Screen Shot Screen Shot added 12-13-1999
level: back at the front 9,582K

author: rick troppman

download it here: download map file

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3D gamers edge: seal of approval winner

the good

the bad the summary
ohhhh yeah. way backin april of 1998, rick released a map called 'the relay station' which was one of my first reviews. since that time he has been silent in the world of spq2. but now, nearly 2 years later his voice can once more be heard; it's a roaring bellow that is echoing from withing pc's around the world. rick went back to the editor and whipped up a masterpiece of strogg-slamming mayhem: back at the front.

let me say right up front that this uint is huge. a near 10 meg download unzips into a sprawling 9 levels of bliss. back at the front looks, feels, and plays just as well as the original quake 2 single player mission - or any of the commercial mission packs. the story is minimal - but it's there with just enough info to keep you moving from goal to goal, while binding the whole unit together with a feasible plot. starting off in a shuttle, you kill your captors, grab an escape pod, head for the planet, then find your way home. your journey will be long, yet never uneventful. strogg lurk around every corner, often appearing right behind you, making the action non-stop brutal adrenaline pumping joy. ammo is placed in some abundance, nearly perfect to begin, but turning the player into a mighty arsenal of firepower by the final maps. health placement is a tad liberal - though a few times i went backtracking to scoop up any leftovers, a nearly perfect balance for fast action gameplay. weapon progression is also well done, making you fight your way with weaker weapons just long enough so that you'll savor the mighty guns when you get your grubby paws on them. what this all means is challenge. i had to restart from a save more times than i recall - but I never got frustrated. what that means to me is good planning by the author. these maps are brutal tough, but it won't be because you aren't provided with the tools to get the job done, it'll only be because of surprise strogg attacks or your own poor skills and/or judgement. when you boot up this unit prepare for gameplay on par with what id provides in their sp maps - you will have fun.

all this action, but what of the environment? the architecture here is great. maybe not the best you'll ever set eyes upon, but every structure is believeable, attractive, and given just enough embellishment to make you stop and stare. rick's skill as a level designer is especially noticeable when you realize that these maps are huge, detailed, filled with strogg, and yet most of them still play smoothly. i say most of them for a reason. a few times my measely P200 got bogged down during massive attacks in the larger open areas. however, since most folks out there have more processing power under the case than i do, i guess that isn't much of a complaint. however, if you have a pc at or below my level of power - be forewarned that there will be some moments of serious slowdown. for the most part though - these maps play smooth with great r_speeds. when i first started looking around, i expected slowdown to be a major factor, but it turned out to be only a minor irritation. along with the beautiful architecture, the layout shines as well. moving through the levels, everything fits together creatively and believeably. there is water, lava, ramps, stairs, elevators, hidden compartments, walkways, and just about every environment imaginable present for your enjoyment and exploration. most maps stick closely to the base theme, but there is variety enough to prevent things from getting stale. in short, all the wonderful action is taking place within some beautiful and well designed maps.

so, the unit has all the ingredients needed to please a player - but does it have any extras? sure it does! first off is the opening level, which could have been explained away in the text file, but instead rick took the time to build it into a map and set the tone for the gameplay to come. want more? - well, how about plenty of secrets available to reward the explorative player. also present are exploding architecture, some very cool rotating brushes, and new sounds.

the only nit-pick i could dredge up was the numerous improper item drops by vanquished strogg. when sharks drop shells and gladiators drop cells and rockets - i cannot help but take notice. what was strange about it was that most of the strogg drop logical ammo, yet ocassionaly it was just out-of-place. usually i witness an author stick to the book of what is proper item dropping, or else they seem to let any strogg drop anything. not a very big complaint, i admit, but enough of one to have made me take notice.

what all the above rambling boils down to is this: back at the front delivers top-notch action in a variety of beautifully designed maps, ala the masters at id software. if you even slightly enjoy spq2, you would be foolish to let this offering pass you by. and if you love spq2 - waste not a second more, grab this thing and play! in rick's own words "so whata ya waitin' for? Have a fraggin good time. Have some fun." i did rick... and i thank you heartily. noteworthy to the curious is that in my notes taken while playing this unit i wrote two interesting things: "you can tell rick had fun making this", and "yEEE hAAA!!". telling, no?