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Doom II is Still The Best Doom Experience

This is a game I always find myself coming back to. It was a childhood favorite and has grown better the more I play it as an adult. Doom II was a game that was released many years ago, but despite its old age, it's a timeless classic due to many of its excellent game design.

Doom II is Still The Best Doom Experience

The original Doom was the game that changed my life. It was the game that literally got me into video games. Without it, I don’t know if I would be the same person or even be here writing this article. But then again, I did say I had intentions of writing something related to the old Doom games in a Doom Eternal article before.

What captured my interest when I was a child was how action-packed and stylish the game was. The whole idea of being a lone marine and fighting cool looking demon just blew my mind. Doom was awesome and it was my entryway to the gaming world, but I found out it had a sequel.

The Early Beginnings…

I remembered shopping around a local PC shop that my father and I used to go to. There was a copy of Doom II: Hell on Earth. I remembered wanting the game right of the bat, but money was tight. Eventually, my father got me the game when I was doing well in school. He thought it was the perfect gift for me and It was.

The back of Doom II's box art was always cool to look at.

The back of Doom II’s box art was always cool to look at.

The game was everything I wanted a sequel to have. It was much more action-packed, the levels were better, and the new monsters were engaging. Of course, there was the iconic Super Shotgun which was the only new weapon. By the time I got access to it in the second map, the Shotgun was no longer my favorite weapon. The Super Shotgun was easily the coolest weapon I used in a shooter. The weapon was powerful and effective for close-range encounters, and had a lot of style points due to the reload animation. Also, that sound effect too!

I did say the game was a lot heavier on the action than the Original Doom/Ultimate Doom. I loved that because one of the appealing things about the Doom games is the combat.  There are also many memorable encounters in this game. Who doesn’t remember Dead Simple which was the level that introduced the player to two new enemies from the game’s sandbox: the Mancubi and Arachnotrons.

As a kid, I thought that was the coolest level to introduce new enemies to the player. Before I rediscovered the game again during the Xbox 360 era, I still remembered the level fairly fondly. I think that just tells you how great some of the design that Doom II had.

Another childhood favorite fight of mine was the infamous blue skull trap on the game’s 16th level titled, Suburbs. Basically, when the player gets the blue skull on top of this large circular platform, it spawns an immense amount of demons to trap the player! At the time, this was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, and it was definitely a moment that I was going to remember it a long time.

Nostalgia Was Calling Me

Doom II was awesome during my childhood, but eventually I did stop playing the game because of other video games. I was always a gamer who liked to try out other experiences.  However, I did mention during the Xbox 360 era, I came back to the game again due to the Xbox Live Arcade version of Doom II. I grew up playing the game as a child, and I was re-experiencing the again as a young adult.

I loved the 360 version for allowing me to conveniently play this classic after modern games.

I loved the 360 version for allowing me to conveniently play this classic after modern games.

Nostalgia called me and it lead me to buying the original Doom on the Xbox 360. Eventually, I bought Doom II again and at the time, it came with an additional content called No Rest For The Living. It was definitely awesome to experience one of my childhood games again with a better understanding of what makes a game fun to play, and I believe Doom II is easily the best in the series in hindsight.

Doom II just simply took what made the original game so great and enhanced it to greater heights. I already mentioned the sequel is way crazier than the original game in terms of the action aspect. When it comes to the level design, I think the sequel is more interesting. I’ve always loved the many different environments that you go to in Doom II. In the original game, you’re just going to a bunch of tech-base themed maps or hellish landscapes or facilities. For Doom II, you’re going to those similar locations, but there are out door arenas, there are experimental levels like Barrels O’ Fun or The Chasm, cavern-themed maps, and of course, city-styled levels.

The city-styled levels of Doom II is probably something we should appreciate back then because I honestly don’t think there were many first-person shooters that were doing these type of maps at the time. I can definitely say, my favorite levels aren’t really the city driven ones, but I appreciate id Software for trying to incorporate them into the sequel. Id Software never did this type of level design for the original game. Without Doom II, I don’t think city levels would be a thing for first-person shooters.

Heading to downtown, and killing demons...

Heading to downtown, and killing demons…

There are many favorite levels to pick and choose from Doom II. I already told you some of my favorite moments during my younger years with the game, but those levels aren’t my favorite in hindsight. I can definitely praise levels like Tricks and Traps for being so different and having very exciting encounters throughout the entire game or The Courtyard being the level that has inspired many retro-styled shooters to have those big arena styled encounters with many hostile threats thrown to the player. With so many levels I can praise and appreciate its certain design ideas, I believe my favorite one is Refueling Base.

MAP10 Refueling Base is the ultimate Doom II map. It actually has the highest monster count out of all the maps in the game, so that means it’s very heavy on the demon slaughtering. Another thing that I always admire Refueling Base is its level layout. It has this non linear design that allows the player to play however they want. This means the level is very replayable and you can play it through different routes just to spice up the experience. Refueling Base isn’t the only level that has this non linear design, but I believe it’s the best one that does it because of its combat encounters.

