Map Title: A Blood Match
Map Author: Magna-Man
Review Score: 25%
Tagline: The author juggles various ideas and never fully implements any of them.
"A Blood Match" by Magna-Man is one of these early SP levels that popped up very early after Unreal's release. Released in September 1998, the map acts as a sequel to the events of Unreal but there's a question if it's a worthy one? Please, read the review to find out.
The level, according to the release notes enclosed, begins where Unreal ends - with the Skaarj escape pod in orbit. The pod was intercepted by a Skaarj vessel and the game begins aboard said vessel. While exploring, the player learns that some Mercenaries are also there and they plan on hijacking the ship. The storyline isn't developed much further and it ends with quite idealistic twist, while leaving at least one loose end. The one I was able to notice with what little story there was to begin with is the question of the human prisoners the player encounters. Why was there no way to release them given? Would you as a human, being trapped on an enemy ship, ignore the opportunity of increasing your chances to escape successfully by leaving possible support (or if you're the ruthless type, cannon fodder to keep enemies busy) locked in a jail cell?
The starting area.
Visually, there isn't much to expect. The construction of the "Skaarj ship" you're in is very simple. In fact, the place does not look like a Skaarj ship at all. It looks like a... techno-dungeon. There are rooms in which cows are kept and probably bred while Nali are watching over them. That actually brings Terraniux to mind and the Mercenaries growing plants in the greenhouses. If they could do that with plants, they might as well have tried with cattle - but the idea of Skaarj doing the same thing seems odd. There's a sewer that is textured like a borderline chessboard. And there's doors with Vortex Rikers' symbol all over them. There's wooden furniture despite the location being a space ship that has to be ready for atmospheric descent which could cause all sorts of accidents with such loose fragile objects. There's squids being used as a sort-of sewer cleaner. There is a bottom line: the place has no real concept that'd back it up and is more similar to a tech-demo of sorts, showing how the author can juggle various ideas and never fully implement any. And while there are little bugs to speak of (an occasional unlit texture might show up), that doesn't make Blood Match look any better, I'm afraid.
The cow pen.
Audiowise, the level doesn't shine either. There's little ambience to speak of even though a ship should be full of various techno-noises. Sometimes there's a switch in the song section so DigSh doesn't get to bore the player. However, again this clashes with the concept written in the release notes completely. It's a Skaarj ship we're talking about. Erosion would fit way better.
As far as the gameplay goes, Magna-Man tried his best and much to my surprise, he succeeded. While there's plenty of provisions in terms of guns and ammunition, it is balanced by the scarce-at-first supply of health and in sometimes cramped corridors that might mean an instant game-over if you don't play your cards right. Additionally, more powerful enemies are sometimes hidden in secret compartments and thus when coming back to a cleared-out area the player might be surprised by the sudden challenge.
This brings back memories of early DOOM custom maps where authors could throw almost anything onto the map and it'd be enjoyed by most players but in 1998 the standards were already much higher. The gameplay of "A Blood Match" may be quite decent but in the midst of all the levels that did it just as good or even better while at the same time sporting much better visuals or audio, there's almost no reason to play the "Blood Match", except maybe for the heck of it. Pass.
Technical Execution 4
Conceptual Grandness 1
Story Construction 2
Story Implementation 2
Gameplay Awe 3
Gameplay Balance 4
Total Score: 25%
bloodmatch.zip - Dropbox
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