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Doom II – 25 Years Later: An LGR Retrospective


Of all the games in my collection, few raise my excitement level at the mere sight of it like this one. Doom II: Hell on Earth, developed by id Software and released to North American retail by GT Interactive Software on October 10th, 1994. Exactly ten months after the shareware release
of the original Doom, which was still wildly profitable despite only being sold via phone
or mail order. And that’s one reason Doom II happened so quickly publisher GT Interactive really wanted a copy of Doom to sell by the 1994 holiday
season. They’d worked with id Software already,
having distributed these registered full versions of Commander Keen: Goodbye Galaxy and Wolfenstein 3D. But Doom was another beast entirely, able
to rake in $100,000 worth of orders a day without any retail presence whatsoever. To put it bluntly, id Software didn’t need
a publisher for Doom. GT was adamant though, and after a couple of meetings that went nowhere, an agreement was reached. Doom II would be developed with a $2 million
marketing budget, and id Software would retain all intellectual property rights, creative
control, and company branding on the front of the box instead of the back. Another part of this deal was that, unlike
the original, Doom II would not get a shareware version at all. Developer John Carmack for one seemed fine with this, stating that “A lot of people consider themselves to have ‘finished Doom’ when they just finished the shareware episode.” “Doom II was explicitly a commercial release,” so they’d left the shareware model behind this time. And well that worked out, considering Doom
II was the best-selling game of 1994. Demand was so high that its initial print
run of 600,000 copies sold out in a single month, with total copies sold surpassing 1.5
million by the end of the ‘90s. And it was this original US release that I
first saw around Christmas of ‘94, proudly displayed on a front endcap in the PC gaming
section at a local K-Mart. It stood out for a variety of reasons, not
the least of which was its box art, painted by acclaimed fantasy artist Gerald Brom. That gruesome cyberdemon with its weird exposed
abdomen, Doomguy wielding his shotgun and that utterly bonkers haircut, smashing cinder
blocks with his butt. And of course it stood out because dude, it
was Doom, Part Two! Something I had no idea existed until I saw
it on the shelf for $50, with the original game nowhere in sight. Kinda strange in retrospect, but before Ultimate
Doom came around in 1995, the only version of Doom for sale in stores was Doom II, and
maybe Doom I shareware. A fact that seemed to cause some confusion
if these newspaper ads are any indication, check out this mixup by Staples.
Whoops. Doom II was also the first time I’d seen
this new thing called an ESRB rating, this imposing black and white ‘M’ on the box. Yep, this hit shortly after the big video
game ratings debate in the US, and Doom II was one of the first to earn itself a Mature
rating. Something not seen on the UK release distributed by Virgin Software, lending this particular cover a cleaner overall look. Then again, it doesn’t have that shiny,
embossed cardboard that the American one has, so eh. You win some you lose some in the worldwide
Doom II box art department. Anyway, enough persnickety packaging ponderment! Inside the box you get Doom II itself on either
a CD-ROM or a quintet of 3.5” high density floppy disks, with each format sold as its
own SKU. There’s also this 8-page manual addendum
booklet with plenty of DOS-related setup tips and frequently asked troubleshooting questions. And then there’s the Doom II instruction
manual, with 14 full-color pages of backstory, gameplay tips, and listings for each weapon,
item, and enemy in the game. Fantastic stuff, but I’m beyond ready to
play now so let’s get to it! Doom II for DOS starts off the same as its
predecessor: a vivid 256-color splash screen with depictions of demonic destruction and
some overly ominous music. [ominous OPL3 music] That’s just the Sound Blaster version. It also supports the Roland Sound Canvas and other MIDI devices of course, but there’s something about the combo of Doom and Bobby Prince’s creepy OPL3 music that makes me the happiest. From here you can start a new game by selecting your difficulty, and… that’s it! No episodes to choose from this time, instead it’s a continuous 30-level campaign. Straight away the action begins, with a pistol
in your hand and zombies in your sights. [shooty mayhem commences] Or you could take the opportunity to look
around and soak in the environment, which inevitably brings your attention to this spot
over to the left hiding the chainsaw. Yeah I pretty much always go chainsaw. [chainsaw death noises] If you’re paying attention, by the end of
level one you’ll have a pistol, a chainsaw, a shotgun, a rocket launcher, a bunch of armor,
and full health. Armed to the teeth after the very first level,
that’s the Doom II experience right there. [gratuitous Imp death] You’re prepped for the upcoming slaughter
right off the bat, with Doomguy boasting speed, agility, and overall control that remains
as satisfying as it was in the original Doom. No surprise since Doom II is built on the
same tech and pretty much acts as a standalone expansion pack to the original game. It has the same 2.5D id Tech 1 engine running
underneath, the same technical limitations in terms of not being able to look up or down
