Icepick by John “Metlslime” Fitzgibbons

Fear not young Quaker, the Quake 2 Level of the Week has returned with another installment. Since I cannot remember what happened last night, no since in trying to remember why there has not been review since April 16th. I think the Strogg had something to do with it. This week’s we return with a map that was nearly selected a few months back, but was still in a beta stage and not quite ready. The level I am talking about is, Icepick by John “Metlslime” Fitzgibbons. While it may take some extra time getting acclimated to this dark and chilly layout, no better place than the present to keep the frags ice cold.

The basis of Icepick start and end with the quality texturing which were seen in Metlslime’s previous level, Derelict. “All textures were made by me, originally for the defunct Oblivion mission pack. Icepick was originally available on the PCGamer UK release of the Oblivion mission pack in 1998. Revamped and tweaked for release as a vanilla Q2 level, Icepick now has three times the brushcount, and a somewhat larger capacity for carnage,” says John.

The texture usage has an entirely different feel and really sets the tone for the entire level. Add to the different shades of blue lighting which are cast throughout Icepick. The soft, blue glow helps to create a cold and ominous ambience as you traverse the darkened metal corridors. The cold blue lighting helps to make the less significant texturing seem to leap out. The interior of the doorways have been highlighted with bright orange lights that contrast the blue hues. There are also dimly lit white floodlights that shine down on the floors of the corridors.

Metlslime describes the layout as a, “two layer figure eight.” This is a level in which you cannot pin down a “central” location. Many Quake 2 levels feature vaulted rooms and rising atriums, none of those are featured in Icepick. Probably one of the most telling features, is the ice cold river of water which flows through certain sections of the level. It is quite and intricate level to play, as much of the level is quite non descript, but the texturing still remains very impressive. The entire level is essentially made up of numerous small chambers, connected by a corridor system. Some of these chambers allow multi-floor access and overlook a portion of the level.

The weapons and power seem to be sparse when you are running around with nothing but a blaster in your hand. You will find all the weapons, with the exception of the BFG. Who needs that in a level this tight? Two areas of note, the rocket launcher is sitting on a ledge, below a spawn point, which makes for quick kills, if you are able to get it. Directly in front of that on the level before, the body armor, ready for the taking. Nearly on the opposite side of Icepick is a second chamber filled with gib-o-matic goodies. The rocket launcher rest high on ledge and the chamber below contains a super shotgun and the all powerful Quad Damage. Directly through one of the two doors, a combat suit. The Mega-Health is contained in a small locked chamber that is only accessible though the river system. Find your way in and be rewarded.

After about an hour of testing, I realized one thing, I still suck at Quake 2. But that has absolutely no bearing on this level review. I felt like the “all powerful one” as I quickly armed myself with a rocket launcher and the body armor and went in search of fragile gamers to dominate. While there is an abundance of ammunition strewn through the chambers I quickly exhausted my rockets and was left with a blaster to defend myself. The server consisted of two other gamers and 3 bots, for a total of six in the level. Weapons and ammo came at a premium, as they do in most level which teeter on the maximum number of players. The level played very fast, and it was not soon after you enter a few chambers, you were a bit disoriented in where you came from and where you are headed. Thankfully the river, was there to act as a midpoint to the level.

Icepick is definitely going to chill you to the bone. It has all the important aspects of a quality map. Check it out and add it your next LAN. What holds this level together, is not so much the layout, but the strength and quality of the texturing combined with the ambient lighting. Another “must see map” called Icepick. Why don’t you pick it up today

– Download: icepickzip
– Author: John “Metlslime” Fitzgibbons
– Website: Celephais

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The Death Ray by Chris “Sven” Druckenmiller

04-23-01: The Death Ray

Welcome to this week’s episdoe of the Quake 2 Level of the Week, sponsered by PlanetQuake featuring a blast from the past, so to speak. This week’s review takes a page out of the 1930’s for those who ever wanted to build a backyard spaceship and zoom off to the planet, Mungo to battle the evil, Ming the Merciless. Thanks to Sven you can feel like Flash Gordon without every living the comfort of your computer as his latest level, The Death Ray is the prime setting for any Flash Gordon episode. So buckle up there young Flash and get ready to experience this week’s review.

