You Found a Secret Area!

Mods and maps: Chronic, a Quake III Arena map featuring… Eminem?

So about a few months back, I was watching Giant Bomb do their then-frequent Thursday Night Throwdown, where they were playing the 1999 shooter classic Quake III Arena.

One of the hosts said “Remember when Interscope Records put out a Quake III map and models?” I was thinking such a thing did not exist and they were merely joking.

They weren’t.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHN7EGj2Pf8?rel=0&w=640&h=480]

The map is called Chronic, and it’s a deathmatch map. Resembling a city block straight from the streets, it has cars, a few buildings, and loads of Eminem ads.

Putting “Explicit Content” on a game that’s rated M seems redundant to me.

According to the readme (see below), this particular map was made for Interscope Records as promotion for the then-unreleased Marshall Mathers LP. All around the map, there’s ads for the album, ads for a forthcoming tour of the duo, and even snippets of music from the then-upcoming album are strewn about.

It’s not a flawless map, though. The bots can often get stuck in the phone booth “teleporters,” constantly walking back and forth between them until they’re killed, which seems like bad pathfinding. That doesn’t happen too often anyhow, and more likely you’d want to play this with friends, not bots.

Didn’t Forget About Dre this time.

Speaking of bots, the map comes with Eminem and Dr. Dre bots. Complete with unique text smack talk and player sound effects. The text responses are a little strange, as there’s a fair share of unnecessary underscores in a lot of the text. Presumably this was done to get around certain chat restrictions, but I’m not sure.

With the exception of the powerups on tall billboards that require rocket jumping, Chronic is a fairly flat plane with four buildings around it, with not many tall areas to take advantage of. It’s fairly easy for beginners, but for veterans it’s little more than a gimmick map to mess around in for a few minutes before going back to q3dm17.

Fair warning: the video is not a perfect indicator of the map itself. The sound glitched where the music track would play over itself and have this nasty-sounding overlap, which shouldn’t happen if you’re playing vanilla Quake III and not ioQuake3 like I was.

Other than that, it’s just a simple-ass Quake III multiplayer map. There’s not much else to say about this one. If you want to try the map out yourself, you can download it here. Quake III Arena is required to run it, and you can get it on Steam if you’re one of the few who never played this classic multiplayer shooter.

Though, I can’t blame you if you haven’t played it, Unreal Tournament was the better one of the two arena shooters anyway.

(UPDATE 4/8/2019: Rewrote for clarity and added images.)

Elite Forces WWII Iwo Jima: Budget Warfare.

Man, remember when World War II games were really popular? It just seems like there was a time when everybody was clamoring for shooters that involved shooting them Nazis. Then Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare happened and suddenly Nazis were so passe, replaced by middle eastern militia, Russian ultranationalists or Korean dictators.

Let’s go back a few years. Even before Call of Duty was a thing and Medal of Honor was the only WWII shooter in town, there were a handful of people getting in on the WWII train.

Enter ValuSoft. With the help of developer 3LV Games, they graced us with this wonderful game: Elite Forces: WWII Iwo Jima. A sequel to Elite Forces: WWII Normandy, this is a first-person shooter that takes us through the Pacific theater in WWII. At least, I assume, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Lithtech… that’s usually a bad sign.

I should back up a bit and give you a brief history of the developer. 3LV Games only made three games in their lifetime: The two Elite Forces: WWII games and Arthur’s Quest: Battle for the Kingdom, a game that GameSpot gave a 1.9 out of 10 to. So already that’s a bad sign.

While there isn’t much to say about 3LV, there is a lot to talk about ValuSoft. These guys were the absolute kings of bargain bin games. Most of these games were also very bad, made in a slap-dash quality to make a quick buck. In the early-to-mid 2000s, if you were perusing the bargain rack at a Wal-Mart, it’s likely it was published by ValuSoft.

ValuSoft was snatched up by THQ in 2002 and folded into a bargain label. When THQ folded originally in 2012, it was acquired by Cosmi, a studio that had been releasing games for decades prior. It’s now under a generic “Play Hard Games” brand where you can get stuff like Mutant Football League and The Original Strife: Veteran Edition if you want to get your games from even lesser-known digital storefronts.

It’s an unfortunate loss in the budget gaming world, leaving PC budget racks everywhere with cheap copies of Ubisoft titles or loads of slot machine games instead. It’s an improvement in which you’re less likely to gamble on garbage, but that takes all the fun out of it.

This guy must be strong if he can handle an M1 Garand singlehandedly.

So Elite Forces WWII Iwo Jima uses Monolith’s “Lithtech” engine, although not very well. There’s a fair share of games around this era that used this engine, presumably because it was the cheapest to license. Nowadays, the equivalent would likely be Unity. But it’s not the engine that dictates the game, it’s the game itself, so let’s drop in.

Continue reading…

The horrors of MTV2’s Video Mods.

Video games and pop music are two unlikely things that somehow go great together if they’re done properly. Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Rock Band… Then there’s the weird video game homages in music, like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication.” Which was more of a crazy animation experiment by some college kid than an actual video game homage, but it was cool all the same.

 

Complete with appropriate graphics at the time! Still looks better than an Xbox!