or have rooms over rooms. There’s no jumping, no vertical aiming, no special moves to pull off or skill trees to unlock. And that’s all awesome in my book. Shoot demons, find key cards, unlock doors
and secret rooms, find more key cards, reach the exit and move onto the next level to do
it all again until you reach the end boss. Well-balanced FPS goodness, so why fix what ain’t broke? Because unbroken things can always be fixed with more guns, I guess. This was made in Texas, after all. Yeah it’s time we talk about Doom II’s
big fat arsenal: truly one of the great joys in life. Beyond the aforementioned fist, chainsaw,
pistol, shotgun, and rocket launcher, also making a triumphant return is the chaingun,
with its rapid fire room-clearing abilities proving as useful as ever against enemies
near and far. There’s also the plasma gun, frantically
firing energy cells as quickly as the original Doom, but popping up far earlier this time,
on the fifth map. And of course, it isn’t Doom without the
BFG, and again you can find it faster this time, with level eight and onward becoming
your personal playground of glowing green plasmic destruction. And then, ohh-ho-ho, and then. We’ve got the one and only, the often imitated but never duplicated, double-barreled Super Shotgun. [demons being super shotgunned] Introduced near the beginning of level two,
this monster of a weapon is pure triple-filtered bliss. Sure it takes twice the ammunition as the
regular shotty, but it’s more than twenty times as satisfying so the trade off is a
no-brainer. Just two metal barrels held together with
a piece of wood and explosives in the middle, it undersells itself on aesthetics and completely
over-delivers on power. More often than not, a single well-positioned
shot is all it takes, and that’s for the majority of the enemies in the entire campaign. [BOOM] It’s little wonder why it’s called the
Super Shotgun, because that’s just what it is! Though I suppose technically it’s the combat shotgun, going by the included documentation, but Eh that term brings to mind a whole ‘nother
category of semi-autos and self-loaders, so I’m glad they gave this side-by-side a more
appropriately super name in the actual game. And what good is a big bad new weapon without a big bad new lineup of satanic minions to shoot in the face? Doom’s original ten monsters were pretty
great, and they’re all still around, including creatures like the Cyberdemon that used to
be bosses but now just show up to ruin your day throughout the whole game. But Doom II rounds out the enemy roster by
doubling down on demons, and as a result it really feels like the whole gang’s here
now. The Heavy Weapon Dude wields a chaingun and
can absolutely wreck your life if you’re not careful, that hit-scanning is no joke. Hell Knights are like weaker, tanner versions
of the old barons of hell, nothing terribly threatening so I welcome the target practice. The Mancubus is a big old blob of terror with
dual flamethrowers and a whole lotta hitpoints, slow but effectively nasty. Arachnotrons are versions of the old spider
demon, this time much smaller and shooting blasts of green energy, which are thankfully
easily dodged. And Pain Elementals, now these just suck,
being another floating blob like the Cacodemon, but spitting out lost souls instead of ball
lightning. Way more annoying due to that, what a pain… elemental. Then you’ve got the Revenant, a tall lumbering skeleton beast with shoulder-mounted rocket launchers and blood for pants. Not too hard to kill, but its rockets are
basically homing missiles, so there’s that. And finally, there’s the big daddy chaos
bastard of Doom II, the Arch-vile, which is not only terrifying to look at, but deadly
to look at as well. Simply making line of sight contact with the
thing can result in you being set on fire until you explode, which is not ideal. Arch-viles can also bring lower-tier enemies
back from the dead if you let them stick around long, so don’t do that. Kill ‘em hard, kill ‘em fast. Oh yeah, and there’s a couple secret levels
that include killable Commander Keens hung from the ceiling, and even SS troops from
Wolfenstein 3D. But these are more like easter egg/in-joke
kinda things, you won’t be seeing any keens or nazis wandering around the streets of Earth
or the spaceports of Mars. Speaking of which, another thing to touch
on are the levels themselves, the atmosphere they provide, and the overall pacing throughout
the 30-level campaign. Because, well, this is where Doom II is kind
of a mixed bag in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a really
well-made bag filled with all sorts of fun goodies to play with. It’s just that inside the bag are a couple
of questionable pockets filled with odd-shaped doohickies that you don’t quite know what
to make of. My biggest qualm is that around a quarter
of the levels are rather unappealing to me, specifically the ones that are supposed to
be based in our realm. I mean, for a game titled Hell on Earth, I
expected a lot more Earth, with like, hell on it and stuff. Instead we’ve got a barely-connected selection
of levels that are loosely sanctioned off into three episodes: The Space Station, The
City, and Hell. Again, for the most part I have a lot of fun
playing Doom II, over and over again. Martian space stations and pixelated hellscapes,
aw yeah, gimme more of that! But then you’ve got levels like Downtown
that just… what is this? Props for trying something new I guess, a metropolitan area and skyscrapers in the Doom engine is kinda neat. But it’s a slog to navigate and there are
far too many enemies right above your line of sight. Then there are maps that largely exist to