Hordes of pinkies and lost souls.

Hordes of pinkies and lost souls.

That’s one of the great things about first-person shooters in the vein of classic Doom. A lot of them appreciate the importance of level design and how it affects the overall quality of a game. Playing on a complex map layout always just adds to the playing experience rather than a level that is more simple and linear. It makes you feel like the level designer put in thought in how a level would progress from beginning to end.

This was something missing from Modern Doom II, aka Doom Eternal. Doom Eternal did promote exploration through lives and collectables, but it wasn’t as meaningful as the older games. It’s not as important as finding more health, armor, ammo, or even an early access to a weapon. Also, finding those pick-ups isn’t as important in Doom Eternal because you have the tools to regenerate them.

Before I end my obsession on level design, we have to talk about the final level of Doom II. Nowadays, I believe if people didn’t play the game during its inception, it might feel like another boss fight that you’d expect from a video game. In reality, this boss fight was very unique for its time. There was definitely nothing similar to it from the original game. It wasn’t like fighting a big and hideous looking demon until they die like a Cyberdemon. It was a boss fight that requires more brainstorming.

I still remember as a child, and I had no idea how to beat it. This forced me to look up on the internet back then to understand how to because I was too young and naïve to figure it out. However, little inexperienced me would find a unique way to play Doom II while figuring out how to beat the final boss. Doom II’s final boss works like this: there’s a certain texture you need to shoot with rockets. If you don’t, the Icon of Sin will infinitely respawn demons to pressure the player.

Shoot the boss's

Shoot the boss’s “brain” to win the game.

Since I wasn’t wise enough to realize the texture I needed to shoot at, I ended up fighting the final level by just killing the respawnable enemies. I thought you were supposed to keep on fighting them until the game decides you had enough and it would end. Basically, I found my own personal survival mode for Doom II. This was something I used to do just for casual fun, and I honestly think Doom II might’ve created the first horde or survival-esque mode in first-person shooters. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought of playing this way, but it was very fun to do so.

The Excessive Extras

The classic Doom games aren’t so highly regarded just for its timeless design, but it’s also insanely replayable. Throughout the years, its diehard fans have created many maps, campaigns, and mods just to give you another reason to load up the classic games again. Doom II is the one that’s generally more popular for getting content updates compared to the original game, but it also spawned some official expansions.

It did have an expansion pack titled Master Levels for Doom II. I remembered never seeing a single copy of this in my retail stores back in the day despite being aware of it on id Software’s website. I wouldn’t be surprised if people aren’t aware that there is another Doom II expansion outside of Final Doom. The Master Levels is something I’d like to dive deep in detail some day because it’s very niche and it’s all over the place in terms of level quality.

Firing my plasma gun and circle strafing until I die.

Firing my plasma gun and circle strafing until I die.

Final Doom is the more well known one when compared to the Master Levels, but I personally never found this map pack to be that entertaining. It’s a Doom II map pack that adds two campaigns: TNT: Evilution and The Plutonia Experiment. I’ve always thought TNT was fairly forgettable with some good maps here and there. Plutonia is the certainly better out of the two. It’s a fan favorite throughout the years, but I’ve always thought it was decent. I feel like the levels don’t go feel as good as the base game. Also, don’t get me started on Plutonia’s obsession of spamming Chaingunners and Revenants.

I did mention I bought the Xbox Live Arcade version of Doom II because of the No Rest For The Living add-on. This add-on wasn’t as meaty compared to the Master Levels or Final Doom, but I believe it was the best official Doom II expansion content out of all of them. The levels were high quality due to the variety of locations you go to, and how fun they are to play. It felt the level designers developed them in a higher standard and more challenging than the base game. I was certainly pleased with this mini-expansion at the time and it was welcoming to have. I was mostly interested in the 360 port just to buy an excellent console port of Doom II.

Doom II is Eternal

When you look back at Doom II: Hell on Earth in today’s times, the game feels more like an expansion pack to the original game rather than a full blown sequel. The graphics were exactly the same although it did have new textures, the gameplay was also the same, and you can argue there wasn’t as much new content being added to the original game.

My favorite level in No Rest For The Living.

My favorite level in No Rest For The Living.

Despite of valid criticism people can comment on a sequel to one of the most influential games of its genre, Doom II is the best game out of its classic titles. I would also say it’s the best in the series just for having so many memorable moments and timeless game design. It’s a game that can easily trigger nostalgic memories especially if you haven’t played it in a while.

Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong making a sequel to a game and just playing it safe. The original Doom was certainly groundbreaking for its time and it had its various appeal for gamers. Doom II simply just amps it up even more and it does it to perfection. There’s a real reason why I returned to the game after a long hiatus, and I only learned to appreciate the game even more. This game is one of the greatest games of all time, and it’s the go-to design on how you create a sequel.