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Review: Doom 2: Hell on Earth

Table of Contents

Quick Info

Gore & Brutality Magic Sex Civility Religious Objections
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Additional Notes

Summary of major issues
There's actually more gore in this game than in the original Doom. This is mostly because some enemies are always going to die graphically.

There are also many demonic or satanic references, which is more or less expected considering that a good portion of the game takes place in Hell itself.

Screenshots


Dueling with a Revenant


Hell: not a place for a vacation


An entryway in No Rest For the Living

General Information

Genre:First Person ShooterAge Rating:Mature audiences only (18+)
License:CommercialQuality Rating:Good
Played on:Martha & Thaddeus
Available from: Various; see below
Save System:This depends on the source port being used. Most of the time you can save at the beginning of a level, but not during them.

Game Overview

The original Doom was a runaway hit, quickly overshadowing other First Person Shooters of the day. Thus it's no surprise that id Software would turn around and quickly create a sequel. There were also some issues with the game that needed to be corrected, and they took this opportunity to fix them. The first major problem was that people were fairly new to the idea of the shareware model when Doom came out. To allow people to try the game before they purchased it, the first episode was free and you needed to purchase the remaining episodes by paying a registration fee. Unfortunately, some of the people who tried it believed that they had played through the entire game. This led to lost sales, as these people didn't know they'd get a larger game when they registered their copy. Doom 2 fixed this by only being marketed as a retail product and having the game's story take place in a single, longer campaign.

Other major changes include a larger cast of monsters, more detailed and intricate levels, and a new weapon. While it was mostly well received, it suffered from criticism of being a fancy mission pack sequel. Later on, additional levels would be created for Doom 2 and sold separately, which probably didn't help matters.

That said, Doom 2 is still one of the best First Person Shooters out there, and it's a great compliment to the original. I'd recommend it, though I would warn any potential players that it does contain a lot of blood and gore. Some versions of Doom 2 also come with a secondary campaign, entitled No Rest for the Living, which pushes the gore farther. If this makes you too uncomfortable, there are other great First Person Shooters out there that don't have as much graphic content.

Important: if you haven't already, go look over my review of the original Doom. Most of what is said there applies to the sequel as well!

Story Summary

The story began in the previous game, where the UAC's experiments with teleportation had accidentally created a portal directly into Hell itself. The demons quickly overran the base's staff, and a team of elite soldiers was dispatched to secure the complex and contain the invasion. By the time the player had entered the fray, all of the other soldiers had been slain by the demonic hordes. After fighting his way through the base and Hell itself, the valiant marine arrived on Earth.

This is where Doom 2's story begins. Moments after arriving home, the player discovers that the legions of Hell had already breached Earth's security and were in the process of invading the planet, slaughtering mankind as they went. What remained of the human race is attempting to flee the Earth, but the demons have captured the spaceport. It's up to you to fight your way there and disengage the locks preventing the refugee ship form leaving.

Once you've saved humanity, there is one last task for you to perform: find the breach, and make the Hellspawn pay for what they've done to the Earth and its population!


There is also a secondary campaign included in the version of Doom 2 that comes with Doom 3: BFG Edition. In this campaign, titled No Rest for the Living, a lone Cyberdemon has set himself up as a petty ruler and is building his own private army of demons. It's your duty to destroy his army and assassinate this would-be ruler before he's a serious threat to Earth.

Pros

More monsters
Doom introduced us to a classic cast of demonic monsters, but they weren't very balanced. You either faced common cannon fodder like imps or former human soldiers, or you faced grave threats like the Barons of Hell. There wasn't much of a middle ground. Doom 2 fixes this by providing several new monsters to give the level designers some wiggle room. Several of these new monsters, like the Hell Knights or Arachnetrons, are weaker variants of their older counterparts, while others, like the Chaingunner or the Pain Elementals, are stronger variants of a more common enemy.

Perhaps the best twist on the game's formula was the introduction of the Arch-vile, who acts as a healer for the enemies. These devilish creatures run around reviving monsters you've already slain, making it hard to keep an area secured against the forces of Hell.


