pool area that gets a bit choppy, and another level has a large lake of lava that displays the same effect), but it's not unplayable, and the view you get in those areas more than makes up for it. weapons pacing and placement throughout this series of levels has been done marvelously... you're almost always relieved when you finally get the next weapon. you can easily survive without it, though, which (to my mind) is the mark of very careful design. exceptional pack.
Mission Control is the first level in the pack, and it's a great one. the theme is "military base". the level is extremely complex (for a beginning level) and somewhat non-linear; it took me a little while to become oriented enough to make my way out. very good use has been made of both the underwater VISing and architecture as well as the "security" pop-up messages. the monster mix is base typical, with a rather large proportion of enforcers. it reminded me very strongly of e2m1 in it's pacing, monster population, and relative difficulty level, though it feels smaller.
The Cleanse is the transition level between the military base theme and the medieval theme (actually, it changes to a series of caves and caverns) and this transition has been done extremely smoothly and convincingly. plenty of water in this one, too, so you may experience a bit of slowing in the main pool area. the silver key was placed in a fairly hard to find area (it's clearly visible once you see it, but it's in an area you might not look for) so keep your eyes peeled and look everywhere.
Another Fine Mess is the first purely-medieval level in the pack. it has quite a bit of water in it; most of the game play takes place on or around bridges over a set of interconnected waterways. again, the architecture and lighting are consistent and convincing, and the level is truly immersive in both theme and feel. the layout is interesting and fun to explore, and the layout is fairly linear; you probably won't get lost in this level, but you'll do a lot of swimming.
Hell's Sewers is identical to the level reviewed here with the exception of the addition of transparent water. heh. i just re-read the last sentence of that review; prophetic, no? :)
The Lava Grounds is a beautifully-built castle structure, complete with dungeon. the difficulty of this pack increases markedly in this level, but you're supplied with more than enough ammo to do the job. the level is aptly named, as there is a very large lava "lake" as well as a series of areas that are walkways over lava. the fighting is very difficult in the lava areas because you become very nervous about dodging too much; you are able to climb out of the lava in most places if you fall in, but doing it under ogre and scrag fire at the same time is a bit exciting. the secrets in this level definitely reward the explorer.
These Deepest Feelings is the secret level in this pack. it is strongly reminiscent of the E2 levels in texturing, lighting, and overall construction; in fact, this level could easily have been E2M4 or E2M6. it is a very difficult level in some places due to the smallish size of the play areas. it's lit very well, though, so it doesn't feel claustrophobic. some interesting uses of trigger brushes in this one (yes, i figured out how to gib the shambler; very cool). the gameplay in this level was the smoothest of all the levels thus far.
Seal of Secrecy is the next-to-last level in the pack, and it is brutal. you'll have all the weapons by now, so you're more than well-armed enough, so the author takes a different tack to defeat you -- monster placements that can feel overwhelming, a very intricate layout which makes it easy to become disoriented, and (my pet peeve in this level) a series of spike traps that are absolutely horrifying. one in particular (the railed balcony with the button) still makes my skin crawl thinking about it. the use of underwater passageways is top notch, and there are a number of cross-connected differing-elevation traffic patterns.
The Unholy Alliance is the way E1 should have ended. instead of resorting to a cheap trick to waste Chthon, you get to blow him away. sweet. he does take a bit of killing, though, so don't get overconfident. his aim seems to have improved as well... but it's very very satisfying when you nail him with that last rocket and watch him go down. advice: clear the side rooms first; i failed to do this the first time through (guess i was excited about muscling my way through the level) and i got bushwhacked by a shambler. whoops.
yes, at 7.1mb, it's a huge pack... but it's worth every second of download. Matthias, you have nothing to worry about the name of this pack, because it is truly beyond belief. i salute you.
22 feb 1997
author: Matthias Worch. an intricate, well-populated, brilliantly-built level. reminds me a lot of E1M3 in both structure and texturing. the flow and pacing in this level are excellently done, with just enough weaponry provided to get the job done. secrets are mostly in plain sight; you just have to figure out how to get to them. some areas do play a tad slowly, but all in all this is quality work. lots of cross-area connectivity leads me to believe this would be another excellent deathmatch level. i can't wait for the complete project to be released, because if this level's any indication, it's going to rock.
11 dec 1996
author: Darren Stabler. true to it's name, this is indeed a basic castle. and a big one, too... so big, in fact, that when you get to one of the corners outside of the 'moat', you get significant (over 50% FOV) GreyFlash. a couple of stylistic issues bothered me (knights in the bottom of the moat? what, they don't breathe?), but what was the most annoying was the speed of this beast. since the inside of the castle is nearly all open area, it ran extra super chunky most of the time. this level appears to have made for deathmatch more than single-play; the progression is disjointed and there is no logical 'flow' to this level. monsters are placed sporadically, and, other than the castle itself, there is no specific 'theme' to this level.
