Here’s a fun fact, when Doom II originally released in 1995, I was 2 years old. The renaissance of FPS gaming and the introduction of this classic franchise were but distant events as I sat around picking my nose and playing with rocks. My exposure to the franchise came much later when I got the original Doom for the Xbox 360 which was a fantastic port of the game that would eventually be playable on anything with a screen, including calculators. These high-quality ports are invaluable to millennials like me who weren’t around in the early glory years of PC gaming.
Even more years later, I now finally had the opportunity to experience Doom II for the first time on a modern system and the experience was still quite familiar. It was surprising to me how this game was so similar to the first, but they didn’t really want to divert too much from the creative vision and rather focused on developing even more intricate and complex levels, which they assuredly have.
No Demons Allowed
We once more follow Doomguy in his unending quest to become the demon’s boogeyman and surprisingly, this game has a plot. The game starts off by just throwing you into the action, but it has a few vignettes that show us what’s happening in this world and why we’re doing all this killing. It’s not going to receive any rewards for writing and if you removed it entirely from the game, I don’t think much would be lost, but hey, something is better than nothing.
Instead, the focus is on murdering, as you might have guessed. The game feels like a direct continuation of the first Doom and it’s historically been criticised for how close it stuck with its predecessor. However, the real star of the show here is for sure the level design. My modern millennial brain was blown away by the intricacies of these grand labyrinths that they set up filled with puzzles, keycards, secret entrances and surprisingly substantial setpieces.
The levels were so good that they almost felt like a breath of fresh air that was canned in 1995. The game isn’t afraid to challenge the player and sometimes it just likes to screw you over. In one level I was sprinting around for about 20 minutes trying to find a keycard and it ended up being in some innocuous secret doorway that I managed to waltz by every time. It’s a true PC classic in the sense that it doesn’t allow you much in the way of help since you need to get good and figure it out.
Tough as hell
What also surprised me out of nowhere was how tough this game was, even on the normal difficulty. Firefights would leave me breathless and broken and the game doesn’t understand the concept of mercy. Hordes of hellspawn descend on you and you have little choice but to take them on with your colourful assortment of weapons and some vigorous sprinting around. The game is excessively frantic because you need to be on the move all the time in fear of you dying many horrible deaths. A single death takes away all your weapons and starts you right back at the start of the level which did quite a good job at raising the stakes. Thank goodness that the game has a save functionality, that’s all I’m going to say.
Other than that, Doom II is as straightforward as it comes for a sequel. It’s literally just more of the same and if you wanted classic Doom gameplay, you’ll have it here in spades. Its difficulty might make it a less than stellar entry point for new players, but you can’t really blame a game from 1995 for not holding your hand enough. However, I did find myself becoming bored near the third act as all the levels kind of blurred together and I was mostly going through the motions instead of actively participating and enjoying myself.
It’s almost odd that this is the extent of my review for the game, but that was pretty much all you could find in the game. The enemy demons are awesome looking, even by today’s standards, but there wasn’t much new compared to the first instalment. It was just a lot more Doom which was admittedly the intention when they developed the game in the first place. If the first game left you craving for more, Doom II is a full buffet of the same thing you just had.
Since I didn’t play Doom II originally, I didn’t really have a good enough reference point to how the game looked and how this remaster stacked up in terms of direct comparisons. However, I must say that the game handles incredibly smooth and whirring around the battlefield felt snappy and responsive. The upscaled visuals still hold up pretty well and I didn’t really have a problem with the game’s overall presentation. The classic soundtrack sounded punchy and I could tell why this game often has people doing metal covers of its classic MIDI compositions.
I might have missed some of the intricacies of the port and unlike Garth did in his review of the original game, I didn’t really know all the technical things that went on with the port. But to my mind and eye, everything ran well and looked well which is a big bonus for the 50th port that this game received.
I found myself enjoying this long stroll through Hell.
Playing on controller worked great for the most part, but I do wish there was a quicker way to swap weapons since frantically hitting the bumper buttons to cycle through all of your weapons to get to the one you want was never really a good time. Other than that, everything else functioned like it should and did an excellent job at recreating the classic look and feel of the game.
The Bethesda account creation and always-online stuff has been covered already, but there was news that the requirement will be patched out soon and made optional so that you can still play offline which makes complaining about it again a little moot. It was still a scummy thing to do, but at least it’ll be fixed soon.
Hell and back
Finally getting the opportunity to play the sequel of one of the most influential games of all time was quite the honour, but overall the experience felt a tad underwhelming. I was unaware that the game was essentially a direct continuation of the first game and I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much done that was entirely new. But the refinement and amazingly innovative level design saved it from falling into tedium and I found myself enjoying this long stroll through Hell.
If you needed more classic Doom in your life, Doom II is the perfect package. More levels, crazier scenarios, a true challenge and a small refinement of one of the games that influenced nearly all of the FPS games we see now. It’s surprising just how innovative the level design was for a game that came out when I was still sucking on tree bark and experiencing that alone should be cause for celebration. However, I did find myself being bored at the end and just going through the motions to get it done. The port is quite competent, at least to my eyes, and I would encourage anyone who has missed out on these games to enjoy the often forgotten middle entry into this hellishly wild franchise.