Mark Shan is certainly the most productive mapper left in the small single player Quake2 community. This is his fourth large episode of levels, and they carry on the theme from all his previous releases.
The levels are not populated in their number of rooms and areas, but instead by their enormous scale. As soon as you spawn into the short one-roomed start level, you are hit with a magnificient looking great hall, with a perfection reflection in the glass floor.
For those of you who seem to think there are no decent non-base Q2 maps - this is the second release in a month with a unique style. Mark has scrapped together textures from many sources, including Rune, Unreal and Quake3. The result is an exotic and fresh design, much an improvement over Mark's previous releases. The styles range from large palaces using Rune textures, underground sewers using Quake3 bricks to futuristic bases using Unreal tech textures.
Mark's usual design of huge structures held up by a consistent display of pillars is spread throughout. Very similar in design to Progetto Genome, but with it's fresh texture-set and less plainer areas, 1492 is definitely a great looking episode.
There are seven levels in the pack, including a short a start map with no monsters, and a small end map which is one hell of a battle.
The gameplay is the usual Mark Shan standard - rather than creating challenging combat scenarios, Mark launches mass carnage against the player - in the hundreds. If you liked the gameplay in Mark's previous levels, this is more of the same, but only more of... the same. As this time Mark has really flooded the levels with enemies. When you first start the beginning level, there are around 30 soldiers all running at your in opposite corners of a huge arena. This type of gameplay, feeding rediculous amounts of enemies to the player at once, doesn't sound all the great really. But once you get into the game and open up on a flock of Infantry, it really is a blast. Sprinting through showers of blood as you just lobbed a pineapple into a group of soldiers is very fun.
Unfortunately, it has it's flaws. These problems could have been fixed with some more testing, but I can't blame Mark really, considering it takes around three hours to play through it all! The first big problem I personally had was the lack of a Grenade Launcher. It probably is somewhere, but I never found it and by about halfway through was really struggling. I had very little in the way of ammo for all other weapons, but a full collection of grenades. And when you've got several Gladiators running at you, struggling to throw a grenade at them with the players weak arm is not very effective at all. 1492 is far too difficult a mission to go without the Grenade Launcher.
And while this gameplay is fun and fresh, some players may find it a little repetitive and too difficult in places. In fact, I think many players will be forced to throw the cheats on, as I did. How many of you are going to wander into a room through a huge corridor and behind you 20 (yes 20) Parasites emerge from holes in the wall. And if that isn't enough, the same battle is flipped into the next corridor - so you get to take out 40 Parasites in a matter of a few minutes with the only place to run behind them all!
Unfortunately battling into the second half of the game I cannot give an accurate review of 1492, as I was forced to 'impulse 9' myself the Grenade Launcher, therefore being granted full ammo aswell. But I can imagine it would have been very tough on ammo and health.
There is one last problem - you're going to need a meaty computer to run this beast of a pack. Not only because the levels have some huge areas, but entity counts really get high. Particularly the final level with 400 enemies all in one large arena! I got to 250 down, and it was great fun but the arena was strewn with bodies and ammo. The game spat the dummy and I was no longer able to continue with so much action on the screen. It is a real pity that after hours of tough gameplay, the finale would be too much for the computer to handle.
Otherwise, 1492 is a great episode with some spectacular designs and a great mix of textures. The gameplay is typical Mark Shan style at its best, with a great challenge but can be too hard at times. I certainly hope Mark continues with our beloved game, Quake2, rather than waiting for Quake4.