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[u1] Custom Map Review: "Unreal Zero" by Bill 'Spentron' Spencer

Posted: 13 Nov 2013, 05:18
by Delacroix
Map Information:

Map Title: Unreal Zero
Map Author: Bill "Spentron" Spencer
Reviewer: Delacroix
Review Score: 30%
Tagline: If you're in for a couple minutes of brainwiping slaughter of the entire Unreal zoo, this is the pack for you.

Main Review:

Unreal Zero: Cats 2 was already reviewed by Mr. Prophet, however it's the final map of a set - and it is the entire set that should be reviewed as a whole rather than each map separately because they are parts of a whole. Hence I decided to write this here review which can also be treated as a re-review of Cats 2.
Unreal Zero is a "WTF pack", there is no question about that. It's in the formula - Cats 2, the final level of the pack is the nicest in terms of quality views but in terms of gameplay it's just as crazy as the levels that precede it. Basically, according to Mr. Prophet's definition, a WTF map is "any map that has no regard to the general principles of standard formula, instead taking an absurd concept and turning it into a totally unconventional map in every major aspect..." - bingo. That's Unreal Zero for you. Judging from the release notes, Spentron takes quite some pride from the "Unreal Zero" formula he devised and rightfully so - despite the largely mediocre visuals, the playthrough was one of the most unique and insane experiences ever to me.

That is one big behemoth...

The surroundings are barren. And surreal. And, they're filled with so many enemies that it's a complete chaotic spamfest without any rhyme or reason, reminiscent of the early days of Doom or Quake SP mapping. The starting area, u0exer level is a nice little tutorial that introduces the player to the Unreal Zero formula quite well. I've been pleasantly surprised how well it prepared me to the chaos embodied that is the Cat Bombs map - and quite well equipped, too. It did however look quite ugly, with the sole exception of the arches above the ground level.

Two of the numerous accursed "Cat Bombs"...

Cat Bombs doesn't get much prettier - most areas are squarefests with no rhyme or reason, however notable are the killer and fast "Cat Bombs" that need to be activated and danced around for quite some time in order to progress further into the bowels of the level. Things become bearable for the eyes with Cats 2, which features a landscape that, while still surreal, is no longer a squarefest without purpose. It's a quite nice floating island with random buildings, slith- and devilfish-filled oases and a large perimeter of rocks that stop the player from falling off the island to their death.

The island... Almost serene...

Apart from completing the tutorial, the main focus of Unreal Zero are the accursed Cat Bombs. In the first main level, they can kill you if you're not careful. In the second level, they are guarded by enough opposition to make you want to kill yourself instead. Either way, they are a curse. Supposedly dealing with the Cat Bombs can help save the Nali, but how, it's not exactly explained. The gameplay circulates between two formulae. One being a massive-scale carnage of everything in sight and the other - irritating platforming sections, particularly abundant in the first main level.

The skeletal ruin...

The audio layer is... there. That's it. While there is a myriad of tracks playing during gameplay and there might be occasional ambience here and there in the final map, let's be frank: in the chaotic carnage that lies at the core of Unreal Zero formula, you won't be hearing a damn thing. The players will either be busy rejoicing the wholesale slaughter like in the oldschool days of Doom, others will be thrown away by the visuals and shall promptly remove the pack from their hard drives. It's a love-it-or-hate-it kind of pack. And, to be frank, despite all the negative remarks I have for it, I'm in the "love-it" camp: the chaotic shootout of enemy hordes brings back memories and with them comes nostalgia. Now that's something I can be thankful for.

There is a couple technical details that I disliked though: some movers can kill you despite not looking like they're going to and sometimes the teleporters can be buggy. I've investigated the first main map in UnrealEd and it's revealed that it has three teleporters: to u0cats2 where it should lead, to Unreal flyby (?!) or to CityIntro, the UT flyby (?!). This can ruin your progress so if that happens, just type "admin switchcooplevel u0cats2" to proceed to the right level if you're stuck at the ending of the first main level. The author should've done something about it though...


Unreal Zero is chaos embodied. That's all there's to it. It looks ugly, surreal and utterly nonsensical, you can only find out how it sounds only AFTER you're done clearing the rooms, but there's the kicker: if you're in for a couple minutes of brainwiping slaughter of the entire Unreal zoo, this is the pack for you.

BUILD (50%)
Architecture 3
Texturing 2
Lighting 2
Sound 2
Technical Execution 3

CAST (50%)
Conceptual Grandness 4
Story Construction 1
Story Implementation 1
Gameplay Awe 8
Gameplay Balance 4

Total Score: 30%

Download links: - GD

Re: [u1] Custom Map Review: "Unreal Zero" by Bill 'Spentron' Spencer

Posted: 13 Nov 2013, 08:22
by TheIronKnuckle
Good review. I don't know if that link includes the ut version, but IIRC there were two versions: Unreal and UT

Re: [u1] Custom Map Review: "Unreal Zero" by Bill 'Spentron' Spencer

Posted: 15 Nov 2013, 06:40
by Mister_Prophet
Interesting. I remember Cat Bombs 2 being presented to me as separate map, not as part of a small bundle. The title led me to believe this was always the case however, I wish Spentron was still around to clarify this.

