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Under the name Inoxx, game designer Cedric Fiorentino created some of PC gaming's greatest multiplayer maps. But his most famous creation is undoubtedly Facing Worlds, a capture the flag map set on a spinning asteroid that anyone who played the original Unreal Tournament will remember fondly.
It still looks great. The way the Earth constantly looms in and out of view creates an incredible sense of scale. It’s a beautifully simple design too, with clean, readable geometry and elegant use of negative space. It takes thirty seconds to figure out, but you can play it for a hundred hours and never get bored.
There’s something strangely beautiful about the slow, graceful spin of the asteroid, and how that contrasts with the bloody chaos unfolding on the surface. And the music is superb. Its theme, Foregone Destruction, is an atmospheric mix of gliding synth pads and frenetic drum and bass.
But it's the towers that really make Facing Worlds special. There are two, one for both teams, and each contains a flag room, and several floors for snipers to lurk on. Between the towers there’s a rocky bridge, cleverly raised in the middle so you can’t see over to the other side of the map.
You never know what’s on the other side as you make a mad dash for the flag, dancing between sniper fire and brawling with other players as they come over the crest of the hill.
Because of its small size, there’s never a quiet moment in Facing Worlds. You’re always engaging the enemy, either up close or from afar. It's the perfect sniper map too. I used to love teleporting up to the top of those towers and popping heads. But I never lasted long because of Facing Worlds' symmetry, which makes it work.
The symmetry creates a natural balance, and any advantage you have, the enemy has too. You have to expose yourself to get a clean shot on the players battling for the flag below, which makes you an easy target for counter-snipers.
And let's not forget the importance of the Redeemer. The portable nuke launcher is Unreal Tournament's most devastating weapon. Both towers in Facing Worlds have one, spawning in the mid-section, and you regularly see missiles screaming back and forth across the map, detonating with miniature mushroom clouds and taking out groups of players.
Of course, using it leaves you defenceless, and a prime target for snipers, which is another example of the map's dedication to keeping things balanced.
I’ve always enjoyed the pace of smaller maps in multiplayer shooters, and Facing Worlds is one of the best examples. When you die, which happens a lot, you respawn and find yourself back in the thick of the battle, seconds later.
It’s a breakneck, messy war of attrition, and I’ll never forget the first time I managed to break through the enemy’s defences with their flag, make it home, and score a point.
Facing Worlds does a lot with very little, and it’s a timeless design that's every bit as fun to play now as it was back in 1999.