14th of January 2024
Shrapnel City 2096: Trapped In The Future! | Single/Multi | Author: Aymeric "MRCK" Nocus | Download
The Review: Like LA Meltdown 2047 was a re-interpretation of LA Meltdown, Shrapnel City 2096 is a re-interpretation of Shrapnel City. The latter is of course
twice the length of the first episode, but MRCK has done a good job of squeezing every E3 theme into a single map. Like
before, this is a very liberal re-interpretation: You have a flooded area, a hotel called "Hotel Hell", a fire
station, etc., but it's not a remaster or even a remake.
The map has a similar ambience to MRCK's other recent maps, placing them strictly in his "MRCK-verse" that somehow feels more abstract and disjoint from the usual "Duke3D-verse". Design is once again top of the class, boasting a wild vision of a sprawling futuristic city. Many buildings have been inspired by real-life counterparts in Santa Monica, giving each its own unique feel of hand-crafted architecture. The hotel has a slick modern look, the clock tower is a neat idea in general (you could build an entire map around such a theme) and the fire station actually resembles a fire station this time around rather than the pitiful effort we saw in E3L7. Only lighting I felt could have taken more advantage of contrasts between light and dark, especially outdoors.
I've had mixed feelings about combat and some gameplay gimmicks in MRCK's recent maps. This time I found a lot of the navigation quite enjoyable. The map seems at first open-ended, but it progresses rather logically from the first available building onward. The map makes good use of verticality in its layout, having Duke first travel high up, then find a way back down to a previously out-of-reach area. Apart from a lame surrounding underwater section, I liked in particular how you work your way toward the top of the high building next to the clock tower, with the shutters opening around you as you find yourself at the top.
Combat suffers from some of MRCK's sins such as overreliance on Commanders and Battlelords, but overall it's not quite as spammy as I feared. But there are some weakpoints. The aforementioned underwater area is too large and is packed with enemies. As these are mostly Sentries and Octabrains, you can safely ignore them, but that begs the question of why put them there in the first place in such numbers? Underwater combat isn't exactly thrilling in Duke3D, so why bother engaging them unless you have an OCD about these things, especially when you have an oxygen meter to keep an eye on? There are several scuba sets scattered around the place, but distances are such that you probably will pick them up as soon as you find them rather than saving them for later (you may not get that chance), so it's hard to optimize their allocation, risking running out of oxygen unless you know your way in advance (or get lucky). Another bit I disliked is the main outdoor area of the second half of the map, filled with enemies in an open area littered with shrubbery. This is another place where I just left my enemies behind so long as it was possible, as I just couldn't be bothered to engage them. (Related to this, the end-of-map tally showed there were still a hundred or so enemies left.) There's also a chopper segment which is kind of a neat idea - but why put Commanders there to ruin the fun? The final battle also suffers from a lack of cover, a grave sin considering there are several Battlelords present.
Conclusion: Shrapnel City 2096 is another visually impressive piece of work from MRCK, one that'd have taken us mere mortals months if not years to build but that MRCK made in just two months. It's huge in size (took me 60 minutes), with a curious mix of slick futuristic architecture and more contemporary sort with hints of urban decay inserted here and there. I was also taken by way the author takes you through the map's peaks and troughs. However, combat is expectedly a mixed bag, avoiding some of the worst habits of its author while embracing others.