Ultimate Community Map Pack 4 is the latest installment of levels from the UCMP team. They've covered a lot of ground in the past by releasing maps for virtually every stock gametype Unreal Tournament 2004 has to offer, but have chosen to stick to the classics this time around and have assembled two Capture the Flag maps and four Deathmatch maps.

The benefit of creating packs like this is twofold. First, the levels receive a lot of pre-release attention from the team and beta testers. Second, they tend to enjoy the old adage of "strength in numbers", meaning that, in general, announcements of map packs accompanied by lots of smoking hot screenshots tend to mean lots of downloads. Judging by the several thousand downloads served up by BeyondUnreal alone last week, I'd say that strategy has paid off for the team. Let's examine the levels and see if the strategy has paid dividends on the first count.


hal: Hazel.H is known for her clean and stylish maps, and Talya falls solidly into that category. However, this level explores an under-used Persian theme and features all-new textures, sounds, and music. Graphical niceties abound, including a very attractive blue mosaic patterned tile, custom colorful jumpads, and "authentic" domes and archways. You'll probably miss the very attractive skybox since all of the windows are heavily adorned. But that's not why you're here is it?

While there's a definite theme, you shouldn't mistake this for an attempt at realism. It's evident by the undisguised ramps and walkways that the building serves no purpose other than capturing and defending flags.

Hazel recommends 6-12 players, but the truth is that the map is quite small. I'd say six is much more realistic than twelve; and even at that, there's a good chance that you'll find one or both flags will rarely be present on the flagstand. To that end, the author has placed the Lightning Gun and Amp literally within steps of the flagstand, with the 50 armor just a few hops farther. Surely an acknowldegement that the base-hiding flag carrier will need a good deal of assistance fending off freshly spawned pursuers. The rest of the weapon placement seems more conventional and the sole 100 armor rests under a bridge in the map's center.

I'm not sure how this unconventional level will fare in the long run. If you play a lot of 2v2 or 3v3 CTF, then this may find some play time in your personal rotation. What's here is very well done, but a longer route from flag to flag, and possibly thirty percent more play area would yield much improved gameplay.


Selerox: I love the theme to this map, very clean and the visuals create a great atmosphere. Very smooth design and nicely implemented throughout, with great textures and subtle use of visuals. The jump pad effect is nice and subtle, and the pads are used sparingly and are well placed. As for how the map plays, it's fast, clean and has a nice mix of areas. I can see this map being fun with any playing style, which is always a plus point as far as I'm concerned. The weapon placement looks good, and the addition of a "magic wall" effect as a shot-blocker adds a nice touch.

One thing that worries me is the flag distance. I know you mentioned this, but it's such a big point I can't really not mention it. With no tricks, the flag to flag time is only 12 seconds, which is lethally fast for a map designed for 5v5. A defence will have to stay on its toes to nail down any errant flags on this map. I can see a lot of high scores on a map like this, but then a bit of excitement never hurt anyone.

Overall, a very nice map, but the flag time is a worry. If this map was slightly bigger, then it'd be a stormer.



hal: Sjosz and Slainchild both have a lot of quality levels to their names and the title of this map promises a high degree of energy, so expectations are high. The 8-12 recommended player load seems about right.

There are new textures and meshes, though the level seems vaguely Rankin-esque, thanks to the heavy use of brown metal. Small blue and red lights help reinforce base orientation, which is fortunate given the many tight, winding routes from bases to the center area. The oversized windows provide a fair amount of natural light to the arena.

The four basic routes from the flag unfortunately converge in a single spot at the base exit, with the defense afforded a nice vantage point of the unsuspecting enemy flag runner. The shield at the bottom center of the map is a nice incentive for travelling the otherwise undesirable lower pathway. All weapon and item placement are pretty standard and are well chosen. One plus for the defense is a Flak Cannon within a few hops of the flag stand to help take down retreating flag carriers in the aforementioned narrow exit hallways.

Despite the basically open nature of the map's center, the support structures of that area provide plenty of cover. There's nary a snag to be found and everything flows quite naturally.

This is a solid effort from a solid duo.


Selerox: Visually, this could have been better. The visual design does the job, but could have been done better. The architecture is clean and simple, with no nasty snarl points.

Gameplay-wise, this map could be a flagrunners paradise. There are are enough opportunities to shortcut on this map to make any defenders life hell, if they can make it out of the flagroom. Tight corridors mixed with wide open spaces that are just begging for shield dodging across. Flag to flag with no funky stuff is about 20 seconds, a skilled solo runner could knock a big chunk off that time (with accurate translocating you can make it in 12 seconds). The lower route is the more risky as there aren't a whole lot of exits from it, so flagrunners will probably stay up on the high route, which makes me wonder if this map might get a little predictable in time.

