Played through the entirety of KDiZD on UV in just over 11 hours with 100% kills, items and secrets. Here's a "no bullshit" review from someone who actually played the whole thing.
Z1M1 - This map is the worst of the lot. . . by far! From the cheesey little tank thing at the very beginning (which, by the way, defies logic in how it even arrived at its present location; the only way to get it there would be to drive it over a ledge, implying you are now playing as the stupidest Doom Trooper in history) all the way to the pointlessly contaminated hall that branches off from a ROOM FULL OF TOXIC NUKAGE! Moreso than any other level in the set, Z1M1 feels piecemeal and haphazard, with its wind-about path and mostly uninspired secrets (particularly the box of bullets secret in the new outdoor area). Much like id's very first beta design for E1M1, this map needs to be scrapped completely and rebuilt from the ground up. This is a poor showing for an introductory map, which most casual gamers are going to base their opinion about the entire wad set on. Zero stars.
Z1M2 - Much better, much more coherent, much tighter design. The maze is perhaps a little more obnoxious than it really needs to be (and I speak primarily of the lighting there), but it's not game breaking by any standard. In addition, the green armor secret on the metal girders just before you take the elevator down to the end rooms is particularly annoying because the secret room credit is tied to the item, and I already had in excess of 100% armor when I found it. Overall this map was decent, but I didn't take anything memorable from it, so. . . 3 stars.
Z1M3 - This map might have gone on a little longer than it really needed to, and for some reason, I had every other aspect of the level completed before I figured out that the computers to disable the security locks were right next to the computer telling you you had to disable the security locks (after which, I could find no other way to get into the emergency hatch except rocket jumping, although I have since read elsewhere that there is another way to do it), which was a case of me assuming that I was going to find the security locks elsewhere in the level and have to remember to come back to this spot. Also, in the attic secret, there is a spot to the left where you can crouch and walk across a bunch of pipes and tech gear into a corner in the far back, which you can then not get out of. And of course, there was the hunt for the Military Base exit, which has been bitched about to no end, but still, I'm going to bitch about it myself because it's not just difficult to find (as it should be), but it's ridiculously, illogically difficult to find. The hunt for the activator to lower the panel that reveals the switch that opens the room that harbors the switch that opens the doors that lead to the tram that takes you to the Military Base took roughly two hours to find, and this was AFTER I HAD CHEATED to figure out where the key components were (which I hate to do the first time I play a wad, and mind you this is one of two secrets I had to cheat to try to figure out; I'll discuss the other later). It actually came down to me just mindlessly mashing the "Use" button on every surface in sight, a la Wolfenstein 3-D, and when I finally found it, I wanted to strangle you guys, because that room is really too damn dark to notice a texture variation that minimal. One spot I will say the level really shined: the blue key ambush. I had halfway convinced myself the ambush wasn't gonna take place, and that the panels on the wals were just red herrings. Sneaky, sneaky. I must also state that this was the only spot in the ENTIRE wad set where I took any damage from a Satyr. All in all, this map is long and slow and frustrating, and it would really be nice if you guys would go back and streamline it a little more, take out a lot of the unnecessary backtracking, and tone down the secret exit. 2 stars.
Z1M9 - Another disappointment tied to the secret exit switch. This level felt "blah" from beginning to end. And all the cutesy stuff that breaks the fourth wall (that dude's laptop? I mean really, who gives a fuck?!), ditch it. As gimmicky as the music switch was, I have to admit that it did make me smile, but it really just doesn't have any place in an abandoned moon base overrun by demons. My advice, you want to add a little comic relief, hire a comedian. Oddly enough, my favorite part of this level was the new end area (there may be something Freudian about that), but even there there were a couple of problems: 1). I could find no hints indicating the soulsphere secret out there. I stumbled on it trying to find a safe spot to blast demons from. 2). There's a cliff that a bunch of lost souls fly out from behind, but they can't make it over an impassible line; they're just stuck back there, trying to look menacing but not really accomplishing much. The impassible line was put there presumably to keep players from crate hopping up there, but only the lost souls suffer for it. Go figure. 2 Stars.
