Well, the overuse of SpecialEvents surely worked for me and I think one should really take his time to "immerse" oneself in the scenario.
Today I had to interrupt writing my paper to finish the Jones saga in its current state, which meant replaying 7 Bullets (it has been years) and wow, compared to Xidia and Redux, this pack ups the level of professionality quite a bit. You really can see the progression leading up to this solely from the intro. The voice acting is top notch (Drago's speech in Map 9 literally left me speechless for a while) and the custom ambient music is actually nice this time; the one that starts when you see the canyon in Map 5b sent down chills together with the view, as well as the one in the tank/crate room in Map 8a. The idea of "7 Bullets" also made this pack seem like a whole, unified package.
I still find the beginning a brave choice. As Dearth Weasel said in his commentary:
Dearth Weasel wrote:I predict 80% of 7Bullets players that don't complete the game will quit on this map.
This applied to me at first as well. Before my first complete walkthrough, this map made me rage quit the campaign, until I later tried it again - and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be with a calm mind (well, I was young). During my second complete walkthrough (today) I enjoyed it even thoroughly.
I think it really has something to do with what people want from playing an Unreal custom campaign - just endless slaughter of Skaarj? Awe-inspiring architecture? The only "true" Unreal spirit (low poly, 100 copies of the same Nali hut, Bluff music)? Exploration? Puzzles? A moving story? Some entirely new concepts? And I gotta admit, I could only really care for the first two, since exploration or puzzles are most often nonexistent or too simple. But that was years ago, now I appreciate a good story and creepy tension way more than good architecture or endless fights. And man, there is really so much to miss if you dismiss all the translator messages and cutscenes! Though, the part in Map 8a with the waterfall on the remains of the Terraniux ship still made my jaw drop (and I seemed to have completely forgotten about it, shame).
In terms of difficulty, I found 7 Bullets the most managable of the three (even though the last third against the pirates was pretty hard) which is probably mostly because of the introduction of rations. I hope that addition will stay for Residual Decay, as these made some hard fights so much easier. In that regard, I thought the wild life combat in the temples was a nice change and the intended "break" did have its effect!
I do have one nit pick, though, and I kind of mentioned it in one of the more recent MotW: The passage "below" Vandora doesnt work at all if you pay attention to it. During my first playthrough, I admittedly was just amazed by the looks of the new area and how you neatly end up in one of the most iconic sections of the original Unreal (and I think that is what you aimed for). However, now that I had time to reflect about the location during my second playthrough (and being older to care for those details), there is no way that these three Map 5s fit right between Trench and the end of Vandora. The entrance of the Lost Passage also isn't deep enough, it would clash with vandora's original temple. What would have worked better is if you put the exit as far away as possible (maybe the violet flame corridor), or even made it connect with Chizra (lorewise, the connection would even make a little more sense and give it a meaning, I guess) and from there you could've approached Terraniux again, but the latter probably didn't suit your initial vision - and the temple wasn't originally planned to be that big to begin with. However, then the entrance could have just been deeper. For example, the scattered chunk of broken wall from Trench could have been a perfect disguise for a deep cave leading to the forgotten part of the temple. Anway, the whole section was cool nonetheless.
Lastly, I think you deserve a medal for exceptional boss setups and encounters. In my opinion, this is your strongest point regarding gameplay. From the first Scarred One fight to the eleven Titans, it is always a joy having the suspense beforehand and then fighting an opponent with a unique twist or in a cool arena.