Re: [u1] Custom Map Review: "Unreal Zero" by Bill 'Spentron' Spencer

Posted: 15 Nov 2013, 06:55
by Delacroix
Sometimes authors release maps separately while still interconnecting them - and afterwards they bundle it. Chico and both ShamuQuests is a similar case (I still have an archive of SValley2 without as much as a readme!) and of recent scenarios MakeMeUnreal and Project Flora...

So yeah. But nobody blames you for not knowing - because let's be frank: Unreal single-player mapping scene is a MESS. It always has been. Look at Crazy For Fight 2 - all the maps were unsigned by the author, and the title present in the maps led us to believe that it was the only CFF out there. When trying to find out who the author was I opened a real can of worms that led me into another search - of a prequel to the pack and a missing sequel. I found both but I might have failed just as well as succeed in that attempt.

Shivan? Ha. Now that's a tough cookie as there is no author given. Nor a readme. An anonymous map. I'll review it just as I reviewed the others but the fact remains that as we are nearing completion of our review roster - and from my recent examination we slowly are as there isn't all that many SP maps to begin with - the remaining maps will raise questions for the reviewers. In the recent batch of reviews I was lucky enough to find answers to my questions but this will not always be the case.

EDIT: Forgot to clarify, but I eventually found the original archive of Shivan, readme included. The guy behind Lowrida made that one.

Re: [u1] Custom Map Review: "Unreal Zero" by Bill 'Spentron' Spencer

Posted: 06 Mar 2018, 14:49
by StalwartUK
Does anyone happen to have the file ""? Tried Google but only got back this thread.

Re: [u1] Custom Map Review: "Unreal Zero" by Bill 'Spentron' Spencer

Posted: 10 Mar 2018, 02:26
by Diego96
I want to know what happened in Cat 1

Edit: One of the files is this

Re: [u1] Custom Map Review: "Unreal Zero" by Bill 'Spentron' Spencer

Posted: 27 Jul 2019, 19:32
by Delacroix
Everything has been reuploaded. All reviews including this one have their screenies back as well. Sorry about dawdling on this one!

Re: [u1] Custom Map Review: "Unreal Zero" by Bill 'Spentron' Spencer

Posted: 31 Jul 2019, 00:01
by Diego96
Delacroix wrote:Everything has been reuploaded. All reviews including this one have their screenies back as well. Sorry about dawdling on this one!


Re: [u1] Custom Map Review: "Unreal Zero" by Bill 'Spentron' Spencer

Posted: 01 Aug 2019, 09:42
by salsaSkaarj
I thought I had played the cats years ago, but I soon found out I hadn't, and it wasn't at all anything I had expected.
Had a couple of hours spare yesterday and went on a mission.
The first level was relatively OK but for the chaotic mass fight which requires a bit of luck at the start - just too much explosive stuff flying all around you and quite unfair Warlord appearances but overall doable (on Medium).
The second level was interesting with a nice looking metal stairway/pathway to the first of the main areas.
That first main area with the catbombs that have to be touched is actually a lot easier than it seems, just make sure you don't stay put too long in the area you climbed into. Stick to the walls and remain out of sight/reach as much as possible while killing the enemy and (important) picking up the ammo. The puzzle isn't really a brainbreaker and the catbombs are easily avoided (they have a fixed path).
The next area is a pain and an ammo eater. The transport puzzle was solved using elimination - there was nothing else to do after half an hour of searching. The first transporter wasn't all that difficult but getting on to the second one requires precise timing which I didn't have (so I used fly mode to get on it).
The third level, the outside area (the island) provides some standard unreal fights, nothing too difficult (the warlords are weaker than normal). However it does take some time to find the way forward (not sure but I suspect you have to kill all enemies but there are no clues as to how many enemies there are).
The last area (I think the skeletal ruin) requires the player to find a way into a strange construction and some unfairly positioned opposition. The way forward here is not clear at all but your options are limited anyway (luckily) and Dame Fortuna was on my side as I immediately decided to try the seemingly impossible way to get into some kind of chamber.
There's some resistance inside and you're at a disadvantage and could get snagged on corners and edges so don't rush.
I think I found the ending but no end sequence started so I don't even know whether I finished it.

There are some really interesting ideas in this "pack" but at times there's too much chaos flying around. I suggest to play this on easy in order not to waste too much time with the fights.