Page 1 of 2

[rtnp] Forum-only Opinion: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 21 May 2013, 23:14
by UB_
Map Title: Zack's Coop Maps
Map Author: Zack / Son of Wrath
Reviewed By: UBerserker

Good lord.

What is this?

Okay. It seems like nowadays fully accepts reviews for Coop-oriented maps, like Tentacle Hunter’s release, so I guess I can review this one too. Just a few days ago when Delacroix posted new reviews, one including a marvelous rating of 1%, a friend of mine told me about a mappack that goes under the name of “Zack's Coop Maps” or something like that – there’s no official name. It was found on an Unreal section of NewbiesPlayground and it’s a huge Zip file (81 MB) containing: 29 maps; music files from Return to Na Pali, Unreal Tournament and few custom ones; a crapload of system files such as stuff from U4E and Infiltration, with UPak making the cut too. There’s no readme whatsoever; the mappack has literally no story to speak of, so let’s get this out of the way already.

Sounds already one hell of a premise, right?

This sure looks familiar


Normally I don’t write opinions about random things that I despise, except something that I really find unacceptable like Unreality’s gameplay but after what I have heard about this, I was curious and I checked. Since we’re talking about not a very old release (1-2 years old) by an author known as Zack or Son of Wrath and it’s currently being playable on some Unreal Coop servers as well, why not doing this? I wish I wouldn’t.

The truth is that “Zack’s Coop Maps” is a collection of maps that’s so shockingly bad, horrendous on anything it tries to do. If sanity is a price for games, then that is what you must pay dearly for playing through this; you’d better not though, because this is plain bad. There’s barely nothing worse than starting the first map in a room with cardbox GenTerra Treeline sky borders, tenfolds of tree decorations, a randomly placed space marine’s teleport effect from Return to Na Pali, excessive slowdown, simplistic white zone lighting, “oneshot” sounds being used as normal ambient ones and a long hole filled of screaming predators where you’re forced to take damage due to the fall. And you’ll think that you have other 28 maps to play other than finishing the first one which appears to be, sadly, the best of them all. It gets progressively, and quickly, worse.

How do you image yourself doing all of that after seeing such a quality intro? The maps are either average in size, or long enough to force you to ghost through them because you don’t want to waste your time for something you weren’t expecting to play there, or very short or completely microscopic like one where you’re riding an IntroShip smaller than you (yeah, you ride these sort of “vehicles”, provided by an unrelated Unreal mod) inside what appears to be a bunch of retextured brushes from DM-Fith.
DM-Fith you say? This is where I can finally mention how Son of Wrath managed to bump up the map count to 29. There’s barely any original content, as most of the maps are nothing more than complete rips from Unreal and Return to Na Pali ones such as Nyleve, Chizra, Watcher of the Skies, The Gateway, Velora Temple, Sunspire and many of their Deathmatch stuff. You thought Thrall Village was bad on this? Think again.

To add insult to injury, these maps are even repeated. For example, you first cross Spire Village and “climb” an empty Sunspire (as in the original Unreal if you decide to ghost through the exit but the climbing part is new to this); two maps later, you’ll return AGAIN to the Sunspire, now in its real version. Should I even say it’s totally identical to the Unreal version besides how you enter and exit it? There’s no effort there, and when there’s, it results with something like Nyleve being turned into the most empty, lifeless and boring desert of all time by using one or two textures only, with the cave brushes being copy-pasted a million times in a row, creating infinite tunnels which contain enemies and items that add nothing if not sleep-inducing quality to the gameplay. I quickly decided to ghost through all of it, same with the Sunspire - I’m not here to play other people’s maps just because the mapper couldn’t do something more of its own and decided to take them at random and putting it in his pack.

Oh wait, I ghosted throughout all of this to the next map only to realize it’s the same dried-out Nyleve again with no enemies and with different ZoneInfo lighting values covering the entire level? This mappack is terrible.

The Krall are your allies in this map, who knows why

Now, there’s nothing wrong about using assets from Unreal retail maps, however you should have a good reason to use them and in an acceptable way as well, not copy-pasting what you just see fit because you have nothing better to do. If you can’t keep it up with your ambitions, you don’t do these dumb decisions! Change your mapping plan when something like this happens!
Mods like EXU2 utilize Epic maps, but at least the quality is on another level found far away from this mess, and at least the original creators get credited. Here? Nothing. All of the maps not made by him have their author names completely stripped. If anything, it’s a general problem with this pack: only the first few maps have an actual title and the author name (which is Son of Wrath, often misspelled), then at a certain point you’ll simply find “Untitled by EmptyName” with few exceptions like the Sunspire. The pack is inconsistent even on this, no surprise though since by that point I had to tolerate at least 10 maps.

