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Review: Entrance to Cherokee Base

Project Information

  • Title: Entrance to Cherokee Base
  • Author: Josh Stern
  • Platform: Unreal
  • Category: Single Map
  • Review Score: 34%

Main Review

One of the first custom single player levels for Unreal

Josh 'Dirty Plastic Fork' Stern - does this name sound familiar to you? Probably not. 1998 was a good year for Unreal custom map players since there were several mapping contests that motivated people to create something. Josh was one of such folks and as opposed to many who tried their wits with UnrealEd he had absolutely no experience with Doom or Quake level editing. No, the now-reviewed Cherokee37, a.k.a. Entrance to Cherokee Base is his first level at all. There were two more planned in the series, with Cherokee37 being the middle of them, but as far as I know, they were never made.

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Josh made his level on June 26th, 1998. At that time getting help with UnrealEd was hard as there were almost no tutorials or reference documents at all, and yet he seems to have made quite a large and varied level. We have mining tunnels, natural caves with lava, a sewage-made waterfall, a canyon and a facility that seems to be a hydro plant of sorts. All this in one single level. Not bad, especially the mining cart tracks and the wooden props add to the mine feel more than the original Unreal's Rrajgar Mine ever did.

The build however has its faults all right. The tunnels seem too perfectly square to my taste, especially the entrances. At least some irregularity would do the trick. As for lavazones, there seem to be problems with these: one has no texture at all which causes you to fall down to your death and be totally surprised that something's cooking you; the other however, a small lava stream does not hurt you at all. The canyon's rock walls seem to be too perfectly vertical and regular, whereas the ledges you walk/jump on also seem too artificial despite having a rock texture. Skybox... what skybox, there is no skybox to begin with. It's just a texture, like in Unreal February 1998 Beta. The waterfall, which is nicely divided into several small streams is also flawed -- there are several "breaks" in the leftmost stream and in a number of other places and there is no sploshing sound when you walk on it. Later, when you leave the complex and move on, you encounter a metallic road, it's end hits a rock wall all of a sudden. The terrain is practically lifeless in terms of flora.

Sound-wise, there isn't much to tell. Ambience is non-existent, the doors and lifts also have no sounds and the regular music section of Dusk.umx becomes boring after a while. There are a few situations where a switch to action section would be good but I guess the author did not know how to do it.

Gameplay-wise, there ain't much. You shoot a few critters in the tunnels, then a few Skaarj in the facility and finally kill off two behemoths. Yay. That's all. In the meantime you notice that some details, although not technically wrong, are very "off", or unfitting. There are Nali Fruit bushes growing underground where lack of sunlight prevents any actual plantlife from growing. There is no trace of Nali on the entire map, so what is a cow corpse doing on one of the metal ledges outside and why is it hovering above it instead of lying on it? Also, if you are the type of player that must collect everything, you'll notice a box of Quadshot shells. At that time Quadshot was unworking and besides it isn't present on the map, so the box of shells is useless also under 227. Why is it here, is beyond me.

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Storyline: big fat zero. There's 4-5 translator messages, all being comments made by the protagonist you play as, all short and effectively meaningless. No story in the readme either. Nothing.

Summary

One of the first custom single player levels for Unreal is a big, varied and actually pretty complex map. Back in the day this could've easily achieved a high grade, maybe 80% or something like that. But judged by modern standards it is bound to suffer, a lot. Players' expectations are now high, maps surpassing the stock Unreal ones in terms of architecture, gameplay or ambience struggle to achieve a lower grade than 80%, so Cherokee37 judged in 2011 will have a low grade. It's sad though, that Josh Stern chose not to make more levels, he could've improved in this. Judging from the readme quote "it was so much fun", there were chances that he'll continue his mapping career, sadly he did not. His only work is this.
Review Scores
BuildThe combined value representing the technical quality of the level's construction.38% CastThe combined value representing the imagination and reasoning behind the level's conceptualization and design.30%
ArchitectureImagination, realism and detail of structures used in the design of the level.4 Conceptual GrandnessScale, imagination, awe & originality of design and layout, physical foreshadowing of future areas.6
TexturingUse of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.5 Story ConstructionBacking story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.0
LightingLighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).4 Story ImplementationProgression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.0
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.1 Gameplay AweQuality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.3
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.6
Final Verdict: Below average
Score: 34%

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