Have You Played… Doom II: Hell on Earth?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I change my mind whenever anyone asks me (important: no-one ever asks me) whether Doom or Doom II is the best Doom game, but one thing that was always certain was that Doom II was the best Doom sequel. Nowadays, I’m not so sure.

2016’s Doom reboot (albeit with sequel subtext) was such a damn good time, a slow and quiet start aside. It worked out what the essence of the original Doom was (i.e. a tricky combination of both reality and nostalgia that it managed, against all odds, to pull off), then remixed it into something all its own. This is, as far as I’m concerned, a true sequel. Taking the familiar somewhere meaningfully new.

Doom II didn’t do that. Doom II was the obvious sequel, which is to say more of a good thing. I love Doom II, but I love it much more now than I did at the time, when the presence of one new weapon and mostly the same baddies made it hard to distinguish between it its predecessor. Seeing it with more adult eyes gives me far more appreciation of how its levels throw absolutely everything at the wall without actually devolving into incomprehensible abstraction. This is contained madness, expert control of designs that could have gone wrong in a thousand different ways.

It’s probably the Doom game I’m mostly likely to drop back into if I have a spare half hour, but at the same time I’m not sure it manages to surpass the first few levels of its parent. And nor does it take it anywhere really new. I love Doom II and always will, but it’s no longer the best Doom sequel.

Ask me on the right day and it’s the best Doom game, mind you.

38 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Doom 2 was good for the double shotgun.

    Best weapon, hands down.

    But anyway, I liked the level/campaign design in Doom 1 better. Separate areas, different ‘episodes’ that took place on different planets or dimensions.

    Doom 2 was just levels 1-32, I think. Granted there were differences in type, but they weren’t separated the same way. Less fun.

    That said, stuff like Brutal Doom and other new engine-remake mods are quite fun, and bring a lot of the game back.

    And of course Doom 2016 was a rollicking good time until I finished it and multiplayer was boring as butts.

    • RacerX says:

      Whose butt?

    • Flopdong says:

      I replayed all the Doom games a few years ago, and had the same problem with Doom 2, that the transition from level to level didn’t feel right. Mission after mission without much story text in between began to feel like a slog towards the end, and it didn’t help that the later levels got incredibly confusing. Some of them I wandered around for 20 minutes after killing everything looking for where to go next.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        That’s the main reason why I didn’t like the old Shadow Warrior after playing the rebooted Shadow Warrior (played them both for the first time). Too difficult to find your way, finding keys is annoying, so I just no-clipped through every locked door to find more enemies to fight. Even so, it felt like it just dragged on, without anything to make me want to go on.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      IIRC, Doom II had the same basic three-episode structure, but they were only divided by text cutscenes and you didn’t have to return the the main menu in between. In the first part (as described in the manual) you’re fighting through Earth’s only spaceport to deactivate a demonic flame dome so the refugee ships can escape to space. In the second, the escaping ships send word that they’ve spotted the invasion portal in the middle of a city, and you set off to find and seal it. In the third, you’re through the portal and fighting through Hell again.

      • tour86rocker says:

        I had NO idea what the set-up story for Doom 2 was supposed to be, it just sort of seemed to start, as in “of COURSE there’s more Doom, now GO” after you’d supposedly had some kind of resolution in the original Doom, but “sike!”.

  2. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    MAP20 (aka Gotcha!) blew my mind when I figured out what was going on.

    • Stingy.Duck says:

      Now I’m intrigued. What was going on that level?

      • Premium User Badge

        Phasma Felis says:

        I think that was the one with an enormous central arena, ringed by a catwalk, with a cyberdemon and spiderdemon on pillars at opposite ends. You had to get them to fight each other, then take out the survivor (generally the cyberdemon).

        Not sure “what was going on” beyond that.

  3. fish99 says:

    Going back and playing Doom 2 now it feels a bit easy with mouse aim, even on ultra-violence, compared to playing it entirely on the keys in the mid-90s.

    Needless to say though it’s one of the all-time classics. Doom was great, but Doom 2 even better with a great selection of new enemies (the arch-vile in particular really spiced thing up with its ability to potentially resurrect a level full of enemies) and that double barrel.

    The new Doom was good, but didn’t reach the same heights.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Going back and playing the originals with just the arrow keys is quite the experience. I felt a marked loss of safety (and accompanying heightened tension) I didn’t realize the precision of mouse control had brought. It was a bit like playing an FPS with a gamepad on low sensitivity, but with even less precision possible due to the complete lack of proportional control.