BC2.ZIP -- 454k
23 jun 1997
author: "The Partisan". this level is a dungeon-crawl of sorts. the majority of the architecture is of the "natural cavern" variety, and has been done convincingly. there are numerous wooden structures (platforms and walkways and the like) and they fit into the theme of this level perfectly. there were some noticeable brush seams in areas (most notably the ledge immediately in front of the pool where the super shotgun was). the lighting has been done well. the monster flow is very good, and selection and placement were excellent in a number of places; the one that springs to mind is the ogre pair above the zombies raining grenades down on you. a good level, but one that lacked a certain something to it that would give it a more immersive feel.
|The Beaches of Hell
BEACH1.ZIP -- 221k
9 aug 1997
author: "Kid". this level is basically a square pier-like structure with a central room and a lake of lava all around. monster placement is arbitrary (a pack of maybe 10 zombies with their backs to you is just begging for gibbing, aren't they?), and the pacing and flow are straightforward and linear. as you might expect from a level with large open areas, there is plenty of entity flicker and slowdown, along with some significant sound breakup and the occasional packet overflow (all those zombies' gibs). for all that, though, the level does have good proportions and flow; now all the author needs is a theme and a little more practice.
BLISTER.ZIP -- 367k
23 jun 1997
author: Tony Boyer. this level begins with you in a small room, with the super nailgun and a box of nails close to hand. this appears to be a small, introductory style level, and it has been done well. the action takes place around one main room; stairways in the corners allow you to progress around each side of this open area. the monster mix is a bit eclectic (doesn't really follow a theme) and somewhat light (24 on Hard) but the pacing is good and the combat situations interesting. the lighting was a bit uniform in most places, with no visible source of light. the "specials" in this level were very interesting, however -- i especially liked the descending stairway, because not only was it done well, but it was built in a way that made sense. a bit short, but a good level nonetheless.
BLISTER2.ZIP -- 718k
23 jun 1997
author: Tony Boyer. this one begins in much the same way as the other Blister level -- you in a small box with the super nailgun. the "explanation" for how you arrived (the broken doors over the teleport) was nicely done. this level is a lot larger than the previous one, and the lighting has been done a lot better -- there are pools of shadow and plenty of "mood lighting" throughout. some new textures have been used (the author notes their origin in the .txt file) and they've been used intelligently and effectively. the monster mix is as varied as the previous level as well, with the same lack of theme in their placement. the theme for the remainder of the level (once you get into the "church" -- i can think of no better way to describe it) is a bit more consistent, and the flow, while slightly stilted (open the door, kill the monsters, open the next door, etc.), is good. there is a serious lack of health in this level -- only two +25 kits on Hard, and those in a secret -- so try not to get hit. some wonderfully elegant and original architecture in here, too. of particular note is the exit teleport, which exemplifies clean design. with a bit more work on the flow and pacing, and sticking to a theme in regards to the monsters, this one would definitely have rocked.
|Bridges & Towers
BNT.ZIP -- 812k
26 aug 1997
author: Jim Hendrickson. this is a beta? this level has been done most excellently in the "metal" theme. the play areas cover a wide range of sizes, from cramped hallways to large, airy multi-level rooms that run extremely smoothly despite their size and complexity. they have been designed to allow the monsters placed intelligently their maximum field of effectiveness. as an example, check out how far the ogres can range with their grenades in this one; hallways with rounded corners and walkways over lava are placed just so and it seems like the ogres understand how to use the structures to their advantage. astounding. the level is non-linear, but it is task-oriented, so you'll be doing a lot of exploring to find the necessary keys. it has been designed so well, however, that you won't get bored when you have to inevitably backtrack. both keyed doors are clearly marked, and the author has used symbols cleverly to inform you what you need to do without a pop-up message. nevertheless, there are some messages in here, and they're both succinct and relevant. the level is intricate as well; it may take you one or two games to get used to how it's laid out, but it's time well spent. there are some minor flaws -- in one corridor, there is a brush sticking out of the wall at the juncture of the wall and ceiling -- but aside from that, this one of the best levels i've ever played. get it now.
note: since this review, this level has gone from beta to finished version.
|The Hallowed Halls
BNT2.ZIP -- 482k
25 sep 1997
author: Jim Hendrickson. this level has been done beautifully in the metal theme, and is very strongly reminiscent of the original id levels, both in style and detailing. the architecture, like this author's previous level, runs toward the large end of the scale, though a wide variety of sizes are evident, and this level runs agreeably smoothly throughout. the flow is semi-linear, but is as close to "non-linear" as it gets, and you can (and do) wander around for a whole long time before you're able to find your way out. the monster placement has been done very well, and the monsters selected are of the tougher-than-average variety; with the almost-miserly ammo included, it can be a challenge and a half to get through some combat situations. the monsters are placed for maximum shock effect ambush style which definitely gets the pulse racing. unfortunately, it is possible (very close to likely, actually) to become permanently stuck in this level, and the semi-linearity of the level worked against me after the "fire in the hole" message, i was unable to progress further. nevertheless, this level is definitely worth the download, and is a lot of fun.
