|Ghost Town II||
GHOST2.ZIP -- 1,861k
Author: Roger Staines. This archive includes a pak file (with new textures and sounds) along with an html file and some graphics (done by yours truly). The level begins with a good origin point and F1, which gives you the basic goal and an advisory that you're on your own. The architecture throughout this level is most excellently done, and adheres to the theme perfectly; included in this ghost town (haunted by Strogg) is a general store, saloon, hotel, mill, church, and mine entrance. All of the buildings have been meticulously detailed where appropriate, and the play areas aren't as cluttered as they might have been had the author included too much detail. A working mill wheel, player piano, and breakable shelves are included in the structuring, and all have been done well. The flow is as non-linear as I've yet seen; it's possible to go anywhere, in any order, at any time you like. Two keys are required, with one being required to access the other, but other than that there are no restrictions on your chosen path. In some levels, the lack of linearity would be a problem; it's easy to get confused and misdirected when the architecture is less than distinctive... but that certainly isn't the case here. Each area has its own look and feel, and it's difficult to become disoriented. The pacing has been done very well, considering the lack of linearity; monster selections and groupings don't overwhelm if you go the "wrong" way, and weapons are placed in the areas you expect to find them... and at the strengths you need. The endgame was a bit easier than I would have expected, given the mix of monsters you'll have faced up to that point, and the amount of ammo and weaponry you'll have by that point is a bit excessive. Oh, and for those people who like to find secrets (like me), the author has graciously provided 15 of them, with the 15th secret being revealed only after the other 14 have been discovered. Nitpicks: running speeds vary wildly in some areas, with some slowing found just about everywhere; some brush flicker was noted; the waterfalls in the level flow sideways; and some HOM was found. Nevertheless, an excellent sequel to the original Ghost Town, and one I thoroughly enjoyed playing. (Oh, did you like the three-gladiator fight outside where One Nut hangs? That was my idea... :)
|Gib Me Liberty...||
GML.ZIP -- 708k
15 jan 1998
author: Ed Cope aka Scope. this level begins nicely with you in a jail cell, and you have to blow a hole in the wall to shut off the main generator to open the doors (nice of the Strogg to place the generator shutdown button right in the cell, isn't it? heh). from there, you travel through an enormous base to finally escape through the sewers. the architecture in this level is simply top-notch from beginning to end; areas are believable and contain just enough detail to get the point across. since the areas overall are on the large side, this makes them seem a bit bare, though some of the smaller areas and pass-throughs are detailed nicely. the author has made good use of shootable brushes as well; there are lots of structures you can blow away to reveal secret items, as well as to make them more accessible. the megahealth was a challenge to get to, but it was fun. the F1s throughout this level were well written and relevant, adding a definite theme and making it more immersive. every critical area (as referred to in the F1) was distinctive and memorable; this made the goals clear and easy to understand. colored lighting has been applied with a deft touch, and each area blends neatly and seamlessly into the next. secrets have been marked in various ways; one nitpick i have is that they didn't indicate (other than the "number found" changing on the F1) that you had found them when you did. some interesting uses of the new specials in the Q2 engine were also used... the laser cleaning room in particular was excellently done, as well as the swinging switch cover in the main generator room. (advice: get the stuff in the open cells before you hit that switch.) the ammo load in this level is pretty tight, but it's doable, and the endgame is survivable even if you don't find the secrets. the flow of this level is semi-linear, and there is some backtracking; with the light monster count, running around a nearly-empty level is a distinct possibility. monster placement left a bit to be desired, unfortunately... too many times i was able to plug a pair of charging berserkers because they started too far away (and in areas too large) to be of any real threat. nevertheless, this level was a lot of fun to play and comes recommended.
|Castles of Stroggos||
GRINSPQ1.ZIP -- 2,315k
18 jun 1998
author: Brian Griffith. this archive contains three levels, and what a set of levels they are. all three have the same title ("Castles of Stroggos"), so let's just start at the beginning.
