VeniVidiFuzzi by Madfox
Madfox's new map takes place in a large, interconnected city/castle/cavern landscape. The sprawling layout connects all of these different areas in sometimes unexpected ways. There is a fair amount of water in the layout, one of the first main areas is a venice-style city street (stone walkways and a road of water) and numerous water tunnels connect other areas to this section. I liked this use of water, in some places you can use the water areas as an alternate route through the map, which is nice (and reminded me a bit of my old map The Autumn Citadel). Now to turn from the layout to the gameplay and architecture.
The architecture is great throughout, a mixture of detailed blocky town buildings, arches and pillars, which (along with the use of Hexen II textures) provides a Graeco-Roman feel. Later there is a more castle-like section. There are also some very Quakey darker indoor bits with stained glass, some caverns, and a very nice canyon bit which shows the best rockwork in the map (though there is some nice rockwork elsewhere as well). Generally, the look is very "busy," yet despite the complexity of the architecture and the "mix 'n match ancient/medieval" architecture, the map feels quite coherent as a place. This is probably due to the fact that the texture set is wisely chosen (and limited, so that all the areas appear related), and that even in the most "townish" areas rocks appear, while even in the most "rocky" areas town stuff appears. There is a light fog which adds to the atmosphere, and some nice new map objects are used to decorate the town parts of the level. The use of ruined temple architecture that you can climb on was nice; for me the design highlight was the gold key area, a sort of open cave with a temple in it, which came across as nicely designed, cool-looking, and unique. Finally I should mention the cool touches like the entrance (look backwards when you spawn in), and the secrets, which keep you exploring. There's much worth noticing here, including plenty of Quakey detailed ceiling beams.
The gameplay is good throughout, though a bit more mileage might have been squeezed out of the layout (especially the initial town section). The new monsters are cool, the crossbow knight has always been decent, but it's the totally new skeleton character (from Q3) that shines here. His two attacks are effective, you as a player have to adapt to these guys, so this is a new monster well-implemented, filling a new niche. His effects look cool as well. Other than that, it's the usual mix of medieval monsters, though surprisingly no zombies. I played on normal since I haven't played Quake in months, and I still died a couple times; my one complaint is that ammo is a bit short, adding in a better melee weapon or more ammo would fix this. Also sometimes the messages directing the player where to go are not entirely clear, so be careful to look around when you get a message saying a door opened. Monster infighting was a useful tactic for me, if you can get it going you can save yourself ammo and health.
The ending is very dramatic, there is a very imposing circle of arches, and a highly challenging confrontation in the pit below. All in all, this is a very nice map, it's basically setpiece after setpiece which is awesome, with a unique style, variety in design, and new features. The ambition on display here, and the effort that went into making this, have to be admired. Enjoy.