Greater emphasis on cleverness
Doom 2's levels are less straightforward than the levels you played through in the first game. While having stronger firepower will help you clear the levels, many of them require some exploration and puzzle solving to clear. Naturally, since the levels are more complex there is also a greater amount of traps. Generally speaking, some of the most famous levels from this game are the ones that didn't exactly play fair -- for example, an early level has the bridge to the exit collapse under you if you're not fast enough, trapping the hero in a pool of lava!


Streamlined campaigns
As explained above, there was an issue with people mistakenly thinking that the first episode of Doom was the entire game. This led to lost sales, and probably some mockery from other gamers. Instead, Doom 2 uses one long campaign to tell the story. Fans still break the game into three major sections, based on where the story takes place; so you might still see references to a three episode format.

Also, by having the adventure be one long campaign, it avoided one of the drawbacks of the original format. Now you only lose your equipment if you lose the game. Earlier you needed to start a new game to play a different episode, which naturally meant starting without the gear you'd previously acquired.


Cons

Largely a mission pack sequel
While adding new monsters and fancier map designs kept things fresh and led to more complex gameplay, the game's engine really wasn't changed much. As a result, any source port that is capable of playing the original is generally able to play the sequel without any special tinkering.


Concerns and Issues

More gore than the original
Doom was infamous for the amount of blood and gore it contained, and I'm sorry to say that Doom 2 actually managed to top it in this department. Many of the levels feature more grotesque decorations, such as hanged people, bloody torsos and other macabre things that once were human. The other major source of the gore is the new enemies that were added. They only have one death animation, and these are much bloodier than the older ones. For example, the Chaingunner's arm is blown into several pieces whenever he dies. It doesn't matter how he dies; his left arm is always ripped away. The Mancubus is another example: when they die, their massive girth causes their skin to tear away from their spine, exposing a lot of bone and muscle.


Hellish priest
The Arch-vile enemies are sometimes referred to as Priests of Hell or something similar by fans. This is an informal nickname that's based on their role in combat: in games, healers are often priests or other holy men and women. However, Arch-viles do display stigmata despite being demons, so it's not that much of a stretch.


Hidden level full of Nazis
There is a hidden level in Doom 2 that makes references to two of id Software's other franchises. One of these other games is another first person shooter called Woftenstein. Set in a fictional version of World War II, you fight against the Nazis and even Hitler himself. Unsurprisingly, this hidden level contains the Nazi themed artwork and enemies from the other game.

More troubling though is that there are hanged effigies of the pre-teen hero from the Commander Keen series found in a specific room of the hidden level. To complete the level, you must shoot and kill all four copies of the hero.

Later releases of Doom 2 saw this level undergo some serious censoring, with the swastikas, portraits of Hitler and other Nazi references being replaced with something else. As weird as it sounds, apparently the Nazis are more controversial than actual Hellspawn.


Notes on Availability

Like its predecessor, Doom 2 has been re-released several times and in different ways. However, while Doom was released using the shareware model, Doom 2 has only been available as a retail product. There are no demos or trial versions around.

However, since the game's engine isn't really that much different, it shares some important details with the original game. For example, Doom 2's content is stored in WADs, specifically doom2.wad. The program itself is also a 16-bit executable, so it doesn't matter which of the first two Doom games you're playing, you're going to need some additional software to run it on a modern system.

My suggestion is to either purchase Doom 3: BFG Edition or purchase Doom 2 and then use a source port to run the doom2.wad . The former is often the better deal, as you get an enhanced version of Doom 3 along with both Doom and Doom 2 for a nice low price. To be more specific, Doom 3 has its own modern engine for the first two games built into it, though it does contain the actual WADs if you want to use those instead.

For those of you thinking of trying a source port, may I suggest Zandronum? It's my personal favorite of the many choices out there. Otherwise, the Doom Wiki has a nice list to pick from.

On a side note, when looking around to buy this game, you may run across Final Doom, Ultimate Doom and Master Levels for Doom 2. None of these are Doom 2 itself; they are either a collection of more levels for the game or a repackaged version of the original Doom.