level: progetto genoma
author: mark shan
download it here: download map file
3D gamers edge: seal of approval winner
- great architecture
- excellent challenge
- great action
- good layout
- good story
- uneven flow
- uneven ammo/health distribution
- some annoying audio
mark shan is back with his fourth effort, progetto genoma, and it is his biggest, best, and most ambitious project to date. if you've played mark's past maps, you know what to expect in this huge twelve level unit, only this time it's bigger, better, and more fun than ever. the first thing you will notice is how improved the visuals are. first off, the textures alignments are much improved. there are still some visual errors, some minor misalignments that are visible, but this time it is an exception - not the rule. also improved are colored lighting effects and visibility in general. these maps aren't as garish as his previous efforts. the colored lights are still used a bit excessively for my tastes, and pitch blackness is still too prevalent - but conditions are much improved over the 'lamber' units. colored light use is always a tough one. when it becomes the main element of style, such as in 'what the end it for', it can be a very powerful tool. it gets tricky when you are trying to build 'realistic' environments, and want mood-colors and accent-colors without turning your level into some ugly 70's disco-hall. 'progetto' uses color deftly for the most part, though, as with the textures, there are some areas that look a touch less than professional.
where 'progetto' really shines is in the action and challenge departments. there are a lot of strogg to subdue, and the placement of the strogg makes it a lot of fun, as well as a high challenge. i enjoy when a level kills me, and forces me to retry an area a few times, developing a strategy to get through it. the trick for the level designer it to not make it so tough that it takes dozens of attempts (or cheat code use) to win through. mark has walked that fine line nicely in these maps. the action is almost always in high-gear, and the challenge ranges from mild to fierce, yet never becomes frustrating or overwhelming. the one exception occurs in the beginning of the 'the main castle' level, which was impossible (for me) without the invulnerability power-up. my main gripe in this area is the uneven flow of the action and challenge. instead of the unit increasing in difficulty as it goes, it has pockets of high-level challenge spread almost at random throughout the unit. there were times late in the mission that i went breezing through nearly entire levels, while the second level 'dungeons' laboratory' was brutally difficult. part of the problem is item and health distribution. it is one area where this unit is very weak. at times health is so abundant i could waste a +25 pack when i was only down 10. at other times it becomes so scarce i would get a bit upset. ammo is the same way, at times you are showered with excessive firepower, at other times you'll go a long while with one of your weapons depleated of ammo. of course, strogg placement plays into this as well. i believe that mark is very wise when it comes to placing the enemies. he knows how to make fun run-n-gun strafe-fest action. he knows how to devise a fiendish trap that requires planning and strategy. he knows how to provide a mellow area that allows you to mow 'em down for a while, relieving some stress. what he needs to work on is putting all of these concepts into a cohesive whole that has an ebb and flow that equates to good gameplay. he needs to generate a sense of mounting challenge and tension that escalates throughout the entire unit.
'progetto' also improves over previous shan creations in terms of level layout and story. the locations seem much more realistic this time around. the levels are arranged in a manner that is believeable, and keeps the player moving. and the plot is much more fleshed-out than in his previous efforts. computer updates keep you moving, keep you informed, and most importantly, keep you feeling like something is happening and you are affecting it. overall, this is an exceptional unit. it is an improvement over the 'lamber' levels in every way. it is much more professional, and definitely more fun. unfortunately, it still incorporates some annoying, loud, repetitive audio that made me want to throw my speakers out the window, but not so bad as in 'forever' where it seriously hurt the score of the unit. mark shan has evolved into a designer worthy of note, all he needs to do now is work on ironing out a few final bugs and i believe he could create a product worth paying for.