Around 2004, some guys must have saw that “Californication” video while on a 2AM drinking binge and thought that these ideas should be combined into a TV show. The result is one of the most bizarre combinations of music and video games that I’ve seen since Queen was involved in some mid-’90s adventure game: MTV2’s Video Mods.

Imagine a bunch of video game and music things shoved into a blender, which exploded into this nice and simple logo.

One of the lesser-known shows of MTV2’s library, which consisted mostly of Beavis & Butt-head reruns and The Adventures of Chico and Guapo, that one show that Seanbaby worked on; and maybe some actual music videos.

But enough jabs at MTV: Video Mods was an unusual and previously unheard of concept. A production company would take characters from a recent video game and make a music video of a popular song, putting it in relation to said game. It sounds weird on paper, so the best way to explain it would be to show one of these “video mods”:

Who knew these guys were in a rock band when not fighting Jedi?

You’re not going insane. That is Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and some random droid jamming out to the Foo Fighters’ “D.O.A.” while footage of Star Wars Battlefront II plays sporadically over really bad CG footage. Go ahead and laugh, I’ll still be here.

(By the way, clicking the image should take you to the YouTube video, which should apply to all the images on this post.)

Continue reading…

Mods and maps: Mission Impossible: New Dawn

Before I started the Secret Area in 2012, I had been casually writing about mods and other assorted stuff on a more personal blog. This was originally written around 2010, and I had put this here to give the site some “content” before I had published something new.

Outside of dates and grammatical changes, this is left mostly untouched.

 

I’ve always considered myself a fan of PC gaming. The best thing I’ve loved about PC gaming can be summarized in one word: Mods. Ever since the days of hex-editing levels in Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, mods have been prevalent in PC gaming society. While gaming has shifted more towards a console focus from 2005, mods are still present today. Back in 2008, I did a dedication to Half-Life‘s tenth anniversary by covering a bunch of Half-Life mods. While I never got to cover every single one due to time constraints, I always wanted to go back and record some new videos for some of the mods I didn’t cover. Maybe later this year.

So on a Friday afternoon, bored with little to do, I decided to rewatch Mathew “Film Brain” Buck’s review of Mission Impossible II. Remember that action flick that got parodied a lot in the media around 2002? Yeah, I never saw it and don’t intend to any time soon. But that film reminded me of this mod for Max Payne 2. It was called Mission Impossible: New Dawn.

Unlike other games like Half-Life or even Quake, Max Payne modding wasn’t as prevalent. Most of the mods I saw just added music tracks and Matrix-like action movie moves to the core game. Or, in the first game’s case, the famous Kung-Fu mod. I remember Mission Impossible: New Dawn being a big freakin’ deal back then, it was going to be a complete Total Conversion of Max Payne 2 to resemble the Mission: Impossible movie series. This was made around 2004 or so, before even the third movie was in planning stages.

Now that I reinstalled Max Payne 2 recently, I decided to downloaded the mod, to see if it held up after all these years. And… it didn’t, really. Although, I expected that to be the case. Since games evolve at such a rapid pace, games tend to age faster than other mediums like TV shows or movies. But in the case of this mod, it’s about average quality when it came out, and still average today.

The cutscenes look really stiff. Even by 2004 standards, they look stiff. Models standing around, barely moving their mouths, awkward camera angles, and models not even animating properly. I know something’s wrong when the first Max Payne did animation better than this. I do have to give the mod team some credit, there’s a lot of homages to MI2. There’s some decent voice work in here as well, despite the voice over for Ethan Hunt does a crappy job at sounding like Tom Cruise. It even has music from the films, and oddly enough, music from Crimson Tide, Paycheck, and Metal Gear Solid 2 of all places. Now if only I could make sense of the plot, which is more action movie than it is Mission Impossible. Just like the movie!

So I decided to record some footage of me playing it to give you an idea on what this mod looked like. This is from about halfway through the game, and is on the easiest difficulty (Medium). As you can tell, I suck at Max Payne. But oh well, I just wanted to show you the quality of the mod, not my masterful shooting skills. Look as it even takes the Gunkata concept from Equilibrium, but it doesn’t work well at all in the game and is absolutely dumb.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HKS6y1n188&hl=en_US&fs=1]
Unfortunately I cannot tell if the mod team worked on anything before or since this project. But it’d be funny to know some guys who worked on a dinky Max Payne 2 mod now work in a development studio working on some recent Xbox Live Arcade title or something.

You can give the mod a shot here. It requires Max Payne 2 to run, which is available on digital storefronts like Steam or GOG. There’s probably a bunch of gamers who want to find new ways to enjoy the Max Payne games, and this mod is worth a try just to see a bunch of amateur modders make a movie game that would’ve been better than an actual movie game.

Man, this makes me want to find some other mods and write more about those. I used to play PC game mods like a madman, it was my way to extend the replay value out of these games. Hell, my early blog posts back in the days of Livejournal mention me covering some Wolfenstein 3D mods back in 2001. That should tell you how old I am, and how long I’ve been on the internet.

Sure enough, I’d eventually write more mods, which you can find in the Mods and Maps category on this site.

(Edited on January 2, 2019 with more up-to-date links.)