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Map Title: Attacked!
Waffnuffly "EXU" Letz's first release upon an unsuspecting Unreal single player community was Attacked!, a pack of seven playable levels compatible with Unreal Tournament or Unreal version 226f. Like many first releases, Attacked! features an occasionally basic build and a fair few technical problems, but unlike many first releases, it also features a proper story and several truly dramatic scripted sequences. Attacked! is also unusually long for a solo pack, with the run leading up to this review taking a full 3½ hours, and as such is good value for money.
Much of Attacked! is set on the planet Tropherous, which has been colonised by Earth for mining purposes, but has now been subject to a full-scale Skaarj invasion. As such, most of the action takes place in Skaarj-occupied Terran bases, an unusual move that gives the pack a unique look and feel all of its own. Waffnuffly also makes efforts to distinguish Tropherous from Na Pali, using a different grass texture and avoiding Nali Healing Fruit and Nali wildlife. After a first map set on the player's ship immediately after a Skaarj attack, the player lands on the surface or Tropherous and must cleanse the base of an extremely heavy Skaarj infestation as he searches for his means of escape.
Whilst the first half of Attacked! is very well laden with translator messages (to the point of information overload, to be honest), it is unfortunate that the big picture - the Skaarj's reason for attacking Tropherous, which is apparently a tremendously important planet - is hinted at but remains frustratingly out of reach. Storytelling by text drops off for the later stages of the game, intensifying again in the final map, but still leaving certain questions unanswered. However, to the extent that we are presented with the story, Waffnuffly makes a genuine effort to implement it in the events of the level through his groundbreaking use of scripted scenes.
Indeed, Attacked! is stuffed full of "make you jump" moments, with two particularly impressive examples being the cinematic extro to the first map, in which the player's escape pod is fired on by a fleet of battle cruisers, and an incident involving a darkened tunnel and a tank in the third map. Waffnuffly exploits all of the features of the Unreal engine to bring the gameplay of his maps to life. When you see a tank or static gun in Attacked!, you're never quite sure whether it's there for decorative purposes or if it's about to unleash a huge stream of missiles at you. Meanwhile, the pack's many Skaarj are cleverly placed, often in ambush situations and with the liberal application of numerous Snipers. Having played through Attacked! on Hard, I'm not sure that I'd recommend tackling it on Unreal difficulty, for this very reason.
Waffnuffly clearly envisaged Attacked! as a combat-heavy pack, and indeed the Skaarj are absolutely everywhere this time (right from the second room of the first map), often attacking in numbers and making use of the full range of Skaarj classes. Aside from Skaarj, Attacked! makes use of a number of modified Brutes, and Pupae both large and small, plus one or two surprises. A limited range of enemies is offered but they are definitely Unreal's most formidable. A combination of intensive combat plus impressive scripted sequences creates in Attacked! a definite sense of Gameplay Awe as the features of the Unreal engine are used to the full.
More work could have been done, however, on Gameplay Balance: the first map of Attacked! is arguably the hardest of the lot due to the player's limited weaponry and a shortage of health, particularly in the first few fights; later on, Attacked! falls into the trap of providing the player with a vast oversupply of ammo that makes most fights pretty easy, as the full range of weaponry is available at almost full charge (although, having said that, a careless player can easily run out of ammunition for the trusty Flak Cannon and Rifle, both of which are important tools in Waffnuffly's high-intensity approach to combat). Only in the very last map can some of the combat be described as unreasonable, in a cramped, Sniper-heavy interior section that players of Attacked! will no doubt remember with loathing.
On the whole, however, the story and gameplay of Attacked! fit together well to create a most memorable experience. The translator messages and scripted events normally guide the player through the occasionally non-linear maps effectively, apart from one or two notable moments in the third map (The Labyrinth), where translator messages die out and it is very easy to lose track of your next objective.
Conceptual design in Attacked! is to a high standard. Whilst the interior areas are often cramped in the earlier maps, the spaces really begin to open up in scale and structure over the course of the later maps. Meanwhile, Waffnuffly shows his tremendous talent for creating believable alien vehicles and machines, which adorn the outdoor areas of the pack's seven maps in great numbers, and the distribution and design of these vehicles alone is a significant contributor to Waffnuffly's high score for Conceptual Grandness.
The detailed execution of the pack is, however, less professional. Attacked! is, after all, Waffnuffly's first release, and a lot of the pitfalls suffered by first-time mapperss are present, particularly in the earlier maps. The player's ship features poorly textured doors and unadorned corridors. Meanwhile map three, The Labyrinth, is a sprawling mess of a map that features a number of somewhat incompatible texture themes. Map three suffers from particular performance problems, and it's not just due to Waffnuffly's impressive scripted sequences.
Later maps raise the standard considerably, as interiors become that much more spacious, detailed and interestingly lit. Sound throughout Attacked!, however, is seldom adventurous, although never absent, and the choice and duration of the various stock Unreal and Return to Na Pali music tracks that accompany the game is questionable. Scripted sequences don't always work quite as reliably as they should.
Despite an impressive standard of gameplay, build still remains something of a low point for Attacked!, and many people's enduring memories of the pack will involve travelling through its low-poly terrain with its overscaled grass texture and slightly flat lighting. As it stands, Attacked! is merely very good. With a more experienced mapper giving it a greater detail of visual polish, the pack could have been something quite remarkable.
Based on original schema score of 8:
Attacked seemed like a bunch of great concepts attempted by a new mapper. Waff added alot of cool ideas to this pack which any experienced mapper would respect; Tanks that fire at you, ships that fire at you as they fly by, you ride a speeder down a shaft and have to stay alive by shooting contorl buttons to open tunnel doors, etc. Plus there is a story included too. It's just a shame there weren't so many obvious issues with construction, which kills me because Waff would have made this pack alot cooler if he had made
it a with a few more solid months of experience under his belt. There is no wow factor to speak of, which means I couldn't truly stand in awe of his seemingly cool ideas because I noticed so many errors that killed the atmoshpere. Alot of simplistic construction in this
pack, especially indoors. They aren't horrible or crap, as in the case of Ezkeel's architecture (blah), but they definitly are no where near pretty. They are "in learning", and as basic as architecture and lighting are, theres still enough good to keep even
the most critical player involved in finishing. I personally found the pack way way too easy, I played on Medium and just found way too much ammo and stuff.