I’ll jump in because this may be the only way I’ll play full megawads. ;)
I thought it was interesting that 2002:ADO was chosen. I’ll say in advance, I’ve never much liked this megawad, but chances are I never played beyond E1. I’m hoping to see if further episodes please me more.
My play style is UV, continuous, cautious, with frequent saves and no cheats. I seek a UV Max result, but I will not play endlessly looking for secrets or monsters I missed. I play keyboard only, no mouse. If I fail to find a secret level, I will finish the episode and then play the secret level from a pistol start. At the end of each level I will write down my final stats. Lastly, I play on my beloved Risen3D.
E1M1 – Paul Corfiatis - Kills – 100%, Items – 93%, Secrets – 100 %. Time: 7:33. Ending Health 200%, Armor 116%
I’ve always been a fan of Paul’s from the Death Tormention days. That said, this amazingly easy (even on UV) map sets the pattern for the maps that follow. The design emphasis is on tricky secrets and sometimes puzzles, while the fights are mainly snoozers with monsters almost always in front of the player. Having played this map before, I breezed through, snagged the chaingun, and subjected all the pinkies to the Chaingun Cha-Cha. My favorite part of the map is actually going back to the secret area at the start, because I get a kick out of the arrows on the floor. I was also happy that the 10th Anniversay Edition deleted the replacement sky. The map is actually low detail compared to the original E1M1, and is also easier. One last note – the stairs leading to the blue key room should have been only 8 units high and 64 units front to back, so that the Pinkies could chase the player.
E1M2 – Kristian Aro - Kills – 100%, Items – 36%, Secrets - 100%. Time: 13:20. Ending Health, 177%, Armor 78%.
This one has the clever Chaingun secret, which I finally figured out at the end. Starts off with an easy battle. A few Imps have you in a crossfire, and there’s a Sarge in another sniping position. There follows a series of non-fights, basically just the player slaughtering helpless monsters served up in front of him. Health and ammo are plentiful, so there is literally never anything to worry about. Getting the yellow key in the open "Helicopter Bay" is probably the most dangerous encounter, mainly because it gives you the option of running in, guns blazing, and being targeted from more than one direction. This illusion of danger passes quickly, however, and what’s left is mainly finding the important Soulsphere secret. Also, the Backpack secret is one where the player gets punished a bit for exploring the level, all to the good in this case, given the ease of the map’s fights. As a nit-picky detail, the very first room has vertically misaligned SUPPORT2 textures in the window. On the positive end, the level is nice-looking and has very good lighting in some of the passageways.
E1M3 – Paul Corfiatis - Kills – 100%, Items – 97%, Secrets – 75%, Time: 30:16. Ending Health 109%, Armor 89%
A few promising battles ultimately lead to disappointment because there is no killer instinct shown by the author. Again and again and again the monsters are all in front of you. Even when backtracking leads you to opened areas and new monsters, it’s like the fights were designed by your mom and she wants to make sure you won’t get hurt. There are also odd design choices, such as a nukage pit in the first main area, with 2 Spectres, that seems to serve no purpose whatsoever. On the plus side, this is the best-looking level so far, with excellent lighting and some clever secrets. My favorite part of the map was finding my way to the rocket launcher. My least favorite part was the yellow key puzzle that required you to cross about 80% of the map to solve it, and end up with nothing but boring fights.
I was able to see the secret exit, but shame on me, I didn’t use the automap well and I never found the path to reach it. After examining the map in DB2 I smacked myself in the head. It was so easy!
E1M4 – Kristian Aro - Kills – 100%, Items – 100%, Secrets – 100% Time: 20:57. End Health 148%, Armor 137%
Another decent-looking map, another set of dreadful fights, though there was one moment of joy. After the start, you enter a big square room with a Soulsphere on a central column. It reminds me of an area I think I encountered in an E3/E4-style Death Tormention map, but in that one there were Barons about and it was quite a corker of a fight. Not so here. This room leads to the famous barrel trap, which I remembered from back in the day and decided to set off from a distance, but when I first encountered this in the mid-Miocene it put a smile on my face as I was roasted to death. :)
The map has the typical Doom 2-style flow of the entire mapset so far– linear all the way. Beat one area where monsters are – you guessed it! – thrown up in front of you for easy chaingunning, then go to the next. One Hamburger Hill after another. However, at the yellow key, you find yourself in a trap that swamps you with Sergeants. My first time through, I was reduced to 32% health. I jumped for joy! Finally, somebody tried to kill me in here. Woo Hoo!!!! In celebration, I opened a saved game and played it again, this time ready with the chaingun, and left the trap at 115%. I sort of regretted that, because I was never in any danger again. One last note is that there’s a secret rocket launcher in this area.
