Review by grasu

"Are obese people evil? According to Doom II, they are."

If a game is successful, it gets a sequel. The basic rule for making a sequel can also be applied to skirts and essays: Keep it long enough to cover the important parts yet short enough to keep it interesting. Doom II doesn't stray far from the established mantra of sequels offering minor improvements in gameplay, more challenging levels, new monsters and more of what made the original a great game. That's both a good and a bad thing.

In technical terms, Doom II is completely unchanged from the original: Not one pixel has been added nor one color has been swapped in this sequel. The grotesque Imps with their pixelated mugs and scorching fireballs are still as mean and nasty as before. Human soldiers still explode into fried ribs and meat pasta when shot by the BFG, animation is still as exquisite as before, with frames upon frames gracing every movement from reloading your weapon to opening a rusty old door and the Cyberdemon can still fill up a whole screen. When I mean that Doom II doesn't change a THING graphically, I'm not kidding. The problems rear their ugly head though when comparing Doom II with other shooters of the period: The transparency effects and breaking glass of Duke Nukem 3D are missing, the detailed monsters of Hexen are absent, etc. Considering all of these games were released in the same time frame as Doom II, it's disappointing that id Software didn't try harder to match the competition.

Just like the graphics, the sound suffers from the same problems and feelings of deja vu. And while Doom had excellent sound, with crisp and clear sound effects which put you right at the forefront of battle, it would've been nice to see them updated to more current standards: Imps still scratch away with their sharp claws, the metallic clinking sound of the Demon Lords is still there and the ethereal whoosh of the Flying Skulls is still as chilling as before, but none of these sounds are in any way improved or updated. The music also offends to a certain degree as the rhythmic and catchy tunes from the original have been replaced by a bunch of remixed songs that sound more like elevator music than anything else. Luckily though, guns still sound fine and the sound's quality is appropriate for a game of this age.

Not much has changed in the gameplay department either in this sequel. At the beginning of Doom II, the faithful space marine is thrown into to impending abyss that has become Earth since he last visited it. It turns out that the demon portal has wrecked quite a bit of havoc on the planet and it's up to you to save the day. If anything can be said about Doom II's story, besides the fact that it's as dry and pointless as an action movie from the 1980s, is that it's totally convoluted. In an attempt to optimize game flow id Software abandoned the episode system and made all of Doom II into one huge episode. Intermittently, players are taken out of the action to “read” a page of scrolling text that sounds like something from a 16-year old teenagers angry journal. This "story" loosely ties together a bunch of levels, whose exact place in the world is about as confusing as the narrative.

The level design in Doom II is odd, at best. It seems that, in yet another attempt to minimize costs, id decided that Mars' tile sets would be perfect for use on Earth. So, throughout most of Doom II, players will trudge through abandoned industrial complexes, huge sewage systems that could fit half of Manhattan, decrepit temples (in the 22nd century?!?), and a few other hallways that look like a cross between Pac-Man's maze and the UAC facility on Mars – all, while using the same tile sets as those present in the original Doom. What really boggles the mind however, is where exactly on Earth does this game take place? Doom II features nigh an open area, there are no discernable buildings, such as apartments or offices, and all of Earth has seemingly shrunk to the size of 4 military-looking facilities. To add insult to injury, id also throws in many levels that feel completely tacked on. Gone are the ingenious levels such as E2M2 (the box level) in the original game. Those levels have now been replaced with single room levels that are flooded with enemies from all directions who just LOVE to be filled with lead. Challenging as those levels might be they are a complete insult to gamers who've been used to id's ingenious level design.

The monsters on the other hand, fare much better than either the levels or the technical components: Not only are some monsters plain genius, but they've also become staples of both gaming and the Doom series through the ages. In addition to bringing back the full roster of monsters from the original Doom II throws in a handful of new monsters such as the Revenant, huge skeletons with body armor and rocket launchers for shoulder pads, or the Cacodemons who'd love nothing better than to rip you to shreds by throwing Flying Skulls your way. Furthermore, a new chain gun-wielding maniac now bolsters the contingents of zombified soldiers found in the original. And, if all of this still isn't enough to satiate your taste from monsters, you can also have a go at the Mancubus, huge obese demons with dual wielding rocket launchers or the Arachnotrons robotic spiders with plasma guns for web glands. Every single monster in Doom II is intricately designed and none of them feel tacked on or imbalanced.

It's a shame that despite all these new monsters the weapons and power-ups have largely remained unchanged. The only new weapon is the Super Shotgun, a powerful double-barreled shotgun ready to put any spawn of Hell out of its misery as long as it's within range. Besides the new weapon, players also have some returning firepower to rely on, such as the BFG or the chain gun. In an attempt to compensate for the lack of weapons id "generously" increased the difficulty: Some of the levels are so impossibly frustrating that they'll have players pulling their hair out. At any one time, Doom II might throw at you as many as 2 or 3 boss enemies, along with a myriad of extremely powerful enemies such as Cacodemons or Mancabuses. As for the power-ups, they've remained COMPLETELY unchanged.

Multiplayer Doom II is a blessing in disguise. Since the original Doom invented deathmatch, players expected big things from its sequel and sure enough Doom II delivered. Doom II now features a co-op mode for up to 4 players via LAN or direct connection as well as the staple deathmatch mode. The new levels and maps nicely spice up the variety of multiplayer. Every level is intricately designed to place players into situations where they're forced to use both brains and brawn to survive and, without the monsters of the original, the free-for-alls that are used as "levels" in the single player game quickly become the bread and butter of multiplayer games.

What really saves Doom II from a much lower score is the fact that it is the sequel to Doom. It offers more of the same crazy monsters, weapons and levels with an added level of challenge and delivers over 30 levels (+2 bonus ones) to players who've eagerly awaited a sequel to one of the greatest FPSes ever made. It's impossible not to fault Doom II for not trying hard, but it's also easy to see why id chose the "more is better" mentality since the series has a mad following. So if you're a Doom fan, or if you're into great FPSes get Doom II. It's hard not to like it just a little bit.

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 9/10
Overall: 8/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/06/06

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