P11: Frog Blasting/Blasted Frogs
(Depending on which exit you take from the previous level, you end up either on Frog Blasting or Blasted Frogs. As far as I remember, they're roughly the same level, but objects are in different places and you start in a different location. And I don't believe you can access the secret level from Blasted Frogs, so Frog Blasting is the level I chose.)
(Edit: this is wrong, you can access the secret exit, and in fact the first half of Blasted Frogs is pretty different, but I still only did Frog Blasting.)
This level sucks in every conceivable way. It's a monument to nearly all of the bad habits in single player map design, so I'm just going to go through the level point by point.
First of all, the layout. Frog Blasting is a loosely linear level; it's done in two more or less separate segments, and in order to get to the area with the chip that you're looking for, you need to open a sewage drain chute and go through it. The problem? This is so fiendishly obscure and there are no pointers anywhere in the architecture or layout or terminal text of where to go; the level is so unclear in its layout that you can spend an hour plus looking for the door that you open. It's not as bad as Hex Level 73, but it's close; the open spaces are misshapen and curved, and with the way the interior sections go up and down, and curve back on themselves, you get no pointers as to which corridor goes to which building. Huge tracts of overlapping corridors and superfluous buildings, and a lack of variation anywhere in the architecture, makes the level just another nightmarish maze. The first problem is finding the first terminal, which comes with a recharger but no save. Durandal gives you no help whatsoever, so you just keep going.
The next thing you find is another useless terminal and a wire panel next to it. The wire is what opens the hatch to the second half of the level, but good luck figuring that out; it changes the level of the sewage, but you're unlikely to notice that at all. The sewage in the first half of the level is done in similar styles to, say, Charon Doesn't Make Change or One Thousand Thousand Slimy Things -- it's a decoration, but you want to stay out of it; everything interesting is upstairs. But it turns out that no, the wire opens a single door in a distant corner behind a wall, half-submerged in sewage. You would never find it back there unless you were desperate and tried all other options, or if you fell in on accident and just happened to pass through the corridor.
The door itself is opposite the first save in the map, I believe, but the room is damn dark and the save is easily missed -- and with the second section being what it is, that's going to suck to be you. The second half is pretty much a simple run to the chip and back, with one path going in front of one of Rubicon's notoriously dangerous Juggernauts. Now, because the game took your guns away a couple levels ago, and since this level has almost no ammo at all on it, you have absolutely no way to take this Juggernaut down on TC. All you can do is run past and hope the Juggernaut doesn't use its machine guns, as there's no way to not get hit by them in that big open room.
But getting past the sheer failure in the layout to begin with, the texturing and lighting on this map is exceptionally poor. And these are problems present in Rubicon to begin with, but this level is especially bad; most of the level is gray with no lighting to accentuate the architecture, and with enough fog to dull whatever few features there are. This level is not a looker. Even the geometry is just sloppy and nasty; it's off the grid, which gives it that nice "organic" geometry, but with no consideration to how textures fit into this plan, so all of the textures are fit badly, and the curves are just bland and featureless.
Even the combat on this level sucks. There are few straightforward battles on this level; most of the enemies are shooting at you from other ledges and towers, so you'll put the Pistol and Maser to good use. But that's okay. The big problem is that because the level has so many open windows, the entire level is just a field day for the many PCMs and drones to come at you from any angle conceivable. It seems like no matter how long you're on this map, they just keep coming every few minutes. (Do they respawn? That's really shitty.) I've already expressed my distaste for PCMs, and this level is especially bad; they're silent and can come at you from any angle, which means they're usually coming from behind, and since they don't make any noise or shoot at you, by the time you see them on the radar it's likely too late. Even the Drones are extra shitty, since some of them shoot bursts of seeking Defender bolts. Anyone who played the original TGI knows how frustrating those red Defenders were, as those shots are rather hard to dodge and do a lot of damage. So couple them with speedy, maneuverable Drones and you've got a real hair-puller. That's just really shitty, unrewarding combat, and trying to contend with this nonsense while finding that goddamn door in the sewage is... trying.
Feh. And the worst part is? When you find the chip, you're likely to return to the first terminal. There's no reason not to; Durandal didn't say anything. But what happens? Durandal insults you and chides you for not following instructions (you're supposed to be over there you idiot!), which is just douchebaggy behavior since he never told you about another terminal to begin with! What a jackass. I hate this level.
The secret exit is properly obscure: there's a switch that seems to do nothing, but in actuality it lowers a single step on a boardwalk allowing you to swim onto it from the sewage. It's actually a good secret; the window across from the switch shows you the step that lowers, if you have the eyes to look for it.
Level design: 1/5
Memorability: 1.5/5; this level doesn't have any real features to identify it to begin with. What a bad level in every way possible.
Last edited by RyokoTK
on Aug 19th '09, 14:31, edited 1 time in total.