The premier Unreal single player site
Custom Map Reviews
Custom Map Reviews
Map Title: The Vigil 99
Vigil99 is... well... old, hence the 99. It was made in 1999, by Holger Huck. The last version to come out was v1.22, which was made compatible for the 220 version of Unreal. It has remained this way for 11 years, until Casey came along early in March of 2010, and took up the task of porting this great map pack to now-a-days Unreal, to be played in version 224 and above. I have played both versions, as to compare the original and the conversion, and I must say that there is no difference whatsoever from the two. Casey did an excellent job.
Vigil99 consists of 3 maps. The first map is an intro, with an interesting style of introducing the map pack, with floating exploding creatures, and giant mover letters as the title flying across your screen. The number 99 is backwards though, which I always found quite hilarious. The second map is the main level in which you'll probably spend most of your time, and where most of the fighting takes place. It is a bit of a puzzle map as well which I will explain later. The third map is even more of a puzzle map, same as the second, but a different kind of puzzle.
To start off, Vigil99 has a whole new variety of weapons to play with, including a Shrinker, a BFG, a Freezer, a Shotgun, and more. In fact, the weapons are almost exactly the same as the Unreal 4 Ever weapons for Unreal, except an earlier version of them, and without custom meshes or models. The same person who made Vigil99 (Holger Huck) also made U4E.
There are also many new creatures as well, but they do not resemble U4E like the weapons do. The new creatures are modified versions of existing pawns to do things they normally wouldn't, like Skaarj shooting fire balls at you and other such things. Then there are the Zombies, which are actually quite cleverly made. I don't want to spoil to much, so I won't say anymore except that they do more then just meelee attack you like most Zombies you see in custom content for Unreal.
The first playable map (not the intro) thrusts you right into the middle of a battle, inside of a well designed arena room with 2 floors you can switch between when battling. You have a new HUD display, showing a monster kill counter out of the amount there are, and a health bar of the monster you are looking at. You will find crystals that the monsters will drop now and then, which will give you access to various rooms and locations during your fight, which will usually contain new weapons to fight the baddies with. There are also some clever traps you can use to kill your enemies.
The third and final map is the more puzzle-like map, where you must find all the buttons in the location you're in, in order to move on to the next location. You won't be fighting as much in this level until you reach the end for the final boss fight. Don't want to give away to much here, but be extremely careful and reserve as much ammo as you can. Once all your foes are defeated, there is an ending flyby sequence within the level, and full credits.
As for build, the maps themselves are extremely well done, with interesting, ancient-looking architecture, and many cleverly scripted sequences and events. The lighting is also very well done, with many colorful lights to fit the mood of where you may be in a map, like the red-lit bloody hallway of stairs when you fight zombies. Textures are aligned and used properly to fit the overall theme of the maps. Nothing out of place there. Sound design is good, with sound effects where they should be, and a great use of the music for atmosphere. The framerate is perfectly smooth. I may only speak for myself though, as other systems may experience FPS issues when rendering some of the effects, most noticeably from the new weapons. There are no visual glitches like HOMs or anything, but there is one minor bug, where if you quicksave after the second door closes you in to the Zombie room, and you then reload, the Shotgun you're supposed to get will not spawn and then the Zombies won't spawn either, so you'll be trapped in that room. This doesn't happen in the 220 version as often, but it still does once in a while.
As for cast, well, was there really a story line to this map pack? It's not exactly explained in the intro, nor the readme, so the story could be confusing, but as far as I can tell, there was a woman you failed to save, and you didn't, and now you're fighting to save her soul. It's basically an excuse to have some awesome fight scene, which it is. The scripted sequences in the map pack however are great, with always keeping you on your toes, whether it's to get a new weapon, or when introducing the Zombies. And again, I don't want to give away too much, so you'll have to see for yourself. The gameplay balance could be argued over, as there's no real "easy" difficulty level. You start at Unreal difficulty, and are able to choose 3 other new difficulty levels, named "Hardcorps", "Nightmare", and "DeCyber", as this is a DeCyber map from the early days. I myself had trouble on the easiest difficulty the first time around, and playing on any other takes real skill, which I apparently do not have. I know I'm not the greatest player around, so it could be easier or harder for other people. The best choice is to start on the easiest setting there is, as to get used to the maps. It's not that there is a shortage of weapons or anything, it's just mostly the monsters can overwhelm you at times. I had to reload a saved games few times, mainly due to me falling into my own set traps, but I do remember having to God mode once. I did manage to avoid God mode the second time I played it though. Over all very original and great design. There's just no real story line to speak of, and even the easiest difficulty can be quite difficult.
