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Map Title: The Living Planet
The Living Planet is a later release from Crescent Moon Software mapper David "Kyp Durron" Pittman and is a comparatively story-driven map revolving around the disease unwittingly brought upon a rare living planet by a Terran science team. The player is charged with the task of travelling to the Living Planet and killing the evil intelligence that has formed at the heart of the infected area.
This approach is nothing if not imaginative, and Pittman implements the story by dividing the map into two halves: the first appears to be set on Na Pali, and sees the player seeking to locate the teleport that will take him to the Living Planet. The second half is set on the bizarre Living Planet itself, which is a very unique and colourful creation.
Unfortunately, the build of The Living Planet is not to much higher a standard than Shadows of Na Pali and Apocalypse Threat, a weakness that is particularly apparent in the first half of the map. Editor primitives are rampant and immediately recognisable, especially the "spherical" boulders. Nali and Terran architecture is composed of basic blocks, and caves are cylindrical or spherical. Things improve in the Living Planet section of the map, with the exterior of the viral area being quite imposing, but the use of basic shapes remains obvious once the player reaches the viral underground.
Textures are not well used or particularly cleverly aligned. The texturing of the Nali terrain is particularly dubious and does little to conceal its basic build. However, The Living Planet deserves credit for including a large suite of custom textures and skins for its second half, which clearly draw inspiration from Half Life's alien world of Xen, albeit in a much pinker, more gooey way. The textures are certainly imaginative and the deep red colour of the infected area is daunting.
Lighting is weak, with completely unsourced lighting visible in the Nali cave areas and poor sourcing in the Terran base areas. Sound is also disappointing, as very few ambient sounds are used and the choices of music tracks are somewhat questionable. A question must also be raised over The Living Planet's technical execution: the map is poorly optimised and runs like treacle on older computers, and the game ends with an error message when the player reaches his dropship. However, Pittman at least made the effort to use Movers, which function largely correctly.
Gameplay in The Living Planet isn't tremendously involving. Whilst the progression of themes and the use of Movers, WarpZones and Teleporters implements the story effectively, there is relatively little combat to be had. The game's only weapon besides the Dispersion Pistol is the Stinger, which is hidden at the start of the level and probably easy to miss, and the promised fight against the viral infection is a massive anticlimax (albeit done in an innovative way). The viral heart needed much stronger defences - the fight with the viral heart has very little sense of menace. Only a couple of Skaarj moments early in the level and a couple of reduced gravity Pupae attacks come near to being unexpected. The Living Planet really needed more thought put into how it would play as well as look, to give the player more playing time for his money and to use the theme to its full potential.
An innovative concept and a story-driven map let down by a poor standard of design and somewhat disappointing gameplay.
None to date
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