Unreal Zero: Cats 2 (the successor to Cat Bombs) is the definition of what classifies as a "WTF map". This isn't something often seen in Unreal SP so for those of you unfamiliar with the term, a WTF map is any map that has no regard to the general principles of standard formula and take an absurd concept and turn it into a totally unconventional map in every major aspect to the point where there is very little you can actually rate in an organized review. These kinda maps you've seen, random box DM maps with hundreds of redeemers and Nali Rabbits thrown in or a giant rectangle with a picture of Corey Feldman shooting flak shells out of his mouth as players spawn on the ceiling. For DM, these maps are generally so insane that they are either unplayable or are an utter spamfest with no gameplay cohesion or visual design.
With SP this is different since most mappers who dare take on the SP mapping front have skill and dedication far beyond the infected underbelly of bad Multiplayer mappage. Since SP mapping takes much more time, patience, and devotion you'll almost never see such an extreme case of the WTF map syndrome. What you will get are mappacks like EXU or Unreal Zero: Cats 2. Cats 2 is no where near as crazy as I make those DM variations sound, but for a SP it's rare to see maps like this so for these standards this map will come off to alot of Unreal SP players as "weird". The thing is, Cats 2 is alot like the really really oldskool days like in Doom or Doom2 (with elements of Quake) where a player will find themselves in a visually barren location with hordes of enemies and items either surrounding them or spawning around them as they progress.
Cats 2 starts off with the player standing in a black void with a portal. No, it doesn't look the way you think a void and a portal would look like. It is a black box with a transparent sky sheet as the portal. You grab a few Unreal weapons as a brief message pops up, a strange orb barely visible behind the sky portal with...what appear to be cat ears on top. The message says something about Cat bombs and how they are bad and how you need to touch three of the Cat Bombs...which will ultimately save the Nali. I can't really say much more about it for the whole story side of things, that's about it folks. If that isn't enough to confuse the player the sky explodes over a big open terrain area (via portal) and monsters come raining down snow in a blizzard. Some of you may be reading this while trying to visualize it. I'm being as literal as possible, and thus starts Cats 2. Any traces of story are lost with some brief messages throughout the level as you clear out each area... which always gets filled with more, weirder versions of the Unreal Monster cast. The name of the game here is random combat, lots of it. You have enough items scattered around each section and more always arrive, but the hard part is grabbing them while dodging enemy attacks and fighting back.
The main level is, as I said, set in a large outdoor terrain area that is blocked in on all sides by a BFR perimeter (Big Fucking Rocks). There is some shape to the location, which is good, as well as numerous oasis spots (that area usually loaded with Devilfish, Slith, or other enemies), trees, birds, and boulders. A large bridge leads to a blocked path that only opens after you've collected three Cat Bombs. Other paths lead out from this main terrain spot, one to a skeletal ruin set atop tall towering pillars, one to a small cliff. Both of these areas have a Cat Bomb to collect, the Third is in the main area (which I collected last for some reason). Each time you step into a new area or back to the main terrain place a new horde of unwanted foes appear like a premature fetus on prom night. Alot of enemies reappear several times, like certain Skaarj Warrior and Trooper classes, the annoying Manta (big and small), Gasbags and Slith. Other Unreal monsters appear though not as often. The main difference are the new, bizarre versions...such as several rendtions of the Brute, anarexic Queens that can be taken down by two alt shots from the Stinger, and Pocket Sized Warlords that still fire projectiles twice their size. All this sums up for a pretty challenging romp, though it isn't quite what you'd call awe inspiring combat. No scripted events, no interesting A.I. scenarios or situations, nothing terribly surprising. They basically just spawn nearby and attack you or themselves. What really bothered me was the Queen pawns, the author didn't set up any Queen teleport markers in Ued. Instead of making use of their extroadinary ability to port around a map to avoid you and surprise attack they simply get confused and teleport in place, leaving them open for more than enough cheap shots to get them out of the way. Even the warlords were easy to bring down, I found myself using guns I never use on them, like the Stinger or the ASMD. Sometimes a Warlord would spawn far enough away on some ledge that they would be oblivious to your presence, which meant I could load up my eightball to full stock and reduce them to half staff before they even engaged me. Then it was a few distant rifle rounds and they were out of my face, never getting anywhere near me. The hardest hitters were actually the Skaarj Gunners and the occasional Berserker who always would appear in your face when you were low on ammo or looking for health. Since all the enemies are random in their spawning, the object was to get away from the main hordes, killing any that chased you and then go around picking them off from a managable vantage point. It isn't quite that easy, it is a pretty rough process but only because there are so many of them. Like I mentioned before, there is enough supplies in the level to keep you breathing but you can't waste your ammo. Some might call this gameplay balance, but placing a random item supply next to a random enemy supply seems a bit sloppy. It's like dropping two handfuls of bugs, one filled with red ants, one with black ants, and seeing who wins.
This review probably sounds negative, and because the schema requires a map to fullfill certain SP functions, it's obviously going to get low scores. But that aside, I did enjoy myself despite the lunatic style of gameplay. The fun factor is there in alot of ways. Architecture is decent...if basic... but gets butchered by terrible lighting and there isn't any atmosphere to be found. Sounds are there but you never notice them among the chaos and they are pretty stale. I play with OpenGL and have S3tc textures enabled, and whether the author meant to or not this map uses alot of them so the textures were all highly detailed, although unaligned and often oddly used. The map uses a list of UT tracks for different segments. The environments have no soul or presence but the map is pretty much telling you it isn't about that. It's about Cat Bombs...and Monsters. Anyone who has trouble playing SP maps on tough difficulties might get frustrated and pass this one up right away. I gave it a shot on Medium difficulty and then when I beat it with only two or three trial-and-error deaths on my hand, I up'd the anty to Unreal skill and...it gets pretty ugly out there kids. I can see only veterans of Unreal SP playing this since you basically have to know how these enemies move and react inside and out to really be able to handle this. I've been playing this game for so long I see green code so it's probably alot harder than it sounds.
I will say this, the idea isn't a bad one, it just needs overall cohesion. The same idea can be used in a real SP map and WORK as a normal SP map. Why disregard story? Why disregard scripted events and intelligent pathing? A good mapper with all these abilites, plus a killer visual eye could really make an interesting SP experience.
https://unrealarchive.org/mappacks/unreal/single-player/U/unreal-zero_2acff4e4.html (contains full Unreal Zero set).
ArchitectureImagination, realism and detail of structures used in the design of the level.5
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).2
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.3
Technical ExecutionTechnical soundness of the level, i.e. no visual glitches, no random deaths or other gameplay bugs, and a good framerate.4
Conceptual GrandnessScale, imagination, awe & originality of design and layout, physical foreshadowing of future areas.5
Story ConstructionBacking story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.1
Story ImplementationProgression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.0
Gameplay AweQuality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.2
Gameplay BalanceBalance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.6