level: the refueling station
author: samuel 'kaiser' villarreal
click here to download the map
3D gamers edge gold award winner!
- awesome architecture
- fantastic layout
- excellent action
- extreme challenge
- superior gameplay flow
- great item placement
- good atmposphere
- noclip traps
- some seams showing
- loses some tension/quality after first half
my favorite amatuer doom3 level designer to date is back again with a brand new level for fans of the single player game to enjoy. five months after the release of the T-lab complex he presents us with another great big sprawling map that serves as a sequel to T-lab. if you haven't played that one yet, i suggest you go and grab it first! does the sequel live up to the hype i gave the original? there are only two ways to find out: read this review, or play it yourself. i suggest you do both. -note- this review is based on playing at skill level 1.
this map differs from many other doom3 experiences in that it keeps a very fast pace, throwing hellspawn at you without offering much of a chance to relax. the item placement is almost perfect for the first half of the map, with health being needed when encountered and ammo being scarce enough to warrant your attention. this at times forces you to use weapons you'd normally not use, which adds a certain level of challenge to the game. unlike many levels which keep you well stocked with shells for the shotgun, you will find yourself using the pistol and machinegun a lot early on. later on in the map you will find yourself having a bit more luxury with a well stocked arsenal at your disposal, and health that is a bit more generous that necessary. however, throughout the map the challenge is high, and the action is frantic and lots and lots of fun.
visually speaking, all of this action and challenge is taking place in some very attractive locations. samuel is very skilled at producing exceptionally high quality architecture, that is often on par with that of the professional level designers at id software. twisting pipes, steaming vents, moving machinery, beautifully designed doors and lifts. samuel pours a great amount of attention to detail into his architectural design, and it makes journeying through his maps a visually stimulating experience. it takes a lot of skill and patience to craft locales that are both realistic enough to be believed, and beautiful enough to be admired. there is no lack of eye candy in this level, and i have included extra screenshots to display some of it's artistry.
samuel's skill with the mechanics of doom 3 level design is once again on display. as in his previous effort, the refueling station isn't just a straight forward romp through a futuristic mars location. it will show you a few new tricks and make good use of some you have seen before. the triggered events in this map are exceptionally cool to experience, yet unfortunately they mostly occur during the first half of gameplay. not that the second half isn't great fun to play, but the bar is raised so high in the first half that you begin to expect that level of quality to continue. the first half of this map did what most other maps fail to do. it set me on edge. i was at the point that i was while playing the original retail game: tense, ocassionally scared, and expecting anything to happen at any time. if this map had kept that level of tension going until the end, i would have been hard pressed to award it less than a perfect score, despite it's flaws which i will detail in the next paragraph.
in a map this good, the criticism may at times seem to be nit-picky, or overly critical of minutiae. however, as level design approaches perfection every last detail counts, and with that in mind i make the following observations. at one point in this level you recieve a PDA which includes no audio or email. it acts as a key. why then not just give the player a key? or, why not add some content to the PDA, adding more life to the gameplay? speaking of keys, you recieve a key in this map that opens a door that is just around the corner from the location of the key itself. this is a pointless addition, and adds nothing to the quality of the map. a key should either open a door that one has already discovered and found to be locked, or ocassionally to open a door further along in the map. at times in this map, doors will open, close, and lock as if controlled by otherworldly forces. in the map-exit text it is hinted that bertruger is behind this. why then would not some voice files or his evil laughter be inserted during these events? it would add greatly to the atmosphere. if you take the time to explore this level in detail, searching out secrets and such, you will be able to see some of the seams (misalignments) that are just beyond your vision if you stay on course. at one point two pipes with different textures merge, and the juncture is quite patchwork and ugly. at another point, you can leap over a railing and get stuck (requiring a noclip escape) and see where the pipes abruptly end in mid air. in the same room there is another location where you can get stuck requiring a noclip escape. finally there is a cache of boxes that say "mixom tools" in backward text. however, this may have been an intentional play on the whole moxim/mixom palindrome joked about in the retail game.
while the refueling station isn't a perfect doom 3 experience, it is very close to being one. for a free add-on level it is of such high quality that i can easily recommend it to anyone who loves doom 3 single player adventures. one cool feature of this level is that it offers a kill count and shows you how many secrets you found after you exit. that makes for some cool replayability. i say download this one, or miss out on a fantastic experience.