Review - DOOM II (DOS, 1994)

Ten thousand years from now, when whatever will become of the human race digs deep into the sand, an ancient copy of Doom will be unearthed. (Probably a pirated copy of the registered version, but never mind.) Somehow, I think it will be recognized, just as we recognize the fossilized remains of spears and '70s sitcoms. Doom has made a practically unrivaled mark on the world of computer games. Ultima? King's Quest? What are those? It's reached a point (thanks in part to a few zany parents who can't resist the urge to appear on CSPAN) where even people who don't own computers and don't give a damn about computer games know what Doom is. Not bad for a game that's only a year old.

There had to be a sequel. You knew that; I knew that; the guys ad id Software knew it too, even though they claim that their work is governed only by free will. Cacodemon cookies! If they didn't decide to make a sequel on their own, they would have been persuaded by a few thousand friendly office visitors with shotguns. Doom is the game that would not die. If you need further proof of this, just log onto any on-line service or BBS and check out how many home-made Doom levels are floating around in cyberspace. Kinda scary, ain't it?

So now we have Doom II: Hell on Earth, a game that offers us more (much, much more) of the same, and a few new friends to turn inside out. Being an Industry Insider (God, I love the sound of that!), I've been privy to many of Doom II's features for several months now, and I've taken great pleasure in eavesdropping on the wild speculation surrounding this product on various on-line services. The comments, all from people who are absolutely sure of their facts of course, ranged from, "Doom II's gonna have the same executable file as the first one, so it's just gonna be a bunch of new levels," to, "You're gonna be able to climb walls, jump, and shoot fireballs ." So what's the truth? Who's right and who's wrong? Lemme explain . . .

Doom II uses the same engine as the first Doom; what this means is that it uses the same technology, so you won't see any SVGA graphics, wall climbing, or other amazing features that weren't part of the original package. Put simply, Doom II is to Doom what Spear of Destiny is to Wolfenstein 3D – a bigger better version of a game that was already damn good to start with. If you're wondering why you should buy a copy of Doom II when there's literally thousands of PWADs for the first game floating around, I'll explain that, too.

Although Doom II uses the original Doom engine, id has put more stuff into the game. The Doom games store the majority of their information into a very large resource file called a WAD file. Level designs, monsters, objects, and all the graphics and sounds can be found in this WAD file. The WAD file for Doom was about 10 megs, while Doom II's WAD file is just under 15 megs in size. See? More stuff. I'm not losing you yet am I?

So what's the new stuff? Well, a small amount of that space belongs to a few new wall textures, but that's not the important part. You get one extra weapon to play with in Doom II – the super shotgun. Essentially, this is a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun that does twice the damage, has twice the long-distance spread, and consumes twice the ammo of the standard shotgun. It may not sound like a big deal in print, but try it in action! It's not innovative, but it's fun, and very handy for clearing out rooms full of possessed humans and imps.

The bulk of the extra WAD space belongs to an entourage of new and disgusting monsters that will make you hurt. The baron of Hell has a new lookalike buddy called the Hell knight, which is the same thing with fewer hit points. The spider demon has spawned smaller offspring called arachnotrons, which have plasma cannons and are small enough to chase you around. There's also a new breed of human to play with, a beefy guy who wants to impress upon you just how nicely his chaingun operates. There's also the pain elemental, a distant cousin of the cacodemon who vomits lost souls at you, and explodes into four of those nasty flying skulls when you kill him. The revenant is a large skeletal warrior who shoots guided missiles at you from two rocket launchers mounted on his shoulders – definitely a heavy hitter. Then there's the mancubus, a fat disgusting tiger-striped semi-humanoid that does most of its thinking with two fireball contraptions it has instead of hands. But the capper, the most depraved creature to worm its way into Doom II has to be the arch-vile; this repugnant creation wanders around resurrecting the monsters you've taken the time to destroy, and it attacks you with a flame strike that's unbelievably devastating; if you've ever gotten hit in the face with a BFG while playing deathmatch you've got a point of reference for what the arch-vile can do to you.

Although amateur hacks can plug new graphics into a PWAD and create the illusion of new monsters, they can't change the monsters' attributes, attacks, and behavior. Considering that, the new faces in Doom II should make the game worth picking up by themselves. But the monsters, in my opinion, are not the greatest asset of Doom II. The best part of Doom II is the new levels themselves. If you thought the old levels were twisted, get ready for a real shock. The new levels show just how far Doom can be taken. The game is split into three sections: space station, Earth city, and Hell areas each with their own unique design. While the levels in the first Doom were primarily hack 'n' slash oriented, these new creations require much more intelligence on the part of the player. Plus, on the higher difficulty levels they're stuffed full of monsters. It's rare to pick up a keycard without a hidden door opening behind you and releasing 20 or so demons to chew you up. They must be played to be truly appreciated.

So Doom II is more of the same with some very cool extra stuff thrown in. If you've slogged your way through the first installment, this is the challenge you've been waiting for. If you're new to Doom, or have only played the first 9 levels found in the shareware version, I'd suggest resisting the temptation to jump to the sequel and pay your dues in the original game instead. It's much easier. But if you've survived the 27+ levels of the first game, jump into Doom II and enjoy. Quake is a long time off, and this package should serve you well in the meantime. And after you finish it you can enjoy the millions of Doom II PWAD files that will have almost certainly appeared.