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Written by  :  vicrabb (7291)
Written on  :  Apr 05, 2009
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

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Back to Earth, Back to Hell

The Good

Just a secret to tell

It's not a secret but well, unless you're also on the same site where parts of this review are already published, you can't know that since February, I'm reviewing (The Ultimate) Doom, Doom II and Final Doom, one per month. February was for Doom, March was for Doom II and April will be for Final Doom.

What you'll find weird is that I'm submitting it in April here. Well, before Doom II, I had reviewed Christmasville. When I wanted to submit my written words here, I was confronted to the fact that nobody created an entry for that themed hidden object games. So, I did. I've waited for it being approved. So, that explains why you'll see only Doom II in April. And probably Final Doom in May, because I've two more reviews about casual games.

So you know now that you'll read a review about Final Doom. It's not written yet though.

Nearly 15 years of FPS gaming

If it weren't for Doom II, I wouldn't be here today. Doom II is the first FPS game I've played and my memory tells me that I didn't finish it. I was stuck at Downtown. Since, I've beaten it. It has influenced my life, I admit it.

Doom II is as mythic as Doom (or the Ultimate Doom). It's also the FPS who really did hook me to the genre. Without it, I wouldn't be playing Half-Life, Vietcong, Call of Duty or other FEAR. Without it, my life would have been different and I wouldn't be here on MobyGames.

But Doom II is also similar to Doom and that's why you shouldn't be surprised to see some familiar words here. Not that I'm lazy but if I already wrote about the gameplay, why not taking the short way?

An experiment going wrong having some consequences on Earth

Well, no, I'm not speaking about dear Half-Life 2 whose story is also about the consequences of an experiment having gone wrong in the past.

In Doom II, you're going back to Earth, being the only survivor of an hellish invasion on Phobos, being the only one able to kick demons' asses on Deimos, having made a point by showing you were too tough for Hell to handle and for the Ultimate Doom players, having taken revenge for your pet's death. So, now, it's the time for a vacation, waiting eagerly for it, knowing that it will come after your report.

Going back to Earth was easy, surviving on it is another story. Because, poor soul you are, you will have to fight your way again because demons decided to invade Earth as well. You've been proven too tough for Hell to handle, so, it's now to prove that as long as you will live, Hell will not be at peace.

So, you have to deliver the human kind first before messing up at the source of Hell on Earth, near your hometown. Oh yeah, Hell should have been careful when it comes to you.

Doom II is still dealing with the UAC though. I don't know why but it seems that UAC is really owning every place you're going. Here, that corporation is just a detail, something not really important, comparing to what will be done for Doom³.

It will be too pretentious for me to affirm that Doom II did establish another basic storyline: the consequences of a previous game described in a sequel. Yeah, FEAR is perhaps using a little of it in Project Origin or Extraction Point, yeah, Half-Life 2 is following that plot deeper than we can imagine, yeah, Painkiller Battle out of Hell or Overdose is also using the same idea. What happened after your actions in a first game?

Well, we know in FEAR alternate storyline that the Pointman must fight against an Alma not pleased about what he has done, that in Project Origin, Beckett is dealing with the aftermath of FEAR, that in Half-Life 2, Gordon Freeman is trying to free a world post-Black Mesa which he created, that in PK BooH, Daniel Garner must deal with Alastor becoming the new king of Hell and that in PK Overdose, Belial, being freed by Daniel Garner (who isn't aware of it), is taking a revenge on Hell and Paradise.

A winner gameplay

Doom II isn't a brain game. Well, perhaps a little more than its predecessor. But it's still a matter of activating switches and opening doors. It's just a pure shooter, with no one to protect than yourself, without need to worry about casualties, well, something that is different from a lot of FPS today, where you find a passage where you'll have to protect someone. You're fighting for you..., also for the humanity but mainly for you.

When you have played Doom, you'll be not surprised to see the following.