Z1M4 - Despite the changes to your travel route through this map (or maybe because of, it's hard to say), this is the first level that I really, genuinely enjoyed playing. In fact, the only gripe I have with this level at all is this: after you hit the switch that opens the cavern area door, you come back out of the dark hall and a closet has opened that releases a bunch of dark imps. After you kill all of the dark imps, walk into the little closet and turn around so you are looking out the doorway. Now jump. If you look to your left, on the ledge beside you, you'll see one tile of mismatched floor texturing. That's it. Don't ask me how I found it. Just know that it was infinitely easier to find than the secret exit in Z1M3, and I spent waaaaaay more time than I needed to trying to figure out if it might be somehow tied to a secret. Aside from that, a very well done level and fun to play. Not my favorite, but nice all the same. Also, at the risk of sounding hypocritical here (in light of what I said about the gimmick stuff im Z1M9), the return of the Dopefish was a nice touch. 4 stars.
Z1M5 - Not a bad map overall. Very true to the original. Torm's head was amusing, but like the other gimmicky stuff, maybe better to save it for a jokewad. . . or a Doom 2 remake (or reinterpretation, whatever you want to call it). Also, the new room behind the orange key door didn't really add much to the level and could probably be ditched without anyone complaining (except perhaps the room's designer; sorry, dude). The stuff behind the silver key door was fine with one exception: all the stuff beyond the nukage tunnel you have to pass through is basically guaranteed to only be visited once per playing because the door that can only be opened from the other side CLOSES after you go through it, and you only have the one rad suit to traverse the tunnel with. Maybe it was designed that way on purpose, but it seems to me that door should stay open after you've unlocked it. And speaking of nukage tunnels, the very first one you're supposed to travel though to find the switch that raises the catwalk out of the nuke pit can be bypassed in one of two ways: 1). rocket jump off the catwalk into the hallway, and 2). use the extra jump height from leaping out of the nuke pit to clear the lowered catwalk completely and land in the hallway above. Both problems can be solved by making the door in that hallway triggered by a line or switch somewhere on the other side of the nuke tunnel you're supposed to go through. Decent map though. 3 and a half stars.
Z1M6 - A few of things about this map: First, the blue key area can be reached from the big nuke-filled room below it by using the first barrels you see in that room and some clever ledge hopping. . . or you could just rocket jump up there. Second, right outside the busted-out wall (same nuke-filled room) is an outdoor area with a cliff that some cacodemons fly oout from behind. You can get up to that area by using the raised aclove next to it that hides a couple of dark imps. . . or, once again, you could just rocket jump up there. Third, you can jump from the crane to the high aclove that houses the sniping shadows. It might take you a couple of tries to line it up right, but it can be done, and without aid of a rocket jump either. This level was decent, but no great shakes. The outdoor areas looked fantastic, but overall I felt I spent too much time wandering and not enought time killing. 3 stars.
Z1M7 - My favorite level from the original, and almost my favorite from this mapset as well. Nothing really wrong with the level itself, it's just that you guys had to go and make Z1M10, and that map just blew all the others away. As far as this map goes, however, I liked almost all of the new additions. Spent a lot of time backtracking, which seemed to work fine for a lot of the original areas, but not so much for the new ones. More often than not they were pretty barren when I had to cross back through these areas, whereas the original map used a lot of ambushes when backtracking was necessary to keep things interesting. I was kind of saddened by the loss of the large outdoor secret from the original, and if I had one request for this map, it would be for you to put it back in, but all said and done, the map's big enough as it is, and the outdoor replacements (especially in the end area) are really nicely done. The M-4000 secret kinda sucks though. There's no real indicator (that I noticed anyway) that there's even a secret there. I stumbled over it by sheer chance; I just happened to be jumping out of the nukage there and clicked my "Use" button on accident. It's also one of those things that I could do without, especially the line about maybe someday the developers will finish it (which could be meant to mean "weapon developers" or "game developers", but I of course took it to mean "game developers"). At best I'd ditch the secret area discovery credit and just leave it in as an easter egg. 4 stars.
