Malcolm Sailor loved (loves?) Sverre Kvernmo, hated Tim Willits (and probably still does), and thinks that the CHORD series is the best level set he's ever done. CHORD1 is the first map in his pet project, a MAP25 replacement for Doom II published in '97 that looks something like Doom II's Hellish fortress / mansions. His CHORDs are renowned for being short but brutal affairs, interesting some of the best and brightest of demo recorders. CHORD1 sets the standard with a berserk pack and two revenants in a circular room. I hope you're good at fisting, because you'll have to do some punching before the day is done.
CHORD1 doesn't look as hot as his CHORD_NG, featured on Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1997. It's still very much Sailor, though, with some interesting architecture and very good lighting. He works by contrast, so you're liable to find yourself peering (and firing) into the dark. What I really like is his use of asymmetric lighting, i.e. putting the fixture in an unusual location and then casting the rays accordingly, which gives the level a more natural feeling. The best bits can be found in the level's eastern wing, with a nice looking passage through the library and the sweet exit room rendered in marble.
So, yes. CHORD1 is hard. Both the SSG and rocket launcher are dangerous but essential grabs and Sailor does an excellent job at controlling monster movement so as to best inconvenience the player. He stops the northernmost barons from stepping into the light, for instance, and forces you into a crossfire with barons and mancubuses if you want to kill either. The most memorable encounter for me is in the silver UAC hallway. The megasphere and unusual texture scheme should be a red flag, when suddenly you're an arch-vile sandwich. You'll definitely soak at least one hit.
If you like short, hard maps, CHORD1 is a must-play. It's not the best CHORD level I've played, but it definitely measures up to Sailor's self-deprecating standards. You get to bare-knuckle box, SSG tango with a baron, and just curse how reasonably difficult people can make Doom II. I'm still a little surprised at that arch-vile trap, and that's after I punched the first one to death because I accidentally skipped the combat shotgun chamber. Oh well; thanks for bringing the pain, Malcolm.
I'VE HEARD THERE WAS A SECRET CHORD
THAT SAILOR MADE AND IT PLEASED THE HORDE
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Malcolm Sailor's CHORD series