AT A GLANCE:
Every week I like to spend an evening digging around on FilePlanet's Quake level archives for a dozen or so new maps in the hopes of finding one or two to run on my server when I host games. Most maps are boring or redundant, some are worthy of contemplation, and there are a few that are pathetic hunks of binary shit skulking around in cyberspace waiting for someone to stumble upon a download link to it. Gamma's Arena of Death falls in the former category. It really sucks, and not even in a "good fun" way.
John Carmack runs from
the scary blue light,
is distracted by the
missing textures, and
shoots the walls instead.
The idea has potential, and examples of the form have been around since the good old days of DOOM: a deadsimple largish open air arena with goodies tucked into the various nooks and crannies and a significant powerup in a central position, usually in a trap or platform that takes a second or two to access to increase melee combat. And while the author is familiar with the concept of the "open air arena" map he has executed it in a ham fisted clumsy manner that holds nothing new and almost defies the possibilities of the Quake 3 engine. It shouldn't have been so boring, but Gamma has managed to strip all of the "fun potential" out of the game and give us a totally forgettable exercise in binary spatial design.
DESCRIPTION: In the info txt (which is thankfully brief) the author states that the build time took "Too long. I had to get used to Quake 3 features etc." and I am wondering just what "features" he is referring to because they are not immediately apparent in his map design.
THE MAP: The level itself is essentially a lame ass "tourney" style open topped shoebox "map" with a rim running around the outside and a couple of smaller boxes connected to the compass points ... in the middle there is what appears to be a bathtub with a Quad damage on the bottom. What fun. Other than the overhanging ledge/catwalk (cleverly missing its texture), the absolutely useless pit of Death Fog and the submersible water texture used in the bathtub, there is really no evidence of 3 dimensional level design at all - this could be a game level for anything that was recompiled to run on with the Q3 textures and weapons. Indeed the only real attribute other than the Pointless Dumbass Shaft of Death Fog that is specific to Quake 3 are the idiotic music trigger points, which are literally all over the place. I still remember the first time I heard the "Gothic Bad Acid Trip Chant" music for Quake 3 and having my hair stand on its end, but the way that they are used here I wanted to switch the goddamn things off and break out the Boxcar Willie MP3's. Total fucking overkill.
And speaking of overkill, even with such a dinky little dumb arena/"tourney" map the guy has managed to overdo the colored lighting routine. The one teleport (also cleverly missing a texture and represented by a grid -- one of Gamma's "signature" features, I think) he managed to insert glows with a deep blue hue that I can only describe as "electric Blue Smurf Barf" that is totally out of place in a fullbright open air map (the complimenting shadows under the catwalk look especially phony too). He even managed to overdo the "lava hell" red glowing in one of the weapon rooms, contrasting it with a series of yellow spotlights, the combination of which reminds me of that runny orange heartburn-inducing oil on a low budget pizza slice (and let's not forget to mention the "cracks" over the lava that look suspicously like crummy brush alignment). I also think that the "happey f4g0t light blue" glow in the quad bathtub is also a bit too much, but I might be nit-picking here. Maybe there's just supposed to be a lot of chlorine in the water.
for a larger image
of this one way elevator
shaft to Hell while
I barf into the bucket
I keep under my desk.
GAMEPLAY: As far as gameplay concerns like weapon placement, it seems to have been done in the good old "place a weapon arbitrarily at even distances/who gives a fucking flying shit" school of design, though the Lightning Gun is wonderfully out of place stuck under the texture-free catwalk in such a way that I suspect the author was determined to place it in the map but didn't really have any place in mind for it to go. I have the same misgivings about the Haste powerup also thoughtfully included sitting in a fucking doorjam. It's like, if you don't have a place for something you really want to inlcude to obnoxiously pump up the file size, well just stick it off to the side and fuck 'em. Ugh.
FUN FACTOR: I had more fun dragging the skunk that got hit in front of our house off of the road and into the ditch this afternoon.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The map itself is competently made, but inspires a sort of "running around like retards" mode of play that wears itself thin after about a minute and a half. I ended up hopping into the "stupid pointless shaft of Death Fog" a couple of times just to break up the monotony of standing in one place while the John Carmack bot skipped around and zapped me with the lightning gun every once in a while ... I guess the missing texture grids confused it. Indeed bot use usually gets a positive nod from me being that I don't like to inflict the horrors of the random Quake level try-out on my dear fellow players, but in this map it was kind of pointless because he just ran around like an idiot until I nuked him. Then again, there isn't a whole lot to DO in the level, so maybe I should be happy that they just spawn at least.
Back to the fucking Death Fog for a minute. I love the stuff as much as anyone who has floundered blindly in it, but you really have to do more than just make a hole in the floor and stick a wad of it down there. Then again, maybe it epitomizes the "gestalt" of the map, which is to use things that aren't needed in a map that doesn't really ever need to be played again. It will be my pleasure to delete it as soon as I have enraged some of the people on my server by running it for them.
ratings go from 0 (bearable) to -10 (painfully terrible).
Total score goes from 0 (ok) to -50 (the worst piece of shit you'll ever play).