Ed Cripps had a pretty unassuming series of releases before his Big One; a little Doom II water plant, a new Icon of Sin level, and a pair of Knee Deep in the Dead-styled Doom maps. He knocked off single player for awhile and did some deathmatch mapping before returning almost two years later with this, Sin City. Like his previous levels, it's a MAP01 replacement for Doom II, just a bit later in 2001. Unlike his past works, though, it was made for what was at the time the cutting edge, a beta release of ZDoom, showing that making stuff for rev versions and non-release Git builds has a long and storied tradition.
Sin City has no included plot; its sequel, The Satan Complex, contains what I can only assume are oblique references. The implication is that the UAC is attempting to reconnect with the doomed Deimos base after the events of Doom and Doom II under a project codenamed "Sin City". There's no accounting for conservative decision making; I gather that their motives parallel the reasons they were re-exploring the Phobos base in Cripps's earlier Reunion series. That is, there's tons of cool stuff from their experiments that they never recovered and why reinvent the wheel when they can endanger countless lives in a bid to reclaim it?
At the risk of understating, Sin City is a vast leap in quality over Cripps's previous levels, and very little of this has anything to do with ZDoom in particular. I mean, sure, his use of slopes is great and draws little undue attention since most of the level is rendered in a sort of cracked brick... On second thought, yeah, the slopes are an essential detail. What's more important, though, is a layout that's leagues beyond his earlier material. using a lot of semi-circles and rounded edges to create a rather organic-looking fortress with blood splash pools and plenty of grated windows fostering an interconnected feel over space-age dungeon crawler.
The combat can't help but feel more engrossing, since it's Doom II, though much of the earlier action might as well be Doom since it's heavy with the shotgun vs. Doom II trash and the occasional Hell knight. Things heat up once you grab the combat shotgun, taking on agitated skeletons and mancubuses and thicker things until picking up the plasma gun, sealing the deal against a breadcrumb trail of arachnotrons to the exit. There aren't any big challenges, but there are plenty of opportunities to get smacked upside the head, including a small handful of ZDoom's lovable +STEALTH monsters, though the only free-roaming ones I saw were a demon and some imps. The one arch-vile, stealth or otherwise, is in a cage, so forget his ass.
There is apparently quite a bit of scripting in Sin City, with cool moments like monsters popping out of the lava when you grab the key in the lava tunnel beneath the fortress, but the big thing that sticks out in my mind is the weird sacrificial room to the northeast. and I'm sure I'm not the first player it's tripped up. On teleporting to the other side and pressing the two switches, the gargoyles will start vomiting blood and gore, and you'll receive a message about checking the bottom of the bloodfalls. Well, gentle reader, it's not the two bloodfalls in the room you're in! If you jump down there, you're going to get your ass stuck. You've got to go back to the beginning area and search the outdoor blood pool, which is actually pretty deep (actual ZDoom "water"!) to snag the red key and get back on track.
Sin City joins the ranks of stuff like KZDoom7 in integrating some of the advanced features available to map authors in ZDoom into a more or less "normal" level but leaves an impression distinctly its own, thanks in part to Ed's customized texture scheme. I can't wait to see how the bridge spans from here to 2012's Putrefier. Will Sin City blow you away? Probably not, but I can think of worse ways to spend ten minutes or so with Doom.
I'M GOIN' IN
TO SIN CITY
I'M GONNA WIN
IN SIN CITY