|On Sacred Ground||
JDSACRED.ZIP -- 2,174k
16 Aug 1998
Author: Jack Davis. This archive contains three levels, sacred1.bsp - sacred3.bsp. The levels are designed to be played (roughly) in order; this is more of a "series of levels" than a "unit", and all work extremely well together.
"Outer Temple Complex" is the first of the three, and features an excellent origin and introductory F1. In fact, all of the F1s in this level (and in the others) are ideal for both pacing and content; they tell you the basics of what you need to know, allowing you to discover what to do on your own. The architecture in this level is somewhat varied -- in some areas, it has a very "organic" feel that's not so much Giger-inspired as it is an impression of smooth-poured building materials rather than constructed. I realize that's not a very descriptive explanation; you'll just have to see it. In other areas, it feels like a straight base level (see top screenshot), with squared areas, storage crates, and the regular detritus of such areas. Running speeds are fast and smooth for the most part, with the notable exception being the outside water area (I think the abundance of free particles contributed to this). The author has also used ambients to good effect. The flow is linear and the pacing is excellent, with monsters dropping appropriate items and the author giving weapons just after they're needed... which makes you work a little more for them. The endlevel transition was a bit abrupt. Nitpicks: some texture truncations were noted, and I didn't care for the teleport use -- a ladder and an access tunnel would have served the same purpose.
From there, you proceed to the "Strogg Temple", and the transition and accompanying F1s are well done. The architecture moves from mostly metal to much more stone, and definitely fits the level's theme and tone perfectly. Playing areas are, for the most part, large (check out the middle shot), and the structures have a solidity and feel of permanence that's surprising; they look like they've been built to last the ages. The lighting in this level has been applied with a deft touch -- it's of the "natural" variety for the most part, and it works well. One thing that was interesting was the author's use of ladders; they're not the conventional ladder, and they can be hard to see from some angles, but that slight difficulty (and, not incidentally, the risks you have to take in using some of them) adds a tenseness to the level that surprised me. Their use, both in placement and position, made me think about how I was going to get somewhere more than I'm accustomed to, and I enjoyed it. The flow is linear, with some side areas to explore, and the pacing is, once again, excellent. The way the monsters were grouped, and how they attacked, gave the impression of much more clever AI than Quake2 usually provides. Secrets have been done well and subtly, and provide good bonus items. (Save that quad, if you can get to it; you'll need it later.) The endlevel was sort of predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. Nitpicks: it's possible to get permanently stuck in this level, and some HOM was noted.
Finally, after passing back through the Temple Complex (nice transition and F1s, again), you'll reach "Jorg's Lair." No surprises here; it's exactly what you think it is. What impressed me muchly was the entrance to the final building (bottom shot); it really looks like a temple or shrine of some kind with a strong Egyptian influence. Hard to describe, but that's how it felt. The final showdown is excellent, even though the combat is predictable, and the author's use of specials truly enhance what could easily have become just another boss combat.
Get this one now.
JHSPQ1.ZIP -- 3,468k
11 may 1998
author: Jim Hughes. this archive contains three levels (yes, i know there are four shots; i couldn't decide) titled sp1f.bsp-sp3f.bsp. all of the levels share a number of characteristics -- semi-linear gameplay (you can go anywhere at just about any time, with few keyed door restrictions, and in some cases can bypass about half the level if you so choose), incredible architecture (clean, fast-running, and with plenty of "realistic" architectural detailing), excellent texture application (both to add depth as well as to add detail), and smooth, clean colored lighting (blending naturally, visible and logical sources, no harsh or jarring colors). it's not a unit, because the levels are designed to be played in a linear fashion.
Saturation Point is the first of the three. at the start, it has a terse F1, no CD track, and a decent origin point. the architecture, as noted above, is clean and well-designed; play areas are widely varied in size, but none are very small. the flow is semi-linear, with a surprisingly-intricate floor plan adding a depth to the architecture that i've rarely seen... add the plentiful ambient sounds to the logical and thematically excellent detailing exhibited here (the ceiling pipes, for instance), and you have a level that feels like a living, breathing place. the pacing is good, and monsters are placed well, if a bit infrequently. nevertheless, they are challenging where placed, so you won't lack for good combat. enough weapons and ammo have been provided to do the job, and the placement of the weapons is well-thought-out and logical, given the circumstances... they're not just lying around in random areas. there are some great surprises/traps in here, too, and they reward the cautious player. just keep your ears open and you can anticipate most of them. both secrets in this level give good bonus items, and, while they're marked well, they're still fun to find. (the first secret i found is a two-stage secret, meaning you have to not only find the way into the secret, but you have to then find the secret itself. pretty cool.) a most excellent introductory level, and a great prelude to the quality that is to follow.
The SoulForge is the second of the two, and it picks up smoothly and cleanly where the previous level left off. the continuity between levels has been executed well and convincingly. you start this level in some kind of basement-type area, and the multi-level layout (with plenty of side areas to explore) is a lot of fun for the curious player. the architecture in here continues the trend set in the first level, with medium to large areas comprising the bulk of the level; see the second and third shots to the left. detailing is more prevalent in this level, as are the ambients; nearly every structure and every area has some kind of sound playing when you're running around, adding to the depth of the experience. the flow is, as before, semi-linear, and the pacing is excellent. my favorite type of monster placement is of the "pitched battle, then tense roaming around" variety, and this level delivers that style with a vengeance. the author has also placed monsters with an ear to their idling sounds, so it always sounds like you're about to be pounced on, and their strengths are commensurate with both the weapons you've been given as well as the weapons you get in here (besides the railgun, which is a bit too much for this level). even the small things are well-done; the keyboards and buttons you activate tell you exactly what they do, so you know both what you've done as well as where to go next. the secrets in here are the same style as they are in the previous level, with the last secret in this level being my favorite not only because i figured it out, but because the author has detailed the areas most people won't even see. incredible work.
Sub-Levels is (are?) the last level in this trio, and what a level it is. i'll refrain from gushing over the architecture, lighting, ambients, and flow, because i'd just end up saying the same things again. the pacing is the hardest thus far; seeing as how you're pretty well kitted out by this point, it's not too much of a problem. the only difference between this level and the others is the presence of some slowing in the pump area, as well as the presence of texedges in the main computer room (the screen that you shoot). the endgame is clearly that, and a surprise awaits you when you think you're done. one thing that did catch my eye that i found interesting was the construction of the main computer thing in the middle of the room... it disappeared into a divot in the ceiling, and that reminded me very strongly of Doom2 level construction. kinda neat to see it done here.
all in all... well. just download this one and play it. trust me; it's more than worth the wait.