Heretic E4M8: Shattered Bridge
I’m almost certain this is my favorite level in Heretic. Maybe this is an artifact of my not really understanding how to fully repair the titular bridge itself. In my memories, deathmatches on this level always involved running out into the open in a vain effort to cross the half-repaired bridge, trying to leap the unraised gaps and either crashing to the water below or being blown off by the intense wind. And if you weren’t the one stuck on the near side (i.e. the bad side, since it didn’t have nearly as many weapons as the far side), Phoenix-rodding people trying to run a rickety bridge against gale-force winds is one of the singular pleasures of all gaming. Especially when you can predict where they’re going to fall. Then right as they fall, crestfallen in their minds already for not being good enough to jump the gaps, then immediately dying in a flaming fireball of doom. The agony is beautiful.
There is also the lovely effect that the end of the level is infested with Iron Liches (or it is if you play deathmatch with monsters on – which you should). Meaning if you get lost in the maze-like finale there is a good chance you’ll get whirlwinded and destroyed by seventeen metallic skull lords since all you have is the crossbow with five arrows and you didn’t even mean to stumble into this place oh god, oh god I can’t even move and now I’m dead. Perfect.
See, for me, deathmatch was not about winning. If it were, I’d never have had any fun. It’s about death. And the lovely thing about Shattered Bridge is that it supplies death in bizarre and insidious ways that are missing in most other Heretic levels.