"Doom (and GZDoom) have been firmly cemented as the modder's port of choice when it comes to changing the way Doom looks and plays."
In 2004, its proponents showed off just what the engine was capable of with the ZDoom Community Map Project "Take 1", a single map with more than a dozen pairs of hands on it. Times have changed, though, and so has ZDoom, so it only stands to reason that it needs a brand new community map to show just what the port is now capable of - ZDCMP: Take 2. Essentially released in 2013 after cooking in the Realm667 crock pot for a year or so, you can play it in either ZDoom or GZDoom. You'll want to track down the most recent rev of either, though.
The story, well, you get it in humorous PDAs a la Doom 3 and in personal logs made yourself, both of which must have keys assigned to access them (found at the very top of the Customize Controls menu). To make a long story short, those idiots at the UAC have been trying to communicate with the demons. Why, when all they seem to do is hate life and want to bring death and suffering? Who knows. Anyway, it seems they finally cracked the code and sent a message to the entity that marshals Hell's forces. Base is overrun by monsters, they're using UAC technology to keep the Hell gate open, you're the only one that can stop them, blah blah blah. Time to kick some demon ass!
ZDCMP2 is a beast, only fitting for a single map that's had a bunch of people working on it. You'll be playing for a solid two-plus hours, maybe straying over into three if you're dead set on finding all the secrets without any aid. Most of them are pretty obvious, but if you're having trouble, there's a console command you can use that prints out a list of secret hints (instructions more like it) and differentiates between the ones you have and haven't found. A bit of that time might be running around while you try to wrap your head around the intricate level design and sheer size; there's a fair bit of exploring to do once you make it to your first real branch. Heck, I got so wrapped up in a mini-boss fight that I forgot to go and revisit the Research Annex my first go around. Embarrassing when you're stalking all over Hell for the blue skull. There are a bunch of signs to help direct you to the distinct sections along with automap objective markers, so you're not too bad off.
Speaking of which, the progression of themes is tried and true, from (tropical) techbase to infested research lab to Hell itself. The base is by far the most complex of the sections, with lots of little side-bits like the Watch Tower color-code puzzle and the computer simulation. You'll have most of your weapons squirreled away before you break on through to the eastern section of the base, whose main draws are a network of spooky caverns and the aforementioned Research Annex, which is entirely optional, supposing you don't mind missing out on one of the most powerful weapons in the game. Hell plays like a normal map all its own, though those blood tunnels might not be... usual. It's one big projectile-heavy clusterfuck, a fact you'll quickly realize in the first main chamber, with the shadows all around you and four vores up top.
Yeah, ZDCMP2 has a bunch of custom monsters, though everyone from Doom II makes a show. The soul harvester is a revenant-lite whose attacks are hard to avoid without just ducking a corner, which kind of slows the action of the WAD down, along with big brother vore from Quake. Fleshspawn usually show up in packs; they're kind of like lost souls except they spit fireballs and are more fragile. The venerable Hell warrior shows up to soak up your ammo with his shield and fast-moving durable shadows mostly supplant the imp by the time you reach Hell. Cybruisers appear on occasion, in one case doing some spectacular infighting. The grells look sharp and their poison breath will sneak up on you. You'll see a few powerful bruiser demons, always in pairs with the last showing being fairly annoying to fight. The other major mini-boss is the angel of death, on loan from DoomX, whose normal gunfire ricochets and grenades explode into blossoming shrapnel. Oh, and I guess there's a rapid-fire trooper with a rifle, plus some flimsy scientists.
To combat these beasts, you get a new alternate weapon in every slot (except for the first). The rifle (2) lets you take sniper shots with shotgun shells when using its alt fire - don't forget this fact when you pick it up at the beginning of the level. The nailgun (4) has projectiles that tear through the first monster they hit and into the second, great for corridors. The flamethrower (5) is very powerful, a great way to mow down any enemy you can afford to get into medium range with. The dark claw (6) has a strong normal fire and a life-leeching alt that helps a lot, especially in the boss fight. You need the blue key to get the soulrender (7), but if you want to have any sort of fun during the game's anticlimax, you'll want to grab it as its BFG10K-style attack makes short work of everything. There's also an auto-fire shotgun (3), but that's more fun than essential to your fun. There's also grenades, but I didn't get a whole lot of use out of them. You can cook them by holding down the F key (default grenade fire) but they always use the same force when thrown.
For the most part, ZDCMP2 feels to me like a Doom II level. The authors aren't big on crazy ambushes that push monsters up in your face, though some things like the fleshspawn do well enough on that front on their own. You'll usually have to deal with enemies stationed on ground and in air, though moreso the deeper you get into the map. A few combat scenarios were frustrating, particularly the four angels of death guarding the hole to Hell. One is dangerous enough, but four standing on the battlements is just pain and suffering, even with the blur artifact. Oh, if you're still using autoaim, turn it off for that fight; most of the projectiles will clip the wall before making it to the angels. The bruiser fight prior to the boss kind of plays out the same, though in that case you can run around behind them and fight them on the bridge so you're not wasting ammo. I also hated the escape sequence the first time I ran it, as fighting through all those soul harvesters and shadows and grells is an enormous slog if you're not using something handy like the soulrender to wipe them all out.
I like the way this plays, bitching aside. I love the exploration, all of the little secrets and winks, and some of the features feel almost like a proof of concept for a Metroid Prime-like Doom project. I liked using the flamethrower weapon to burn down the Hellish vines, and those floating platforms in the huge Hell courtyard were a nice surprise. I also liked the boss fight - not overpowered, but still threatening, and that second wave of guardians helps to shake things up. The easter eggs and PDAs (and that log entry you receive when Abaddon appears) also help to take the edge off what might otherwise be a super serial grim tone. I really enjoyed that final Wolf3D-ish ending. Also appreciated - no cutscenes with Doom's awkward sprites, and no voice acting. The latter could have been a disaster and the former doesn't appeal to me.
ZDCMP2 looks great. I assume the time it spent between release candidates resulted in a metric ton of polish / worthwhile changes. And, well, it's still not "officially" out, though I understand that this version is much more closer to being release-worthy than the previous. There's lots of impressive architecture and detailing and even a few voxel models. Showin' off, eh? The main base is my favorite section; it's just fun to unravel and poke around compared to the more traditional-feeling eastern area and Hell. I will say that my first view of the power core was fantastic. It's a great set piece to end the WAD, with the cliffs you climb during the falling action looking quite drab and repetitive in comparison.
And, hey, just like Tormentor's Refinery, there's a New Game+ mode unlocked when you beat ZDCMP2. I don't think that the progression of the level has changed; rather, you start off with all your guns and ammo, plus a number of monsters have been replaced with harder beasties. Let's just say that if you make it to New Game++, you'll be seeing more vores than you want to, and with -fast enabled to boot. All in all, if you want to see what modded Doom can look like without straying too far from the road, ZDCMP2 is a fantastic example of ZDoom's capabilities and the talents of the authors working within its confines. New monsters, new weapons, new features, new game+, and nothing looks horribly out of place (besides the easter eggs). I heartily recommend it (and I think it plays better on GZDoom, but that's my experience).