level reviews

 "r" reviews

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

Strogg Particle Laser S_LASER.ZIP -- 846k
27 jan 1998
author: Doug Magee. this level begins with you in a natural outside courtyard, and has both a dramatic introductory sequence as well as a good F1. architecture has been done well, and most areas are on the large side, which is a nice change of pace from most of the user-created levels i've seen thus far. not a lot of detailing in this level, however, but the author has selected textures wisely to give the appearance of detail, and it works well. lighting is appropriate and smooth, with no glaring bright primary color areas, and it blends easily from one area to the next. the flow is semi-linear, and there is a lot more backtracking (through already-cleared areas) than i'd like. in addition, you are required to find secrets to advance through the level; also, there is one section -- the jumping over lava -- which was more annoying than interesting. monster placement has been done well, for the most part, and the weapons fit the combat situations. one thing i did notice, however, and that is that there is a huge amount of ammo in this level. the endgame sequence has been nicely done. a good, strong level.
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Strogg's Garage SGAR.ZIP -- 545k
13 jan 1998
author: Ludovic Texier. this level opens up with the first use of the insane marines i've seen, and it, along with the concise and informative F1, sets the mood well. there is a regrettable typo in the F1, however. this level has well done architecture, and it's nice and roomy -- you'll have plenty of room to dodge, and you'll need it. the pacing and flow is semi-linear, and the pop up messages are somewhat vague, so you'll have to be more clever than i to figure them out on the first run through. the colored lighting has been used well in this level, with one colored area blending extremely well into the next, with notable exceptions such as the railgun platform. two secrets in this level, and they're both clearly visible, making them somewhat easy to attain. the lower underwater "ammo room" seemed like an arbitrary way to place ammo, but the security beams above the hole were great. one nitpick i have about this level and that is that the lifts are unusually slow; chalk it up to my impatience, but i like lifts to be a little less leisurely than that. this level exhibits the Think_Delay error as well. i never could figure out how to exit the level, but what i saw was well-designed and fun.
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Operation Scorched Earth SGC9.ZIP -- 3,630k
16 jul 1998
operation scorched earth shot 1
operation scorched earth shot 2
operation scorched earth shot 3
author: Steve "Notlob" Clarke. this archive contains four maps, three of which are full-on playable (the fourth is an "ending" style transitional level).

the first level in the set is "Outpost Omega Delta" and sports an excellent F1 and origin point. the architecture in this level has been done well, with a very convincing "base" feel to it. structures and play areas vary widely in size. most of the structures are readily recognizable as base-style items (such as terminals and buttons and the like), but there are some "accent" structures (see the top screenshot for an example) that are both visually interesting as well as thematically transparent; they're odd, but they belong, somehow. unfortunately, many areas in this level have inconsistent running speeds. the flow is linear, and you explore about three quarters of the level the first time through. the author has used pop up messages well to inform you of what you have to do to access these currently-inaccessible areas, as well. pacing is tough but believable; due to the large size of many of the main combat areas, the monster count is high and the combat is challenging and interesting. you'll have plenty of ammo to do the job (in addition to the placed ammo, the monsters drop ammo as well), and the weapons are given to you just after you really need them. since you have so much ammo, the weapon strength usually isn't critical. some texture oddities and logic flaws (most notably the holes in the walls that i could jump into but not through) were noted, and monsters drop unrelated items. lots of unanswered questions in this one, which leads nicely into the second.

"Space Station Zebra" is the next level (why not keep the "greek letter naming" motif, i wonder -- Zeta would have been cool) with an excellent transition and introductory F1. the architecture in this level is very much in the space station theme, and both the structures and texturing reflect this well. the play areas vary in size, but most are pretty cramped with the exception of the "storage area" (see screenshot). despite this, many areas run very slowly -- one notable area is through the (pretty cool) irising door. the flow is semi-linear; it'd be totally non-linear except for the presence of a couple of doors that won't open until a certain task has been performed. you're free to wander pretty much at will; the pacing is such that the monster strength seems almost uniform throughout. this is not to say, however, that it's not challenging. one item that makes it challenging (at least to me) was the sequence and type of tasks to perform. one of them is to deactivate (by blowing up, of course) three different structures. the problem i had is i couldn't figure out which ones i had to destroy, and where to find them, as they were dissimilar enough to give me trouble. i'm not suggesting that they should have been identical; i did wish, though, that they had something similar so i could have figured them out. maybe it's just me. once you get everything completed, you exit the level via an escape pod, and this sequence is well done. the combat required to get to the pod is surprisingly simple, however, and this is probably due to the architecture in that area. the escape pod takes you back to the Outpost (but why an escape pod is able to dock escapes me), where you access a wind tunnel-type of transport and go to the next level.

