Demon of the Well
Alright, it's been a very long time since I've played Vile Flesh, but it made enough of an impression on me that I've been meaning to revisit it all these years, and now the DWMC gives me a lovely opportunity to do so. The things I remember most about it are some of the unusual (though generally fairly simple) themes it manages to wring out of the stock textures, its difficult and sometimes either very obscure or very involved secrets, and its characteristically tight resource balance. Indeed, it seems that some of you have already discovered that Williams probably designed this from a standpoint where continuous play is the default/normal style, although care was taken to make them all pistol-start compatible, as well (though some can be rather uncomfortable this way if you don't find at least a handful of secrets).
As usual, I'm using Eternity with my standard leisure settings (no infinitely-tall actors, freelook, etc.). Also as usual, I'll be playing on UV and pistol-starting all the maps, with the intention of killing everything and finding as many secrets as I can....and even though I've played before there are still a lot of secrets I haven't found in this one, let me tell you. I try to keep the use of the saves to a minimum, although some of these maps are large enough that an occasional indulgence in that regard might be in order. Without further ado...
Map 01 -- Administration - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
Very Map 01-ish Map 01, introducing a variety of the game's basic elements like any good first map should--here we get a taste of Williams' very clean (if sometimes squarish) visual style, of the WAD's propensity for nonstandard secrets, including the first of many multi-parters, and the generally tightly controlled health/ammo balance.
Not that it's at all a challenging map, mind--very lightweight appetizer fare, pitting the player mostly against small groups of former humans, sergeants, and the occasional imp, placed directly or in a couple of closets. Despite the general lack of threat, an unlucky or unaware player still stands to take some significant damage in a couple of places (particularly versus the yellow key ambush), and will quickly find that stimpacks and medikits just simply aren't given out like candy in like this one. The concealment of the armor vest and the computer area map is more interesting than it is useful, at least from a pistol-start perspective; the backpack secret, though technically a two-part endeavor, is possibly the easiest secret in the whole game.
I probably appreciate the aesthetics more than the actual gameplay in this one. The actual theme is pretty unassuming but is nevertheless mostly well-realized--it's a mostly well-lit institutional techbase (albeit one that has undergone some disaster causing its courtyard to flood with nukage), one with a decidedly utilitarian/military cast, as opposed to the polished silver/supercomputer or rusty/dirty/damaged themes, for example. Williams has a good feel for sector-based detailing that inhabits the sort of middle range between 'minimalistic' and 'saturated', and he likes his pronounced directional lighting, as well. One can also notice that the play area here, even though this is just a short little map 01, tends to feel pretty spacious at most points, which is characteristic of the WAD as a whole. There are a few low points--the outdoor view is quite bland, and there's the issue of the texturing on the window thresholds that others have pointed out, but for the most part it's clean and crisp.
Map 02 -- Nuke Storage - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
How about that first ambush, guys? It's designed to leave you wounded and on edge for the rest of the map, and the first time people play this it's usually one of the first things they seem to remember about the WAD as a whole, for whatever reason. Having the benefit of knowing about it beforehand, this time rather than subduing it with just the handgun I ran away from all of it into the inner reception room, and killed all of the zombies/imps later on down the line, as they are quite happy to follow you in there, given time.
I reckon the highlight of this outing would be the titular nuke storage area in the basement. It appears very lightly defended at first, but as you progress towards actually obtaining the yellow security card a couple of small barbs spring to stop you--the imps and demons aren't dangerous (and it's fun to punch them down into the nukage if you found the berserk pack moments earlier), but the chaingunners do need to be taken seriously, given how scarce medical supplies are in this map. As to the secrets, it's easy to miss the berserk pack simply because it's harder to spot the telltale misalignment on COMPBLUE than it is for many textures. The green armor is problematic/not really well-designed in that it's very easy to break the map trying to get it (I seem to recall I made the same rail-walking mistake that Magnus did the first time I played), and it has a baffling red herring nearby, as one of those light-posts that Steve mentioned can be lowered like a lift for little apparent reason (it can be activated from the other side of the railing, in fact). The intended method is at least kind of neat, feels like a real 'secret' instead of 'just a powerup hidden in a hole in the wall', if you know what I mean.
Aesthetically this is very much more of the same as map 01, with a similar sense of generous scale. Dobu mentioned the memorable pillared hall flanked by the two broad windows; I kind of like the odd little vertical fluorescent light-tube thingies in places, myself. The 3D bridge is very Kama Sutra-esque (although I guess it's really more accurate to say that KS's bridges are very Vile Flesh-esque) in that it contains an odd-looking amount of blank space between its planks, as others have noted....this doesn't really bother me much, as I tend to think 3D bridges look a little silly in general if you look at them closely, regardless of spacing. I do agree the insta-pop monster pit behind the yellow door is rather tacky, though, if for no other reason than that it's not deep enough, and so you can just see the tops of the chaingunners' bald heads while they're in there.