A slight worry is the distinct lack of health around the map, which seems to be spread out and in pretty small numbers, although on the plus side, you're never short of a weapon.

Overall, this certainly isn't a bad map, and I wouldn't mind seeing this in a rotation, but it could have been better.



hal: Another team effort, BIOS and Axeman may just have constructed the gem of the pack. The map name, Elucidation, is an interesting choice as it means "to make clear", and nothing about this level - the lighting levels, the texture useage, and the flow - is obscure.

The setting is a partially open-air methane reactor and the lighting is a nice mix of artificial and natural, leaving no corner unlit without appearing overly bright. The texture use is restrained and tasteful, and the level is impeccably trimmed. Custom sci-fi pickup bases look fantastic too. Overall, the feeling is very reminiscent of a Quake 3 level and the esoteric use of Q-like window adornment only serves to reinforce that notion for me. That's a compliment, mind you. In a nutshell, it's beautiful in its simplicity.

Action takes place in four cleverly connected areas that rise vertically about three levels, creating plenty of z-axis frag opportunities. The map offers a great variety of open and closed spaces, and clever use of jump ramps, trick jumps, and lifts allow you to take many routes to all of the hotspots. Weapon placement is good and there are an appropriate number of audio cues to help track your opponent. An impressive effect is the emission of steam from the long line of gas vents overhead when you pick up the 100 armor.

Everything about this level is very smooth and smart.


Selerox:I love this map. It has the clean UCMP-style architecture we've come to expect, and it flows really well throughout. Visually, it's not the most exciting map, but it does the job nicely. It also has some of the most smooth and effective ramp-jumps I've seen, which really add to the map.

When it comes to gameplay, this has "classic" written all over it. Wonderful flow, great variation, and solid weapon placement. Loads of possibilities to cut off and conner and opponent, but at the same time, lots of opportunities to escape as well.

Rock solid gameplay.



hal: If you like a bit of an odd atmosphere for your Deathmatch maps, then Mooflyer's Mania may fit the bill. The curious wall art, quirky decor, cryptical jumpads, and the bloody writing on the wall all reinforce the notion that whoever is responsible for this arena is either very clever or a few bricks shy of a full load. It is a true theme map, and to that extent... it delivers.

Where I think the mark is missed is in the overly festive mish-mash look of the level: Hardwood floors, rough-hewn timber walkways, tear-drop crystal lights, artsy photographic prints, and fish and star wall decor. All of this takes place under the view of a cityscape skybox, complete with movie-premier searchlights and fireworks. I must confess to cheating to figure out the elaborate puzzle incorporated into the map, but it only marginally explains the method behind the madness.

Mania could have really benefited from a custom music track, as the default seems at odds with the theme. A number of ambient sounds, such as a ticking clock and a loudspeaker softly issuing music, do add to the atmosphere. The only other sounds come from pickups, lifts, and jumps. In this small of a map, that's probably enough, though, you almost expect to hear creaking wood sounds from at least a few of the many narrow ramps that abound.

Gameplay centers around four or five medium-sized rooms with as many as three levels of action and walkways dot the perimeter of each. There are definitely some creative frag spaces in the map, but it suffers from over-connectivity, in my opinion. Some rooms have more than a dozen exits and all of them, ultimately, feel very tight.

If you're into chaotic deathmatching in a unique environment, then Mania may be a keeper for you. If, on the other hand, you like a more traditional flow and a little more room then you may find yourself enjoying the art of the level and the puzzle more than the gameplay. Then again, if the cross-shaped armor shards are any indication, I doubt that Moonflyer was aiming for hardcore players with this offering.


Selerox: Something about this map freaks me out, and I can't quite put my finger on it. That's not a criticism, it's a compliment. There's something unsettling about it, and it gives the map an "odd" atmosphere, that makes a refreshing change from the traditional map styles.

As for the gameplay, it feels just a fraction too tight in places, and there are a large number of very thin walkways that can be frustrating after a time, although they do add an extra element of risk. I think the 2-4 player limit might be a tad on the high side, as I can see this map getting very messy with 4 players.

