Unreal Grief Chapter 1 is UnrealSP.org member Legendslayer222's second released map, his first being Rise of USP, built for the UnrealSP.Org Eighth Anniversary Speedmapping Contest. While a considerable step forwards in scope and accomplishment compared to Legendslayer222's first release, however, Unreal Grief Chapter 1 still has very much the feel of a newbie map.
Architecture consists primarily of editor primitives, albeit customised to different sizes in order to provide some smaller details. Four fairly blocky towers of stone construction are surrounded by a fair attempt at building a large, bottomless cave, which is apparently sacred to the Nali according to the author's basic but clear storyline. These towers are occupied by Skaarj and an opposing squad of Mercenaries, and are at various stages of conversion by their new occupiers. Unfortunately, the architecture isn't really sophisticated enough to support this ambitious concept to great effect, resulting in something of a mess of different texture sets. However, Legendslayer222 managed to use the right texture sets for the right races, with the Mercenary-converted section in DecayedS.utx having the most coherent texture theme. Elements of the design don't make structural sense, unfortunately, with long overhanging structures supported by tiny metal beams.
Lighting is generally sourced, albeit in broad strokes, and needed greater variety and care. Sound was also disappointing, with few to no ambient sounds used, while music tended to work against the theme and changed tracks at awkward moments.
As mentioned above, the author has made an attempt at a backing story, which is (unusually for a newbie map) supported reasonably well by elements of the build (such as a slightly undersized crashed spaceship) and an ending sequence that alludes to a sequel. However, the author couldn't seem to decide whether his translator messages were going to be serious or comedic, creating an inconsistent feel. There were one or two interesting gameplay surprises that I won't spoil here, but gameplay wasn't well-designed across the board. Combat is unbalanced at first, as the player must fight three Skaarj of tougher classes with only a Dispersion Pistol and Automag for backup, and no armour. Health is also scarce during these opening moments. After that, the player who takes the time to explore is rewarded with a substantially overpowered arsenal, including a custom Quadshot that I didn't even need thanks to the generous provision of Flak Shells and Razor Blades. There are, however, a couple of fairly balanced mini-bosses that help to round out the gameplay experience of the map.
Technically, while I encountered no serious errors, there is room for improvement in the execution of the map. Certain movers, for example, moved with no visible means of support, and the translator messages are often too long for the translator screen and should have been edited or split up. Finally, the map also has no screenshot for the Oldskool menus. As a side note, it's also worth noting that a number of required files are missing from the download, including the custom Quadshot (link provided below) and, less crucially, the Oldskool mod and certain stock music tracks from Unreal (most players probably have these already, but it should have been mentioned in the ReadMe).
Unreal Grief Chapter 1 is a typical newbie map, but it's great to see that people are still interested in getting into Unreal mapping in this day and age, eleven years after the release of the original game. Legenslayer222 should be commended for the progress he has made with this release, and I'm sure there are better things to follow.
*Note that only the Unreal Archive uploads are checked to be the newest and most compatible/stable download link.
ArchitectureImagination, realism and detail of structures used in the design of the level.2
TexturingUse of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.3
LightingLighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).3
SoundUse of ambient sounds and event sounds to give the level atmosphere, and the quality of any custom sounds. Appropriate use of music and silence to complement the atmosphere.1
Technical ExecutionTechnical soundness of the level, i.e. no visual glitches, no random deaths or other gameplay bugs, and a good framerate.3
Conceptual GrandnessScale, imagination, awe & originality of design and layout, physical foreshadowing of future areas.4
Story ConstructionBacking story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.3
Story ImplementationProgression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.5
Gameplay AweQuality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.3
Gameplay BalanceBalance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.3