level reviews

 "b" reviews

All of the levels reviewed on this page can be found here.

Chemical Plant CHEMP.ZIP -- 2,080k
18 jun 1998
chemical plant shot 1
chemical plant shot 2
author: Matt Barnett. this level (pair of levels, if you're using the low-memory version; see below) begins with a good origin and a fun opening combat sequence. the architecture throughout this level has been done extremely well, carrying off the feeling that you're in a heavily-populated, frequently-used, and somewhat worn-down chemical plant/base area. structures are logical and varied in size, shape, and apparent function, with plenty of computer terminals, supporting wiring and structures, and storage crates (ostensibly to hold the chemicals that are being produced). the lighting and texturing go far in supporting the theme displayed in the structures; this is the first level i've played that i would describe the lighting as "gritty". the textures blend well into this setting, and the author has used texturing in many places to simulate detail. this does not mean the author has skimped on detailing brushes, however; some areas in this level are extremely cluttered (boxes, mostly, but some with machinery) and they're both visually interesting as well as somewhat difficult to fight through. the flow is linear, with plenty of side explorations possible, and the pacing is good; weapons are available just before you really need them, and ammo is placed with an eye to just-in-time replenishment. health is scattered liberally around, but it's often in out of the way places (or tucked in dark areas) so you'll have to do a bit of searching to find it. secrets have been done well, with most being of the "shoot to discover" variety rather than the "hidden in plain sight" kind, and they provide you with nice bonus items (stronger armor, bandolier). the immersiveness of this level is among the best i've seen, due to the architecture, lighting, texturing, the clever and appropriate use of ambients, and the logical and cohesive layout of the total level. some very good use of specials, as well; i especially liked the "force bridge" and i was most impressed with the final sequence -- blowing up the pumping machinery itself. (the screenshots show a before and after; watching the action was completely cool.) nitpicks: some HOM was noted (and the author commented on this in the .txt file); some misspellings were noted in the various F1s; and it's possible to get permanently stuck in this level in no less than five separate places. all in all, a most excellent level, one that goes in my "keepers" collection, and one that comes highly recommended.

note: this version of Chemical Plant is designed for machines with more than 32mb of RAM; if your machine has problems running this level, the author has split this into two smaller levels, available here. the total archive size here is 2,108k.

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this level kicks ass

Paradise Lost COCONUT1.ZIP -- 3,931k
15 jul 1998
author: Neil Manke. this archive was created for and released by PCGamer, and is not currently available on cdrom.com. setup and installation are simple enough, and thankfully the map carries the same name as the archive. this archive contains new models, skins, and sounds. the architecture in this level is of the "natural" variety, with rocks and cliff faces and pools of both lava and water being featured. they have been done well, both in their design as well as in their texturing. the flow in this level is linear, with side areas to explore, and the pacing is brutal; just about every combat situation had me wishing for stronger weapons and/or more ammo... taking on a parasite with the small shotgun isn't my idea of a good time. plenty of areas to explore make this a fun adventure, however. this level shines in the use of specials -- earthquakes, shootable bars (to escape your prison), a collapsing bridge, and the endlevel showdown with the floating French-speaking railgun shooting Pierre is both challenging and humorous. (does "merde" mean what i think it does?) the action throughout this level is sequenced extremely well, with an eye to the story as well as to the gameplay, and this skillful blending of action and plot is a mainstay in just about everything this author has ever produced. nitpicks: monster/weapon balance is a bit off; serious slowing in the bridge area; and way too much lava to accidentally fall into (with no hope of escape). an interesting exercise, and very well put together, but just not my speed.
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Cold Fusion COLD.ZIP -- 753k
18 jun 1998
author: Dave Llewelyn. this level begins with a decent origin and a good explanatory F1. the architecture in this level has been done well, with plenty of varying types of liquids around to swim through and/or avoid, in keeping with the theme. most play areas look large, but due to the way the detailing has been done, moving and fighting in them is a bit difficult at times. the running speeds through this level vary widely, in keeping with the varying sizes of architecture, but in many places the running speeds are very choppy (due, no doubt, to the presence of so many water brushes and transparent brushes). the flow is linear, and the pacing is a bit outrageous; in one instance, you plumment through a pair of overhead fans to land on a bridge between a control room and another huge fan. you face two berserkers and a gladiator on the bridge, and four fish underwater. no room to move, little to dodge, and you're equipped with the machine gun and the single-barrel shotgun. i like a challenge as much as the next person... but i also like to have a bit of a chance. all in all, the architecture through this level was thematically and visually wonderful; with a bit more work on gameplay, running speeds, and balance, this one would have been a winner.
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Commando COMMANDO.ZIP -- 2,208k
3 may 1998
author: Garry Cleaver. this level begins with a long list of errors -- missing sounds and monsters in solids comprising the bulk of them -- and there are a significant number of run-time errors exhibited as you play (G_PickTarget). the archive contains a .pak file, and this .pak file contains both an autoexec.cfg as well as a config.cfg... so if you can't figure out why your controls don't work right, this is why. no F1 or CD track greets you as you start this level, though you do have a fairly clear origin. the logic of why so much hardware and ammo is in a prison block escapes me, however. the architecture is very clean and not detailed with textures, making most of this level pretty bare. the texture application leaves something to be desired; the "same texture on all five sides of lights and buttons" pops up frequently. texture combinations are also a bit odd. the flow is linear and the pacing is very strong, but not to worry: you're given an obscene amount of ammo to go with the weaponry you're provided. some architecture was of the "impossible" variety; i.e. it's bigger on the inside than on the outside, and in some outdoor areas you're able to see through the sky to the structures behind it. the sky texture itself, however, is impressive, both for its realism as well as its 360-degree smooth blending; it looks like a fjord or something. colored lighting has been used, but not well; shockingly-bright areas jar with surrounding areas, and there aren't many clear sources of illumination. as if all this weren't enough, there are unmarked death trap areas and intermittent slowing. this author definitely understands the technical aspects of level design -- a little more work on texture application and detailing, colored lighting application, and theme would probably result in an excellent game.
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Covert Operation COVERTOP.ZIP -- 1,529k
18 jun 1998
author: Dave Waters. this archive contains four maps, covert1.bsp - covert4.bsp. the first level ("Space Transport") is a very nicely done (and thematically explained) one-room level -- it's the inside of the transport ship taking you to perform your mission. no monsters, no action, nothing; it only serves to introduce the story, and it does this very well. (now if only the endlevel would have been the ship landing somewhere, my day would have been completely made.)

