Fuzztail looks at – Persian Massacre [SSC TSE]

Персидская резня/Persian Massacre

Author(s) : Str_Ghost
Game : Serious Sam : The Second Encounter
Type : Single Player

Evaluating Russian maps is always hard, because they are usually built to be more challenging than maps made by the rest of the community. Most of the time, the extra challenges are legitimate, and in other times, the “difficulty” can be downright cheap and unfun. This is a prime example of the latter. One really has to wonder if the author even playtested the level before publishing it. I received a request not too long ago to look at and review this map, and I am sorry to say, I did not enjoy it.

To start with, the battles are poorly designed. They go on for way too long, defeating any possible semblance of variety and turning otherwise interesting fights into an exercise in tedium. This problem is compounded by the fact that, for most of the level, you are only given a Double Shotgun and Tommygun, making the combat very one-dimensional. You run out of Rocket Launcher ammunition very quickly after you get the weapon late into the map. To add to that, the indoor areas boxes you in Painkiller-style, forcing you to deal with the long and tedious fights one after the other before letting you advance to the next area. This is incredibly annoying and anathemic to the overall gameplay of the map because the boxed in areas are very small, and sometimes, just when you thought it’s all over, another long and tedious fight occurs right after without giving you a chance to take a breather and collect ammunition boxes, and what little health and armor pickups are available in this level. It also greatly limits speedrunning options. (Though I cannot imagine anyone wanting to do so with this level.)

After the first few encounters, the enemies are placed in such a way that, in most cases, the only real way to get past without taking heavy damage is to exploit doors and rafters to get out of reach of most of the enemies’ lines of sight or attacks, and you NEED to be able to avoid taking as much damage as possible. This is because you are never given nearly enough weapons or munitions to properly deal with the hordes, and the indoor areas are way too cramped to allow for evasion. This is most notable in the the final arena with the frogs. You NEED to have saved at least one rocket for the last arena when the frogs start appearing. If you are out of rockets by the time the frogs appear, you might as well restart the whole level because you are boned. This final arena is flat-out impossible because no health or extra ammunition boxes appear during the fight, and there is no room to maneuver and safely let them bunch up. It is really telling when the screenshots provided from the author’s own website shows gameplay with cheats enabled.

Moreover, there are no elements of level sprawl. There is absolutely nothing to explore. You just go from fight to fight with very little room to decide in which order you want to do the fights in, or even what fights you want to do. There are no secrets, and no exploration rewards. The plot of this level is pretty basic as well. The gist of it is that Sam is marooned somewhere in an ancient Persian location, and he has to find a portal to go elsewhere. There is something about portals appearing when Mental started attacking and invading Earth.

However, there are some redeeming points for this level. The visuals are quite good-looking, sporting plenty of detail and visual splendour. The author did a pretty good job of capturing the look and feel of the Babylonian levels from the core campaign. It is thus unfortunate that there are more than a couple of occasions where the amount of detail gets in the way of the gameplay by way of raised platforms interfering with the player movements. There are also a couple of incidents where textures from one brush conflict with that of another brush.

The music and sounds are also pretty good, taking from the soundtrack of MTX Moto Trax for the combat music, and borrowing from Painkiller for some of the sound effects, this map does a fairly good job of carving out a unique aural experience. However, with how different the combat music is compared to the peace music, it is questionable how well they gel together, as techno-metal music tracks are usually reserved for boss fights and not for regular battles or encounters.

There is no readme file included in this package, which speaks to the level of overall quality of this map. Overall, my verdict for this map is pretty poor. The fights are drawn out and tedious, the challenge is artificially inflated simply by virtue of starving the player of resources, the map balance is skewed because it was tested with cheats enabled, and it simply is not fun. My recommendation is to avoid this map, it’s not worth the 14 MB download, and there really is not much to this map anyways in terms of architecture. I really tried to like this map, but after dealing with a lot of cheap and downright frustrating combat design elements, my enjoyment and patience with this level has been thoroughly massacred.

Overall Score : 35% Poor

Download : [Link]

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