"Environmental Control" is your next destination. the transition is done, as in the others, very well, with a "jump-lift" mechanism being your entrance. the architecture here is well done, with a wide variety of play area sizes. structuring is good and immersive, and detailing has been applied pretty heavily (see bottom shot) yet the level plays acceptably smoothly throughout. maneuvering room is fairly restricted in many areas due to the huge mechanisms and machinery and combat situations are challenging and interesting without reverting to the "duck and shoot" pattern so common in single player levels... they're more of the "run and gun" type. the flow is linear, with some side exploration possible; so linear, in fact, that it's possible to circumvent a good half of the level by looking around carefully in the first room. the first time i played through this one, i never left the intro area -- i got the enviro suit, hit the buttons, went up the lift, and was gone. from here, you take a lift back to the Outpost, cause the base to self-destruct, and exit the unit by doing a little casual swimming (in "Escape to Freedom").

a very-well-put-together set of levels, and a whole lot of fun. would have been more fun if i hadn't had those intermittent slowdowns, but that's hardly the author's fault. get this one.

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this level kicks ass

Shroom SHROOM.ZIP -- 197k
15 jan 1998
authors: "ApOkAliP3 and tEKNo". this level contains two monsters, no exit, and (as might be surmised from the title) some bizarre colored lighting. hmm. that's about it, really, though i did enjoy the chance to see the flying boss monster (what is the name of that thing, anyway?) close up and personal.
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SlaughterShip SLTRSHIP.ZIP -- 3,442k
18 jul 1998
slaughtership shot 1
slaughtership shot 2
slaughtership shot 3
author: Neil Manke. well. what can i say about this one that hasn't already been said? this archive contains two level contained in a pak file. the architecture throughout these levels runs toward the smaller end of the scale, which is understandable and somewhat expected. structures are put together with an eye for "realism" and are proportional and consistent. texturing enhances the architecture extremely well, adding depth to otherwise plain structuring. the flow is linear and the pacing is excellent and difficult, due to monster strength and placement as well as the somewhat-limited maneuvering space. in no area is it irritating, however; i found myself dying and dying and dying, but it always seemed like it was due to a miscalculation of mine rather than a ridiculous monster location. the two levels merge seamlessly into a unified whole, and the transition is logical and believeable. in fact, it's done well enough to where i didn't expect it to happen when and where it did... or even at all. where this level shines, though, is in its use of specials to tell the story. from the introductory docking maneuver to the stuck door (with an unorthodox, but fun, method of opening) to the crawlspaces to the kitchen and "processing" areas, this author demonstrates, once again, that it's more than possible to tell a good, consistent story using nothing but popups and architecture. only one nitpick: what's the blast radius on those barrels, a hundred yards? just download this and play it, if you haven't already. trust me.
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this level kicks ass

