@Poet You have a point in the condition that you were trying a different goal each time. Wolf-Extra SV seems to have similarities to the original, except more bosses, four keys, a bit more requirement to search around, higher difficulty, and of course the death chalice is one thing you've never done without.
I have the hunch that as you made more, they only became more puzzle-intensive. Certainly Ghosts/ADH, WX3, and The Tower revolve around puzzles probably as much as action. And in between all that, WX2 and Wolf Hour look mighty challenging if nothing else.
Anyways 2002 time here. Last year with awards, but it won't be the end of this thread!:
Project Eisenritter: Awarded in 2003, but released Dec 2002 so it goes here. I actually went ahead and finished it and yes, it's a good game as you'd expect from WSJ. There are indeed an extreme amount of normal guards that are bosses or near-bosses, but WSJ knows how to do anything without spoiling things. There's good weapons, good atmosphere, a good soundtrack, and good use of Lost Episodes resources too. So yeah, it's up there. I do have the feel however that this is the mod all the Mario/Mega stuff was inspired by, with all the boss-like enemies that are actually normal guards, it seems obvious to think some inspiration was taken from here. WSJ always seems to do it best though, and definitely more to my tolerance than Mario/Mega.
Dec 2002: Project Vertilgung - I was never that impressed by this TBH plus it was never finished. My favorite levels by Martin are definitely the E4 ones in the Melee set. Not awarded but BMSE was also released this month. Very good community effort now available in SDL, overall great tribute, and SDL now to boot.
Oct 2002: The Hunt - Harry Sr. mod, never really got into those as I think I've stated already, but I haven't played it.
Sep 2002: Castle Totenkopf - Well Totenkopf SDL pretty much makes talking about this moot, but it was very good for a first release and a sign of things to come.
Aug 2002: Areyep's Texture Library - I don't like to give thoughts on things that don't have levels but given I'm assuming these come from SR and possible a few already created for EoD, I can definitely say with good confidence that there are many excellent graphics to use. Essentially a belated SR award as far as I'm concerned, which of course would have probably been an absolute shoe in if it wasn't released just before the awards started.
Jul 2002: Zero Hour - It is a final product, but again not a big Martin fan from this timeframe. Haven't played, but I noticed one level is essentially E5L8 from the original, which instantly lowers my opinion.
Jun 2002: Ragnarok - Just an ordinary mapset if you ask me, nothing special. Worth it if you're bored maybe.
May 2002: CHAOS Software - Well since they eventually made SDL I guess they did do "outstanding engine development" as the award stated. Also May 2002 Countdown to Disaster - The last time we say Gary Ragland, sixteen large and well made levels that were well worth my time, like anything else by Gary. And finally May 2002 also say Berlin Express - A Harry Sr. mod, but I actually played this and thought it was pretty good, the unique atmosphere made it for me.
Apr 2002: Chemical Warfare - Outstanding and hugely under-appreciated mod. Not that easy to fault, actually. Mapping here is just pure excellence! I really wished Jack Ryerson would have released another set.
Mar 2002: Project Weltuntergang - Actually haven't played but looks really cool and I know Thomas consistently mentions how good this is. I got to get to it!
Feb 2002: Rising Evil - Actually like it better than the sequel, simply because it isn't plagued by very many bugs and the mapping is done quite well. I enjoyed it a lot and it kept my interest! Got to play on hard though or else there's nowhere near enough guards.
Jan 2002: The Tower - Haven't played, but if it has puzzles similar to WX3 I think I'll dig it fairly well.
Overall: 2002 has a lot of good releases. I don't think Spear Resurrection was topped, but I can't really think of a set I mentioned that honestly looked like it was trying to top it. So there were many sets that were good in their own right and I find it hard to pick a favorite.
After 2002 the talk will simply shift to some of the highlights that appeared in prior years. There's definitely a lot more notable stuff to sift through from late 1999-01 (the period of news from Brian pre-awards), IMO.