As you probably know, Na Pali: Broken is an upcoming Unreal Tournament Single Player pack being developed by Willis Unreal and Rat Development. Well, recently, Willis was good enough to give me the opportunity to play a closed release of the first level of the pack, Hantar's Cliffs. In this preview I will attempt to convey to you some of the impressions of the pack I got from my exploration of the map.
The scene is set by the accompanying story. Following the slaughter of the Skaarj queen and the rescue and return to Earth of the man responsible, an Earth party sets out to colonise the Nali planet hoping for the peaceful lifestyle enjoyed by the natives before the Skaarj attack. But on arrival, the planet is found still to be overrun by splintered clans of Krall, Skaarj and Mercenaries and it all goes awry. You are sent to protect the planet against an all-out assault by a Skaarj ship run by a new Queen. Na Pali: Broken begins...
Hantar's Cliffs is designed as a short, atmospheric opening to the adventure to come. It is set in a series of canyons and valleys interspersed with Skaarj mining installations; a theme instantly identifiable with by the player because it has been seen before in the memorable NyLeve's Falls. This time though, the cliffs are smaller and the Skaarj incursion more extensive and more detailed.
The map starts and ends in these outdoor areas, which are simply but appealingly designed using a variety of tesselated brushes, and these areas are brightly and consistently lit by the sunny sky above - a few Skaarj structures carry lights with lens flares to add to the picture, and the top of a part of the Skaarj facility can be seen over the cliffs from the outdoor areas both at the start and the finish, which is a nice touch. For fans of the Unreal trees, there's no shortage of them either.
Within the Skaarj mining facility, Willis has used lots of tricks to augment the atmosphere. He uses fog extensively (but not to overkill) to thicken the air, and trailing roots and vegetation to give the installation an aging, used feel. A couple of blocked corridors imply further areas that the player cannot reach, as if this facility goes on for some distance through the cliffs, which is another nice touch. Lighting is sourced well so that the base is convincingly lit with no "light from nowhere", and to complete the picture machinery around the place produces a variety of ambient sounds. Overall, a suitably effective scene, broken up only by the occasional Skaarj ambush (it's worth mentioning too here that Willis uses scripting to make a variety of scenes and combats more interesting - always cool).
While there was the odd minor glitch here and there, some of which were described in the accompanying text file, these screenshots should alone be enough to convince you that this was one solid map, and if the rest of Na Pali: Broken keeps up the quality, then I think this pack should be something to look forward to.