Busy Gamer Review - Doom II

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Busy Gamer Review

Too busy to devote 12+ hours a day to your gaming habit? Here's a review that's sensitive to your needs: Short and focused on just the things that a busy gamer like you really needs to know.


Reviewed On: Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade; also available for PC, Mac and many other platforms in various incarnations.

Doom II In a Nutshell: Shoot demon spawn and zombie soldiers. There are puzzles, mostly involving keys and switches, but it really just boils down to: Kill enemies and find the exit. Rinse and repeat. That's basically it.

Oh, but there's so much more. Doom was the granddaddy of the modern first-person shooter. Building on the slick Nazi slaying of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom added grit, texture and some impressive enemies and level design. Then Doom II took things to new heights and helped foster a new generation of level designers. Many of the people who build the maps for the FPS games you play today cut their teeth making Doom WADs and Total Conversions.

Doom II for Xbox Live Arcade isn't necessarily the definitive version of the game, but for $10 it packs in a lot of value: the original 32 levels of Doom II, 9 exceedingly well-crafted bonus maps, split-screen and Xbox Live co-op and deathmatch and a pair of avatar items you can unlock including a black Doom II avatar t-shirt.

The No Rest for the Living bonus maps added by Nerve Software (which ported the classic id Software game for Bethesda Softworks) are masterful - if you take the time to enjoy them. Most are designed to provide relatively quick access to the exit, but if you notice any areas that are not accessible, hear the distant sounds of imps or see a key you can’t reach, you haven't extracted full enjoyment from them.

Spend some time finding the secrets and you will be rewarded with some great gaming moments: thoughtfully sprung traps, intricate mixes of enemies and bonus weapons to help make the experience stimulating and rewarding. The puzzles are so well done, I had a big grin on my face for almost the full time I played these levels. When I realized with horror on one of the later levels that an Arch-Vile was resurrecting a slew of dangerous enemies I had carefully dispatched - and then, a few minutes later, I heard another Arch-Vile lurking nearby ready to do the same - I tipped my virtual hat to the level designer.

Learning Curve: If you've never played Doom before, you'll need to adjust to its old-school ways. You can't look up and down so your weapon auto-aims to hit any enemy directly in front of where you're pointing. You'll have to learn which weapons work best against different enemies, though this is pretty easy and part of the fun of the game. Due to the way the console version cycles through your weapons (X and Y buttons), you will need to practice switching until you can do it quickly while under fire. The D-pad does offer your most common choices (shotgun, chaingun, rockets and plasma), but it would have been nice if they made it user remappable.

The Save Game: Save anywhere at any time. You do have a limited number of save slots (10) per storage device, and there's no quick save but otherwise this works really well.

Family Factor: In retrospect, this is not the most violent videogame ever (despite what some parents seemed to think in the '90s!) but it does have blood, rocket launchers, humanoid soldier enemies, scary-looking demons and some vaguely satanic looking symbols. Mature teens can probably handle it (especially if they've already experienced Call of Duty or Halo), but keep the little ones away while you play.

Buy or Skip? Hit the free demo to see if you enjoy it, but we'd rate this a buy at $10 for single-player and co-op alone. Xbox Live connectivity is hit or miss, and there's no system link (LAN) play so you may want to skip it if these things are vital to your enjoyment.

On a Personal Note: In the mid-1990s, GrrlGotGame and I were avid Macintosh gamers. There weren't a lot of games available on the Mac back then (oh how things have changed, right?!) - mostly shareware and the occasional BIG GAME RELEASE. When Doom II arrived on Mac a couple years behind the PC version, we were skeptical but gave it a try - and were instantly hooked!

It's not that we were against violent videogames per se, but the media reports had painted Doom as... well, you know the drill by now, a murder simulator. (Oh how things have changed!) I'm a pacifist and have never fired a gun in real life (well, maybe once when my dad was holding it at a shooting range when I was 10). But Doom II was riveting, stress-relieving and just plain fun. Those shocks of adrenaline when a well-designed level tossed an unexpected trap (say, a demon attack in a dark room) proved addictive. And we enjoyed the novelty of new community-made level downloads, including a replica of the Atari corporate offices, a total conversion that turned Doom into an Aliens game and a truly inspired set of maps called Memento Mori. (If you played them, you remember the name.)

We became so passionate about Doom, we launched a niche interest e-zine, MacDoom Review. (Oh how things have changed! Now we write a niche interest gaming blog and podcast!) MDR, as we called it, had a small but deeply devoted following. It was published monthly using a Mac tool called DocMaker so you couldn't even read it on a PC! We had interviews, tutorials for homebrew tools to make your own levels, tips and tricks and lots and lots of WAD reviews. Oh, and poetry. GrrlGotGame put her creative talents to work writing verses, lyrics and even recipes to entertain a lost generation of Doom-lovin' frat boys (we'll include a sample in Busy Gamer Podcast 35).

Doom II was actually the first Doom game to be released on Mac, followed by Ultimate Doom (which included the original Doom with bonus maps) and several map pack compendiums. Doom II remains the gold standard for us. It introduced some of the best enemies: the plodding but powerful Mancubi, rocket-firing Revenants and flaming Arch-Viles.

One of my favorite pastimes in Doom II was (and remains) slowly taking down a Mancubus with a shotgun. It takes a while and requires careful strafing to avoid his fire attack, but it's so satisfying to hear the creature's plaintive "Bwaa" with each impact that I could do this all day. Revenant rockets actually track you, so dodging them is a similarly rewarding challenge, along with the sound their bones make when they eventually crumble. And the menacing murmur of a nearby Arch-Vile still chills me, especially when I'm walking through a room of dead demons that I know it will bring back to life if it gets half a chance.

If you only pick up one Doom game for Xbox Live Arcade, make it Doom II - it's rich, deep and still loads of fun.

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This page contains a single entry by Gamewatcher published on June 9, 2010 3:48 PM.

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