Z1M10 - As previously stated, my favorite map of the set. Once I saw this level, my immediate reaction was "This is what KDiZD should have been: a collection of maps that highlight key areas from all of Ultimate Doom." It was pieced together brilliantly, and it was fun as hell to play (that pun was unintentional and drawing attention to it like I did was just plain stupid; remind me not to do that again). It wasn't without its issues though, first and foremost being its placement in the mapset. Coming off of Z1M7, which was a huge map, I was ready to get down to the endgame, but suddenly founnd myself thrust into another huge map instead. It had become just another obstacle in my way to the game's end instead of the enjoyable reward it should have been. By about the halfway point, the initial joy had started to wear off and I was really just wanting to get this map over with so I could get to Z1M8. I'd highly advise moving this map to the very end of the set and including M8's kills/items/secrets count into the requirements (and by the by, I had no problem at all with said requirements; this map really should be a reward for the hardcore, a self-congratulatory pat on the back for a job well done). That way you could just sit back and enjoy the map. No pressure. The game's done. This is the icing on the cake, so to speak. My second issue with this map was the balcony secret you have to (or are supposed to) find the teleporter for. This was the second secret where I had to cheat in order to try and figure out how to get to it, but I never did find the teleporter (I eventually learned its location in another thread, but that was after the fact). In order to get to it, I managed to rocket jump up there, but it took repeated tries to get the angle right. Part of the problem with this secret was that for wahtever reason I did not recognize the room that the teleporter is in. Had I, I might have remembered the original secret and figured it out. 4 and a half stars. (I'll give you 5 stars if you take out the dildo.)
Z1M8 - Redone very well, but please ditch the message in the old soulsphere secret. There never would have been a soulsphere there "this time" because that implies that there was a "last time", and this is supposed to be the Doom Trooper's first time through the Phobos Base. The level itself was quite fun to play, but the couple of areas that prevent backtracking actually screwed me up in this level because I hadn't finshed searching for secrets both times, and therefore had to restart twice (I also had to give up hoarding items and just pick up everything along the way to get 100% items, which was kind of annoying). The new hell areas were pretty fun, but I found that in the island area where you have to kill 4 or 5 (or maybe it was 6, I can't remember right now) barons to progress, once the shadows' sniper spots opened up, I could just waste a shadow, steal his sniping position and ride out most of the horror suffering very little damage. The las boss wasn't much, especially considering you can trigger him without actually falling over the ledge, which made beating him a breeze. As someone has stated already, if he were more mobile (and maybe had some ground attacks), he'd be a lot harder. Overall, while the level looked nice, it's little irregularities where more a hassle than cute paculiarities, so 3 stars.
In regards to the new monsters, for the most part, I could've done without them. They added very little variance to gameplay for how many new critters there were. The new pinkies were especially useless, being that they both still died quietly and without much of a fight when you whipped out the chainsaw. The Satyr was another monster that sucked, primarily because it was slow moving, had slow attack frames, and had no ranged attack. I could run right up to 'em, give 'em a full double barrel blast, back off before their attack animation had even started and repeat process until demise. The lion guys were more like monster-controlled pause buttons. Pause, wait for shield to drop, fire, pause, wait for shield to drop, repeat, repeat, repeat, each time praying for it to do it's shield blast so you had something else do to (even if it is only sidestepping) instead of standing around with your thumb up you ass. My favorites of the group were the new cube demons, which could be a real pain in the ass to fight but were very underused, and the bruiserdemons, which I really liked design-wise, although I found herding them by way of strafe-circling was a really easy way to take them out. It was also nice to see the rocket zombie back again, and placed much more effeciently than back in the old Obtic.wad, where they were constantly blowing themselves up before you even realized they were there. All in all, new monsters get 2 stars.
New weapons: the grenade launcher was a lot more useful than I expected it to be after first using it (and I never even found out it had an alt-fire until after I beat the game), and the new uber-rifle (whatever the hell that thing's called) was fantastically fun, but sometimes I felt it made certain challenges too easy (like the last boss, for example, or any bruiserdemon encounter). If I run through KDiZD again, I'm thinking of doing so without using that gun at all. The new double barrel design was "hmmph, whatever, it's a double barrel, I don't care what it looks like". New weapons get 3 and a half stars.
So overall, did I think it was the great game it was hyped up to be? No, but then again, how often does anything live up to its hype? Truth is, once you got past the first few levels, the game got really fun, and the operative word there is game, as in a full, complete game, which is what this mod felt like. Not just an episode, but a complete game. For all the hard work that went into it, I have to give the designers a lot of respect. It's highly unlike;y that many of us could've done better working for free. The game's biggest flaw might also be it's biggest asset, and that's that it went through so many hands before it saw completion. To mirror Pritch's words, it really was a coming-together of the community, and warts and all, that's gotta be worth something.
But then again. . . maybe next time around (if there is a next time around), a smaller team probably couldn't hurt.