Platforms:XBLA [Download/Get Demo]
Developers: id, Nerve Software
It's hard being an id fanboy. Whilst we've got RAGE to look forward to, us diehard id faithful have to spend our time replaying Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein (with the odd foray onto Quake Live) while watching Raven Software gradually run our beloved franchises into the ground. Most gallingly, we've had to wait years for Doom II to make its way onto XBLA... but now our diabolical prayers have been answered. The hours I've spent sacrificing Cacodemons (well, big tomatoes) on my pentagram-covered Carmack altar have finally paid off! My housemates wish I was kidding...
Whilst Doom II's been on the XBLA horizon for months, yesterday's announcement came as a bit of a shock. There was no warning, no publicity and no hype- just a single sentence on Major Nelson's blog informing us that Doom's superior sequel would be gracing us with its demoniacal presence, packing improved graphics and an entirely new episode. Happy days!
For those you don't know (shame on you), Doom II built upon the strengths of its genre-defining prequel to deliver a brutal, unforgiving and ultraviolent FPS experience. After slaughtering his way through hell itself, Doomguy (yeah, that's his name) returns to Earth... only to discover that the demons have laid siege to humanity's last survivors. Grabbing his trusty pistol and hidden chainsaw- remembering to turn 90 degrees left at the start of the first level- the heroic veteran plunges back into the fray along with a couple of new weapons and a horde of new enemies.
Doom II's gameplay and levels have been perfectly replicated in the XBLA version. Before Doom 3 lost the plot, the series was known for delivering badass and adrenaline-filled action rather than traditional horror scares- and the feeling of delight at emerging triumphant from enormous battles with a sliver of health is very much intact. Enemies will mob you in huge groups, requiring every last bullet, shell and desperate punch to find their mark. A host of secret powerups will keep you in shape, but you'll have to grunt impotently against a fair few walls to find them all.
But let's face it: I'm sure you know what Doom II's all about. id practically created the FPS genre with the Doom and Wolfenstein series, and most of us know the secret locations, monster closets and spawns like the backs of our hands. Let's take a look at the 'new' features and see whether id's masterpiece deserves to be bought all over again.
Ain't no rest for the living
The big news is that the XBLA version contains a whole new episode of demon-blasting shenanigans. 9 new singleplayer levels await the intrepid- and whilst they don't offer anything new in terms of content, it's nice to see that Nerve have offered increased value and a reason for seasoned veterans to return to battle. More of the same is fine in my book.
Don't expect anything else radical from Doom II. The textures and aspect ratio have been slightly improved to make it playable on a widescreen telly (and looks much crisper than the original does on a large screen), but it's still the same sprites and graphics that once wowed us 16 years ago. The biggest upgrade is the audio, which now boasts 5.1 Dolby surround sound. Weapon SFX feel powerful and weighty- and being able to pinpoint enemies by listening out for their audio cues is a fantastic way of avoiding ambushes.
The splitscreen and online multplayer is the other new addition to the XBLA version, which supports up to 4-player splitscreen and 8 player Xbox Live deathmatches. Whilst throwing down on the hordes of hell with a few buddies is a great way to blow off steam, a few little niggles really suck the fun out of it after a while. Unavoidable friendly fire will result in many unnecessary deaths (and heated arguments)... which leads to a much bigger problem. The respawn system forces you back to the beginning of the level without any keys or weapons, leading to a boring and uneventful slog back through a host of empty rooms or making your mates backtrack to let you through the newly-locked doors.
Online multiplayer also feels a bit vestigial. Sure, Doom created the Deathmatch- but it feels basic and weak compared to other titles (such as the insanely well-featured Marathon: Durandal and Madballs: Babo Invasion). What's more, XBLA games tend to lose their online audience after only a few weeks- meaning that achievement hunters had better get cracking!
- 41 levels provide a lot of content
- New episode offers more of the same
- It's Doom II. Everyone should play it at least once.
- Online multiplayer will dwindle and die
- Splitscreen becomes more aggravating then enjoyable
- It's Doom II. Everyone has already played it at least once.
The Short Version: As I said before: it's hard being an id fanboy. Every fibre of my being wants me to give Doom II a perfect 10- but the weak multiplayer, poor replayability and genuine lack of new innovations mean that owners of the PC version and youthful newcomers should steer clear. 800 MSP will net you a substantial amount of fantastic FPS action, but you might be better off waiting for a DOTW or price drop (which brought the original down to 400MSP). True id fans, on the other hand, should be off butchering demons right now. Why are you still here?