Once in a while a beautiful map comes along that is playable as well as visually enchanting. This is one such map - not quite another Chartres, it comes as close as a playable map could hope to. Its wonderfully executed theme is that of a huge gothic palace (castle sounds too drab), and it is clear that a lot of time has been put into the architecture, layout, and custom textures. Unfortunately, the other aspects of the map are not as superb. The plasma gun is centrally located and easy to find, but the GL, RL, and LG don't get nearly as much action. I often found myself wandering about with my MG hoping for a frag - this would be a perfect map to spawn with a shotgun and a decent supply of ammo, and would pump up the melee carnage factor nicely. Bots aren't good at maps this complex, but they do their best, and will suffice for a few fun games when internet or LAN play is not an option, provided you set them on Nightmare. There are two missing textures from the usual culprit, mapmedia.pk3, and luckily they were sparingly used. Another issue is that the teleport destination for two portal style teleporters is half buried into a wall, so you cannot move after stepping through the teleporter. This cripples the level's game flow, and prevents the bots from using that route at all (human players can unstick themselves by firing at the wall with RL or PG, but make sure you have an impact dmg weapon and sufficient health first). FPS are very good for a map of this type.
The bottom line is that Howling Wilderness is an absolute beauty of a map, which is severely limited by a few defects that could be remedied quite easily. As it is, this map is worthwhile for intrigued mappers, but if Jugulator could find it in him to fix up the teleporters, missing textures, and perhaps add a few more weapons and give all spawns a shotgun to start with, it would be a definite keeper.
Reviewed by Havoc.
Update: The download is now for the v2 release. The v2 release is a huge improvement over the original level and corrects many problems. Grab it! (20.Aug.2003)