The mouse gameplay, used for looking around or for firing (some can also bind the right-click to zoom or to jump or to run), is missing here, meaning that you will have to learn to use only the keyboard (or a pad). It can frustrating the first time, unless you're coming directly from a round on Doom. For me, at that time, it wasn't bothering. But now, as I've acquired modern FPS reflex (mouse + keyboard), everytime I'm playing an old Doom game on PC, well, I'm making the mistake to take my mouse before remembering that I didn't change the gameplay in the Collector Edition menu and that I will never change it. So, you have to use fully your arrow keys for moving around, your CTRL key for just shooting, your 1-7 keys for changing weapons, your SHIFT key for running and your SPACE key for opening doors or for activating switches. It's the main mechanics of FPS that you're finding in Doom and except for the jumping part and the zooming weapon, you'll find in nearly all FPS a running function or a walking slowly one, you'll find your weapons binded to the number, you'll find also the TAB key bind for some actions (in Doom, it's for getting a map view), etc.. So, as you see, it's an intuitive gameplay, an efficient combination of keys, not too hard to master.

I mentioned that there weren't any zooming possibility but the reason is that there are not sniper weapons. And I'm not sure that it was technically possible to do it at that time, with that engine. Yes, I'm missing it when you have far away enemies firing at you but I don't regret the lack of it. That's the way I love playing the old Doom and I'm not sure that a modification adding sniper rifles would be appreciated by my own person.

I need to mention the HUD because everything is already there. Your protection (armor) percentage is taken in count, as your health, you can see if you have the needing keys or not, you can also see your ammo or the weapons you've collected (symbolized by the key number). Even the face of the Doomguy is represented and it's also showing emotions or current health state. If you're playing with it with gold eyes, well, that means that you've entered the cheat for the god mode.

Same good old enemy A.I.

The enemy AI is still the same. You're perhaps shooting demons or zombies that aren't working as a team or aren't trying to duck or to take covers, sometimes, you can be in their line of view, but they're not reacting, but that doesn't mean that Doom is having a mediocre enemy AI. Each enemy is trying to approach you. Even when they're far away from you, they're not giving up shooting at you. And perhaps the most important, they don't like friendly fire. If another demon is hurting them, they're going to attack it, mainly when you're playing in higher levels, with a massive amount of demons. I was playing Tricks and Traps from this game in Ultra-Violence (and in god mode - I will play it without cheating in Hurt me Plenty). A Cyber-demon were surrounded by Hell Barons. Believe me or not but the Hell Barons hurt by the rocket of the Cyber-demon were shooting plasma balls at him. It doesn't help me much as the Cyber-demon did kill them but it was very great to see that enemies can react to friendly fire.

New asses to kick

Doom II is introducing new demons and a new human zombie. If you're still finding all the enemies from Doom, whether it's Cyber-demon or the Spider Mastermind, you're gonna cry when you'll discover new enemies that will got you under your skin.

First of all, the only human turned zombie is tough and well armed. The Commando Zombie is using a chaingun for killing you, so, you can understand that when you're in front of 10 guys like that, you can only pray that you'll get out alive of the fight.

For the demons, two of them are just a mini-version of already existing enemies. The Hell Knight is just an inferior Baron of Hell and the Arachnotron is a baby of the Spider Mastermind, with a plasma weapon instead of a minigun.

One of the new demons is a sort of source for an existing one. The Pain Elemental is just throwing out to you Lost Souls. I swear that this one is really carrying well his name because he's really a pain in the ass, if I may use that expression.

And then, you have the new enemies. The Revenant is a skeleton sending rockets with a guttural scream, the Mancubus is sending deadly fireballs, beware when he's with other Mancubi, the Icon of Sin is the boss, difficult to kill normally as it's sending trapped boxes with enemies when you're trying to send some rockets in his brain. Well, you have another way to beat it, yeah, Doom II is proud to say that the easier way to kill it and to see the surprise behind it is to cheat. It is highly recommended anyway.

But the most frustrating enemy I've ever seen is in Doom II. The Arch-Vile. That demon with a whisper that is sending you some chills in your spine is simply the most annoying demon. Not only he's burning you and pushing you back with fire but also he's resurrecting dead enemies. And trust me, it's not limited to poor Imps or Zombies. I saw him resurrecting tougher enemies. You do know now why I hate Arch-Viles in the Doom saga and why it was one of my many aliases.

