may be well over a year old, but it is one of the
best the community has to offer. The author, Neil
Manke needs no introduction. He has been around
since Quake and amazes everyone with every map he
makes. This map however is in my opinion, is the
Neil starts as he means to go on with the intro,
which is nothing short of spectacular. We are
treated to an impressive flyby of the Darkstar
itself, sweeping around the ship, past its huge
roaring engines until the camara comes to a stop
and zooms in on one of the windows. Barney is
knocking on your door telling you to wake up.
Yes, yet again you play good old Gordan Freeman,
and yet again he's slept in too long (me and
Freeman share many qualities). After this
impressive introduction you are left in your room
ready for work.
The problem with a lot of Half-Life maps is they
start good but the quality soon slips. With
Darkstar this is not the case. The most
impressive thing about this map is the
atmosphere, which this map carries in truck loads.
I think that Neil achieves this better than
others thanks to his use of ambient sounds.
Everywhere you go, you can hear humming
computers, dripping water and the roaring engines
I mentioned before. I think that the little
touches in this map are what makes it come alive.
For example, a scientist trying to get a game to
work, autopsies, cargo ships landing,
malfunctioning machinary and one touch I
especially liked, steam coming off a cup of
coffee (tea for us Brits).
Ok, so I've said this map looks and 'feels'
really nice, but how does it play? Well you'll be
pleased to hear that this map excels in gameplay
just as much as looks. Darkstar is more the
thinking mans (or womans) map. Neil provides us
with some well thought out puzzles which are not
too tricky but keep you entertained. The combat
is also well pulled off, Neil keeps the player of
their toes with his cunning use of suprise
attacks (wait until you come to the area where
the scientist is being barbacued and you'll see
what I mean). Another thing I like about this map
is the fact that it moves away from the standard
grunt-fests we see these days (in fact in this
map there's not a grunt in sight).
The lighting in Darkstar is pretty much perfectly
executed and adds to the already brilliant
atmosphere. In terms of architecture this map
does not dissapoint. The exterior of the ship is
amazing and I wouldn't be suprised if Neil got
asked to build a real one for NASA. The inside is
also entirely believeable, and is furnished with
many computers and wonderfully built Zoo exhibits.
Neil also shows us that he knows how to keep the
ageing game engine under control. He generally
keeps the r_speeds low and they only go over 500
once or twice. Darkstar is also successful in its
item placement. If you look hard enough you will
be rewarded with better weapons much earlier.
Ammo and health are also scattered generously
around the map. You do need to search a bit to
find ammo though (realistically though I don't
think ammo usually lies around on the floor) but
this is not a problem. The last thing I should
mention about Darkstar is the voice acting, which
is superb. This use of custom sentences really
helps make the player feel more involved.
Fantastic doesn't even begin to describe this map.
You'll be hard pressed to find something as good
as this. Neil's later maps may be technically
better, but for me they lack the magic that
Darkstar seems to have. My only problem with
Darkstar is that it has to end eventually. If you
do not own this superb map then download it now,
or get your head checked!