Going deeper into this. Other than retail stuff, we have plagiarism. Yeah, even a bunch of assets made by custom mappers ended here. Both “TrapTemple” maps by DavidM appear as clean as they were more than 10 years ago, same with brushes from a decent custom map named “Force Shield Bunker” and Waffnuffly’s “Attacked!”; a Deathmatch map named “BellToll” (known as “For Whom The Bell Tolls”) by Keith Schuler, made in 1998 and copyrighted by 3D Realms Entertainment, is the last level of the pack, reached by falling throughout a psychedelic tunnel and it has no enemies, so all you do is going from Point A to EXIT GAME, thanks god. This is pathetic, and do you think any of these custom mappers get any credit? No, of course. Stripped title and author name. There are other ripped custom content that I won’t continue to mention here – you get the point.

Son of Wrath’s own original content instead are something completely out of this world, defying all logic and laws of physics. Floating planets below the clouds, psychedelic textures, single zone lighting, horribly stretched textures, geometry with zero details, floating brushes, movers placed completely wrongly, vertical stairs long kilometers where you go up by RUNNING on it at full speed to climb an empty Sunspire full of random holes and other indescribable things. It makes Final Worlds’ build look professional and I’m not even kidding. Playing the ripped Unreal/RTNP/custom maps is better until you figure out Son of Wrath ruined them so you wish you were playing the real ones outside of this disaster. Lastly, besides Sunspire, DMBellToll and both TrapTemple maps (the author fully extracted them, I guess), no map has a skybox, as Son of Wrath doesn’t know how to create them. So yeah, you touch them, but once you see that a corridor has been built inside the damn sky, then we’re hitting a point of no return.
I’m surprised how the author managed to create movers and water zones; from what I noticed, he couldn’t find a way to increase the collision values for triggers. Opening doors is pain in the ass, and you can pass throughout certain exit teleporters because their collision radius is set to the default amount. This is not nice when said teleport is located at the end of a hole you have to fall into, and it appears visible too as you would see it in the editor.

Einstein would never be able to explain this

Some of the maps have puzzles and traps. The ones made by Son of Wrath are overall despicable. They range from myriads of arrows that are impossible to dodge, to taking a lucky guess about which platform you have to jump on will fall or not in the lava. There’s a section in the first map where you have to boost your jumps by using book decorations and other rooms where you have to do cryptic stuff to unlock a door, but I said “screw it, I’m ghosting through this”.

There are sounds, and they’re usually annoying only in the pack’s original maps. As I mentioned before, OneShot sounds (like the “Call” or even Manta ones) are used as ambient ones, so you’ll hear them again and again until you go away from them. In other places you hear nothing at all or simply, the sounds of many Pupae hissing because there are thousands of them plus few invulnerable ones.
There’s music, and it’s annoying too, especially when the author decides to throw you UT and Unreal tracks randomly. I did turn the music volume off because what I was seeing with my eyes was already enough.

The gameplay shines of awfulness. Unreality’s one was too personally because bots in Single Player are the opposite of fun and balance as much as I see it, but when you do that on the same level with vanilla Unreal enemies, it’s time to activate the God or Ghost cheats or better, don’t bother anymore. Always taking aside the stolen levels, all you have to do is shooting loads and loads of enemies that do nothing but stand around like idiots. There are no worthy scripted events except some random, huge earthquakes that are strong enough to kill the player’s brain cells.

The difficulty is inconsistent as well. You go back and forth from simple situations to insane groups of enemies that have been placed randomly, like ten Titans blocking a pathway or Skaarj Trooper squads that have weapons of any kind. The mappack was specifically made for Coop, sure, BUT GOD IT DOESN’T NEED TO BE THIS UNPLAYABLE. Bosses are ridiculous; they’re Unreal monsters with the stupidest textures ever applied to them (like Skaarj.utx panel ones) and with thousands points of health, aided by other mini-bosses still with stupid textures and still with thousands points of health. Sometimes you can’t even tell if said creature is a boss as it doesn’t look any different from the default version. It’s boring as hell and there’s no satisfaction whatsoever in beating them.
Spinners and Predators are also employed, horribly. Later in the game you find these indestructible Queen eggs that look like, barrels I guess, which spawn Flies, Pupae and Spinners infinitely, no matter how much you’re close to them. And do you know what happens when you put several of these in a map and you have no way to stop them? You simply turn around and you see 60 or so insect pawns bothering you. Have fun afterwards.

