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Map Title: Liberation of Na Pali
Liberation of Na Pali is an ambitious little map. You play as a generic human soldier of unknown affiliations who crash lands onto the shoreline of an alien canyon. The second the level begins, you'll immediately slam into the coast. You take a superficial amount of damage before you can guide your character out onto dry land. And you'll have to do this in a timely fashion, because a patrolling Skaarj shuttle (possibly the very same one that shot you down) will hover around the crash site and deploy a payload of bombs before moving on. Not long after that, a second human vessel cracks out of the sky and crashes into the surrounding lake. Another Skaarj shuttle surveys that wreck with a rather cleverly used search light, before moving on.
Thus begins Liberation of Na Pali. As your wingman's craft goes down in the drink, you'll receive the first of several first person narrations in the form of a single line message at the top left of the screen. Our hero hardly evokes Hemingway, but it's an effective narrative guide. The story isn't explained as much as it is suggested. You get the impression that you and your unlucky partners were conducting some sort of offensive on the planet before you were shot down. In a unconventional way, it is almost as if you are really playing the part of the antagonist. Log entries from Krall lackeys offer intriguing, if humorous, views about humans. While an aggressive human persona is merely suggested, the nature of the level's plot line is always brief and leaves the imagining to the player.
What is fleshed out, and this is probably the best part of the map, is the gameplay. There isn't a boring moment, and although you'll barely fight more than thirty enemies the entire game... there's a lot of conceptual integrity to your adversaries. You'll be engaged in kinetic chase sequence (think Attacked! or Xidia: The Escape). You'll be stalked in a large crate depot by patrolling troopers and snipers. You'll be locked onto a condemned rig and forced to jump off of it before a dipping mechanism rolls you into molten lead. You'll be able to animate parts of your environment by simply prompting them accordingly. You'll have to outrun a landing craft before it runs you over. You'll even activate a conveyor that sends a hapless Nali bunny through a machine that grinds it into a health pack. The list goes on. While the combat is genuinely infrequent and limited to usually two enemies at a time at most, you'll feel engaged from beginning to end. However, don't look for diversity. In the course of the map you'll be fighting Krall and Skaarj for the most part, with occasional Pupae sightings and two Brutes to round it off. That's it. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of other single maps that offer a much larger bestiary.
What's also interesting to note is that the game doesn't put you on a set path to acquire your inventory. Although the general path is fairly linear, you're on your own to collect weapons. For instance, ignoring your partner's crash site beneath the lake will leave you without an Automag. Not checking out the Krall mess hall will leave you without the almighty Flak Cannon for the meat of the pack. Killing certain enemies is the only way to obtain a good half of the guns. Health is in decent supply, although it's quite difficult to actually get killed. In regards to difficulty, the map is a pushover and depends completely on your ability to explore every nook and cranny.
Something that will become immediately apparent to players is the sheer simplicity of the level design. Obviously an aged map, you'll be treated to a very basic environment with all the worst texture choices an Unreal mapper could select. First off, themes don't match. You'll see Krall and Skaarj operating in a Mercenary themed establishment. Although much of the architecture is simplistic, and seemingly labyrinthine in appearance, the layout itself is truly alien. It's almost as if the author looked at the conventional way to make floor plans and said, "Nah". Much of the interior areas are at angles, where entire rooms seem locked on a tilt. It's effectively disorientating and wonderfully unique. Lighting may be average, but what the author does with it is not. Dynamic parts of the environment, like vehicles or transit passages, have real time ambiance. Activity lights blink and change color on elevators, vehicles can engage and disengage their searchlights, and entire hangars will shut down during a security alert. But what really gets the cherry is the way Movers are used. They play a big part of this map. From enormous set pieces that react to game events to holograms made from miniaturized prefabs to enemy stand-ins (shuttles, ect)... you truly get the impression that at any point, the level can come alive and swallow you.
Overall, Liberation of Na Pali is more of a fun, interactive map than anything. There's no real difficulty, unless you make bad gameplay choices. And from a visual standpoint the age is painfully obvious. But the story is a bit uncommon, if sparse, and while the environment is simple it is expertly crafted in other ways. Even though it probably won't make you break a sweat, you'll be grinning like an idiot from beginning to end.
Second Opinions - zynthetic
The original review, based on the old review schema:
Liberation of Na Pali Episode 1: Abunatu's Hope was the very first SP map I ever downloaded. I came from playing Unreal two or three times and I was in need of more. What made me pick Liberation? My quest to find a good map that I could download and start playing in less than an hour on my 56k modem.
There's an old saying; you get what you pay for. Liberation's smaller than normal size is quite decieving though. It has to be, by far, one of the best displays of technical Unreal mapping I have seen. Compared to retail unreal maps, Liberation is giant. For a one map episode I spent amost 45 minutes playing through it.
Clip from the readme:
As you can see there's a plot and a good introduction in the ReadMe to prepare you for your mission. Trust me, when Steve says "don't go make that sandwich while its loading" he means it. As soon as the level begins you dive headfirst into the game.
Liberation of Na Pali begins as you infiltrate enemy lines in a small craft. You progresses through botanical labratories, a giant warehouse (not your average DooM warehouse) and a fuel proccessing plant. The visuals are as stunning as some scenes from retail Unreal levels. There are plenty of translator messages to develop the story and to add tension and humor the player. The architexture in Liberation is very convincing that the world of liberation is a mixure of terran with a hint of alien technology. There are at times, structures so alien they actually gave me a feeling of vertigo (in a good way).
Steve Farrow makes use of custom movers and incorperates lots of scripts in Liberation. Prepare to see ships flying and vehicles moving around. The scripted sequences dont last more than one minte a piece but really add to the game. I was very impressed and I still am at seeing alien craft dropping bombs and personell to dispose of the intruder (me). I was also impressed with the placement of monsters and thier surprise/cameo appearances.
The only negative aspects this episode has is the plot and the size of the map. The plot, while built up with a good story, is somewhat dull. If there were subplots or a twist in the story it would have been nice. As good as the story builds it up the plot though remains, rescue a Nali Priest (Chief, mind you). The map is great, there's nothing technically wrong with it. I'm only dissappointed that coop play is almost unthinkable. If one of the players dies it could take quite a bit of time to catch up to the rest of the party.
This map is a great mixture of cinema, architexture, and combat. Liberation clearly pushes the envelope of single player maps. For those of you who like me, demand quality maps, this is a must for your collection.
Download liberationep1.zip (1.2MB) from OldUnreal