The very first Quake 2 level to be reviewed here... and I'm sure glad it was this. After playing the first two parts of Castle of Stroggos, they were good, but way too over-rated. This third and final release of the COS set, Brian has been working on for twice as long as the others, and after a whole year in the making, The Final Objective was worth it. After having not a single Q2 release in the last two months (since Mel Soaring!) this for sure makes up for it.
It starts off where COS2 left you, trapped in some big cell with a Gunner guarding you. But quickly getting out of there, I completed the first level and wasn't really that impressed by it. It wasn't that much better than COS1&2. However, then it started to get better, and better, AND BETTER! I was just blown away by some of the brilliant design. I have so many screenshots all of extremely beautiful sections I can't pick what ones to use here! With such great detail, it's no wonder it took Brian a year to build. The lighting and texturing is fabulous and the atmosphere was brilliant. Once you get a few peaks of the space outside you really get the feeling of being on a huge starship. And yes, just like COS 1 and 2, many of the rooms are monsters (in size, not literally). But unlike the first two releases, these huge rooms are amazingly beautiful.
The gameplay was also brilliant, although not quite as grand as the design. There were a few times that were too hard, like fighting a couple Commanders with nowhere to run. But most of the time it was very challenging and very fun. The ammunition is always only just enough, although you get some bigger weapons soon enough, you had better save them up for tricky parts (like the end). As great as the gameplay was, I was sad to see it considerably let down by the big fight at the end. With a couple of quad-damages it could have been awesome fun, but trying to take on three Makrons with hardly anywhere to run behind was very frustrating. Or perhaps I should have looked harder for secrets and powerups (I only found a few in all six levels!) I managed to beat the final Makron with just 5% health left, so be ready...
The special effects in COS3 were great - things exploding all the time and creating a new path for you, monsters smashing their way into the room your in. There was one excellent part where the doors around you suddenly shut, and looking at the monitor it reads 'Human captured!'. Then two Gladiators (and Gunners) open the doors around you ready to finally stop the carnage you have caused for them.
The missions objectives were great, you usually knew where you're supposed to be going (although I was stumped a couple of times). I especially loved one small mission where you need to find four power cubes (or something like that), then plant them each next to two huge guns blasting human spaceships away. Then you must run for it as they each blow up!
To sum it all up, this was an extraodinary set of levels, one of the best releases I have played. Design, lighting, architecture and layout were all brilliant, and I was kept busy for a few hours on my Strogg killing spree. A great challenging set that you MUST GET!