VeNgEaNcE's House Of Horrors
single player and deathmatch level reviews for half-life

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Xen maps have never been in high demand. The original Valve Xen maps were for many the low point of Half-Life. So its quite easy to see why not many people have used the theme in deathmatch. On opening XenDM my opinions were nearly swayed by the theme, but Rolf Hulsbergen proves that he can do the Xen theme justice.

The first thing you notice about XenDM is that it is quite a big map. There are several large main areas interconnected by
narrow corridors and vents. Thankfully the author understands that the world is not a matchbox (well the Xen world at least)and has given his map a very curved feel. A lot of new mappers seem to struggle with the architecture side of there maps, but the author shows us a mastery of his editor that you rarely see from new mappers. The best thing about the architecture is that the authors pulls it off without crippling the game engine. The r_speeds rarely ever go over 200 and even the most humble of machines will be able to play this map like a dream.

The author has translated most of the things we expect to see in deathmatch maps and given them all a Xen feel. The lights
all look much more organic. The health rechargers have been replaced by the healing pools seen in the Half-Life single player. The author even replaces the vents with a Xen equivelent. Ambient sounds are used in some areas of the map and add to the overall atmosphere. The lighting in XenDM is reasonably well executed and fits in with the theme. The textures also make you feel that you are in an alien world and go along well with the authors intereasting architecture.

XenDM is generally well connected and there are only one or two areas where you will find yourself at a dead end. However you feel like you are being led around some areas and sometimes end up going round in circles. The inclusion of an extra exit in some areas could have prevented this. Weapon placement is good in most areas and you are never low on ammo, however some weapons (like the Hornetgun and satchels) are harder to get to than weaker ones like the MP5. Which brings me on to the authors use of traps. The gauss gun is well guarded by lasers which turn on and off at regular intervals. The MP5 is placed under a huge laser beam which is activated by shooting it. Why the author chose to put the MP5 here instead of a stronger weapon like the egon or RPG is probably down to his judgement of weapon strengths. I agree that the MP5 is a strong weapon, but I don't think it deserves to be guarded by such a destructive trap.

Overall, XenDM is a very well made map. Its even better when you consider that its the author's first. Its certainly enjoyable to play, and with a bit of tweaking to the weapon placement and connectivity it could be something special. Definatly one of the best Xen maps around and certainly worth playing.