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Review: Deep Space 666

Project Information

  • Title: Deep Space 666
  • Author: Chris Burgess
  • Platform: Unreal
  • Category: Single Map
  • Review Score: 36%

Main Review

The map's structure is very non-linear

This is the second of Chris Burgess' three releases for Unreal and pretty much the opposite theme to his first release, Gramercy, and also a different theme to his final release, One Day.

You find yourself docked in a creature infested space station, and a Krall attacks the moment you leave your ship. I played on Unreal difficulty and nothing was that challenging, however there are a few nasty attacks by troopers equipped with Eightballs and Stingers in confined areas (as well as Sniper at one point). However, the difficulty is somewhat decided by you, as the map's structure is very non-linear. It's possible you may wander into a more dangerous area early on, but the starting ASMD you are given ensures you aren't too outmatched.

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Most of the enemies are just standing around and their placement is pretty unambitious, but the multi-levelled, non-linear design of a lot of the areas does at least result in various interesting ambush opportunities (for both you and your foes). I had plenty of ammo and weapons by the end; the map could have done with having a little less ammo lying around. Health was also pretty generous, although it did seem to be more sparse than ammo. A Super Health provided towards the end (even though it took a few jumps to get) seemed to be overkill though, especially as the challenge tails off towards the end (there is no real final confrontation or other climax), something a little weaker could have been placed in that "secret", or the ending should have been made tougher. Difficulty settings are implemented, but, other than the Sniper I mentioned earlier not being present on lower settings, the biggest change is that there is no Flak Cannon on Unreal difficulty, which is a good thing for adding some challenge, however, the level would probably have been better off with no Flak Cannon at all, as it is way too powerful for a small and easy level like this (to the point where it negatively tips the game balance a lot).

Unfortunately, other than a couple of translator messages at the start (that don't reveal much other than you being forced to dock on a hostile ship) the story doesn't really develop at all, this may have partially been because of the non-linear structure, but I'm sure some sort of story could have been added. The fact that Skaarj are apparently working alongside Mercenaries was also unexplained (some may also find the use of Krall an issue for a high-tech map, but I had no problem with it). You must carry out various tasks to activate the lift to the cockpit, your final destination. As there is little direction (some triggered text hints help you along, but they are easy to miss if you aren't looking for them at the top left of the screen) you generally find yourself wandering around until you come across something that lets you access new sections of the level, the map is compact and varied enough to make it hard to get lost, but the lack of story still shows. One part where you activate a generator using a crystal did provide a well executed scripted sequence, and a space walk across some pipes near the end did feel quite unique (both these sequences help the story implementation). At the end you simply get warped to Velora pass (very unequipped compared to a normal Unreal playthrough), so nothing is wrapped up.

Not much sticks out architecturally, other than an interesting looking space "observatory" that has its visuals ruined by some nasty glass texture use (more on that later). However, various pipes, walkways, pillars and other details are included in a most rooms, so the design is still appealing for the most part, although the various walkways etc could have used more trim (it is still used in certain areas). The way the ship's exterior can be seen and accessed from various areas also adds a sense of place that some spaceship maps lack.

Texturing is a bit odd, the theme is consistent, but the DecayedS/PlayerShp combo doesn't work together that well and results in a strange colour scheme. It also doesn't fit since this is supposed to be a starship mostly populated by Skaarj. As I mentioned earlier, glass is a sore point, as the texture used has a lot of marks, and these cover all the glass used, which looks very ugly, a cleaner texture would have worked much better. Other than this the textures were implemented well and had no major misalignments, but the whole thing just looks... strange. The skybox is executed well enough, but could have done with a few more details like nebula and nearby stars (some external light sources would probably have helped the exterior lighting as well).

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Lighting is inconsistent. It's decent in a few parts, but in a lot of areas it's very white, dull, full of greenings and sporting some nasty oversized coronas. It is sourced, but the white "space lighting" outside seemed a bit bright, as well as being dull to look at. More variety would have helped here (more areas with something other than white), as well as some general tweaks to avoid newbie errors like the bad coronas. Sound use is pretty weak, other than switches and doors etc very few sounds are used, and their usage is predictable (a few pipe noises, hums, and a waterfall) and only cover small parts of the level, so most of it is still silent. EndEx is the track used in the first half of the level, and Digsh for the rest. Neither of these choices seemed that bad, but they didn't really add to the atmosphere much either.

I've experienced some annoying invisible instant-death BSP hole errors in this level, especially on the spacewalk near the end, where there are at least two on the pipeline. I also experienced one in another area before, that didn't seem to manifest itself this time, so I don't know what's up with that. Other than this though I encountered no other problems.

Summary

The build and story are lacking, but this might still be worth checking out for the non-linear layout (far more than a lot of levels) and relatively decent gameplay (partially provided by the non-linearity). There are probably better maps to check out though. It's certainly not a patch on One Day, then again, neither is Gramercy.
Review Scores
BuildThe combined value representing the technical quality of the level's construction.40% CastThe combined value representing the imagination and reasoning behind the level's conceptualization and design.32%
ArchitectureImagination, realism and detail of structures used in the design of the level.5 Conceptual GrandnessScale, imagination, awe & originality of design and layout, physical foreshadowing of future areas.5
TexturingUse of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.4 Story ConstructionBacking story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.1
LightingLighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).3 Story ImplementationProgression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.2
SoundUse of ambient sounds and event sounds to give the level atmosphere, and the quality of any custom sounds. Appropriate use of music and silence to complement the atmosphere.3 Gameplay AweQuality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.4
Technical ExecutionTechnical soundness of the level, i.e. no visual glitches, no random deaths or other gameplay bugs, and a good framerate.5 Gameplay BalanceBalance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.4
Final Verdict: Below average
Score: 36%

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