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Preview: Aztec 2

1
For a long time Narby has been one of Counter-strike's most successful leveldesigners with maps like Inferno, Aztec, Vertigo, Thunder, Mill and Fire. Narby is known to update his maps after they've been released. We all know about the updates done to Inferno, which is also coming in yet another version in Condition Zero 1.2 (not yet released).
One of Narby's most popular maps is Aztec, which even was the most popular map in the entire world for a while according to ServerSpy.net. This map too has undergone a couple of changes and optimizations. It's closest competitor to the title as the most popular map in the world is the sequel to the somewhat legendary Dust, namely Dust2. Narby has decided to walk the path walked by his British colleague, DaveJ, and create a sequel to his most successful map in an attempt to outdo himself. Fragbite has tried out the coming sequel and will give you a glimpse on what's cooking.

Sidan 1

What makes Aztec 2 a sequel to Aztec? In Dust2 we could see several parts of the original map spread across the sequel. It's not quite as simple in Aztec 2, though many of the things that characterise Aztec is seen in Aztec 2. Examples of these are the water, the bridge, the steep stairs leaving the water and the big open areas. Textures and architecture overall are also pretty recognisable. The textures are said to come from the Condition Zero version of Aztec and has received good criticism from among others DaveJ (creator of Dust and Dust2). On the other hand, few people care about if the sequel resembles the original as long as it's a nice map to play.



The original was critisized for being unbalanced, being too AWP friendly and having bad performance at older PC's. The friendly attitude towards AWP's remains in the shape of a long water path, though richly flavoured with crates and other cover. One of the bomb spots is also very open and well suited for AWP use. The other bombspot has got some nice AWP spots, but is not quite as welcoming to an AWP user as the other one. Something that speaks against the extensive use of AWP's, however, is the lack of flexibility suffered by players carrying AWP:s, especially since the delay on the zoom was introduced. The flexibility of an assault rifle could come in great use when retaking bombspots and moving from one bombspot to another. Not being able to check out suspicious hiding places in a smooth manner while moving around the map is a great disadvantage affecting AWP users in Aztec 2.



Both of the bombspots can be attacked from several different directions, which means that an AWP player, who mainly can focus on only one direction at a time will be a risky and expensive investment. There are also good possibilities for the use of smoke and flash grenades, especially in the smaller of the two bombspots.



Since I've had limited possibilities to play the map with other players, due to the risk of a leak, the balance is quite hard to judge at this time. However, Narby seems to be well aware of how important timing is and is working to get the map tuned to the last second. Another problem, that is not inherited from the original map, is the balance of the bombspots. I will get back to this later on in the article.



The CT advantage has been one of Aztec's main problems and also subject to many of the changes made. Fear for these problems' return in Aztec 2 is not unfounded, since there are many nice positions and hiding places for CT's to use in both of the bombspots. Backup is also fairly easy and fast. On the other hand I personally prefer CT dominated maps over terrorist dominated ones, since terrorists aren't as affected by a bad economy as the CT's and therefore are not forced to do as many ecos. Looking the other way again then, there are quite a lot of entrances to the bombspots that the terrorists can enter from or use for flashing. It's very hard to say what it will look like when the teams have got real positions and tactics.



A certain thing that I like a lot is the fact that it's very easy for the terrorists to change which bombspot they are attacking. To me there are no worse competitive maps than for example Cobble where the attackers' creativity are hit in the head by the map's strict "either go A or B spot or spend half the round running to the one you didn't choose". Aztec 2 doesn't suffer from these problems. On the contrary – it's very easy to change the direction of the attack and the map does not only not demote innovative tactics but it feels like it actually promotes them.



A problem that was brought to my attention was that the map is sometimes a little too big vertically, meaning it sometimes hurts a little too much to jump off of a cliff. In my opinion, though, this is not a problem but a positive feature that we've seen far too little of in Counter-strike this far. Considering the many routes there already are for players to take on the map there is no reason to add another few by reducing heights.



The map is playfully designed and invites to both jumping and creative positioning. Despite the multitude in routes to choose from when navigating the map it's real easy to learn the basic layout thanks to some real nice architecture which creates lasting pictures in your memory. It is important that it is quick and easy to learn the map. That makes it a lot likely that the community will really accept the map as it's released. Most people do not have the time nor the desire to spend any larger amounts of energy on running around learning a new map.





Chokepoint analysis






Bridge





In the original Aztec and the version of Aztec 2 that we saw on the first pictures handed out by CS Nation the bridge is made of wooden boards. That is not the case in the version of the map that I played, instead the bridge is built entirely by stone and completely lacks any holes. Whether that is good or bad you'll have to decide for yourselves. I can't say it matters to me.



The chokepoint itself is placed quite far away from the bombspots and requires the CT's to pretty much rush in order to turn it into an actual chokepoint. However, if the CT's manages to take this area they pretty much hold the entire map in one chokepoint, which would be rather neat, though I can't see how the CT's should do to seize this advantage. The timing in this particular area was discussed when I playtested the map. Perhaps it will be changed. In the version I played the terrorists got to at least half the bridge before the CT's reached their end.