The pack gets undeniably worse when your inventory becomes a mess after being filled of weapons from U4E, Infiltration and Pack7, as Return to Na Pali weapons and the Quadshot weren’t already enough. Any credit to the people who made them? No? At least there’s an useful command that gives you the possibility of throwing them but unfortunately they’re a necessity because due to the inconsistency of item placing, you’ll find them in one map (since the rest is a bunch of ripped maps it’s unthinkable the mapper decided to do at least something with those, it was probably too much work), and you need a lot of firepower to beat the bosses otherwise you can’t proceed forward. The invisibility item from Return to Na Pali returns here and you can use its immense jump boost in the moments where you want to skip a room or when there are like fifty or so pair of Jump Boots being placed around. Or because you can never make it to the other side of the gap with a normal jump because the author didn't bother to test the maps.
Son of Wrath was really generous with items: it’s somewhat common to find millions of ammo, Shield Belts, Assault Vests or Power Shields with 1000+ charge – that hilariously aren’t enough to get through the stupidest battles of the pack because they’re simply impossible or because you have given up due to boredom.

Stolen assets, and a corridor built "inside" the sky (check on the left hand side)

Words, most probably, aren’t worth enough to describe everything I saw, and not even pictures would be okay unless I take hundreds of shots. The progression of the maps is insane and nightmarish. Going from nondescript structures to deserts, from deserts to standard Na Pali villages, from outposts to Skaarj structures that use high-end TARDIS technology, from the Sunspire to another Sunspire, taking every starship you find to land somewhere else only to find another starship some seconds later and it keeps repeating. Where this poor guy is going? There are some translator messages in the first map but are best to be left ignored. I’m totally clueless. I don’t know how others would feel if they discover that their own maps have been stolen and placed into something like this; I know said levels are actually old but damn, leave them alone!

The pack, other than look and play bad, is a technical mess. I have been clear on how the author’s own geometry is a bug as a whole but other than that, we got HOMs, killer BSP, invisible walls and points where you’ll be stuck, like in the first TrapTemple map where an Automag triggers an event ONLY if you thrown away yours (which is obvious since you didn’t start with an Automag already in the original version of that level). Given how the whole thing is Coop-oriented, why the the majority of the maps have only one PlayerStart each? The biggest problem is that the original package doesn’t come with all the necessary files, so you’ll be unable to proceed if you want to; said files are even hard to come by! Many maps also suffer from unexplainable slowdowns that are heavy enough to make your game explode.

Did I mention on what platform this mappack can be played on? Unreal Gold, certainly. However, the last level (DMBellToll), can only be opened with 227 because Son of Wrath decided to place 227-only actors in it. So, genius. It leads to “amap30” which is not available already, and somebody would look forward to what other maps he’ll use or steal in the future. I won’t, though.

This is, without any doubt, the worst Unreal mappack that I have ever played, other than being something really terrible in general game-wise. I don't have to say anything more: we had to wait year 2013 to see something like this in the fray. You can accidentally play this if you turn on Unreal, jump in Multiplayer and end up in a server running these maps.
Even if Coop games are nowadays extremely rare, at least make sure your server is going to have decent or acceptable stuff. You don't use the "it's made for Coop" lettering as an excuse to add anything outright terrible and unpleasant in your maps.
I'll let my final vote do its explicit job, because I think this collection perfectly deserves it.


Re: [u1][rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 21 May 2013, 23:17
by UB_
Download link coming soon. I'll probably review Force Shield Bunker when I have time, it's a rather good map.

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 00:00
by Semfry
This lived up to the hype.

But seriously if there's a spreading Unreal map pack full of plagiarised content (with no credit to boot) it seems like something should be done about that as it's a pretty serious problem, and I'm not sure about providing a download link either if that's the case.

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 00:44
by UB_
I added the link now, it's your turn what do you want to do with it though (a quick Google search will let you find the original one).