Hurt Me Plenty

No, I'm not that kind of girl. It's just a name for the third level of difficulty. The easiest level is called I'm Too Young to Die. You don't have so many enemies to kill, you can have more items or more weapons present (not the ones dropped, I mean, the already scripted one), ammo is much important by item and well, you're not really taking damage. Then, you have Not Too Rough, then Hurt me Plenty, which is the average difficulty and the one that you should take when you're a FPS player. It's also with HMP that you can sense the difference in difficulty: more enemies, sometimes, some enemies which are not appearing in the previous difficulties, are spawning, you can find less items, you can also find less weapons. With Ultra-Violence and Nightmare, it's a real challenge to take for hardcore players.

Double-Barreled Gun

Doom being a FPS, you can see your weapon on the screen and the action of reloading. Oh yeah, it's an automatic reload and that's really great. I think that it was the only way to play FPS at that time but you don't have to worry to use 8 bullets for your shotgun then to reload. The only thing that is frustrating with weapons is that some share the same ammo. The pistol is using clips, like the gatling, the BFG 9000 is sharing the cell packs with the Plasma Gun.

Anyway, Doom II is really varied in the weapons areas, well I know, they're all coming from Doom. Yes, it has still no sniper rifle. But you can find your own fists (with a knuckleduster) that will be very useful combined with a berserk pack (an hit = dead demon for the weakest ones). You have your pistol for beginning the game though it's not really powerful. You'll find a shotgun, your main weapon throughout the game, a gatling, very useful when you have a lot of demons, a rocket launcher which can be devastating on bosses or on you if you're near the explosion, a Plasma Gun, with a high fire speed and also very deadly against bosses and the famous BFG 9000 aka the Bio Force Gun 9000 or the Big *bleep*in' Gun. You can also find the spelling BFG 9K. That weapon is indeed synonym of immediate death. It has a high range for damage but it's consuming a lot of cell packs. Doom II is also getting back to the chainsaw, mostly because it was one of the greatest weapons in Doom. Now that we're on Earth, you'll find trees in theory. Because in reality, Earth in Doom II is lacking of trees. You can also note that the chainsaw and the BFG 9K are the trademark for Doom. Mythic weapons they are, mythic weapons they'll stay.

But Doom II is introducing a new mythic weapon. The double-barreled gun. Yeah, it's also sharing its ammo with the shotgun. But that weapon is really something I was using the most on Doom II. You're firing two bullets instead of one. But after each shoot, you will have to reload and trust me, it's taking some seconds and your ammo... well, it's going down quickly than using the shotgun. It doesn't change something. The double-barreled gun is a great weapon. That's all.

Pixels? Yes but it's not really bothering

Doom II isn't improving a bit the graphics, they're still the same. Yeah, you have new textures for making new levels (like in Suburbs, where you'll find libraries) but it's not like an improvement of the game engine. Anyway, you do know that Doom II is belonging to the middle of the nineties. So, you'll find many pixels.

But can we sincerely reprimand Doom II for providing pixelised graphics because the modern standards are about 3D? Can we say to a game released in the first half of the nineties that it's just ugly comparing to some of our modern games?

It will be ugly for some but you can't bring down Doom like that. As I've said, Doom II is 15-20 years old. The graphics were the best back then. And you can't deny that it's already detailed. I loved the computer with the Mars picture. I love the way you can see the muscles in the Pinky's back. And I loved the way the weapons are modeled. Even the arms have hair. And you know what? I'm loving the difference between each level, the fact that we're heading toward a demonic world, with Satan's face on the wall, with bloody rivers, with tortured souls, etc..

But where Doom was failing in terms of correspondence between names and level design, Doom II isn't. Now, when you're going to Downtown, you're going to a town, with buildings making you feel that you're indeed in a town. So, yeah, it has improved in that domain.

Level design

It's very interesting to see the level design. You're really feeling that you're going from the Starport to the Town, before going to Hell. I'll point some levels that are interesting here. I'll begin with the secret levels.

Indeed, these ones are just a reference to Wolfenstein 3D with Nazis soldier trying to stop you, with a soundtrack clearly military and with Nazi symbols everywhere, when it's not Hitler's picture that is hanging on the walls. Also, note that Grosse is also having a reference to Commander Keen, another hero from id Software.

