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Map Title: Iphigenia
Iphigenia is a straightforward first effort by Wessel "Ultimate Weasel" Steenhuis that provides the player with four maps, three and a bit of which are playable. The story involves the player crash landing on a planet populated by Nali, who have been subjugated by the Krall, who in turn have been enslaved by the newly arrived Skaarj.
So, yes, it's the classic "crash and escape" formula common to many map packs echoing the format of the original Unreal game. However, in Iphigenia the bare bones storyline is used reasonably well, as the player must travel to a Skaarj base and transmit a distress signal to summon his rescue ship. There are plenty of diaries and information panels to keep the player interested over the course of the map pack, as well as the player's own thoughts, which appear at the top of the screen. The environment is largely static but movers are used from time to time to help events along.
Ultimate Weasel does a pretty good job for a first time mapper. The geometry is noticeably basic, particularly in the cave sections, where the use of editor primitives is very obvious. However, what is very noticeable is the sense of scale and expansiveness that suggests that the mapper has potential to go onto much greater things. The large scale of the mapper's designs is apparent in the Nali village section of the pack, but nowhere is it more obvious than in the second map, where the player explores a Krall prison tower. The interiors are nothing to write home about and are often cramped, but in a manner apparently inspired by The Sunspire, the player's journey takes him periodically outside the building, where lifts carry him from door to door across the vertiginous heights. Later on, the player travels to an impressively wide and open harbour, where he boards a very familiar galleon.
Texturing in Iphigenia is on the primitive side. The textures are generally well chosen, but are in many cases improperly aligned (particularly on ladders and flights of stairs). Furthermore, when the mapper introduces movers and decorative brushes, he often fails to switch to an appropriate base or panel texture for the minor sides of the structure in question, causing the decorative texture to repeat in an illusion-shattering manner. Lighting, meanwhile, is average, usually sourced and allowing for some moodiness in the darker corners; from time to time, a few more Flashlights or Flares would have been welcome. It was noted in the outside areas that a very bold blue colour was chosen; more contrast was definitely needed. As gameplay progresses, the lighting shifts from softly organic to harsh and bright, with retina-searing coronas.
Sound is also average, with plenty of ambient sounds throughout but no dynamic ambient sounds noticeable. Sounds are mostly well chosen and located, but the mapper occasionally goes overboard with wind chime sounds in the Nali areas, causing the sound effects to lose much of their peacefulness. Music is stock Unreal stuff, changing mood from time to time in a fairly appropriate manner. In technical terms I witnessed a few flickering polygons and also a rather prominent skybox HOM in the third map, but the BSP appears generally sound.
Gameplay in Iphigenia isn't an unqualified success. The first map is well done, consisting of a stealth / avoidance environment; very limited ammunition is provided, and the player starts with 12 health and doesn't get the Dispersion Pistol until the end. Meanwhile, the tunnels he travels through are populated with hundreds of Krall. From map two, however, the pack switches to a more standard format, with creatures largely lying in wait for the player, sometimes in pairs. Ammunition is reasonably plentiful, but several key weapons aren't represented (the Automag, ASMD, GES Biorifle and Minigun), and Ultimate Weasel is extremely ungenerous with Health - I would say too much so. This affected my enjoyment of the pack somewhat towards the end of the second map. In a Skaarj base section, the bright lens flares that the mapper used occasionally obscured opponents, making combat difficult.
Iphigenia provides a decent slice of playing time for its four maps. It's a basic map pack, but certainly not without merit, and showing the seeds of an upcoming talent.
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