Over all I'd say that this is one of the best map packs Unreal has to offer, and it's definitely a keeper. It's a shame that this wasn't converted over sooner. It has been forgotten throughout time, and map packs as good as this can't be allowed to just fade out from existence. Much thanks to Casey for finally bringing this back for everyone to experience.
Second Opinions - TheIronKnuckle
I discovered The Vigil in an obscure folder on my desktop hiding behind classics such as Nali Chronicles and Shamu Quest. The filename “Vigil99-225f.zip” sounded extremely familiar and yet I couldn't recall ever having played the map pack before. The lack of a review on USP and a readme dated 2.2.1999 only pushed my curiosity ever higher, so I decided to stop everything and play some unreal. Me being me, a closer examination of the readmes and various text files provided with the pack was called for. I found the following:
“Description: kind of revival of Wright Bagwell's great Vigil for Quake. You fight new monsters with all new weapons!”
I immediately thought to myself “Oh no. Another one of THOSE packs”, expecting a 1999-esque exploration in simple, gimmicky Uscript hacks that result in giant transparent skaarj that fire instagibbing eightballs and “all new weapons” that consist of stingers that shoot bio-sludge and bio-rifles that shoot stinger shards. But I decided to give it a go anyway. And it's a damn good thing I did, because what I encountered was above and beyond what I was expecting.
A note on the following review: I will begin with somewhat of a summary of the experience, before getting down to the nitty gritty of explaining my score on the marking scheme. It is also at this point that I will issue a warning to players: This map DOES NOT WORK IN OLDSKOOL. The map is playable, but expect a cut down experience. I chose to play in Unreal 227f.
The pack opens with one of those typical yet classic Intro-maps and this is one of the better ones I've seen. Five re-skinned Unreal monsters hover before you as the letters spelling out the packs name and an additional message come flying past, gibbing the monsters in the process. The skybox also looked extremely sexy with s3tc textures installed. I noticed some adverts for deCyber floating around. I'm a relative newcomer to the UnrealSP scene (started in 2007 with Xidia Gold), so I have no clue who the hell they are, but they sure have infiltrated a lot of packs! I find it extremely tacky and pretentious, but let it go this one time because there isn't any immersion to break at that point of the game.
I was then sent flying down a warp tunnel towards a giant “deCyber” texture and asked to choose from the four difficulties of Unreal, Hardcops, Nightmare and deCyber. I resisted the urge to ragequit at the naming scheme and went with Nightmare. From here on in the pack got good.
The main map opens with a really well-done cinematic sequence making use of a combination of interpolation points, pop up text, lightning effects and some choice texturing and mesh placement that blows you away and instantly draws you in. The premise (which I found sadly lacking in the readme) is immediately set up; You are defending the grave of “Domino: The mistress of the keep”. Apparently you failed to save her life, and now it is up to you to save her soul. Cool stuff, not the usual story for a pack of this era.
You are dumped right into the action holding naught but an automag to shoot down the massive gold skaarj that has just burst through the roof on top of you. I imagine the first thought to go through most players minds at this point is “Leg it!”. I certainly did, and it is at this point of escape and exploration that the gameplay of the pack is established and the exact details of the mission at hand are conveyed to the player using nothing more than BSP. Behold: You are in an arena with the grave you have been tasked to defend at it's centre. Trapdoors, giant lava pits, falling roofs and sharp spikes are littered throughout. The only possible means of escape are a collection of doors placed evenly around the perimeter, the only problem being that they all ask for either a red, green, or blue key (The Doom and Quake influence starts to show through).
Your Hud is different. A tally is present in the top left corner that counts how many enemies you have killed and how many you have left to kill (A juicy three digit number). There is a context sensitive health bar in the bottom left corner which displays the health of whatever enemy you are shooting at. You get the general impression that the only way to win this level is to fight, and a damn good fight at that. So Vigil scores an epic success at drawing the player in and mounting the anticipation.
This unusual gameplay was an extremely refreshing change from the usual Unreal SP experience, it's just unfortunate that it wasn't consistent throughout the entire level. There comes a point where you have murdered a Behemoth and extracted a red key from his carcass. You take it to a stone dragons mouth that is hanging out of the wall, plug it in, “stand back” as commanded, and watch as the wall opposite the dragon gets blown to bits by a flame thrower. Within lies a giant staircase and a fucked up derivative gameplay sequence that makes you go “Wait, aren't I supposed to be defending that grave?”