Sven, on the concept of The Death Ray, “The general idea for a ’30s SciFi-themed map came to me in Nov. of 2000 while visiting the parents for Thanksgiving break…My ambition was to create a level that would make you feel like you were Flash Gordon and your opponents were Ming the Merciless’ evil minions…I finally just built the big laser cannon itself and that was a perfect start.” The rest as they say, “was history.” Coupled with the highest quality textures from PlanetQuake’s own, [H F X], this level represents a unique mapping experience, especially when it comes to 1 v 1 deathmatch.

The layout is what you would expect to see in a futuristic base, with narrow, sterile corridors traversing the complex, all of which seem to lead back to where you began. In the case of this level, you usually end up back at the ominous death ray. The level uses many jump pads, which allows for quick and easy elevation change, along with simple, yet effect ramps to access a few areas in The Death Ray.

The main feature of The Death Ray is infact a large weapon pointed towards the heavens which is discharging its deadly ray on some unsuspecting planet. While you can do absolutely nothing to stop it, it does make for a unique on which to build. The same can be said about the area beneath the death ray, which is home to the quad damage. The sign reads, “Power Discharge Switch: NEVER USE!” of couse our first inclination is to push it. Once the switch is throw [our button pushed], two yellow beams of pure energy are discharge, which criss cross over the quad, to help put the “DENIED” tag on those would be gamers who insist on hoarding this power up.

As mentioned earlier, the ambience is quite striking, thanks in part to the high quality textures of HFX. Finding good, quality textures is only half the battle, if you do not use the correctly and appropriately, then all is lost. Foruntanately that is not one of Sven‘s weaknesses. These textures in conjunction with the multi colored lighting provide a foundation for yet another example of how to create a level with true ambience. The only minor complaint is the texture used on death ray itself does not compare .

This week gameplay was not only limited to bots, but a real live opponant. Yet it always seemed I was the one on the receiving end of a rocket or riding the blue rail of death. Nevertheless, 1 v 1 deathmatch provided a fast playing level. As with the 4-6 bots in the game, most of the fragging took place on the upper levels, near the rail gun and rocket launcher which are virtually next to each other. “The weapon and item loadout is roughly the same as it has been for the [previous] levels so far,” says Sven. Yet gamers were able to navigate quickly between rail and rocket and control a majority of the map. Add to that the flak jacket and row of armor shards and you will see why controlling this area will work to your advantage.

The Death Ray is bound to remind you of your favortie science fiction story, but this time it is brought to life, thanks to Sven. This is a very balanced level which will suit the smallest of servers, and provide hours of action for a moderate sized group. As always I enjoy play testing and reviewing, such quality maps as the Quake 2 Community continues to provide. Now off you go to download, The Death Ray.

– Download: sventourney3.zip
– Author: Chris “Sven” Druckenmiller

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Citadel by Shon “Maric” Shaffer

04-16-01: Citadel by Shon “Maric” Shaffer

After going AWOL last week, the Quake 2 Level of the Week has returned to PlanetQuake with another “rising” review of the best levels available in the world of Quake 2. There seems to be a fairly dedicated group of level designers who insist on designing the best all around levels for Quake 2. Most of them toss around beta versions, ideas and valuable feedback to those in the Quake 2 mapping community. This week’s selection is a recent release from Shon “Maric” Shaffer called, Citadel which was release on April 13, 2001. Just in time for some Easter fragging!

What makes Citadel unique is the vertical component on which the layout was designed. “I made this one and gave up on it due to high r_speeds. I then remade it and gave it up due to long compile times. A friend, BadDog talked me into finishing this version.” The main focus on this level is a immense, concrete structure which rises into the starry night sky. The design is built around six different levels, each existing on a different horizontal plane. The Citadel itself has four different levels on which to occupy. The final two planes are the ground level on which the structure is constructed, including the two extended jump platforms and the lower suspended walkway which surrounds the depths of the Citadel.

