Typically Sven Co-op players aren’t used to any attempt to bring some immersion into a level and the routine is to go through the level like a mouse looking for the cheese in a maze; there’s a hallway so I’m going to go through it. It’s never the contrary: my surroundings are very interesting or awesome. Probably because half the maps in the game take on the same simplified variations of the “pre-Lambda-Complex” palette: rugged industrial corridors that are dulled, grayish compositions of unaesthetic metal and concrete. It brings on the same feeling you get when you’ve gone through the “On a Rail” chapter from Half-Life a few dozen times. This is probably why my eyes light up when I see something bright and unique, like Shockraid Jungle.
Shockraid Jungle is a fairly short map that divides its combat encounters into cells similar to Case Closed except in creative ways that the player will appreciate. You’ll at least have encounters where you’re fighting through enemies in the jungle on different levels of elevation and with a map layout that provides touches of novelty in combat. The balance reflects the moderation applied to various features of the gameplay: a moderate amount of enemies, a moderate level of combative encounters and a moderate challenge for an objective. In some sense this also displays its weakness. The map doesn’t really go out with as much a bang as it could have. The level of difficulty rises as you make progress towards the end, but the combat is homogeneous to the point that it becomes predictable…until you get the vehicle surprises, which adds a good finishing touch and makes for a well rounded combat experience. Granted it’s very challenging to add the bang. It’s not easy making a unique boss scenario, something unpredictable compliments an adventurous landscape on which to fight the final fight. But it’s something that’s also severely lacking in Sven Co-op’s custom maps, and it’s nowhere near impossible to try, let alone do. The objectives are also pretty simple and there aren’t any twists or creative touches that an experienced player wouldn’t expect. Overall it’s a map whose gameplay has some nuances that keep the entertainment going.
The map uses an old style of depicting exteriors kind of like Nipper’s exteriors in Sven Co-op maps. You fill all the “outside” with vegetation textures kind of like how a kid draws a forest, and then pave the path that can be traveled. Which, to be fair, almost as much as you really can do in the Goldsource Engine. It’s very difficult to create exteriors of all sorts. It’s not like anything in the engine has a specialized way of rendering a forest or providing the components for one. However, even with these limitations it really feels like you’re in a forest. Or rather that you’re in a forest in a video game. Compare that with most other exteriors that try this kind of thing. Most of them give you the feeling that you’re in a map that has rectangular rooms which have trees for walls. So really it’s a huge leap forward. The lighting makes it all the more convincing, along with a few characteristic features of marshy jungles: waterfalls, rivers, islands, and so forth. The only issue is that it’s too small and typical to make the player go from “eyes lit up” to “jaw dropped open.” Which, again, is very hard to do but not impossible.
Sven Co-op players don’t really care about immersion, usually, because they’re used to there being almost no immersion at all. The Lambda Complex is a great example of a classic way to immerse the player into the setting: the hums and exhausts of the facility are always ringing in your ears as you hear the generators and machines constantly working at a distance. All that can be done with sound. If you really want to take your map to the next level, you stimulate all possible human senses. It happens that you can’t do much with taste, touch and smell, which would be weird. But sight and sound are the big two. Why ignore one completely? You’re totally missing out on a whole world of sensory input. Shockraid Jungle leaps to the upper echelon of levels by giving you the jungle in a dozen sounds or sound combinations. This is topped with the music which is quite fitting. You end up feeling like Rambo lost in a jungle.
Gameplay – 1.8
Visual Impact – 1.25
Overall Rating: 7.6/10 (normalized)
Tier Rating: 3/5
This is probably one of the best jungle maps I’ve tried to date. It definitely beats the forest settings you see in other Sven Co-op maps. It’s really built for a handful of players, though; don’t expect to have a wild adventure with a dozen players since the combat encounters are typically mild.