You are now fighting zombies. With a shotgun. The sequence was admittedly awesome, with blood coming out of the walls and flowing down the steps in a way that made me go “Are you sure this was made in 1999?”. However the whole thing felt very out of place. It gets worse as you head down the stairs after killing the zombies to explore the next rooms. All of a sudden you are fighting krall and skaarj that just seem to be chilling, with no real reason for being there. You encounter three super powerful skaarj who are posing behind bars in front of a blue flame that only illuminates their silhouettes and makes you go “Awesome”. Again, the whole thing was cool, but the question kept on nagging at me the whole time: Why? None of this made any sense whatsoever when placed next to that epic cutscene which opened the level. To my mind this lack of focus in the plot was formalised when, after killing the aforementioned skaarj of awesome I found myself in the roof with a translator and ice statues of a krall and a skaarj. Approaching the statues provoked messages that seemed to recast my mission from that of defence to one of assault. Apparently, you're now supposed to be killing all the skaarj and all the krall in order to unlock the doors these ice statues are guarding. You are then teleported back to the arena. Wtf wtf wtf!
The first map ends somewhat anti-climatically and the divide between plot and gameplay continues into the next map, which I was expecting to be a credits map but instead turned into a generally unfocused slith and squid slaughter-fest. You are in some sewers, and maybe it's just me but I really liked the lighting in this part. Your mission is not apparent in any form at this point and you only realise what you have to do when at some point you accidentally and invariably crash into an unlit section of wall that announces “Seven more to go!”. Shining a torch at the wall reveals a button and makes you go “ahhh” and from then on you are hoping around the sewer trying to find the buttons and avoid the (seemingly) unlimited supply of sushi. “Right, kinda fun” Once you complete this task, you find yourself doing it all over again, but this time in hell, versus fire slith and lava in place of water. “Okay, sorta cool.” After that you pop out of a bath, collect your BFG 20000 and are faced with four overpowered skaarj and six titans (I'm only saying six because whenever I tried to count them I got murdered by the one standing behind me).
Right about now - unless you're an ADHD player like me who just wants to enjoy the slaughter - you should be going “So what happened to that Mistress of the keep chick?” and almost in answer to a prayer, the console flashes the message “Well done! But where is Domino?” But right as the story seems to be getting back on track, a warlord appears, dies and the game is over with an epilogue that says something to the effect of “You win! It's too bad you couldn't save domino... But you killed heaps of skaarj and shit hey! I love you DeCyber! Thanks to my wife! To epic games! To the players!
Okay, that essentially sums up the Vigil experience. Now I'll draw attention to the details.
The build astounded me. A map like this made in 1999 should have the archaeologists all over the globe holding conferences to collectively scratch their heads at the historical implausibility. The architecture was amazing. There was ample use of primitives, but also obvious use of the 2D shape editor and vertex editing. But that's going into too much detail on how these details were achieved. What matters is that the architecture was great even by todays standards. Sure, we've probably all seen better SOMEWHERE, but this stuff was damn fine. (A quick note, the second level begins with simple, yet appealing architecture, and towards the end it deteriorates to only simple, whereas the first levels' architecture is consistently good)
Lighting was generally used to good effect. Now, I wasn't around back in 1999, but I'm guessing that the standards back then would have described this lighting as “approaching perfect”. These days more techniques for awesome lighting are known to the community, so it's obvious you can achieve better, but the lighting in Vigil remains great. The set piece with the skaarj silhouette behind bars with the blue torch flame behind is brought to mind as an example. With that said, there were two cases where the lighting was actually “bad”. Firstly in the second giant staircase, which was an extremely ugly dark green and didn't fit together with any other parts of the map. Secondly the final room, which was white lighting only and didn't do the maps climax any favours.
Texturing there isn't much to say. Except that the elevators had a terrible texture choice (transparent energy effects should never be used on BSP without a really good reason). Otherwise I didn't notice any misalignments and the choice of textures seemed to both flow together and work in the context they were used.
Sound was good by my standards. There was minimal ambient effects, but the opening scene made good use of the lightning sound effects and a bell tolling in time with the lightning. Music was used in a slightly unconventional sense, with a different track playing depending on what room you were in, but I found the transitions to be relatively seamless and the music choice to be appropriate. Warlord.umx dominates in the main arena.
