Doom II: Hell on Earth is the first-person shooter sequel to Doom on MS DOS. This review will assume you either know about the first Doom or have seen my previous review on that game. The events here pick up where the first game left off. You’re finally back home after fighting your way through Hell, only to find that the demons have taken over Earth. It’s up to you to save humanity, seal the door to Hell, and stop these monsters from ever coming back.
The gameplay and overall presentation is nearly identical to Doom. You control the same way. Most of the enemies, weapons, and visual assets are recycled. You get keys and hit switches to open doors. You look for secrets. You shoot the baddies. You encounter some bosses. And you look for the exit. Pretty standard stuff. If it ain’t broke, leave it the hell alone! However, that’s not to say that it’s merely an extra level pack. One fun addition is the super shotgun. It’s much more powerful than the normal shotgun, but it fires more slowly with a wider spread and eats up twice as much ammo at a time. So it’s a well-balanced, close-quarters weapon to compliment the weaker, better-ranging normal shotgun. They do run on the same ammo though. There are also a good number of new enemies added, such as Arch-Viles that can resurrect fallen foes and Pain Elementals that can spawn Lost Souls at will, among others. And just like with the first, Doom II in the Doom 3: BFG Edition sports an extra episode of levels.
Having more types of enemies really keeps you on your toes wondering what’s going to be around the corner. Will it be a familiar foe or an all-new nemesis to destroy? It also lends well to having more unique enemy combinations to fight. On top of that, you’ll be seeing a lot more enemies in general. It’s nice to have the difficulty pick up about where it left off. I’m not sure if it’s because they thought people would have more powerful machines or if they just had a better optimized engine, but there are a few parts of the game that definitely feel like they’re showing off how many enemies they can throw at you at once, which is awesome because being able to mow down more baddies is always fun. They also show off the capabilities with some fairly large and open levels, as opposed to the cramped nature of the first game. Some are even based on cities. There’s much more of a focus on skillful battles and head-scratching puzzles. Heck, there’s even a few new tunes tossed in for good measure. It’s overall a more complex and sophisticated experience with all these minor additions. They really just did more with what they already had, for the most part. And it’s great. But it’s not perfect.
The increased difficulty makes sense, but I was having a tough time in a few parts and I play on the easiest setting! So while it makes sense for a sequel, you’ll want to be well-acquainted with Doom before you jump head-first into this one. The super shotgun is my favorite weapon in the game, but it’s put in a weird slot at the end of your weapons rather than being after the shotgun, which I think would’ve felt more natural. And I still hate that, especially in this game where there’s even more focus on it, there are platforming sections that require you to just fall onto platforms without being able to jump or even look down to see your landing. Don’t do that! Don’t make tiny ledges when you can’t see your feet, either. I also found that they used more browns and greys and generally muted tones to make the visuals more grim. That fits with the setting, but isn’t as appealing to me personally as having more of the vibrant reds, blues, yellows, and greens. They still have them, just not as much. Another slight complaint with the visuals is that there are some parts with lava on the ground and some with blood. These two things look quite similar and it can be difficult to distinguish the difference at times. There are also some lava-cracked floors that blend in with cracked, non-lava floors. Then again, my eyes aren’t the greatest either so maybe it’s just me. It’s cool that they can bombard you with a ton of enemies, but sometimes it feels like they just spammed a bunch of the same enemy rather than making an interesting group assortment of them. I also think that, while having larger open areas is cool, some of the levels felt unnecessarily huge just for the sake of being huge. Impressive, but neither clever nor practical. And a natural side effect of this design is that it’s more of the same from the first game. So basically, if you wanted something more different or didn’t like the first one… you might be less than impressed here.
Doom II is still great, though. I like Doom more as a contained experience along with simplicity and presentation. However, Doom II is definitely a better game, with its increased difficulty, variety, and depth. If you liked Doom and want some more of that action, pick up Doom II. It’s the same gameplay with more challenges and new experiences. Playing them back to back is a great way to binge on classic FPS goodness. It’s not as easy to find as Doom, but certainly not impossible. Besides, if you were able to make it from Mars, through Hell, and back to Earth… I think you can handle going back to Hell. Send those suckers back where they came from!