BORG.ZIP -- 1,758kb
11 jul 1997
author: Steven Anderson. this level comes as a .pak file and must be installed in it's own directory. the level is the author's representation of a Borg ship (from Star Trek The Next Generation, in case you're not familiar with it) and the grunts and enforcers have been given new skins. the skin for the grunts is very well done in regards to theme. the author has also included various .wav files from the series to add to the theme. the architecture is very square and blocky for the most part, which is true to the area being reproduced. this does not necessarily make for good gameplay, unfortunately. in addition, the portrayal of the inside of the Borg ship is subject to various interpretations, and it didn't really match what i thought it should have looked like. (in the author's defense, an "accurate" portrayal of the ship -- as depicted in the series -- would have been a framerate nightmare in actual play.) new textures have been introduced, and on the whole they don't look too bad. the level is much brighter than it should have been, however, and some items (such as the teleport texture) don't make sense in this setting. i enjoyed playing it, but it might not be everyone's cup of tea.
|Bridge to Fire
6 jan 1997
author: Rob W. Albin. the filename for the level inside the archive is RWA1, so don't be confused (like i was). this is a gloomy, unadorned level. the monster mix is effective (though the selection is a bit inconsistent) and combat is fun. getting the required grenade launcher (due to zombies) is a bit non-intuitive, and you encounter the zombies prior to the grenade launcher itself. the wind tunnel 'secret' seemed a bit arbitrary to me; i could have easily run down that tunnel myself without the assistance. the lighting was done very well, if a bit dark through most of the level. the endgame consists of a skill jump over lava, which is not as difficult as it would appear... but having the lava below (with no escape should you fall in) makes it a bit tense. a strong, consistent level.
|Bridges to the Highlands
11 dec 1996
author: Jason Booth. this .ZIP contains five levels, two of which (BRSTART and BRIDGLNK) appear to be introductory or 'transition' levels. for a quick laugh, type 'impulse 9' in BRSTART and go down the hallway hidden behind one of the teleporters... the messages are wonderful. all of these levels have a few features in common: (1) they're all architecturally interesting and well-built (2) they have an unusually-high proportion of monsters to weapons and ammo (my idea of a good time is NOT taking on a death knight with an axe because i have no choice) (3) their gameplay is generally unsatisfying. the author definitely has level-building skills; if only he would have worked on the gameplay, these would be kickass levels. i've given this package an overall score; each of the playable levels is +/- .5 stars from the score.
|Bridge to Fire
22 feb 1997
author: Rob Albin. according to the text file, this is the finished verison of Bridge to Fire, reviewed above. this level is Bridge to Fire with a fairly large section added. most of the things that bothered me about the first version are still present in this level (i.e., needing weapons long before you get them, being thrashed by fairly-tough monsters when all you've got is a shotgun, etc.), but some nice additions have been made. i especially liked the skill jump from a ramp onto an adjoining walkway. this level, however, remains unforgiving -- you'd best be a good shot if you want to take on a vore with a nailgun, that's for sure. the architecture is interesting, but in some areas, it feels cluttered; i found myself banging into walls far too often for my liking. also, some areas with plentiful goodies (and yes, you will need the ammo, i assure you) seem accessible only through secrets... of which i found one of the four. with a little more work on flow and pacing, this one would definitely have been a winner.
11 dec 1996
author: The Bubbah. this level is dark, cramped, and chock-full of monsters. normally, that's the way i like it, but i also like to have enough ammo to be able to survive. the author seems to like punishing the player for going through the level -- UNAVOIDABLE LAVA SUCKS, FOLKS! all in all, this level had some serious potential, but i must say that after falling into the lava and dying for the twelfth straight time, i simply can't recommend it unless you're masochistic... or to study the level's pacing, which is pretty good, actually.
11 dec 1996
author: The Bubbah. a small (but not cramped) level with a nice selection of monsters and weaponry. ogres raining grenades from above keeps you hopping in this one. the trap is nicely done, and the number of monsters released is... well, there are so many, it's pretty fun, actually. this level also has a nice gimmick that will provide the easily-amused (like me) hours and hours of fun. i had a good time with this one, except for the ending... it was very difficult to exit this level because of the physics involved. and i STILL don't know how to get the quad damage or the red armor...
19 jan 1997
author: Chris Williams. it's a military base theme (of sorts). architecture is done adequately, but texture alignment and selection leave much to be desired. the entire level ran fairly slowly due to the presence of so many variable-light entities -- the surface and edge counts weren't all that high to warrant the degree of slowdown i experienced. just about every monster is in this level, along with all of the weapons. some interesting combat; nothing terribly challenging, however, due to the overabundance of weapons and ammo. the endgame is a bit odd and the fish in this level throw off the final monster count (as always). a solid level, with a lot of potential, but the texture misalignments and choppy play detract from the experience.
this level is not available on cdrom.com, but can be gotten from the mecca.
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