E1M3 – Toxin Refinery. Kills – 96, Items – 96, Secrets – 100. Time – 19:01. End Health 104, Armor 110. Death Count – 4
I knew my first deaths would happen here. That opening is nasty on –fast, where I died 3 times in a row, and when I finally survived, I was at 1% health! ;D One death came from standing next to a barrel at the wrong time. One came by 2 simultaneous shotgun hits, and one came from Pinkie bite. The Pinkies and Spectres were by far the biggest problem in the map. They move like little buzz-bombs and are on top of you in the blink of an eye. As a keyboarder, I’m basically reduced to backing up and blasting away with the shotgun, or even worse, the pistol, at least until I get more appropriate weapons. And sheesh, no Zerks!
I suffered another death, this time by Spectre, in the upper computer room that leads to the first Soulsphere secret, when I got stuck in a corner. Aside from that, the map was a good challenge all the way through, although when I found the Chaingun in a secret area, I almost did a victory dance, and when I went back into the hallway, I opened the door leading to the blue key area with great anticipation, and if I could talk to sprites, as I opened the door they would have heard me say, “Alright, you miserable jagoffs, behold the power of the Chaingun!” as I laughed maniacally while slaughtering them. I swear, I have never loved the chaingun as much as I do playing these maps on –fast. It is a literal terror weapon in these conditions. By the same token, I grabbed the chainsaw like a thirsty man seeing water in the desert. At last, a weapon to use on those light-speed Pinkies!
As DoTW said, this map is, for many of us, the highlight of the episode. It’s been enormously influential on my mapping for precisely the sense of intrigue he cited, which is created by the insanely clever and fun secrets. IMO, this is the greatest example of secret-building in all of the IWADs. No matter how many times I play it, the chain of secrets leading to the first Soulsphere, the rocket launcher, and the chaingun while looping back around to a previously-visited lift, is pure genius. It’s playful and fun and is enormously satisfying to me. I also love all the crazy wall angles that mainly work in the player’s favor in terms of firing angles. You don’t even have to be good at corner-abuse to take advantage of this.
I have to disagree with DoTW about the introduction of Spectres in a brightly-lit room, and go along with the Baron. This is because the reason I first played Knee Deep is because I couldn’t beat Map03 of Doom 2. I kept dying in that Chaingunner pool, but not to Chaingunners. Instead, I’d look up at the sky and see this scary demonic shadow, and say, “What the fuck is that?” ;D Screw RTFM, instead, I finally figured it out in Knee Deep, which I was playing as a sort of Boot Camp so I could go back and tackle Doom 2. ;)
And I gotta say, the first time I grabbed the Blue Key and the lights went out, and I heard the hiss of angry Imps, I damn near shit my pants! :D Sorry about the TMI, but moments like these are how legends are built.
E1M3 is thus on my short list of all-time great Doom maps, and it helped that playing this on MacDoom back in ’95, on MacOS 7.5.1, the Quicktime Midi Instruments made this the creepiest track in either game, with synthesizers that sounded like a choir of the damned moaning from the depths of hell. Ah, nostalgia. ;)
One last thing - Romero violated one of his own Rules For Level Design at the Blur Sphere secret, because you can't go outside to get ammo from the fallen Sergeants. Heh!
E1M9 – Military Base. Kills – 100, Items – 100, Secrets – 100. Time – 17:41. End Health 29, Armor 17. Death Count – 9
Holy Happy Horseshit, Batman, this map is insane! This map is the one exception to pistol starts because it follows so directly from E1M3. That’s my excuse, anyway. I doubt I could beat this from pistol start on –fast without a death count of at least 20. As Veinen said, this is the hardest map in the episode, though sections of E1M6 will provide serious competition. There’s a lot of monsters and not a lot of health, with predictable results. This map shows that Romero was capable of going for the jugular even before being influenced by that insane lunatic axe-murderer Sandy Petersen.
I died 4 times in a row at the start, because I lack patience, and after killing a few hitscanners, I ran out to shoot rockets into the Imp cage, angering more hitscanners. Add a zig when I should have zagged, and the deaths piled up. But damn, was it ever a fun way to die!
This is just a way-cool, flat-out action map, a bloodfest from beginning to end and one of the truly great maps in Doom history. Orthogonal rooms? Who gives a shit? I don’t find this ugly at all. Effective use of light and darkness helps create mood, and the gameplay is beyond reproach. Bad layout? I disagree. Actually, there is an error, because in one of the areas you set off a Pinkie trap, but they can’t come down the stairs, so all you have to do is wait for the nearby Pinkies behind the barrels to go upstairs and try to come back down, and you’re safe to just potshot them with the single-barrel. I had to die twice to figure this out, though. ;) Making the stairs wider front-to-back would have made this area more dangerous. Then again, maybe Romero wanted you to figure out this strategy.
I also have to give props for the dropped-floor trap, which has been so inspirational to me. And let's not forget the wonderfully dickish ending. Died twice there before finally surviving at 4% health. Whee!
I have to say that playing this map on –fast is one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had in Doom. It’s perfectly-pitched to the edge of difficulty I still find to be fun before tipping into the frustration zone. Alas, it also convinced me that I’ll forego –fast in the following episodes unless I play on HMP and/or continuous. I won’t be able to handle all the Pinkies and Lost Souls on –fast unless I have a Plasma Gun. ;D
@Jaws In Space - Thanks for the historical perspectives, it was very interesting!