Malice is the latest Quake TC (Total Conversion) from the boys at Quantum Axcess, the same guys who brought us Shrak. Malice is much more than a Quake add-on; it really is a whole new game. Every single aspect of Quake has been totally changed - there is a new color palette, new textures, a new player model, new enemies, new weapons, new sounds, and a new soundtrack. There are plenty of Quake TCs and PCs (Partial Conversions) floating around the Internet (and I've tried many of them), but you won't find a Quake conversion on the net or in stores that can match Malice.
Unlike Quake, Malice actually has a decent story behind it. You are Damage, a hired hitman working for Colonel Bossman, and each of the levels in the game represents a different mission that must be accomplished. In one mission you must steal a CD with secret plans. In others, there might be something you have to destroy, or someone you must kill. Malice definitely gives you some sort of purpose in the levels; you feel like you have a goal other than shooting everything that moves.
The first thing you'll notice in Malice is the color palette. There are shades of green, blue, red, and even orange used throughout. Gone are the days of only seeing the world in hues of muddy brown. There are blue-tinged metal walls, red carpets in offices, orange submarines tucked away underwater, and even green grass outside.
Now take a look at the textures used in the levels...no recycled Quake textures there. You'll find rusty metal, marble, carpet, grass, sheet metal, A/C vents, (what looks like) linoleum, even granite; the variety is amazing. The level designs are so innovative, going from one level to the next, and sometimes one room to the next, you never know what you'll find. Some interesting things I found - a spiral staircase; a conveyor belt that you must ride to another room; a forklift that you must activate; a room with beds, lamps, and nightstands; a big submarine you can board (there are mini-subs, too); various sized teleporters; and lots more. The levels are simply huge, and it takes a while just to get familiar with their layouts. The player also has to remember that there are many destructible items, and any one of them might be the key (figuratively) to any given level. There are nineteen different solo levels and seven deathmatch maps.
The weapons at your disposal are quite varied. Your default weapon is a trusty .44 - a 10-shot, unlimited ammo pistol (no more axe). Many of the weapons, including the .44, require you to reload them. This is done with a simple press of a key or button. At first, it's hard to get used to, but once you start playing, it becomes second nature. I found myself cycling through all of my weapons and reloading before I entered any new rooms. Better safe than sorry. All of the weapons make a distinctive "click" when they need reloading and this can be heard by others while playing in deathmatches. It's funny to be up against someone in a deathmatch and hear the clicking of their weapon needing reloading - when you hear that sound, let them have it! This can also be a way to lure people to you...hmmm...click your pistol, wait for someone to fall for it, then frag them with a missile...I'll have to try that sometime.
Anyway, back to the weapons. The vertical-barreled shotgun is, in a word, murder. Two shots from it should take down most enemies and will take down any close-range opponent in a deathmatch. The Mortargun will light your enemies on fire. Launch it in a room full of enemies and watch them set each other aflame. Be careful though - they can light you on fire, too. If you get too "hot", either jump in some water or use a fire extinguisher, if you can find one nearby. There are a total of ten new weapons in Malice.
There are thirteen new enemies to contend with in Malice. There are rioteers, baseball-bat wielding guys that will jump at you and try to knock your head off. There are mercbabes, females wielding duel pistols and masters of the art of self-teleportation - you never know when or where these chicks will appear. The swatmen are the most aggravating. They hang from ziplines from the ceiling and will lower themselves and start shooting at you when you least expect it. If you're taking fire and you don't know where it's coming from, look up. All of the enemies are well animated, are original, and look great.
The new toyz (as the guys at QA like to call them) add a whole new level of play to Malice. The scuba gear isn't all that revolutionary, but it looks good. The parachute is very cool - jump from a high ledge and press jump again while in mid-air, and you'll glide slowly down. You can also steer yourself while gliding. This adds something new to deathmatch play. The parachute makes a distinctive loud sound when opening and you fall so slowly that you are pretty much a sitting duck. Try to learn to use it just before you hit the ground or everyone in the level will come running for a free frag.
The mini-sub is the other toy that adds a completely new twist to solo play and deathmatching. Mini-subs have unlimited oxygen and torpedoes (you can only have two in the water at a time) and will auto-lock on an opponent's sub. They make a high-pitched sound when you lock onto someone and a low-pitched sound when you are being locked. Imagine a Descent-type mini-sub deathmatch in a Quake-like world and you get an idea of what we're talking about here. I played around in a deathmatch with one other person and I can see the subs being a lot of fun with a bunch of players.
