Before Plutonia's Go 2 It, there was Dario Casali's take on expanding Doom 2's MAP01 into a difficult and action packed level. Punisher can be seen as sort of a prototype for Go 2 It in that it was released a year before Final Doom and the map is rough around the edges to play. There are far more many monsters in Punisher than there are in Go 2 It, starting off with about 600 enemies, which is three times more than Go 2 It's initial start of about 200 enemies. It sounds like Punisher is more difficult than Go 2 It for having more enemies and a rougher layout, right? Well, actually no, Punisher is easier than Go 2 It though at the same time, Punisher has its difficulty issues that can make it annoying to play.
In Punisher, a variety of enemies are placed together far more frequently, meaning infighting happens immediately in the areas they are in. There are some rooms where only a single enemy type is in to prevent easy infighting, but even still, you can take advantage of monster infighting far more than you would in Go 2 It. Another thing, you don't always get up close to tough monsters like the Cyberdemon so you can pretty much skip them at times, which is unlike Go 2 It as that map has you getting up close to them or at times killing them to progress.
Despite Punisher encouraging something of a aggressive and fast playstyle like you Go 2 It and other Plutonia maps encourage, it doesn't exactly feel like you can do it as freely here. There's a ton of open space so trying to draw attention of monsters to cause some infighting yourself can be annoying to do, an Arch-Vile can hit you out in the open and Pain Elementals can be very problematic, so you might find yourself peeking in and out of cover often instead of blasting monsters away with rockets and a BFG. That's not to say you can't blast through the level if you played it multiple times much like Go 2 It, but even so, the pacing and fights here feel a bit messy.
Punisher is not bad to play and I found it fun to play despite its gameplay problems. I found it interesting to compare this map with Go 2 It to see the differences and how much more refined an expanded Doom 2 MAP01 turned out in the end. If you're into maps with tons of monsters to kill and don't mind some odd pacing, Punisher is good to play, though it definitely shows its age.
This is a great megawad! Most of maps are well designed, balanced and pretty fun to play. The first hard part of megawad is MAP 15, the final fight (2 parts). After that, MAP 17 is other major spike in difficulty. Then, MAP 28 and 30 are very hard, with 30 being the hardest of the set. Anyway, favorite maps = 18, 20, 25, 28 and 30 (half of it really). The only bad map I've found is MAP 31. Overall it's a megawad I recommend but be warned MAP 30 is very though in UV, I had to play this in HMP instead. I will certainly replay this one eventually!
With only 7 maps, this WAD delivers excellent quality and at least 1 hour of top notch quality in terms of gameplay, design and presentation. Intense, fast and fun. The challenge it presents is complicated enough to spice it up without being extremely tedious/difficult. It's not easy, but it's not extreme either, and in that balance you find quite a lot of fun. Considering that the WAD is themed on Mars, this is probably one of the best I've seen in terms of adhering to its theme. Great and fantastic. I would like to thank the Cacoawards for introducing me to this beautiful collection of maps that are on my roster of exciting and fantastic WADs.
Levels 1 to 4 were great: beautiful, somewhat open maps with lots of exploration, challenge, and smart monster placement which renders a lot of replayability. 9/10
As for levels 5 to 7, their gameplay can be described with 'bite-sized arena fights' as the main loop, and 'mazey nonlinearity' for the layout design, and for me, that's boring. 6/10