For me, the nadir of the map came after you climb some curvy stairs with health bonuses and drop into a room where you can look into another room that contains the red key. In that room are 3 Spectres. Why? Why on earth would a designer put 3 Spectres in a room, helpess before my shotgun, when instead they could have put some combination of Sergeants, Zombieboys or Imps – monsters that could actually shoot at me through the window? To be honest, I was offended by this. I could not imagine the purpose behind this design choice, except to drain me of ammo, of which I had so much that killing the Spectres was easy. Long before this, I was progressing through the map with my lip curled in sneering contempt at the insanely easy combat, but this moment annoyed the hell out of me.
There was one more notable trap with a blue key at the top of a platform. Going up there triggers a monster closet with 3 Sergeants. Even though I play without the mouse, and thus turn slowly, only 1 Sergeant shot me before I killed them all. Thus, at least twice as many Sergeants were needed, or a combo of Sergeants and Imps, at least 4 of each, I’d say. There was also a monster closet opened below, a much bigger one filled with Pinkies, hitscanners and Imps. But you have a convenient pylon for cover, so I decided to unload a few of the 500,000 rockets I had by this time and killed everything while taking only a couple hits. ZZZZzzzzzzz. Might’ve been interesting if I’d played the map from a pistol start.
The last thing that annoyed me in this map is back at the start. After I exited and found I had discovered all the secrets, I was surprised, because at the start you can see this raised METAL1 platform in an outside area that leads to the starting room. I was sure that somewhere or other I’d trip a switch that would open the TECHWALL and let me go out there. No such luck. I guess it’s supposed to indicate that you crossed the METAL1 path to get into this level, but E1M3 doesn’t end at a METAL1 path, so there’s a continuity error here. There’s also questionable texture use in the Sector 123 area, with PLAT1 on a lift that is too tall, COMPWERD on a 32-length line, and DOOR1 in sectors too low, thus cutting off the top of the texture. These could have, and should have, been easily fixed before re-release. And yes, in the blue key area, you go from FLOOR4_8 to FLOOR0_3 without a change in floor height, a flagrant violation of Romero’s Rules. Yes, I went there! :D These are noob mistakes that we all make, that shouldn’t be made in a mapset with the reputation this one has, especially when it’s been re-released after 10 years.
In summary, the maps are pretty good-looking for the most part, but no real grand architecture, not enough outside areas, and a mid to lower level of detail. In continuous play, I find the maps much less challenging than the original Knee Deep In The Dead or even Fava Beans. The problem is that while the maps have a look somewhat similar to Knee Deep, the fight structure is entirely different. The original E1 features cross-connecting corridors with often sneaky angles, so that monsters frequently come at you from multiple directions, leading to some non-linear and unpredictable combat. These 2002:ADO maps, instead, are very stiff and linear with no flow at all, Doom 2 style. Monsters are almost always in front of you. If you have enough ammo, there is no challenge whatsoever to the fights. No stress. No worries. The way the fights and traps are designed, the maps would need Cacos, Lost Souls and even (gak!) Barons to provide entertainment. Sticking slavishly to the E1 monster group, but with Doom 2 style traps and gameplay, made these four of the most boring maps I’ve ever played. Sorry if I sound like an asshole, but I call it as I see it. I’m a crappy player, yet I went through 4 maps on UV without being killed or even seriously endangered. That’s just not acceptable to me. That is not fun to me.
My only hope is that in Episode 2, Paul and Kristian shove all these negative words right down my throat and smack me around the way the masochist inside me wants to be smacked. ;D