What a great layout. Five Steps Ahead by pulchr is absolutely stuffed with trick jumps, drop downs, cutoffs, and long open stretches for gathering speed. A player who has his timing figured out in this map has a huge advantage over a newcomer, especially under normal Q3A physics, where every jump is manageable, but a few take some practice to master. And it's not just another competitive map, it has a bit of depth too.
There are a few unique features: In a couple key spots the floor is made of a transparent blue energy that can be shot through and makes a sound that plays throughout the map. This inspires unique battles and gives players more information to exploit camping. The map is also OpenArena compatible, so you have no shortage of options when looking for new ways to experience the gameplay.
The item placement here makes excellent use of a gifted floor plan. The weapon load-out excludes the PG and the BFG, but there two RLs and SGs so there is no shortage of weapons. The only area that is occasionally forgotten and could have used something extra is the orange brick area, which contains both the second SG and the second RL. Minor issues aside, the locations of the MH, RA, and YA assure that you're constantly in a dead sprint. The fight for item domination is ruthless and never lets up.
So the gameplay is top notch, but how does it look? Well, you're in some kind of clean base-styled facility that almost takes on an Unreal feel at times. Architecturally this map is very professional, but texturing is another story. The sheer amount of colors is sure to throw some people off at first. Red, blue, green, violet, and orange are all put to significant use. It sounds garish in writing, but thankfully pulchr has made good use of a basic pewter texture that ties everything together and manages to salvage the aesthetic. Also, each color seems to be somewhat designated to a specific area, so you are never seeing the whole rainbow at once and it might even help you remember which room is which while learning the layout. Still, a more focused color scheme would have been appreciated.
Give this one a try, especially if you have a human opponent to challenge. With so many shortcuts, bots won't be able to get around as well as you can, but they still frequent all areas of the map and provide some entertainment while you brush up on your strafe jumps. This is the most competitive floor plan I have seen in a long time, and I can all but guarantee you an intense tournament match-up!
-Reviewed by Pat Howard