To complement the layout, Maric broke away from the standard Quake 2, brown textures and decided to use those of [H F X] created by evil_lair. Using textures of this quality is what separates average maps from great maps. We always stress, layout and design, but this is a prime example of a map which would not look as impressive as it does, if Quake 2 texturing was applied. The texturing is a combination of greys, each with their own characteristics, which complement the next very well. The texturing really is brought to life by the cool and soothing white and blue light effects see throughout the entire level which creates an unparalleled ambience.

The level is brought to life by the addition of many ambient sounds. One which really casts an eerie sort of feeling is that which can be heard on the extended jump platforms. If you listen closely through the howling wind, [and when under heavy fire, you won’t stop to listen] it sounds as if hundreds of souls are crying out of those who used to occupy this fortress. A very interesting sound, which fits very nicely. There are also the standard complement of Quake 2 rumbling and mechanic sounds, which like the texturing gets monotonous, but still is better than no sound at all.

Citadel supports all of the Quake 2 weapons, items and power ups which are scattered around every part of this level. Some weapons to take note of, the grenade launcher which rests at the apex of the structure with multiple rounds available for you to reign down upon unsuspecting gamers. One level down, on opposite sides rest the BFG and Quad Damage, which seems to require little skill to obtain. Aside form these two weapons, everything else is quickly obtained. There is first aid and medkits, along with an assortment of stimpacks and armor shards which will help to health your injured body after talking massive damage. At the base of the citadel, positioned on each corner you will find a rocket launcher, chain gun, the mega health and red body armor.

Unable to get some real gamers to “ph34r my rail skillz,” I enlisted the support of the every so helpful bots for a demonstration of game play. Much of the attention focus around the two extended jump platforms, which allowed the bots to access the middle of the citadel and take comfort in the rail gun, for those who successfully made the jump to center of the citadel. Beneath these platforms, you gain a few weapons and some items. The teleporter transports you to the top of the citadel, where it seemed instead of getting telefragged, everyone seemed to get stuck on each other. I am unsure if that was a bot problem or a level design problem. Overall the game play was very tight. Designed for 1 v 1 deathmatch, the level is large enough to support 4 to 6 gamers comfortably. Then again, Quake 2 gaming is about being in your face, so the more, the merrier.

Like some of Maric’s previous levels, I have played and reviewed, this one does not disappoint. Definitely check Citadel out. Yet another wonderful level for the world of Quake 2, which seems to be turning out levels with a high degree of design, layout and playability. So head over to Maric’s Quake 2 Levels and grab Citadel.

– Download: marics37.zip
– Author: Shon “Maric” Shaffer

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Carnage Absolute by Jef “Poopy” Shockley

04-02-01: Carnage Absolute
by Jef “Poopy” Shockley

Another relatively new map debuts as Quake 2 Level of the Week here at PlanetQuake. Released in January of this year, comes the level, Carnage Absolute by Jef “Poopy” Shockley, who is quite a talented level designer with previous Quake 2 experience and numerous levels to his credit . Jef attempts to bring a sense of “reality” to the Quake 2 engine in Carnage Absolute. This is “something I think is missing in most of the Q2 maps out there today, with the exception of AQ2 maps” says Jef. But this level is far superior to in all aspects to that of Action Quake 2. Keep reading, maybe you will agree this level has that “real world” feel to it.

It is rather well known that layout and game flow are the most important factors when it comes designing a successful level. Carnage Absolute provides an astounding layout which offers gamers one of the most balanced levels I have had the pleasure of being fragged in. The design allows for a fast and furious pace, which gamers must remain on the trigger around every corner and up every lift. There is no time to stop and enjoy the simple pleasures of looking out the window. Like the bombed out city laying in rubble, you too will find yourself dead.

Carnage Absolute features an “extensive use of the Kingpin texture set for that “warm-n-fuzzy” feel as ya get a rocket up yer butt” says Jef. Those textures only begin to scratch the surface. Many professional quality textures are common throughout this industrial warehouse setting. The predominating texture which seem to tie the map together is a two tone red brick and concrete texture found in nearly every area of this level. Mix in alternating wall coverings and floors, along with unique signage and rusted in industrial equipment and you have the makings of a superbly textured level. In all my dealings with real world environments, it can be a challenge to use textures which can coexist and mesh together in a given environment successfully.Carnage Absolute is a testament to that.

