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level: belly of the beast
author: jason (elfinko) fink
download it here: download map file
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3D Gamers Edge: Seal of Approval Winner!
- Awesome layout
- Fast pace
- Excellent flow
- Great challenge
- Cinematic/Epic feel
- LOTS of action
- Nostalgia factor
NOTE: The version reviewed is version 5 of Belly of the Beast, originally titled botb5.zip. I have renamed the .zip to botb.zip to shorten it. This is the FINAL BUILD of this Unit and has many bug-fixes not present in previous releases. I've always been a fan of Elfinko - from the first time I played Nailbomb. I could see even back then that this was an author who had a vision that went beyond 'making a cool map with monsters'. Nailbomb had a very distinct feel and it's own sense of identity which is rare in a first effort. Not only that - but it was FUN... a lot of fun. Now, a whole year later, Jason has released his third Q2 Unit, and this one really rocks.
Belly of the Beast displays it's originality right from the get go. The Unit starts off to a nicely designed 3D title screen, which immeditely launches the player off into a fast-action space-battle intro cinematic. The cinematic is designed entirely with the game engine, and includes new music as you watch the action. What a cool touch this is... it's not only unique and fun, but sets the stage in way that no other user-created SPQ2 has done to date. You get a sense of where you are, how you got there, and just how much trouble you are in -- even before you make your first move!
Getting into the action is even more satisfying. There are an whopping 13 new levels here (including the intro cinematic), chock full of new music, action galore, big and tough levels, chewy caramel, and tasty nugat. The very first map: Outer Storage Facility sets the tone for what you are about to experience: awesome layout, fast action, high challenge, surprises, incredible secrets, pleasing architecture, and a real sense of urgency. This map is very large, and you are almost constantly on the move. Strogg are spaced just right to make the action come at the player at a steady pace so you never get bored, while never feeling overwhelmed. The sheer amount of motion in this first map amazed me. You run through a wide variety of locales, up and down elevators, over bridges, up and down staircases.... what a great sense of location! Added in are some very cool secrets. Not the "shoot the panel for a Quad" type, but the kind where you open up new areas of the map. My favorite! As you fly through the map, gunning down Strogg (all 67 of them!) left and right -- don't forget to pause and admire your surroundings. The architecture never quite achieves the lofty heights that a few rare authors reach, yet it is far from bland. There are little touches everywhere that show Jason's unique vision. For example, this first map displays some very nice inset windows and lights in the opening area. The architecture is not going to take your breath away, but it never fails to be realistic, and keep the player immersed. What I have just described is what you can expect from this entire Unit. It never gets dull or stale. Below, I will point to some highlights and give a round-up of the rest of the Unit.
Next you find yourself in Stroggos Crossing. As the level opens the player is treated to another musical interlude that helps carry out the epic feel of this Unit. Each time you hear the music come in, it feels like you have begun a new chapter in the saga of this Unit. It's such a subtle, yet effective, touch. The start of this map is wonderfully brutal, and the challenge continues throughtout. You'll need the two big health boosts this map has to offer, and you are sure to be challenged by the excellent Strogg placements.
Next stop is Nav Alpha. It's a small map with no real action and serves only to increase the tension and move the plot along. Go exploring and you'll uncover a creepy alcove. This map is a very cool touch. It offers no Strogg to fight, it merely sets the stage for the action to come, while enhancing the immersiveness of the Unit. I love it.
In Strogg Operations Facility you are greeted to a sound effect that will be quite familiar if you are a fan of the original Quake. A nice touch to keep old-school players happy. There is action o'plenty in this map. 80 Strogg will come your way, and you must defeat them all. This map features several details that really add to the overall experience of this Unit. There is an excellent event where the player will "power-up" a door, very nicely designed secrets, a cool presentation of a power-shield, readable computer monitors which detail Strogg communications, and a fun little cart-ride. After you complete the map, you return to Nav Alpha where you now have access to a Transport Cart. I love it when an author weaves his Unit together so that the player revisits areas. Once inside the Cart, you begin a journey into some very moody lava-filled passageways, and then on into...
Helpless... and that is exactly what you are. Trapped in the transport cart, you merely admire the surroundings as you travel to an unknown destination. Dramatic passages with rivers of lava and luminous blue crystals are there for your aesthetic delight. Cool ambient sounds, and the cries of Insane Marines create an immersive aural tapestry. Yet another level which exists solely to advance the plot, add to immersiveness, and make this Unit as damn good as it is! As you travel, you are offered a glimpse of a map the you will be exploring in the future, but for now you are deposited in...
The Gladiator Training Grounds. Ohhhh... what a cool name! Ever imagine what would happen if you took a Classic Quake map and a Quake2 map, put them together in a jar, shook them thoroughly for a few minutes, and then played this new hybrid map? Here's your chance to do just that. A mingling of textures from each game, as well as a distinct Classic Quake feel (I love it when you get the "Some Bars Have Been Lowered" message... what a throwback!). Here you get the advanced engine enhancements of Q2, as well as the new architectureal capabilities, but with the essence of a Classic Quake level. This map is very, very well done, and should please any true fan of Quake.
Next stop is Pass Thru. Once again we have a small little map with no other purpose than to keep this Unit fresh, and immerse the player. My first time through this map I was so surpirised and delighted that I don't want to ruin anything for you by giving away the secret... just play this Unit, and enjoy this truly creative level!
Now you enter the massive Strogg Refinery. This map starts off very fast and furious and it will put your skills to the test. All along this map will challenge you as Gunners and Enforcers attack en masse. Cool ambiance is achieved via crackling electronic devices and explosions. In keeping with the theme, the player is treated to another ride in a transport which deposits you in a fun little arcade-style area which will be familiar to those who have played Jason's past efforts.
Doorway to Jorg is a massive affair which you will visit on two seperate occasions, and serves as the final hurrah before you face the final Boss. This map invokes the styles of Hexen2 intertwined with that of Q2. Spiral staircases and cool marble textures make for some fair eye-candy, and Strogg by the boat-load makes for some killer action. Even though the player is nearly finished with the Unit by this time, the level is still extremely fast, furious, and brutal. Man, you have got to love the flow that this Unit embodies. There is just SO much motion. Conquer this map, drop into a well designed tunnel and enter:
Bossman. Hehe... no pretenses with the title, eh? The map is just what it says - the home of the Boss. You'll need to face a few more Strogg and collect the copious amounts of ammo provided before you meet him - but it's a short and sweet journey. The final arena manages to make the end-game fun and unique. The tunnels under Jorg give the battle it's own distinct flavor and make the fighting fun. Once you wipe-out Jorg, hope into the pod and escape!
Wow! Wasn't that fun! Oh... yeah... that's right, you haven't played it yet! Well, don't wait, download it at once! Quake2 was never better than in Belly of the Beast. This is a must have for any fan of the game. Allow me to say THANK YOU to Jason for this awesome Unit, his cooperation, and his patience in waiting for me to review his creation. And after you play this Unit, why not join me in thanking him and send him an email -- his hard work surely deserves a minute of your time!