the first level starts off with a very well done origin point and explanation as well as a good F1. the architecture throughout this level is detailed without being slow running, due to the author's use of both brushes and textures to add depth where necessary. as an aside, it also looks and feels like a real place. the flow is linear, and the pacing is most excellent, with mixed packs of effectively-placed monsters making every battle worthwhile. you're given weapons and ammo at timely, logical intervals, and the monsters drop appropriate items as well. what most impressed me about this level were the excellent use of pop-up messages along with the clever and thematic specials. for instance, in the first shot, you're required to blow a hole in the wall with an explosive device. good enough. but the device itself is sitting on the ground in front of the wall you need to blow up, and you get to activate it and dive for cover! totally cool. another special i liked, that really wasn't a special, was the gate-lifting area. in the first shot, you can see the gate in the middle right portion of the screen, complete with winches and chains. good enough. but when you go to lower the gate (see the second shot), you're treated to a miniature version of the gate going through the motions of lifting the gate -- a visual guide to what's going on. (it's in the middle of the console above the floor-mounted button in the second shot.) is that cool or what? nitpicks: misaligned textures (box tops) and texture mismatches (door sills, over doors). also, this level is very light on health, so watch your step.
the second level starts where the first left off, offering a strong continuity as well as a good, solid F1. this level has an unusually-long loading time; in fact, at first, i thought my machine had locked. the first time you go through here, all you have to do is cross the courtyard and go directly through the opposite door. it's harder than it sounds, even though you only have to fight four monsters. good combat, though. you enter the third level from here, but don't worry -- you'll be back.
the third level has the same good continuity and the same solid F1. this level has some huge architecture (tall ceilings), yet the running speed stays good throughout. structures have been done well, and texturing has been use to accent certain structures as well as add depth. the flow through here is linear, and the pacing is good and strong; considering you're pretty well armed by this point, increased monster counts and strengths is fun. there's a mini-puzzle in this level, but it's pretty straightforward, and, as the flow is linear, it won't take lot of brain power to get through it. the secrets in here are valuable, and they're fairly well-hidden, so keep your eyes open. one thing i liked and didn't like was the rocket turret in the big room with the exploding computers; good because it looked great and made sense, bad because it had a very limited field of fire (it couldn't pivot below about 45 degrees) and was very close to the walls in the corner... and i had the rocket launcher. splish splash, it's raining gibs. nitpicks: the all-black satellite dishes looked very odd, and various box tops were misaligned. you're able to open the second door off the courtyard in the second level from here, so it's back to the second level you go.
when you get back, you'll find things have changed (but, sadly, not the long loading time). the architecture in here is the best in the three-level set; however, the running speeds are erratic and, in one area in particular (the third screen shot), they are extremely slow. having three or four rooms in line, with complicated architecture, definitely contributed to this. texturing and lighting have been done well, and the specials in this level are just too cool; you get to break pipes and watch the water spilling out as the water fills the room to about a three-foot depth. the flow is linear and the pacing is, once again, very well done; fighting is intense, despite a relatively-low monster count. some serious texture alignment problems in this one, though, especially in some of the stone hallways. also noted were some texture inversions and misalignments. monsters are still dropping items, but they're sometimes inappropriate.
all in all, this is another archive that's a keeper, and comes highly recommended.
GRUNT.ZIP -- 296k
15 apr 1998
author: Jack Davis. this level begins with a Quake 1-style F1, along with no origin point and no CD track. the architecture in this level definitely runs toward the small/cramped side; indeed, the screen shot shows the largest single open area in this level. structures have been done well; with a level this size, getting hung up on the architecture is always a concern, but it doesn't happen here. surprisingly little detail -- in the way of brushes -- has been used here, but the author has used textures well to give the impression of detail. this, coupled with the small play areas, keeps the running speed high and the maneuvering room low. the lighting throughout this level is on the gloomy side, with enough light everywhere to see what's going on. this level's strength is the frequency and the challenge of the multiple combat situations; monsters have been placed with almost brutal effectiveness and in strong, difficult groupings. there is always a way to out think the monsters, and you'll need it, because the cramped quarters prohibit a lot of dodging and avoiding blast effects from grenades. it's almost like you've stumbled into some sort of Strogg military supply basement somewhere and woke up the natives... and they're not pleased. this level reminded me, thematically, of Ace's Quake Combat School (remember that one?) and i had as much fun in this one as i did in the previous. the sequence when you're riding the overhead gantry is particularly heart-stopping, because by the time you've made it that far, your nerves are wound up pretty tightly. an excellent ride, and a fun level.