So until a few days ago, I had not played Doom in any shape or form. Pick a Doom game, I hadn't touched it. But after re-watching some of the Breaking Brad: Doom II Ultra-violence videos over Labor Day, I got the urge to try it out and played through all of Doom II: Hell on Earth. Considering this is an old ass PC game that cellphones can probably run, this is definitely Past Expiration. I haven't done one of these in a long while.
Also, this is my thinly veiled suggestion for Brad to get back to his Doom II Ultra-violence run. I need more Brad Ultra-violence. Preferably with double Brads, but I understand if that's a tall order.
Doom II: Hell is Level Design
What can I possibly say about Doom II that hasn't already been said somewhere else? Does anyone actually need an introduction? Can I just say Cyberdemon and move on? What about double barrel shotgun? How about that asshole Arch-vile?
How about the devil? You know... the one in hell.
But just so I don't get lazy, Doom II is a simplistic FPS (compared to today's standards, mind you) where you don't have to worry about looking up and down, cover systems, or completing objectives. There are no cut scenes and no partner AI. No secondary functions or quick kill melee attacks. This is Doom, son. All you have to do is point your weapon in the general direction of your target and pull the trigger. Even at distance with a shotgun or rocket launcher, shots will automatically curve up or down depending on where your nearest enemy is standing. The only goal is to find three colored keys or less and get to the exit. Watch out for the buckets and buckets of demonic creatures out for your blood.
Of course the biggest enemy in this game isn't any one of the demons standing in your way, but the winding, sometimes obscure level design where you have to check every fucking wall just to figure out where to go next. Sometimes you have to jump off ledges without the luxury of looking where you're leaping. Of course, insane level design is partially justified by the protagonist making a journey to hell. Why would hell ever make sense to a human mind? The levels in this game reminded me a lot of Dark Souls (or should Dark Souls remind me of Doom?) where the game can't help itself. You start to know when it's going to trigger a ton of enemies after you grab sweet, sweet health or a cool new item. It can't help but blatantly advertise traps and collapsing walls once you've learned its routine.
I'm saying that Doom II and Dark Souls would totally hang out together and share drinks at a bar. Two assholes, having fun together.
Despite that, I still found Doom II a lot of fun. Mostly because of the shooting mechanics and the selection of weapons, crazy level design be damned.
Fun with Shotguns (and those other weapons)
There's a charming simplicity about the way shooting things in Doom II works. It keeps the action moving as the only way to really aim in this game is by moving your point of view around. You never have those moments where you pull up iron sights and take aim. No, you're always blazing around dodging shots and returning fire. Things are always moving in a fight. Not to mention Doom II has the greatest shotgun in any video game I've ever played, easily beating out the one in Resident Evil 4. Even the regular shotgun has the range of rifles, the pump action the only thing slowing you down.
But I'm all about the double barrel shotgun. It feels so damn good to blast enemies with that thing. It kills most of the fodder demons in one volley, and isn't a bad choice to use on the bigger guys. Watching the pixelated corpse of a Cacodemon or Mancubus erode after killing them with the double barrel is really satisfying. Clearing a whole room of troops or imps is also a great moment. It's so damn good. The sound effects and animations (even after the passage of time) hold up pretty well. But I'm never one to sweat graphics. My opinion is that graphics are not the most important part of a video game. They're nice, but not key.
The other weapons are pretty good too. I have to say the Plasma Rifle is probably my second favorite to the double barrel considering how it chews through everything. Great sound effect and blue color for the stream of plasma death. I guess it would be criminal if I didn't mention the BFG9000, but I found it went through ammo too fast. It's certainly handy in the right situations. My least favorite weapon out of the bunch is the Chain Gun, which takes too long to kill anything and feels like a waste of ammo. Sure, it's fine with the lesser dudes. But the number of bullets it takes to kill a Cacodemon is embarrassing. Especially when the double barrel can get that done in two or three shots.
The Story, Enemy Designs, and Other Junk
This game was made in the 90s, and if you didn't know that, the story and numerous icons of the devil and all things demonic are a dead give away. Doom II has a Mega Man effort of story justification where... does it matter why you're traveling to hell and fighting skeletons armed with rocket launchers? Much like, does it matter why you're fighting Dr. Wily and eight new Robot Masters again? The fact that Doom II is really fun helps it overcome a lot of the aesthetics I don't really like about the game. One thing I've always really disliked about Doom in general was the enemy designs, which all come off pretty juvenile in the way that blood equals mature, and skeletons and goat heads are the coolest things in the entire world. It lacks... subtlety. But it's Doom, so I'll deal with it.
I hope that doesn't come off harsh. I'm just saying that nothing about the enemy designs really impress me, only their AI patterns and abilities make them stand out. The Arch-Vile could be a stuffed turkey and I would still be scared of it because it can set me on fire by looking at me and revive the other guys I killed a few seconds ago. If the Pain Elemental was a basketball that spat flaming badminton, I would still think it's a total pain in the ass that takes priority over most other enemies because fuck those flying skulls, man. It's probably because Doom is such a staple of video game and FPS history that it's become a Citizen Kane moment. Nothing was a real surprise. I would really like to know if people who played Doom II for the first time found any of it scary or edgy. If you're one of those players, feel free to let me know. It's probably hard to communicate that if you weren't there in the moment when it first came out.
...Still a lot of Fun Though
Playing Doom II has filled in a lot of blanks for me. I can see how it was and still is a big deal. I thought it was funny how the levels change how threatening the enemies are. It makes using the right weapons in the right places really, really important. I still don't like any platforming or jumping puzzles in first person games. Even in Doom II, trying to sprint or launch myself at the right angles to cover chasms or gaps was a real pain in the ass. And the level design feels pretty uneven overall. Some stages take forever because they're so obscure (like the Citadel and the Industrial Zone), and some are just kind of funny like the one with all the rooms of exploding barrels in patterns set for chain reactions (appropriately titled Barrels O' Fun).
So yeah, I feel caught up. And I had a good time. I probably haven't said anything new when it comes to Doom II but I feel better for getting it out there. Maybe people who grew up with Doom will find it entertaining on some level.