      Brought back some fond memories. :)

      • Stingy.Duck says:

        The last games I played using just the keyboard were Half-Life and Unreal; I would only ocassionaly reach for the mouse to aim certain shots. Combine that with the fact that the games ran at perhaps 20fps in my old PC and you can guess how hard those games were for me back then.

        It wasn’t until Quake III that I gave KB+Mouse controls a try.

        • fish99 says:

          Personally I played Half-Life and Unreal with mouse aiming. The first FPS game we all started aiming on the mouse was Duke Nuke’Em 3D which we would deathmatch over serial cable. Curiously we didn’t use WASD back then though, but the six keys around Home, End, Del, Page Up/Down.

          That also reminds me how crap ball mice used to be – taking the ball out to clean the fluff out of them :)

  4. Turkey says:

    There were so many Chex Quest clones. I don’t know if I played this one.

  5. Baranor says:

    iddqd
    idkfa

    Let the slaughter commence

  6. BlacKHeaDSg1 says:

    IMO first 5 – 7 levels were ok but other levels felt like bad fan made WAD. Arch-viles should burn in heaven.

    • ansionnach says:

      I only started Doom II recently, having only played the first one back in the day (and I was disappointed with that after loving wolf3d). I stopped playing on the level with loads of mancubuses not long in. I thought all these opening levels were like cheap fan-made ones.

      • Stingy.Duck says:

        Dead Simple? That was a cool arena. I guess you didn’t get to fight the Arachnotrons after defeating the Mancubi.

        • ansionnach says:

          I saw them. I really think that filling some rooms with one enemy like this is rather poor. One of the preceding levels started well with the introduction of the walking skeleton in an enclosed space with plenty of other enemies but then featured gimmicks like having the spider demon in the next area. There was a switch to crush it but it felt rather cheap. Like if some hobbyist map designer said: “Wouldn’t it be cool if we threw the boss from the last game at you near the start when you don’t have the weapons to take it on!” I think I remember it being mentioned in the PC Gamer review that Doom II had the spider demon near the start as an example of its difficulty. I had thought it sounded cool until I experienced it myself.

      • Premium User Badge

        Phasma Felis says:

        I cannot rightly imagine how a living human could love Wolf3D but be disappointed by Doom.

        • ansionnach says:

          I didn’t like not being able to see where I was going. It wasn’t that smooth, either, seeing as I had a 386SX-20MHz PC. I had to play in a reduced window and the framerate wasn’t that great. I’m not really a horror fan and preferred the World War II setting.

          Looking at the games today, wolf3d suffers a lot more from maziness and repetitive gameplay. It has more limited movement aince you can’t map sidestep left or right as distinct movements. Even if you could sidestep at will, it probably wouldn’t dodge any attacks. You stop attacks by shooting somebody before they shoot back and spraying multiple enemies. Doors help a lot here.

          I think that Doom is the better game to play today, but only the first one.

  7. wcq says:

    I’d say that the levels in Doom II definitely had more variance in quality than Doom. There were a bunch of real stand-out “set pieces” (The Crusher, Dead Simple, The Courtyard, Gothca, etc.) that showcased some neat ideas, but some of the maps were just bad. The city-themed maps (Downtown, Industrial Zone) just don’t flow well, for example.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Pretty much what I was logging in to post, yyep. Anytime I actually replay Doom2’s own campaign I tend to lose interest around Downtown. I play RIDICULOUS amounts of Doom2 with other mapsets, official or community made, I feel like its weapons and bestiary were fantastic, but I actually don’t like its core level set all that much, especially compared to the original.
      The soundtrack also feels like a step down.

    • Premium User Badge

      subdog says:

      They were experiments that didn’t really work, but I appreciate them for what they tried to be.

  8. OldPalsTogether says:

    Doom II is amazing. The new monsters, the levels. ARGRGGRGRGhHHh, it was so good.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Thulsa Hex says:

    Doom II was my first Doom. It was pre-installed on the HDD of whatever PC my dad had bought at the time (I think it was the 386—don’t think we had the precious 486 yet). I was only ~8 years old, but remember being SO damn excited when I got it to run. I had to turn off the SoundBlaster in the game’s settings (MSDOS–so had to fiddle around in one of those obscure config files), else it was too much for our paltry 4MB RAM.