Technical execution. Well, I found no bugs. One thing that pisses me off though, is mappers that employ “dizzy” movers that - for no good reason - spin you 9000 degrees around before arriving at the upper or lower destination. The lifts in this map were guilty of this, hence I'm docking a point. Also, some pickups were hard/impossible to get at and the shotgun ammo simply refused to fit into the bottomless pockets of my character along with the rest of the contraband our beloved protagonists usually manage to haul around with them. Hence another point must go. I'll also take a point off because the weapons weren't intuitive or widescreen-friendly. Every time I switched to the sniper rifle my FOV was reset to 85 or something ridiculous like that. Fuck off! I play my shooters at a FOV of 115. Anything less is horrible on a 16:9 monitor. But with all that said, the technical execution was brilliant for something this ambitious made in 1999. And I still haven't seen a better cutscene than that opening one.
Now for the Cast! Conceptual grandness. This map got it down imho. The opening cutscene epitomises it. The non-standard premise is something that for once, escapes the readme and makes it into the actual gameplay, rather than being the other way around like most packs (Seriously, go to the readme of any other pack and odds are you'll find some epic tale of love, lies and deception as a prologue whilst the actual pack consists of nothing more than the standard “Escape the planet” routine). Conceptual blandness only started to sink in in the second level, otherwise this map was good fun. The weapons were high on the grand concept, poor in implementation.
Story construction.. Well, there was no plot, but there sure was a story! The “Defend the grave” story is extremely simple and not developed much beyond the actual defence, but it was a welcome change to the usual “Marooned on Alien planet GTFO plz” story. The lack of a real ending sucked major dick, but otherwise I think the map should get relatively high points for Story.
Story implementation. It was epic, and was achieved without resorting to the translator. The map gets a standing ovation from me when it comes to this point. The first impression from that opening cinematic stayed with me throughout the whole pack, casting a positive light on the whole experience. The set piece with the blood and the zombies, whilst totally irrelevant, was really awesome. While it was unfortunate that the focus had to drift from the initial premise for no good reason, the synthesis of gameplay and story was no better than if it were another “escape the planet” map, but this helped immersion. I hate to leave it to an arbitrary number, but I think I'll let my 8/10 on the score board speak for me when it comes to implementation. The lack of a real ending or epilogue is what keeps it from hitting the 9/10. Those credits were utterly disgraceful (And what was the point of that crystal?)
Gameplay Awe. This requires detail (damn it, the review is long enough already). The main map requires you to kill enemies and work towards a total body count. Every enemy drops some sort of item. Sometimes you get minibosses who when killed drop a crystal in addition to the usual item. A green crystal allows the player to unlock one of four doors that contain a superhealth, a new weapon, and ammo for that new weapon. There are generously sized holes next to each door that allow you to go window shopping and work out what gun will be your next purchase. A blue crystal opens up one of two holes in the floor that give you access to some heavier weaponry and a LOT of healthpacks. (Although there is a timelimit preventing you from grabbing everything) A red Crystal is “Plot relevant” in that it opens either the exit, or the path to the exit.
The enemies you fight start out as standard, but rapidly morph into more and more powerful custom classes to match your custom arsenal. The weapons were different yet familiar for the most part. And fun to use, even if a little frustrating.In summary the gameplay awe is high. I mean, you literally start the map fighting a gold boss skaarj who has just burst through a dome-shaped roof on top of you with only 20 bullets and an automag. Talk about unconventional!
Gameplay balance. Was frankly shit. The custom enemies were all professionally done, but severely overpowered (unless you are Ubeserker, who I gather orgasms over such unfair gameplay because he's the only one 1337 enough to take it round these parts :P ). I admit I cheated in the final room. You are in a cramped space against what feels like six titans and four skaarj that fire homing hellbolts of instant death. Utterly impossible to win, even with the provided BFG 20000 and shieldbelts. The difficulty spike towards the end was terrible. If you were to draw the difficulty curve it would be horizontal, then vertical, then a brief bit of low horizontalness again, then right back to the vertical with a slope that is even more infinite than the previous vertical. The weapons were annoying and hard to use (Screw that sniper scope, damn those deployable flak mines).
Every good pack has an Achilles heel. 7 Bullets has the bots, ONP has ONPGuy, and The Vigil has gameplay balance; It was completely terrible.
Summary - TheIronKnuckle
But it was fun! The map shows its age in its own way. That is, it doesn't do it with textures that are peeling off the walls from overuse, simple BSP, terrible corona use and horrible white lighting that melts your weapon model. No, It does it with arcade monster mashing gameplay and an awesome intro map that defines the era. I'd say it's definitely worth a shot and maybe worth a replay (Even if only for the intro cutscene :P)
TheIronKnuckles' score: 66%
Download vigil99-225f.zip (6.2MB) from KlanKaos