HEALTH | Single | Author: Mister Sinister | Download
The Review: And here we have another "concept map" by Mister Sinister. In this "prequel" to the events of Duke Nukem 3D, Duke is locked inside an EDF training facility as part of his training to become
the ultimate alien asskicker. At the very start of the exercise he's given a fixed supply of gear with which he's expected to survive against roughly 60 aliens.
Your gear consists of 100 ammo distributed among just four weapons: the shotgun, the RPG, pipe bombs and the Shrinker. Of course, pretty much every map has a limited supply of items, but they're often given to the player in a specific manner, such as an RPG being available right before a Battlelord makes an appearance. Considering you're given everything at once in HEALTH, the very first problem facing the player is which weapon to pick for a given occasion. The challenge starts off nicely, but then it turns out that your instincts were largely wrong; by sparing your Shrinker blasts and rockets against Commanders and Battlelords while killing enemies of weaker varieties with the shotgun, you come to realize you just made yourself a huge disservice. Sentry Drones in particular become a pain to deal with without any shotgun ammo left in the inventory. Add to this a few "fuck you" moments later on whereby you're locked inside a room and have to think fast but are faced with nothing but crappy options (such as letting a Sentry blow up in your face or possibly killing yourself while trying to destroy it with the RPG) and the map becomes too much about trial and error.
The concept then leads to another problem; that of excessive saving. With no extra health lying around, you start saving after every successful encounter. Similarly, every encounter that leaves you badly damaged means an instant quickload (because why not?). A no-save run, as recommended by the author, would be feasible only after being already well familiar with the map, including some of its nastier traps.
As for design, the map has that strong 3DR look that Mister Sinister's maps are known for with great use of shading and texturing. This being a training facility, the design is pretty generic; there's no recognizable theme, making HEALTH give off a strong Doom vibe. While lacking an interesting theme, everything looks neat and organized. The layout, meanwhile, is quite restrictive, consisting of narrow (and sometimes dark) passageways surrounded by walls, water or toxic slime. This is unfortunate given the central gameplay concept, leaving the player with only a few opportunities to evade and outsmart the opponent. Commanders and Sentries, often popping in unexpectedly, are much too overused in a map where the player's ability to move around is so constrained.
Conclusion: HEALTH is an interesting map for sure and it's commendable that Mister Sinister is still looking for ways to create fresh experiences for the player. Giving the player a limited supply of gear from the getgo should force him to optimize his use of that gear and make him rely on his knowledge of the game's combat mechanics. However, in practive the player often ends up feeling punished for what he had every reason to consider sounds decisions at the time. Mister Sinister probably had difficulties considering the map from the position of ignorance. This is an issue all mappers have to deal with, but in a map of this type the issue is only more pronounced.