the presence of the breakable glass otherwise-open-to-space ceiling in the second level ("Moon Alpha 3") made for a couple of very interesting combat situations. (at first, i had thought the continuity between the first and second level had been compromised -- how do you pilot a pod through a glass ceiling without breaking it? -- but i then remembered i had used a teleporter to exit the ship.) the author had put some berserkers on the roof of the lone building in this level, and, as you know, i enjoy getting to a different elevation and dinking them to death with the blaster. forgot about the glass ceiling the first time, though, and the first time i missed (while shooting up at them from the "safety" of the ground below)... well. after that, i was a bit more careful with my angles. this single circumstance -- a glass ceiling -- made me more tense fighting these beasts than i have been fighting monsters in a while, actually. architecture in this level is good, if a bit basic. lighting has been done adequately, and the texturing supports the theme of a moon-based outpost or hangar of some kind. excellent use of ambients to add depth to this otherwise semi-sparse level, as well; the units on the roof are a prime example. the flow is very linear (how could it not be, with one door and one room?) and the pacing is good; you're given plenty of weaponry to do the job you need to do. the exit is clearly marked, and adds to the development of the theme.

the third level, "Main Installation", is kind of the "hub" for this four-level set. this is the only level you'll be able to return to; all the other trips have been one way. you start on the top of a building, where you've soft-landed your stolen Strogg ship. (say that three times fast.) good continuity -- you have the same ship -- but a logic problem: how the hell did i fit in there? the architecture is getting bigger and a bit more complex in this level, but in many areas it's strikingly plain. texturing has been used to good effect to add a bit of depth, however, and the lighting adds accents and draws attention to critical areas. the author has used a number of .wav clips to add to the feel; unfortunately, many of them play multiple times which distracts. the flow is semi-linear and the pacing is adequate -- you're given quite a bit of hardware that doesn't really correspond with the number and strength of the enemies you have to dispatch. also, there is an arguably necessary item (rebreather) that is only accessible by discovering a secret. in its defense, the secret is easily revealed. very good use of sound in one place, though, and that's in the big empty room at the end. it's too bad the boss was so easy to kill; an indestructible glass wall and a pillar to bounce grenades off of made for a far too easy kill. nevertheless, the theme is advanced well here, and the author has taken pains to make sure you're not wandering through empty areas on your way back through.

the fourth level in the archive, "Testing Facility", follows the architectural style introduced in the third level -- semi-large, blocky areas, good use of colored lighting accents, and sparse, effective monster placement. some textures are misaligned (box tops, mostly) and some are truncated. the monster placement is much better, however; gunners are very effective where they've been put, and monsters springing out of hidden walls adds to the festive combat. the disappearing glass in one spot was odd to me, though. the pop up messages have been used to good effect to advance the plot. after returning to the third level from here (why do you start next to your ship again? i came to this level through a door...) you battle your way through a series of rather tough monsters... who really aren't all that tough when you're equipped with both the railgun and the quad.

a good set of levels. interesting to play, varied architecture, good flow, pacing, and lighting... but for whatever reason, they didn't have that "something" that makes them TLKA.