    I played many happy hours without sound… until that fateful day where we upgraded to a whole 8MB RAM. HOLY SHIT the game got so much scarier and… nauseating. I thought I’d seen it all, but with the groans, and the screech of the chainsaw, it was just that much more real. I still played on, of course, but definitely gave myself more than a few sleepless nights as a result.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    I still get flashbacks of motion sickness just looking at those screens. Ugh… Play as long as I can stand, then go lay down… for 24 hours or so.

  11. Spacewalk says:

    Not a week goes by without playing Doom II in some capacity and it’s always been the first thing that I install after a new OS. It’s disgusting the amount of time I’ve dedicated to it, back when I first started I thought I’d log the amount of time that I’d spend playing the game but after the first month total just gave up.

  12. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    Doom II wasn’t enough of an upgrade over the original, and became an irritating slog towards the end. Sure, there were better lighting effects, and a couple of stand out levels such as Crusher and the plinth fighting one, but I have no desire to go back to it years later.

    On the other hand the original Doom and Duke Nukem still stand up, even more so with Brutal Doom, and eDuke32.

    Quake 2 was an incredible upgrade over Quake, too, even if it hasn’t aged that well.

  13. dethtoll says:

    Doom 2 added quite a bit, gameplay wise, to the vanilla Doom template. A wider bestiary helped fill out some of the progression issues (Barons are walking walls of meat that can disrupt the flow of combat, especially without a super shotgun; Hell Knights look and act just like Barons but are far easier to take down) and while the super shotgun is arguably overpowered it’s a useful weapon for taking out the larger number of mid-tier monsters.

    Where Doom 2 falls flat are its maps. I will give Sandy Petersen a lot of credit for his creativity and his pedigree, but the man had absolutely zero sense of aesthetic. And the majority of Doom 2 maps were done by him, including most of the really bad ones.

    By contrast, American McGee did only a handful of maps, but his are among the best of the series’ stock maps.

  14. Bfox says:

    Been playing the updated Alien Trilogy Mod for Doom;
    link to moddb.com

    Shits great, if you’re going to try it play on Ultra-Violence for sure.

  15. k3zza_m4chin3_ says:

    From a single player perspective Doom2 took a lot more skill to play. If you look at the new enemies they added: revenants, mancubus, arch-vile, chain-gunners, pain elementals, arachnatrons – these were almost always necessary to prioritise in a large, mixed-mob fight over any of the basic Doom 1 mobs.

    Walking into an open courtyard with revenant homing missiles screaming in and chaingunners knocking your health down with their hit-scan weapons required a lot sharper reflexes and more tactical consideration than anything the Doom 1 monsters could throw at you, which were usually just a case of dodging slow moving fireballs. In fact, playing the original Doom, I usually saw the shotgunners as the most dangerous of enemies. (i’m not counting cyberdemons or spider boss).

    Those damn revenants, lol.

  16. TheMaster says:

    Doom 2 takes an already ground-breaking concept and elevates it to a primal visceral experience. The visual and acoustic elements transcend the purposes of immersion by fueling a (mostly) implied narrative.

    It speaks to the hope and desperation of our time, our inner psyche, and perhaps most importantly, our need to project. Hell on Earth, a great title isn’t it?

    Its very name forces us to to think of that which exists outside our realm of daily existence (or at least comfort).

    Doom 2, was blessed by the great Satan himself. The music, the gravitas. The blurry skybox where burning buildings are shown as a background…

    Our new Doom is a great (albeit surprising) success in our opinion. But now, I am waiting for Doom 2 – 2.

  17. waltC says:

    I never played more boring, lackluster, stereotypical, cliched games than “Doom 1 & 2”. Ugh. Talk about having some graphics served up with ugly-beyond-belief giant pixels in those days–nothing like battling floating, horned Halloween Pumpkins, with teeth, eh? And with a pump shotgun, too! (Like the denizens of Hell would be put off by buckshot…;)) Disliked these then and now.

    • bud990 says:

      I’ve never read a more lackluster, cliched, contrarian post than the one you’ve just written.

      You’d think kids these days would come up with something a little more original. Pointing out that a 20+ year old game looks old…riveting stuff. Maybe next you’re going to tell everyone how much Mass Effect Andromeda deserves to win GOTY, lmao