- Title: Hexephet
- Author: Grayson Edge
- Platform: Unreal
- Category: Small Campaign
- Review Score: 82%
The levels in Hexephet ooze professionalismThe scene: a Skaarj outpost on the surface of an alien planet. You were captured by the Skaarj after attempting to escape from Star 861 (the author's previous map). Now, as your Skaarj death chamber charges up, you are given a last chance for freedom as the control panel explodes on an unfortunate Skaarj and the unit shuts down.
So commences Hexephet, a two map pack by Grayson Edge, who went on to be one of the designers who worked at Legend Entertainment on Unreal 2. And as you would expect from a mapper who landed such a job, the levels in Hexephet ooze professionalism.
The first map, Hexephet itself, takes place on the surface of the planet (the Nali planet? it's not stated) in a network of dramatically and attractively designed canyons and valleys. Said natural structures are true to the form of Unreal and just as if not more impressive. The Skaarj outpost is dotted around this area, consisting of various bunkers and standalone structures; several times you will go inside and underground, and there are one or two areas you needn't explore at all but would be advised to for the coolness and the supplies. Grand designs exist throughout this map and there is great foreshadowing in the vicinity of the control tower and underground base below it.
The lighting is every bit as good as the original Unreal maps, from the natural daytime to the artificial lighting indoors and from lamp posts. The lighting illuminates outside the standard Unreal natural textures, which are applied and scaled well, and indoors a heavy Skaarj-textured theme which is reminiscent of the MotherShip but generally much more effective (in part due to the more interesting lighting). One thing I liked, in the underground cave section, was the use of patches of pale coloured lighting to break up the rock textures. Both indoors and outdoors, the levels are thick with ambient sound and this really adds to the atmosphere. Edge also makes use of the sound pitch property to create sinister effects - standard practice today, but very original when this map was made. There is no music, but it really isn't needed because of the amount of sound.
One flaw that was pointed out in the Nali City review is that on the larger outdoor structures, particularly the entrance to the second level, the Skaarj textures are confusingly scaled. This is true... although I didn't really notice until I read the review. Overall, I find the texturing of this map very pleasing, with barely a misalignment to be seen.
The second map, The Fission Smelter, takes place in the gargantuan Skaarj facility you entered at the end of the previous level. The level literally seems to go on forever - but the heavy Skaarj textured theme is highly detailed throughout and has ample variety whilst adhering to the original theme. Part of this variety is due to the willing use of coloured lighting (even some fog) - and it normally looks pretty damned good, although one or two areas, such as one room with gas jets and red and yellow lighting - don't quite hit the spot. On the whole, the lighting is excellent, and all sourced for good realism. And, like in Hexephet, ambient sounds are thickly included and compensate for the absence of music.
The gameplay of the pack as a whole is on a sensible curve from start to finish. Out in Hexephet, you fight several Brutes of differing varieties, with a few Skaarj of pretty much all types included for good measure. It doesn't start off insultingly easy, instead it supplies you with a bunch of weapons fairly early on along with a few nastier bad guys, although you will have to look around to find all these tools. Later on, in the Fission Smelter, the combat intensifies, with more Skaarj to fight (but still sufficient ammo to keep you going - there's nothing more annoying than a map with no ammo). At the end, you have to fight a couple of "lords" - not especially challenging, but an ending of sorts. To add to the atmosphere of the levels, the storyline is presented typically through translator messages, but it's about the combat. A few Mercenary interlopers stashed in hidden corners are a clever touch, but although many of the pack's combats are cleverly staged, there's not a huge amount in the way of scripted sequences or progression of the pack's basic story.
SummaryOverall, looks and sounds great, and plays well.
|BuildThe combined value representing the technical quality of the level's construction.||90%||CastThe combined value representing the imagination and reasoning behind the level's conceptualization and design.||74%|
|ArchitectureImagination, realism and detail of structures used in the design of the level.||9||Conceptual GrandnessScale, imagination, awe & originality of design and layout, physical foreshadowing of future areas.||9|
|TexturingUse of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.||9||Story ConstructionBacking story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.||6|
|LightingLighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).||8||Story ImplementationProgression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.||6|
|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.||9||Gameplay AweQuality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.||7|
|Technical ExecutionTechnical soundness of the level, i.e. no visual glitches, no random deaths or other gameplay bugs, and a good framerate.||10||Gameplay BalanceBalance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.||9|
Final Verdict: Exceptional