Good fun, if you don't get distracted by the scenery.



hal: Easily the biggest Deathmatch map of the bunch, DM-UCMP4-Propoganda serves up a fragging arena perfect for about eight to ten players. In his Read Me, author Steve Keene explains that the rules for the map are that it is yet another in "the long trend of industrial-themed maps but with no distinct set of rules". Mission accomplished. Let us hope that the rules afford plenty of opportunity for deathmatch!

The size of the level approaches Asbestos, though it is more compact, offering far more z-axis and twists and turns. Visually, it hits the mark established by the author, but it's nowhere near as attractive as some of his previous efforts. Not for lack of polish and trim, mind you. The theme just doesn't afford the opportunity and I'll remind you again of the objectives set forth in the Read Me file.

Upon first impressions, I realized that random industrial structures don't offer much in the way of landmarks and it's easy to get turned around. After finding a few notable areas - the basketball court (yes, really. Try shooting baskets if you're lost), the gearworks (a genuine hazard, ladies and gentlemen), and the - 100 armor conveyor (more on that later) - I found it a little easier to gain my bearings... but just a little.

My second impression left me wondering... where the hell are the weapons? In all actuality, there are plenty of weapons to be found throughout. The problem, in my opinion, lies in the spawn point choices and the direction in which you spawn. You may very well materialize into the arena a few meters from the nearest weapon, but if you're facing the wrong direction and find yourself confused with the layout, you may run around blindly and find yourself in trouble without a decent weapon. I appreciate the effort made to spawn defenseless players away from the action of the weapon pickup areas, but it'll take a good while before you comfortably navigate directly to the nearest firearm.

It's a real thrill to play such an ambitious level and it succeeds in a lot of ways. Improve the spawn points and spawn direction and I think it'll go a long way towards orienting the player. A real lack of distinct important landmarks hurts the map as well. Those that I described previously are of zero importance, with the exception of the 100 armor conveyor belt/fan, which some may complain about as being gimmicky. I think it's perfectly acceptable and a nice touch, but I digress.

Almost, but not quite.


Selerox: Visually, this map follows the classic concrete industrial style, and it has a vibe reminiscent of the original UT at times. It could have used a lot more colour though, as it's a bit bland. The propaganda posters on the walls are a nice touch, although it would have been nice to have a few more of them.

When it comes to the gameplay, it's not quite as clear-cut. The map is very big and very complex, and it's easy to get yourself lost in it at times, although the architecture is solid. The biggest problem is weapons, or rather the lack of them. There's a serious lack of weapons or ammunition in this map, which is going to leave a lot of people very frustrated. With a decent number of pickups and weapons, this could be a pretty good map. As it stands, there's simply not enough firepower to match the number of players this map could support.

A seriously missed opportunity.



hal: Great, another Egyptian themed map you say? Fair enough, but zio freshens things up a bit with new textures and meshes and brings it all together in quite an attractive package. The temple opens up on one side to a long drop to the desert below and the four chambers are conncted by a number of hallways, giving two or three players plenty of room to fight. If you pack in eight players as the loading screen suggests you might, you'll probably find yourself respawning in the middle of a firefight.

The audio track, though standard, is appropriate for the level. A number of custom sounds can be found throughout the level as well as a few triggered sounds. The level is really quite attractive, combining man-made and natural areas seamlessly.

The layout is quite memorable, and a number of clever shortcuts can be found throughout. You'll always find a quick way to get to the other side of the map, but you won't feel overwhelmed with the over-connectivity to which some levels fall victim. The main fault I can find with it is the close proximity of the Lightning Gun and the Shock Rifle. It's probably not as devastating a fault as it may be in other levels due to the number of tight areas in which the 100 armor, 50 armor, and Uamp reside. But some players may find that a few of those tight areas are borderline claustrophobic.

As I mentioned previously, it's quite a fun little map for less than three and it leaves you wanting more.


Selerox: Visually, this is the standard Egyptian fare, although the location's a nice touch (watch your step around the edges). The visuals and attractive, but not over the top, and the whole thing feels very smooth and coherent, despite having a nice mix of areas.

The maps plays very nicely indeed, with smooth flow, loads of shortcuts and weapons in all the right places. Expect this map to play very fast, especially with an amp in play. Not as much z-axis as Elucidation, but the flow more than makes up for it. I'd love to see another map in this style, maybe on a larger scale.

Tight, fast, and lethal.



Any one of these maps would be worthy of download for most players, but together they are must-haves. Hardcore gamers may balk at the gimmickry of Mania or the diminuitive size of some of the levels in relation to the recommended load. There are nits to be picked with them all, but this is yet another solid package from the UCMP team.