The shooter the helped start it all is back one more time, this time for the Xbox 360. The level design definitely shows its age, but there's no denying the simple pleasure of blowing away a zombie soldier with a shotgun. The new episode is just the icing on the cake.
- The core shooting holds up surprising well
- New episode is a nicely designed addition
- The monster design is as memorable as ever
- Deathmatch isn't much more than a novelty these days
- Level design in particular isn't great.
- Wandering the expansive labyrinths can get a little old
It’s not hard to find Doom around the Internet these days. Both the original and the sequel are available on numerous platforms, even as a browser-based game. Doom II for Xbox Live Arcade does a nice of upping the ante over those ports with nine new levels and solid multiplayer though, even if the legions of hell are a bit long in the tooth these days.
Dusting off the BFG
The Doom II experience should be familiar, even if you weren’t playing PC games back in the early nineties. As one of the earliest shooters, the focus was not so much on a cinematic experience as… well… the shooting. Legions of hellish monsters charge across mazelike levels, and it’s your job to ventilate them with a shotgun; or in Doom II’s case, a double-barreled shotgun.
The shooting remains surprisingly satisfying. A shotgun can blast a whole through multiple zombies, while rocket launchers are there to liquefy them. The monsters aren’t too smart, but they make up for that with sheer power, speed or a mixture of both. The zombies aren’t too tough, but wait until you bump into the rocket-lobbing Revenant, or a couple Cyberdemons.
Like most shooters of the time, Doom II eschews story for an experience that almost resembles dungeon crawling. Levels don’t resemble buildings on Earth so much as devilish labyrinths, with the only way out being to grab a keycard and make for the exit. In that regard, Doom II actually suffers in comparison to its predecessor; whereas the original’s levels were often well thought out and spooky, the sequel takes more of a sledgehammer approach to level design.
What Doom II has going for it though is difficulty, and that goes double for the nine new levels designed specifically for the XBLA port. The designers reach deep into their bag of tricks with that one, striking with high-level monsters from the very first level. Nevertheless, veterans and newcomers might want to check out these stages first – they’re better designed than those of the original game, and the ready availability of a large chunk of Doom II’s arsenal makes it that much easier to cut to the chase and start blasting demons.
The Rise of Co-Op
The term “deathmatch” was coined with Doom, and it’s a term that remains with us to this day. Id Software has faithfully ported the multiplayer components that helped define the original game to XBLA, making them available to a new generation. Unfortunately, they don’t hold up quite as well as they single-player campaign.
More often than not, the original Doom was a one-on-one dual to the death. Players stalked each other through tiny levels, with victory contingent on knowing where to find the best weapons. It was thrilling to play against friends over the modem in those days, but it’s not much more than a novelty here. Strangely, it’s actually a bad idea to get more than one opponent in a level with you, since the stages get crowded extremely quickly. And with the outdated spawning mechanics, it’s not uncommon to appear right on top of your foe, only to get blown away again.
Somewhat better are cooperative elements. While not exactly on par with Left 4 Dead, it’s surprisingly fun to partner up with friends and blow away some monsters. While this mode got short shrift back in the day, it finds new life here. Apart from the novelty of playing one of the very earliest online multiplayer games though, there’s not a lot of reason to go online beyond pure nostalgia.
At 800 Microsoft Points, Doom II’s main selling point is the rush of nostalgia you will undoubtedly feel the first time the game loads up. That’s honestly not a bad deal for the amount of content that it throws at you, even if you’re just a casual fan looking to load up some memories. At the same time though, there’s no denying that Doom’s day is done.
As I’ve already said, the shooting holds up just fine; even the inability to jump or look up and down has a certain amount of charm. But beyond mowing down hordes of demons, it’s apparent that the level design just isn’t that great, particularly compared to the original. In that regard, the original might actually be a better investment at 400 Microsoft Points. Doom II has the benefit of largely lag-free multiplayer and a new episode though, so the choice is yours.
Regardless of which one you choose, the fond memories alone are worth a pickup. So set down Modern Warfare for a bit and have a look at where it all began. Your faithful chainsaw is waiting.