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Crater's Edge CR8REDGE.ZIP -- 1,195k
15 apr 1998
crater's edge 1
crater's edge 2
crater's edge 3
author: Alex "Mad Rex" Richardson. despite the fact that there are three screenshots in this review, there is but one excellent level in this archive -- i simply couldn't decide which one to put up, so i did all three. the level starts out with a solid F1, a logical origin point, and enough ambient sounds to really envelop you in the setting. the architecture in this level is simply beautiful (as witnessed by my inability to decide which shot to show you) -- areas are detailed, fast-running, well textured, and, best of all, logical. every place you go looks like part of a unified whole, and due to this it's easy enough to find your way around in here. this is the first level i've played thus far where you get a visual treat everywhere you look. the author has used enough moving brushes and ambient sounds to give you the impression of a living, breathing station; it looks busy and well-populated and you really feel like an intruder. i can't think of any level that has given me this level of immersion, including id's. remarkable. the flow is semi-linear, and the pacing is superb, with monsters placed intelligently and grouped sensibly. when killed, they cough up logical items. combat situations are challenging and fun without being overpowering; you really have to stay on your toes in some situations. the lone secret in this level has a clear visual clue, and the extent of it is impressive; if you find it, you'll be able to approach roughly half of the level from the back side, as the secret is a lengthy and interesting shortcut. (i loved the sliding cover on the pipe, too.) the monsters actually seem to have tactics, due to a combination of placement and special features like standing in place and hiding. the weapons given in this level are the shotgun, super shotgun, and machine gun -- and that's it. w00! finally a level that tests my weapons ability! (though i could definitely have found a use for the grenade launcher in a couple of places...) enough ammo is given you to do the job, but you won't have a lot left over; good balance. i've played a lot of levels up to now, but for the total package -- theme, mood, ambience, challenge, and pure immersion -- this one is the finest i've yet seen. and it runs smoothly throughout on a p133! what more could you ask for? play this one already.
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this level kicks ass

Remake of Criters for Quake II CRITERSQ2.ZIP -- 808k
27 jan 1997
author: Jorge Reyes (original author: Jim Lowell). this level, as the title would indicate, is a remake of Critters. the author has managed to replicate most of the areas and architectural structures present in the original, adding a few play areas which don't really add much to the level as a whole. "Critters" is misspelled in the F1, and there is no other information to be found there. the lighting is surprisingly even throughout this level, and there are few shadows to be found, even underwater. the texture selection in this remake is odd; few of the textures placed make sense within the context of the level, and there are many abrupt delineations. one area in particular -- the first bridge over the water -- exhibited horrible slowing, and there are many places where the gameplay is slow for no apparent reason. there are four BFGs in this level, all unattainable. i never did find the exit, either.
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Outpost CRSPQ01.ZIP -- 659k
3 may 1998
author: Lari Muuriaisniemi. this level starts with the player in a large outdoor area, and the F1 comes up shortly after you begin. the origin point is adequate. the architecture in this level is of a variety of sizes from the very large (beginning outdoor area) to the very cramped (some of the connecting hallways and passageways). texturing has been done well, for the most part, but an adherence to some sort of theme would have been nice. lighting has been used very well in some areas and somewhat poorly in others (the very bright white light with no shadows in the room with the slugs and the armor is a case in point). specials have been used in this level, and though they are a novelty at first, the novelty wears off due to their overuse. the little flying cars with the enforcers in them were interesting. there is some notable slowing in many areas in this level, along with some very odd texture choices (on doors). the armory was pretty cool in both form and function, and the trap was done well. the flow is linear and the pacing is erratic; it's far too simple to clear a lot of areas by looking around and killing everything that moves... and waking up anything that doesn't. there is a serious lack of health in this level, considering the monster placement and quantity. nitpicks: misspellings and syntax errors in the F1s, missing slots in the floor (for lowering doors), misaligned textures, unlikely physics (floating boxes), secrets don't indicate when you've found them with a pop-up message, clip brushes block access to some areas, and it's possible to get permanently stuck. all in all, a level that exhibits most of the basic design elements needed for a quality level; now all that's needed is a unifying theme and a bit more attention to detail.
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"d" reviews