Structural Mechanics SMD.ZIP -- 1,601k
16 apr 1998
author: David Hyde. this pair of levels comes in a pak file named smd.pak, so the first thing you have to do (took me 15 minutes to figure it out; doh) is rename the pak file to pak1.pak and put it in it's own directory. the introductory F1 is good, and there is a missing texture error message that appears at start. the flow in these levels is semi-linear -- you have to run all over the place to find the things you need -- and the pacing suffers because of this; since you can go most anywhere at any time, the monster difficulty varies widely depending on where you go. the architecture and texturing in the main area is simply stunning; the author has reproduced a "real life" area faithfully. the detailing is among the best i've seen -- i loved the angled ladder and the storage shelves and the undersized truck. the rest of the level, however, suffers from cubicle syndrome. you meander through a series of identically-sized and shaped and textured rooms, clearing them out one area at a time. it's fun for the first five or so, but then it becomes tedious. some seemingly-arbitrary underground areas are tacked on, adding to the surrealism. the second level is much the same as the first, but it only has the one main area which is lovingly detailed and real-world accurate in terms of size and proportions and detailing. not really much of a theme, and, let's face it -- on lower end machines like mine, the main areas in both levels (but especially the first) is a slide show, making it unplayable and unenjoyable. technically superb, but...
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Deadly Defences SNAZSPQ6.ZIP -- 551k
16 Aug 1998
Author: Ian '[SnAzBaZ]' Packer. This level begins with a good origin and a terse F1, but the goal is clear enough. The architecture is clean and ornamentation-free, for the most part, with textures being used to add depth rather than brushes. Play areas vary in size, but even the large areas feel hard to maneuver in due to well-placed obstructions; it's not "fighting the architecture", but you'll definitely have to know how to move well. The flow is linear, with some side areas to explore, and the pacing is good if a bit erratic; by this, I mean there are some odd monster groupings as well as monster placements, and areas seem to be defended with either not enough or way too many monsters. Weapons are sparse through most of the level, but you're not overpowered by the defenses. Speaking of defenses, the author has used quite a few architectural defensive measures for "base security", and they work very well -- most have a visual component, and all require a bit of dexterity to overcome. Nitpicks: it's possible to get permanently stuck (trip the tunnel blocker and run back out of the tunnel; it doesn't reset); the aforementioned tunnel blocker just appears out of the wall, having no slot; the invisible gunner in the outdoor area was annoying; and some texture oddities were noted. A good, strong level, but something didn't feel quite right about it.
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Soldier of Fortune, Inc. - Mission 2 SOFM2.ZIP -- 1,758k
20 jun 1998
soldier of fortune shot 1
soldier of fortune shot 2
author: Neil Manke. well. this prolific Quake 1 author has been keeping a low profile up to now, and enters the Quake2 editing scene with style and panache with this, his first Quake2 release. and what a release it is. the origin of this level is excellent, as is the introductory F1, though the background image for the F1 does make some of the information a bit hard to read. the architecture in this level is quite simply astounding; see the two screenshots to the left to see what i mean. this should quell any doubters that think Quake2 can't display outdoor areas effectively, i think. all of the areas in this level, besides the transport machinery, are rock formations and water areas (lakes, pools, waterfalls), and they have been built extremely convincingly. add to that the most excellent texturing, which gives this level a "fjord" sort of feel. the water is crystal clear, the mountains are white and forbidding, and the vegetation is scant and closely-cropped. simply brilliant. the flow is non-linear -- you can go anywhere at any time -- but monster and item placement suggest a given direction. pacing is good, if a bit on the hard side, but then if you take on the hardest groupings of monsters from the wrong direction, this is to be expected. even if you do go the "right" way, however, it's going to be a battle and a half, because it appears the monsters are a bit modified. for instance, the blaster guard seemed to fire a bit quicker than i'm accustomed to... or is this just my imagination? specials have been used wisely and in such a way as to blend seamlessly into the theme; the turret on the sub was a nightmare to get rid of, and i died (i kid you not) fourteen times before i was able to get past it. (and boy, was it satisfying when i did.) the author has used the pak file to put in "natural" sounds as well, which only adds to the feel of prowling around in the wilderness. plenty of secrets in this level, and they're all hidden (not shoot-the-button) ones. keep your eyes open as you explore and you'll have no problem. i only found five of six, however. getting the CD out of the submarine was fun, though i could have wished for a "fire in the hole!" wav clip to have played. :) what most impressed me about this level, however, was the use of lighting; the author has coordinated the sun in the sky with the lighting so that the sun actually appears to cast deep shadows over the sides of mountains. everywhere you see stark shadows, the sun is where you'd logically expect it to be, and that aspect, more than any other, gave this level a depth and feel like no other. quite simply, you must play this level. get it now.
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this level kicks ass

Saving Private Bitterman SPB1.ZIP -- 724k
19 jul 1998
saving private bitterman author: Michael Shand. this level begins with an excellent origin point and explanation as well as a solid introductory F1 (which is slightly delayed, but is terse and effective). the architecture in this level has been done well, with areas flowing naturally into one another and looking and feeling authentic. play areas vary in size, though most are large enough to move around in comfortably, and the author has kept the detail down to ensure smooth running speeds. this doesn't mean the level is bare, however; detail has been used to enhance, not clutter, the structuring. the author has also used textures to add depth where necessary. the flow is linear and the pacing is good, though the monsters "hold position" in many circumstances that are disadvantageous to them; some are very easy to kill, even with the blaster, because they're stuck out in the open. while i'm speaking of specials, the author has used them very well -- two that stand out in my mind are when the force field is deactivated (the little sparkles; totally cool... makes sense, and i certainly wouldn't mind seeing stuff like this more often) and when you kill the tank on the island; the author has clearly anticipated where you'd probably be when you killed the tank, and that's all i'm going to say about it. suffice it to say i was pretty surprised. one special was a bit odd, however, and that's when the guard tower collapsed... for whatever reason, there was a spot on the top corner that was solid on one side and transparent on the other, though you couldn't shoot through it from either direction. pacing was good, if a bit on the light side (at least, until the end), and you're more than equipped with what you'll need. the latter third of the level should be recognizable to just about everyone, and the author has blended his original work with this section fairly seamlessly. the level ended a bit abruptly, though, and it was slightly unexpected. nitpicks: it's possible to walk up into the sky (by the tank island), and it's also possible to get permanently stuck in the level. all in all, a fun extrapolation of Quake2's plot and an enjoyable level to play through.
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this level kicks ass