As plagiarism goes, at least we're not dwelling into stuff from Xidia or Seven Bullets. It's just a delicate topic which should touch whoever got victim of this. Would they care?
Sadly, even if there would be no custom map content throughout the 30 maps, quality wouldn't change that much. Accepted review or not, I spilled out the beens and shown you this rare package. The rest is a personal opinion like any other one, based from what I felt while playing it, and I'm not going to change it in any way.

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 00:50
by bob
When i found these , I tried to play them , but due to the combination of upak and mass amount of mods attached, i ended up playing then in separate install., by playing them i mean i opened the first one? got stuck where i thought the mapper made a passage to small , After ghosting tho a bit of door BS and drops and i cant recall what else. They didn't make it to my server either . I didn't see the point in the effort of converting them to 225( the servers most people run are non upak), and i doubt they made it to newbies either , if only since they are upak map and there are almost no upak supporting servers.

when i played the first one, i sort of liked them for the traps in the first level. i didn't play further then that map because it was too much time to me to figure the puzzles out, so i never noticed the amount of simply copied maps. How unfortunate really.I was hoping for better. I wonder if these were really older maps , that were recently uploaded to npg , or if there is really someone named zack currently playing unreal....

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 00:59
by Buff Skeleton
Looks like something someone made for shits and giggles for a group of friends or just themselves to mess around in. Not sure it even deserves a proper review. Was this ever intentionally released to the public or did someone just get their hands on it through a server cache?

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 01:00
by Delacroix
Frankly, releasing it onto a server IS releasing it to the public unless server is passworded.

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 01:01
by Buff Skeleton
Delacroix wrote:Frankly, releasing it onto a server IS releasing it to the public unless server is passworded.

No it isn't.

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 01:02
by Delacroix
Yes it is, unless the server is passworded. Public server?

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 01:07
by Buff Skeleton
Yeah, you're right, an obscure Unreal coop server thrown up for quick testing for buddies, maybe by someone who doesn't really know what they're doing in the first place, is exactly the same as posting forum threads in the community announcing the release of a project complete with download links and an invitation to try it out, silly me

I mean, maybe someone DID intentionally release this, but just because a server is running and public doesn't mean it was meant to go out to a wider audience.

If you forget to lock your door, I guess all your shit is fair game for everyone right?

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 01:12
by bob
Waffnuffly wrote: Was this ever intentionally released to the public or did someone just get their hands on it through a server cache?

it was intentionally released as far as i can tell ,not ripped from anywhere.
unless the uploader them self misunderstood, it was uploaded to a public "Maps Of The Week" section of a popular coop server's file section.(npg) on 26-Jan-2013 16:20

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 01:13
by AlCapowned
Just because something is on a public server doesn't mean it was meant to be used outside of that server. Tentacle-Hunter's soccer map, for example, was a fun little map to mess around in, but I don't think he ever intended it to be anything else. It counts a co-op map, so it (along with the unfinished map in his pack) could be considered fair game if this pack is, which doesn't seem fair to me.

The scores don't make sense to me, either. The only way I can really see a map getting a 0 is if it's a soundless, texture-less, completely dark box. Even if the pack is as horrible as described, it has textures and architecture. Stolen and bad they may be, but they're better than nothing.

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 01:17
by Delacroix
Coop maps can rival SP-specific maps anytime. See Aquaducts. See TH's pack. See HerdCoop Csejte pack which I can already tell you will be scored HIGH. No, there's no excuse for something this awful. This ripped apart unintentional parody of everything SP. It got the score it deserved.

Waffnuffly wrote:If you forget to lock your door, I guess all your shit is fair game for everyone right?

Precisely. Of course you can still notify the police of thievery but e.g. any insurance company will consider that you brought this upon yourself and no insurance money will be paid.

So yeah. Password options and the ability to hide from master server -- all these options are for a reason and are clearly labeled.

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 01:25
by Mister_Prophet
I have to agree with Waffnuffly here. I'm not so sure ventures like this need to be reviewed here at USP. Aren't there genuine campaigns and levels out there we could be reviewing instead, giving real mappers more credit and attention? Also, it might even offend some mappers out there whose work has been used in levels like this to see them even given the time of day on the site.

Re: [rtnp] Custom Map Review: "Zack's Coop Maps" by Son of Wrath

Posted: 22 May 2013, 01:47
by Semfry
I've decided to remove the download link for now, although I'll keep it around for a bit to put back up if there's some sort of outcry against that for whatever reason.