It might seem like a strange choice to play Doom II when I already have Doom I on the site, as the games are fairly identical. But if I remember right this second game actually has a number of refinements over the original, such as... uh... well they give you an extra gun! Also there's a few new monsters I believe, a couple of extra pickups... plus they've turned off most (but not all) of those little red lights that used to be scattered across the blue region of the logo text.
I'll give it an hour or so anyway; long enough for me to find out first hand whether it's a true sequel or an expansion pack in disguise.
Like in the original Doom I've started off with just a pistol and 50 rounds. I guess the rest of my arsenal was lost in transit, probably sent through the wrong portal and teleported to Pluto or something.
I could take a step forward off this ledge and shoot these zombie gentlemen dead, but that would be a mistake as the first secret in the game requires that the player looks behind them before they leap.
Ah, the manual says that we're at a spaceport (on Earth), fighting through a demon invasion to turn off an energy barrier preventing the last survivors of humanity from evacuating their planet forever in a fleet of giant starship arks. So I suppose no one will mind if I borrow this for a bit.
I was thinking of throwing in a screenshot of Doom 1 in here to show how the games compare visually, but there really is no point. The games are practically identical, even down to the stone texture on the HUD.
By the way there's a secret up there behind that grey wall and I've never figured out what opens it. It'd be nice if the game could at least flash up 'a secret has been revealed' or something when I inadvertently trigger these things so I can have some clue what to do next time.
I gave in and looked up how to open up that secret door by the way. All I have to do is flick that switch over yonder, ride a lift up to that alcove, and then take a running leap over that platform in the center of the screen and the door shall open. How the fuck would I have ever connected doing that to the secret door in another room swinging open?
Doom 1 had the maps split between separate episodes accessible from the menu, but in Doom 2 the entire game plays out as one unbroken stretch of levels (like most games). Personally I liked the separate episodes, if only because it functioned as a basic level select. Episodic chapters did make a return appearance in Quake after this, but then disappeared from id games forever.
LEVEL 2: UNDERHALLS.
Look at this shotgun guy; he thought he was safe from my chainsaw just because he's clearly standing well out of range. The poor naive fool.
Level two is the first appearance of locked doors and keycards, an ingenious trick that allows for sprawling level design requiring backtracking without leaving the player confused where they should be backtracking to. Or at least it would be if they'd marked the colour of the bloody doors on the map, so that I could ever find them again once I've collected the key.
The engine doesn't actually support swimming though so the water's basically just a blue carpet, and I'm starting to wonder if I should raise the brightness a little as I can't see those hitscan rifle-wielding enemies down here any more. But then I get the impression it's actually meant to be this dark.
LEVEL 3: THE GANTLET.
Also you can get a good clear look at Doomguy's hair in his portrait here, looking nothing like it does on the title screen. You know, I'm amazed the guy is still so quick on his feet considering how many pints of blood must have poured out of his nose by now.
LEVEL 4: THE FOCUS.
Fortunately I don't need ammo to fight these dumb imps as long as I've got my trusty chainsaw. One thing I am having a slight problem with though, is the fact that I can't get up onto these boxes to get the red key because I can't bloody jump. Who makes a first person shooter without a jump key anyway?
Oh duh, I've solved it. I stepped on the tiny box and it lowered one of the larger crates into the ground to give me a lift to get up. You know, I don't mind them having ridiculous triggers for secret walls but I'd appreciate it if they could leave them out of the main path. Because how the fuck was I supposed to figure that one out logically?
I dropped down, ran around the corner, whipped out my rocket launcher and leapt into a teleporter down the corridor...
I think I'm going to have to reload a quick save and come up with a better plan here. It's possible to restart a level after dying, but it starts you off armed with just a pistol and I'm struggling enough for ammo as it is.
One criticism made against games without regenerating health, is that backtracking around an empty level to hunt down a health kit is a pain in the ass and ruins the pacing. Personally though, I like running around with 20hp desperately scavenging for health and ammo, especially in a game where the levels tend to transform as I play, with new secrets revealing themselves.
LEVEL 5: THE WASTE TUNNELS.
Oh by the way, this new toy is the only weapon exclusive to Doom 2. The super shotgun uses twice the ammo as the shotgun and has to be reloaded after each shot, but damn it's like a sawn-off rocket launcher! Anything caught in its cone of death is shredded.
Suddenly Doom 3's stark lighting is making a lot more sense to me though, as the logical progression from this game's almost total darkness is absolute inky blackness. But at least that game gives you a flashlight! All I've got here is muzzle flash.
LEVEL 7: DEAD SIMPLE.
Whatever these creatures are, they definitely weren't in the first game and I'm not sure I like the way they're filling my screen with fireballs. I think this time I really had better had get my ass behind cover, then pop out to take shots when the opportunities present themselves.
Then again I'm not sure I'd even want something called an 'Arachnotron' if it only came with four legs. Doesn't sound like I'm getting the full package somehow.
Anyway I ran for cover and unloaded my plasma rifle around the wall until all the spider monsters were dead. It wasn't the greatest struggle, but it took a few retries so it'd be nice to get back to some more chilled out enemy shooting for a bit.
LEVEL 8: TRICKS AND TRAPS.
