If you are searching for a really well made box map, this one is definitely for you! Lava Arena 2003 is a small and unique in its concept level, which represents an area with two main floors and a specific construction in the very center.
When it comes to the map's architecture, this construction is one of the key elements featured on the level. It consists of an octagon at the top with the four relatively small latticed bridges leading to it. The octagon provides for the player an opportunity to grab the regeneration item. Once the player attempts to do so, here comes into action the gimmick of the map: rockets. The one reaching the trigger point will be immediately attacked with 4 diagonal rockets coming from the four corners. The fire is thrown out from inside the decorative lion heads attached to the walls and having the flames constantly burning inside lions' mouths, which appears to be a very wise design decision. The player keeps being shot as long as he or she is in the trigger point's place.
Under the octagon is a shallow lava pool, which is divided into four parts, which at some point reminds me of OCTAGONAL by Rize. The lava makes damage rather slowly and acts more as a warning than an instrument to punish the player. Right near the pool there is the only weapon that can be found on the map and which serves as a gimmick of this level — the rocket launcher. It is surrounded by 4 rocket ammo boxes in a little alcove, which seems to be the conceptual number of LA2003, as many elements are placed here in the exact quantity of four.
The construction is equally surrounded by four 50 health Medkits in the corners and four arcs with a spawning place in each on the sides. Every arc has an inner gate that visually resembles a teleporter a lot, which makes sense, since each of them serves as a place for the player to (re)spawn. Not too far from that building, there are four jump pads located straight under the lion heads in each corner. All of them are illuminated around in red and filled with a red moving liquid, which looks more like lava with more specific shade, rather than blood. Each of the jump pads carries the player to the top floor in the corner opposite from itself. Another thing to notice is that every platform reflects the light off its surface surprisingly well and is designed in the shape of a triangle with the rounded upper apex.
These jump pads deliver you to the top floor, which is only material around the perimeter and a little in the center. The center is represented by a small platform illuminated in blue on the upper part of its surface and having the MegaHealth item located on it. The platform is filled with shallow water and has the exact same trigger point in the place of the MegaHealth as the construction with the regeneration right under it. The same lion heads are used to shoot the player, however this time the distance that the rockets should travel from the heads to the player is quite significantly shorter. As for the water, it serves as a good gameplay trick to bring some challenge to the player, slightly slowing them down in the zone containing the trigger point. The platform is connected with the perimeter by four chains, which go from and to all the sides. Those serve as limit bringers and skill testers while performing the function of tightrope walking objects. Two of the chains lead to two heavy armors appropriately and the other two escort to rocket ammo boxes.
These Red Armor items, as well as all the health bonuses (4x 50 Medkits, MegaHealth, Regeneration), are very profitable to pick up, since the map implies a lot of use of rockets by both the players and the map itself. This is one of those levels that can fight you even when you are the only one participant of the match, which I think is a very creative feature. The presence of two floors allows the vertical combat to take its place. Bots play the map well and do not seem to have any issues.
Another thing that helps to diversify the gameplay is the fact that the bottom floor has 8 bullet boxes, which can be useful to terminate an enemy when the latter is low on health. Nearby, in two corners opposite to each other, there are two statues behind the dark orange glass. These are statues of Daemia and Visor which complete the atmosphere on the map, making it look like an arena of some ancient gladiators who were frozen centuries ago, but who left this competition field or area relevant to fight to this day.
Finally, one of the key moments that make this level so memorable and worth of appreciation is the lighting. Mainly thanks to the shadows on the bottom floor, but also the shadows in the corners on the top floor, the lighting on this map feels both dreamlike and spooky at the same time. The music sounds magnificent and adds some extra points to the atmosphere.
Despite not being a CTF map, this level is possibly one of the best symmetric maps ever made. Definitely recommended for everyone who enjoys playing smaller maps and those searching for a great one to keep on the hard disk and regularly come back to revisit it.
Reviewed by Geniraul