Starseed STARSPQ1.ZIP -- 650k
15 mar 1998
author: Jeff Turner. this map has a nice introductory F1 and CD selection, giving a good initial impression. this level's architecture has been adequately done, giving you a good solid impression of what each structure is and what it represents. a lot of outdoor area at the beginning, giving the explorer in all of us something to do; unfortunately, the outdoor areas don't have a lot of horizontal attributes (i.e. stuff doesn't stick out sideways), reminding me very strongly of Doom and Doom2 outdoor areas. the flow is semi-linear (exploring) and the pacing is good, if a bit thin on monsters... but then, in a level that's as big as this one is, you'd need about 150 monsters to do it justice. weapons and ammo provided are more than adequate for the job, and some monsters drop items when killed to add to your backpack. not a lot of over/under "3d-ness" in this level, either. the endgame is kind of easy, but fun nonetheless, and the bottom-of-pit texture looks kind of... well, fake. worth a look, but for whatever reason this level felt "flat" to me.
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Starseed 2 STARSPQ2.ZIP -- 732k
4 apr 1998
starseed 2 author: Jeff Turner. this level begins with a good F1 -- it explains the plot and informs you of your current situation very well. the architecture runs toward the large end of the scale and, with only one exception, runs very smoothly throughout. structures are detailed with clever texturing, for the most part, and they look and feel like a real place. the outdoor area at the beginning, in particular, was extremely well done, and i liked the way the main doors close when you get near, as if the enemy was notified of your presence and tried to lock you out. luckily for you, there's a lower access door they must have forgotten about, and you enter through the sewers (though why the sewers empty out into a trough of lava is beyond me; must be one of those things that makes the aliens alien). the flow is semi-linear, with tasks having multiple sections to complete and no particular order is required. the pacing is good, if a bit on the slow side, but in a level this size the pacing is going to be that way no matter what you do. the monsters have been placed to highlight their strengths without being annoyingly powerful, which is the sign of intelligent and careful placement. they've also been placed in interesting and logical combinations. the structuring is thematically excellent, with proportions varying widely and each area having a distinctive "flavor" that ties in well with the theme. the secrets in this level have been subtly hidden, have clear indicators, and give useful (but not necessary) items; to my mind, perfect. nitpicks: after shutting down the sewer pumps, a clearer idea of where to go next would have been nice; the blue room security lasers are irritating; and it's possible to get permanently stuck in this level. well built, well lit, fast running speeds throughout, good combat, and nice adherence to theme -- a fun ride, and well worth the download.
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this level kicks ass

Starseed 3 STARSPQ3.ZIP -- 704k
4 apr 1998
starseed 3 author: Jeff Turner. this level begins with an excellent and informative F1, and the rest of the F1s in this level advance the plot admirably. the architecture in this level is very well done; as in this author's past works, textures have been used to add depth to otherwise flat brushes, and this works admirably to keep the running speed high as well as keeping the detail interesting and immersive. structures run towards the larger end of the scale, yet in only one area (leading into the area shown in the screen shot) does the level slow appreciably. some of the detailing present in this level is most excellent -- the simulated roof/pillar damage in a narrow hallway, the pod that has crashed through the roof about three quarters of the way through the level, and the various signs of base damage have been done extremely well and add to the playing experience. the flow is semi-linear, with some backtracking necessary (the area in the shot, for instance, has five different exits, and you use them all), yet all the traveling you are required to do is never boring or tedious. the pacing is superb as well; monster placement is intelligent and challenging without being annoying, the monsters drop relevant items when killed, and you're never really sure what's lurking around the next corner. specials have been used elegantly and sparingly to add depth and mood -- the broken, sparking doors are a wonderful example. the author has also used .wav clips well to add depth. also as in this author's previous work, secrets are indicated subtly, and have helpful items inside. the transitions from techno base textures to outdoor rock textures have been done masterfully in a number of places. this is the first level i've given the TLKA where the screen shot simply does not do it justice; the areas, taken alone, are not eye candy in the least, but blended together into the level as a whole blend together seamlessly and convincingly. nitpicks: the doors that lower into the floor don't have slots; "Stroggs" and "controll" in F1s; slowing in the main room and near the black hole generator; the black hole generator rings don't quite line up with the supports; and you can get permanently stuck in this level. nevertheless, this is this author's finest work to date, and given the way he is developing as an author, i can say in all honesty that i'm most eagerly awaiting his next work. an excellent level, an excellent game, and highly recommended.
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this level kicks ass

"t" reviews