These new toyz, the reloading, new levels, and the absence of all of those wimpy powerups like Quads, Pentagrams, and Armor, should make Malice a deathmatch favorite online.
I could ramble on and on about Malice, but I'd be here forever. If you download one add-on for Quake, make it Malice; you won't be sorry.
The color palette used in Malice is new, so you get a much better variety of colors. The enemies look great and are animated realistically. The textures used in the various levels are just beautiful. It's really hard to believe that the Quake engine is under the hood. You have the same graphics options that Quake has, and the GLQuake version of Malice is awesome - the non 3D version looks pretty good too, but nothing beats the 3Dfx version. There are minor glitches here and there (as there are in most Quake add-ons), and those prevented Malice from getting a perfect five stars, but they are minor and don't hamper gameplay at all. The third-person POV is a good idea in theory, but was really hard for me to play in, given that I am so used to the traditional first-person viewpoint. There are also a number of graphics problems that show up when in that view, like being able to see through a wall you are standing next to.
Control and setup is identical to Quake, so it used my current Quake setup (keyboard/mouse). It even binds keys used for reloading, cycling through next and previous items, and using an item. You can change those to whatever you want, though. I suggest putting the reload key in a handy place - you'll use it a lot.
Solo play was enthralling. The atmosphere is totally different from Quake. You have missions to accomplish, things to find, people to kill. The environment is highly interactive. Most vents can be blown up and many will lead you to some interesting places. Crates can be pushed around, walls can be destroyed, some doors and bars can be blown apart. One level had a room with no apparent entrance other than a barred window. I accidentally shot a bar and it broke. I realized I could shoot all of the bars, so I did. Then I realized it was too high to jump in, so I went around a corner, got a crate and pushed it below the window, and was then able to reach it. These types of mini-puzzles add a whole new feel to the game. Deathmatches will also be a lot of fun, especially with the subs, hoverboards, parachutes, and new weapons.
I loved the sounds in Malice. There is plenty of digitized speech, and it reminded me of the one-liners in Duke Nukem. As you run around the levels, Damage says "I wanna hit something ...I wanna hit something". The enemies will yell at you and talk to each other, "All clear" or "There he is!" The ambient sounds are great, too. The machinery sounds get louder as you near them. There are thunder sounds when it's raining (did I mention that it rains in some parts?), all of the enemies make great death sounds, especially the females. The baboons sound just like chimpanzees to me, but I'm no monkey-expert. The sound of the parachute opening is perfect, and so is that of the fire extinguisher. Each of the weapons makes its own sound when firing, reloading, and when empty. All of the sounds are great.
There are nine new Redbook audio tracks for Malice. Some are slow, some are more upbeat, but overall they remind me of a movie soundtrack (did I mention the awesome movie-like cutscenes?). There is one track that reminds me of the Chemical Brothers' "Block-Rockin' Beats", with a funky, hip-hop sound to it. I played a lot of the Malice beta before I got the soundtrack, so I got used to playing with no music and listening to the sounds. I play Quake (and most games) without music, so I don't really think the soundtrack adds a lot to the game, but it is a good soundtrack and those who like music while gaming will probably like it.
The game defaults to one basic skill level, but there are actually three skill levels available, and they can be accessed by entering the appropriate console command. I didn't find the enemies to be any more difficult than the original enemies in Quake. I did notice a few instances when the enemies couldn't maneuver around a simple opening in the floor, and a few times they would forget me when I was out of sight. These are some of the same things I have seen in the original Quake, so it's not a major deal, really. The difficulty comes in when you realize that there are thirteen different enemies, and they each has his or her own unique traits. The mercbabes teleport, the swatmen drop down from above, and the rioteers come at you relentlessly. You must also learn that the environment can be changed, and part of the difficulty is in figuring out what to do next.
No doubt about it - Malice is the ultimate Quake experience. You'll see things while playing the solo game that you had not thought possible with the Quake engine, and the deathmatches will be all the rage on the Internet once Malice gets around. I normally don't factor price into a review, but when you realize that you are getting an entirely new game for less than $20, it really is a deal you can't beat. If you buy just one add-on for Quake, make it Malice. Just don't blame me if the rest of your life suffers from the amount of time you spend playing it.
People who downloaded Malice: 23rd Century Ultraconversion for Quake have also downloaded:
Shrak for Quake, Quake Mission Pack No. 2: Dissolution of Eternity, Quake, Quake 2, Quake Mission Pack No 1: Scourge of Armagon, Quake 4, Demon Gate: 666 New Levels for Doom & Doom II, Quake 3 Arena
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