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Classic Map Review: 21st February 2003.

Game - QUAKE
Maps - Contract Revoked (5 map Episode)
by - Kell
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Overall Verdict - Beautiful and tough, a medieval episode of high quality, intricately constructed maps.


Kell's 5 map episode is an unusually *intelligent* quake experience (if there can be such a thing?), with a preponderance of secrets to find (around 35 [!] in total), and the inspiration and influence of the horror writer HP Lovecraft apparent in all the maps. Libraries and books, words and reading are everywhere, almost as though the monsters of Lovecraft's works have come to life in the form of the various Quake monsters you face, leaping from the pages of the books that surround them. This pack was originally released last year (2002), and was immediately welcomed as an addition to the Quake 1 custom mapping ranks of the highest *quality* (and not simply quantity), and that impression remains when replaying the maps today.

Map 1 - k1m1:Libris Vertiginis
After the neat start map (the beautifully titled "prologue - to pass between the stars"), which contains some useful secrets, including armour (if you can find it), this is the first proper level. Immediately Kell establishes the basic theme and feel of this episode: Predominantly darkish grey, finely detailed brickwork textures provides the backdrop, and this is offset by color in various forms and textures: a nice orange lava, red and white checkerboard floors, and also, almost uniquely in the Quake mapping world, Books. Books are everywhere, this gives the feel of a Library infested with monsters, a quite unique quake atmosphere.

Architecture is likewise very imaginative and well-implemented; there is the deep yawning central shaft in the form of a library with moving platforms, that holds the prize of the blue key. Everywhere, architecture is marked by very good brushwork, and superb attention to detail, this is one of the *neatest*, most pleasing to the eye quake maps i have ever played (infact this comment holds for the whole episode).

Gameplay does not disappoint and lives up to the setting. Medieval monsters are used and the author is not afraid to throw in the toughest Quake 1 enemies; Fiend ambushes, ogres, vores and shamblers spawning in - all this happens within the first half of this level. Offsetting the toughness of the monsters is a generous supply of ammo and also the rocket launcher, i have a feeling that the rocket launcher is maybe *too* generous, the grenade launcher already supplied may have been sufficient. Overall thought the combat is tough and well-balanced and a suitably brutal atmosphere is created in this way.

Fighting progresses through the gold key, the blue key area (quite tough with a nasty scrags ambush), onto the blue key door, (probably the most difficult part of the map) to a final watery tunnel complex and the underwater escape to the next level. This is a great map and a very strong start to the episode.

Map 2 - k1m2:Thousand Words
The second map continues both the architectural style and themes of the first level. Once again the level is very neat and cleverly structured. The layout is basically a series of wooden walkways, leading to various rooms, suspended over a watery pool at its base. Gameplay too, continues in the same vein, if anything its even more brutal than the first map, and the six secrets within this map, as well as the armour placed at strategic points can prove very welcome and useful. There are a number of nasty battles; the lightning Gun is surrounded by no less than 4 shamblers, and ogres and vores are cleverly placed throughout the level to bombard you from ledges and alcoves above with their grenades and bombs, giving the nap a nice vertical element to its gameplay (sometimes lacking in some Q1SP maps).

Nails and spike traps are also well used to increase tension and difficulty and by the end of this level you will probably hate vores ;). The final 1 shambler/2 vores showdown eventually leads to the "contract" of the title and you are taken to the next map.

Map 3 - k1m3: Ave Demonica
Well, its our friend from episode 1, Chthon, relocated into a new lava pit for himself, but seemingly still just as willing to turn you into a *small pile of gibs* with his relentless fireball attacks. The basic boss combat is considerably upgraded and made more interesting by a clever map layout which sees the player using a number of teleporters to fight his way around the level which also contains 27 enemies in addition to Chthon himself. The teleporters take you to several neat little side areas (which actually provide some nice relief from the constant fireballs in the main room), including a library packed with shamblers (3 or 4) which is quite nasty in itself.

The basic strategy to kill Chthon is still the same (hit the 3 buttons, 3 times) but with the addition of the thin metal walkways suspended over a lava pool to reach those buttons, some players may find the map a bit *to* frustrating, particularly if you are not especially a fan of "boss" (i.e. 1 big monster) combat. Let me summarize it this way: i find the map challenging but sometimes frustrating (especially in terms of replay value). Make no mistake this is a difficult level which requires much patience and skill to complete, (and frequent saving as well).

Map 4 - k1m10: The Gates of Memory (secret level)
This is a "secret level", yet in many ways its the most impressive map in the episode. It seems a shame some players may never get to see this level unless they can unlock the path to it (although you can of course just type the .bsp name in at the console).

The level takes the form of a largish structure of rooms, suspended in midair above a large watery pool, inside a cave. The map infact makes use of John Romero's abandoned "Lost Entrance To The Dismal Oubliette" with the level progressing through this cave complex of twisting corridors to kell's continued grey brick/library theme (as previously described). Gameplay in this map is again tough, although no less than *12* secrets help a lot, i only a found a few, but these included a very useful rocket launcher which makes the map, (particularly the climatic finale in the final arena, see below), significantly easier to play through.

There is a good flow to the map, though the watery section with the re-skinned brown spawns is tough and may frustrate some players, who may find it too difficult. Apart from this, the gold and blue key are found in classic Quake 1 style, and eventually the final arena is reached: a big showdown against successive spawning waves of ogres, hellknights, vores and finally shamblers. This is a good ending and the large, square arena is beautifully built and proportioned to provide a fitting sense of majesty to the ending of the unit, with a starry/nightime skybox completing and rounding-off the atmosphere very well.

In summary, this is simply a superb Quake 1 unit, full of beautiful architecture in pretty much a unique theme, excellent brushwork and texturing, and brutal, consistent and well judged gameplay.

Overall Scores:

Libris Vertiginis 18/20
Thousand Words 18/20
Ave Demonica 14/20
The Gates of Memory 19/20

Overall Contract Revoked: 19/20