The sixth level, the Crusher, is also interesting. With a first part that contains a high room, with a possibility of crushing a Spider Mastermind, with the fact that you need to do a running jump, mainly in the high part of the room, it is also there that you'll find Revenants, in a room where you can't fall.

The eight level, Tricks and Traps, is having a central room with doors. You already understood that you have to try all the rooms behind these ones for exiting. You don't know what will happen.

The famous Downtown, or the thirteenth level, is a level with buildings, buildings and buildings. Like you were in a real city. That's a great feeling. It's also the first Doom II level to put you in the reality of Earth, as the previous levels aren't giving that feeling.

Gotcha!, the 20th level, is reminding of the E3M6 Mt Erebus in Doom. Full of lava, full of enemies. But where Mt Erebus was containing regular enemies, Gotcha! is letting you fight against a Cyber-Demon and a Spider Mastermind at the same time, in the same room.

Barrels O'Fun, the 23th level, is linear, very linear. But it's not an easy level: you will find a lot of barrels, so much that you can be killed by them. But you can also trigger a chain reaction and kill enemies.

The following level, The Chasm, is full of acid but it wouldn't be so deadly if you haven't thin passages, pillars to jump, Lost Souls in every corner without forgetting hidden Cacodemons. The last thing you needed is the lack of suits for protection.

Mythic Music

Doom II is introducing new tracks while recycling old ones. The music is still sticking to the game and I love it. What do you want me to tell you? That sounds are really great? That the normal growls coming from enemies are still indicating which kind of them you'll meet? That the Arch-Vile whisper is just sending me chills in my spine because I don't want to meet him?

Fun factory?

If Doom was fun to play, Doom II is in the same line. It's perhaps just shooter but it's very addictive. Some players are still playing it in multiplayer. That's Doom for you, always thinking about fun to play! Some modern games should take example on it.

The replay value is high if you're playing all difficulties levels. Nightmare is really hard. Its lifetime is high, you can play it again and again. It was even released on GBA, so, if you want to compare the versions... I'm still crying over the fact that I can't find Doom II on GBA. Snif.

The Bad

The same question is coming again. Is Doom II scary? So, will it be scary? After all, you're arriving in a new world, a world you're not even knowing. Half-Life 2 did have some scary moments (Ravenholm mainly) and FEAR is also scary when Alma is beginning to mess up with you. But Doom II? Like Doom, the answer is no. You're perhaps kicking demons' asses, you're perhaps going to Hell, you're perhaps trying to get a way through some dark areas but being scary? Hell, no! Despite not having played it as much as Doom, I still find Doom II not really scary. Perhaps the colors? Perhaps the fact that I'm used to Doom? I don't know why.

From the gameplay, it's just that the jumping is still missing. A lot of players will probably be deceived by the lack of it. Myself, playing now, I wish that a jumping gameplay was included. But id Software takes the option of "running can make you jump holes", which is not bad but can be really frustrating as sometimes, the running is too fast and that you can't do only that from a higher or same edge.

If you read the enemy part, you already know that I hate with every fiber of my body the Arch-Vile. His whisper is sending some chills in my spine. His attack and his power are simply annoying. Yet, it's a challenge to kill him. But that challenge is always going along with a feeling of annoyance to do it.

If I can do a last complaint, it's about the hardness of some levels, like the Chasm or the Icon of Sin when you don't know what to do. I know that if Doom II was easiest, it wouldn't be fun to play. But sometimes, I wish that you don't have to walk on thin passages with enemies able to push you out. Yet, it's a logical level design but I don't like to be pressured like that.

The Bottom Line

I'm getting straight to the final note: 9/10 or 4.5/5. Why? Because even if Doom II is really enjoyable, I didn't feel the transition between Earth and Hell. You have the Arch-Vile also. If the demon wasn't in, I wouldn't be so frustrated sometimes. And also because the Pain Elemental is just giving me aches with all the Lost Souls.

I can summarized Doom II like this: fun, high replay value, mythic weapons and mostly, the main mechanics of FPS except jumping established.

I'm not saying that playing Doom II is adopting it. I just want you to try the sequel of the game who did a great revolution in the FPS word. If you liked Doom, you will like Doom II.