Doom II features a new type of enemy called a Hell Knight that resemble the Baron of Hell, the Episode 1 boss from Doom, though with far less health. Basically they're a nerfed version to throw into levels as a surprise mid-boss that won't take a ridiculous amount of ammo to kill.
These are not Hell Knights.
This right here is a room filled with the third toughest boss enemies in Doom, with the toughest boss hanging around in the background to cheer them on and fire off rockets at me. In retrospect it might have been a smarter move for me to try to get them to fight each other instead of just jumping right in with a rocket launcher.
Man, I'd be in real trouble here if there wasn't a temporary invulnerability power up sitting about a foot to my left.
LEVEL 10: REFUELLING BASE.
I was running laps of the empty level for ages trying to find this thing, before I gave up and started walking around with the map open instead, pressing space on any wall showing up as yellow. It's the kind of tedious secret hunt that's only remotely fun when it's your own dumb idea and you're not forced to do it to make progress.
And I must make progress, as I'm not quitting this game until I see a building that actually looks like it belongs on this planet.
LEVEL 11: 'O' OF DESTRUCTION!
Though I've also found a tree! Finally some actual evidence that this is set on Earth this time and not a small rock orbiting Mars. To be honest it really is just more reused artwork from Doom 1, but I'm going to pretend it isn't.
He doesn't seem so bad though. I mean yeah he's fast, he doesn't flinch when I shoot him, and he can instantly cover me in flames without even having to go through the formality of launching a fireball my way, but the fire doesn't actually seem to be hurting me and... oh shit he just clapped his hands together and took off half my health!
New plan: next time I see the flames appear, I go find a nice solid wall to put between me and him.
Yeah, I think I'm going to have to get out the ol' BFG for this one.
LEVEL 13: DOWN TOWN.
These are the futuristic city streets of Doomguy's home town and I'm already being shot at by tiny specks on the distant buildings so I should probably start running now.
SEVERAL DEATHS LATER.
Which basically means I'm going to run laps around this building shooting in their general direction until they either die or I run out of ammo. Or until one of those other monsters shooting me from the rooftops gets a lucky hit in I guess.
Well I'm satisfied, I've seen a city and I can turn this off now. Though it didn't look much like a city did it? Maybe the next level will look more recognisable.
LEVEL 15: INDUSTRIAL ZONE.
This level's getting on my nerves a bit at this point, as it seems I need the yellow keycard to get anywhere and that tricksy little authorisation card is nowhere to be found. What's worse is that I'm fairly sure it must be back on the other side of the lava moat and I don't much feel like wading through a river of burning death watching my health steadily tick down as I press the space bar on every bit of wall looking for a hidden escape lift.
LEVEL 16: SUBURBS.
It appears that I may have been wrong.
Fortunately it had also given me another invulnerability power up at the start, so the whole thing was fairly pointless really. Oh well.
LEVEL 19: THE CITADEL.
I really am going to turn this off soon, I just wanted to complain about something on this level first. If you look on the left side of the castle there's a wall sticking out about two thirds of the way up. To complete the level I have to run along this wall to jump the moat; which is fair enough as that technique was introduced way back on the second level when I had to leap through a window to get the red key from inside a fortress in the sewers.
But that bit isn't the problem.
I'm going to have to keep playing a little longer and shoot some imps to cheer myself up.
LEVEL 20: GOTCHA!
Though they seem more interested in killing each other right now than turning their guns against me, so maybe I have a chance here... no no I really am turning this off now, before I accidentally finish the whole game.
Alright then, it's time for me to come to a final decision on Doom II: Hell on Earth. Is it just a Doom expansion with a handful of new enemy types and a shotgun, or does it do enough to earn the right to be a sequel in its own right? Well it's got a full 30 brand new levels, new enemy types, a new weapon, a new story, it doesn't need Doom's executable to run, and it has a 'II' in the title, so it has ticked all necessary boxes to be a sequel as far as I'm concerned (unlike Final Doom, which totally just an expansion pack). But if you could insert these levels into the original game the transition would be absolutely seamless.
Not to say the actual levels haven't evolved from what I saw in Doom's first episode. There seems to be more a little complexity to the architecture this time around, plus a fair amount of cavernous rooms and wide open outdoor areas. The game feels like more of a twisted puzzle box this time, designed to challenge people who have already outwitted the original episodes. It pushes it a bit far at times, forcing players to find secrets in the walls or fight off 15 million enemies at once, and there's still no way to locate colour-coded locked doors on the map, but somehow it utterly failed to put me off playing the next level anyway.
In fact I'd say that the game doesn't just hold up today, it's actually grown on me over the years. I wasn't entirely won over by the game back when I first played it, but I appreciate it more now. I think I was mostly annoyed that they made a point of mentioning that it took place on Earth, but then carried on with Doom's abstract level design regardless, while games like Dark Forces and Duke Nukem 3D demonstrated some actual effort put in to make them look like they took place in some sort of functional universe. But after a decade or two of realistic first person shooters, I'm finding it easier to appreciate a game that just makes up its own reality to play in, putting style over sense and gameplay over everything.
That being said, Doom 4 had better have some mundane realistic down to earth urban environments to contrast with the high-tech future bases and nightmarish hellscapes, or else I'll be pissed.
TLDR: Doom II is a game where you play as an arm that floats down corridors and shoots monsters. Anyway, you guys should totally leave a comment here, you know, if you want. Feedback is always appreciated.