Ambience plays a big role in an environment, this is no more true than creating or recreating a real world setting. Lighting really accentuates what is good [which is nearly everything] in Carnage Absolute. Darkened corners and dank hallways are aglow with a moderate amount or light which helps to balance out the level. The main atrium, with its vaulted ceiling is rather well lit, though the use of white flood type likes which draw attention to the high level of detail used to create this setting. The level becomes a living breathing entity as based on the assortment of sounds which are heard. Be it the low, continuous rumbling or the buzzing of fluorescent lights, sounds create a unique ambience, most of which is not evident when in the heat of battle.

In the test playing I did, a few things became evident. First, the main, multi-leveled atrium seemed to attract the most attention, which some of the outer hallways remained a bit quieter, nonetheless, the level really did provide solid game play. No tricks or secrets in Carnage Absolute just a straight forward level, which gives any Quaker what they are in search of, a high quality, well design map. One final item of note from the readme.txt dealt with lower end machines possibly seeing a performance decrease, as some areas are a bit more poly intensive, to achieve a higher level of detail. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter. I would put this level up against some of those “old school” levels. Definitely make room for Carnage Absolute in your Quake 2 directory.

– Download: jef2dm3t.zip
– Author: Jef “Poopy” Shockley

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Derelict by John “Metlslime” Fitzgibbons

03-26-01: Derelict
by John “Metlslime” Fitzgibbons

Without the PlanetQuake Community continuing to support Quake 2, the game would rest, covered in dust on some computer shelf next to countless other DOS games that were played out the day after you bought it. Of course Quake 2 is no ordinary game. I want to first thank Sven for keeping his Quake II web site, Sven’s Quake2 Reviews alive and kicking! That is where the idea for this week’s selection originated from and a damn fine choice at that! I continue to search out the best of the best and the new of the new when it comes to Quake 2 levels, so drop me a e-mail if you think your map has what it takes to be listed as the Level of the Week on PlanetQuake.

This week’s selection comes from John “Metlslime” Fitzgibbons, who recently had an older level reviewed by Sven. Thankfully John still has a current web site in which to check out all his levels and I noticed he recently released something new which caught my eye. Since I am all about “new” I decided to check out the work on his latest creation entitled, Derelict. “Continuing my tradition of monochrome level design, Derelict is a conventional two-atrium Quake2 deathmatch level clad in some of my Oblivion textures” says John. But don’t take the author’s work on it, check out the and then go download this week’s select.

While game play reigns supreme, a well designed map with solid concepts receives more praise when textured well. This level was design with uniquely created textures from Oblivion, which the author created. In Derelict, “I was able to apply an architectural style already developed to a carefully planned layout” says John. Both aspects combine well to provide Derelict a unique gamin experience. What level is not complete without ambience? The final piece to this masterful puzzle are the visual lighting effects and Quake 2 mechanical sounds which never seem to grow old.

As stated previously, and like many before Derelict is an example of “control chaos” around every corner. Derelict is small enough for 1 v 1 or up to six frenzied gamers, after which the level of gibbage would be uncontrollable. The weapon placement is spread though out the entire level. But in our testing sessions, it was the hyper blaster which was the weapon of choice. Or maybe just my bad luck that I could never get behind the weapon, but always in front of it. This weapon is positioned on the top level of the atrium, directly above the rocket launcher, needless to say, this become a very popular and congested area. The other area of note can be found in the opposite atrium near the rail gun. Located in the corner is a darkened hole. While it is not a secret corridor, is was often overlooked, as the megahealth rested at the end of the corridor above a flight of steps. A well timed rocket jump would also allow you access to this area.

Derelict is just another in a long line of quality levels which will never reach is full potential, but with site like PlanetQuake and Sven’s these levels are able to be recognized and continue to keep that Quake 2 torch lit. I foresee more of John’s levels being reviewed in the future. Enough is enough, this is a top notch level, one which deserves to reside on your hard drive. So for all you Quake 2 addicts, do the download and enjoy the thrills Derelict provides.

– Download: derelict.zip
– Author: John “Metlslime” Fitzgibbons
– Author Website: Celephais

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