Let's have a look at the image in the top left corner, which gives us a rather good overview of the area. The terrorists come from the right and has got three entrances to the area. One is in the water, where they'll actually have quite good cover hiding them from a possible sniper at the far end of the water path. The other two entrances are the bridge and the staircase to the right of the bridge room. To get to that staircase, though, you'll have to jump across the bridge room. At the far left we can see a space which leads on into the side of the CT's bridge room.



The CT's can enter the area through the bridge room as well as through a double door situated behind the camera to the right. The way there, though, is very long, so don't count on finding any CT's there in the beginning of the round.



The chokepoint is brilliantly designed and provides the players with many different angels, both vertical and horizontal, to play with. This is no doubt one of my favourite areas, even though we will probably not see as many fights taking place here as in the bombspots.






The Small Bombspot/CT-Spawn





As seen on the first picture there are two steep staircases leading up to the bombspot. These together with the entrance seen on the left side of the last picture makes for a total of three entrances to the bombspot available to the terrorists. The defenders haven't got all that much cover to use, but still far from little. The bombspot looks very promising in terms of terrorist tactics with splits using flashes and smokes. It will be interesting to see what the top teams can come up with here.



The bombzone itself is in the middle of the yard marked by the red bomb sign. There is supposed to be a circle shaped decal right on top of it, but my screenshot program can be quite spooky at times.



At picture number two you can see the CT-spawn. Behind the CT's when they spawn is a little snipers' nest for AWP players who like elevated positions. If you ask me it looks like a perfect spot for terrorists to boost up one or two backstabbers after having seized the bombspot. This snipers' nest, the double doors right next to the snipers' nest as well as all the entrances that the terrorists have got to their disposal are the CT's possible routes when retaking the bombspot after a plant. My guess is that the double doors won't be used very much due to the fact that the sniper's nest wins in both cover and range.



As a whole I like the bombspot. It seems to be just hard enough to defend and attack. It has also got some nice architecture which will hopefully generate some interesting battles.






Bombspot Link (top)



This is one of the routes between the bombspots. There's plenty of room for an ambush. To the left is the small bombspot and to the right the big one (the route ends at the top floor). To the left of the double doors is the stair leading up to the snipers' nest covering the small bombspot.









Bombspot Link (bottom)



Underneath the top link between the two bombspots lies another route. It starts at the water below the small bombspot and then continues to the big bombspot. You can also defend the bomb from this link. This route is actually quite interesting, because it makes for some interesting tactics where you can actually run past the small bombspot in order to get into the back of the big one. This is another tactical detail that may prove to be quite entertaining.






The Big Bombspot









As you can see this is a really big bombspot. The bomb is planted on the elevated area in the middle, in the same manner as in the smaller bombspot. The bomb, after being planted, can be defended from a huge number of places and this is one of the few problems that I see with the map. You really need some cover here or the terrorists will have to big of an advantage on the after plant.



At picture number one (top left) you can see the bottom bombspot link enter the bombspot at the wide staircase. The top bombspot link finds it way out on the second floor behind the altar to the right.



The terrorists can enter from three different directions. One is via the water, which means entering through the backdoor (bottom bombspot link). The other two entrances are behind the camera to the left and right on the first picture. Both of these routes can be held from a dozen positions, especially with an AWP from far away. They are similar to the single entrance to the big bombspot at Cobble, though worse in terms of AWP's. On the other hand there are two entrances, so covering them both with AWP's should prove costly, on the other hand again, taking good Colt positions is not very difficult either.



Personally I think that the terrorists will have a really tough time seizing this bombspot without smoke grenades or splits with nice flashing. It is no doubt a great tactical challenge, which could be looked upon as both good and bad. Speaking for the terrorists though, is the fact that the bomb is easily defended once the terrorists have taken control over the bombspot. Though, the question is how many terrorists are still alive after the bombspot has been captured. The CT's can also send backup quite quickly and since it takes a lot of time to make it down to the bombspot, plant the bomb and then find a good hiding spot this could be a good counter to the terrorists only advantage. I smell a CT advantage.






On the way to the big bombspot



The last chokepoint is the route to the big bombspot (before the path has been divided into two). The CT's can actually make their way here in order to defend the bombspot offensively. To the right, looking through the double doors, you can see the chokepoint at the bridge that I mentioned in the beginning. This chokepoint is really nothing special and I think that it'll just be a transportation distance most of the time.






And that is the end of your little tour around the map.



Conclusion



After having played Aztec 2 I can, without lying, say that I'm awaiting the release with saliva in the corner of my mouth. Sure, the map has got problems, but they're not any worse than what can be fixed and overall the map is real good and has got a lot to offer in tactics both on a team level as well as on a player level. It being a sequel as well as the status of its creator makes it even more likely to become an official map accepted for competitive play. A new competitive map is just what we need to stop the CS scene from being bored to death from playing the same maps over and over again. For boredom will strike sooner or later if we keep being as afraid of changes as we are today.



Right now Narby is in the testing and tweaking phase, which means that he wants as much feedback as he can get, so you've got a relatively good chance of making yourselves heard and have a say about what the final map will look like. Some of the areas aren't done, but despite that the map is expected "soon".



Until the release, all we can do is hope that Narby doesn't change the map for the worse and then we're pretty much set for a nice map that will hopefully be accepted by the community.

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