promote some level design gimmick, like Tricks and Traps, The Chasm, and Barrels o’ Fun. Stuff like monster infighting, teleporter
logic, tricky platforms, skinny walkways, hundreds of explosive barrels strung together,
it’s like being stuck in a lab experiment. Maps like these are bizarre, sorely sticking
out from the rest. I don’t wanna call out any particular level
designer here (Sandy Petersen) but the more I’ve played these maps over the years, the
more I dread enduring them again. That’s not to say all the new map styles fall
flat, though. There’s a lot more experimentation than
Doom 1 with enemy quantity and wide-open spaces, enabling these ridiculous battles with dozens
of demons attacking, screaming, dying, and in-fighting while you circle strafe around
picking them off, I love this stuff. A side effect of these larger, densely-packed
levels is that the performance suffered on lower-end machines back in ‘94, leading
to higher system requirements for Doom II compared to the original. What better reason to grab a 486 Overdrive
though, right? Some levels also play with darkness to an
excessive degree, making for one fittingly foreboding atmosphere, and granting greater justification for the existence of the Light Amplification Visor. However, the creep factor is somewhat lessened
by your amped-up firepower, not to mention the new Megasphere that boosts your health and armor to 200%. It’s dark, sure, but not to the point of
unfairness. Anyway yeah, even though the occasional map
design makes me scratch my head in bewilderment, the overall Doom II experience is one that
I cherish. And I freely admit that the super shotgun
silliness has a lot to do with it, as arguably overpowered as it is. But it’s just too enjoyable for me to care! Maybe it’s another story dealing with it
in multiplayer deathmatch, but the main draw for me is the single player so I’m all for
it. Then you add in the expanded bestiary of baddies
and huge retail presence, and it makes sense that Doom II took off in a way that even its
predecessor never did. And I’m talking strictly in terms of community
engagement, not like, sheer quantity of installations or overall cultural relevance. Obviously Doom 1 has its place in history,
but Doom II is the one that formed such strong community bonds that remain active to this
day. The sheer number of custom maps and total
conversion WADs made for it is staggering, both back then and into the present. And the proliferation of them has only increased
since the source code was released in 1997, resulting in source ports and fan-made upgrades
like GLDoom, ZDoom, Boom, Chocolate Doom, Skulltag, Zandronum, and beyond. I’m currently quite fond of Crispy Doom
in particular, for when I want to play on a modern machine instead of original hardware,
and find myself wanting a few extra quality of life improvements without ruining the original
feel of the game. And then there was the retail side of things,
with Doom II expansions and addons hitting shelves for years after its 1994 launch. The first official one being Master Levels
for Doom II in 1995, consisting of 20 WADs promising to be masterfully-made, and nearly three thousand fan-made maps downloaded from the fledgling internet. Also has this rather radical poster expanding
on the box art. Then there was Final Doom in 1996, an officially
licensed standalone product featuring two new episodes, TNT: Evilution and Plutonia
Experiment, and which was in reality far from the actual final Doom. Because next was the Depths of Doom Trilogy
in 1997, packing Ultimate Doom, Doom II, and Master Levels into one beefy big box package. There’s also been a slew of repackages and
re-releases since then, with one of the more interesting being Doom II to Xbox 360, which
introduced No Rest For The Living, an all new expansion episode by Nerve Software. It’s pretty good stuff actually, I recommend
it! The episode has subsequently shown up in the
Doom 3 BFG Edition, which itself includes Doom II, and can also be played using a source
port with the right WAD file. And that’s not to mention the whole unlicensed
scene, with third-party publishers like WizardWorks releasing at least half a dozen map compilations
in their D!Zone series starting in 1995. Doom II was its own gaming ecosystem throughout
the mid-90s, with stuff sold in stores, distributed online, shared among friends, and even created
by the US government. Yeah, Marine Doom was a thing, an official
project of the United States Marine Corps Modeling and Simulation Management Office. Hehe, ahh the 90s were wild man. And that, folks, is Doom II. As far as projects go that were slapped together
in less than a year, instigated by the financial incentives of a hungry retail publisher? Yeah, it could’ve sucked, but thankfully
id Software did what they did back then and made something excellent on their terms. The way I see it, Doom II took what Doom did
and ran with it, fleshing out the experience and cementing its reputation. It’s hard to imagine the series without
Revenants and Super Shotguns. Or shooting a giant wall demon that actually
hides John Romero’s head on a stake. And yet for a time, these were nowhere to
be found, and reality was worse off for it. Doom II made Doom more Doom-like than ever before, and even with its flaws, I love it nonetheless. [chaos, sheer chaos] [“The Demon’s Dead” by Bobby Prince plays] And if you liked this then perhaps check out
my other Doom-related stuff right here. Or maybe even subscribe, I release new videos
each week here on LGR. And as always, thank you very much for watching!

100 thoughts on “Doom II – 25 Years Later: An LGR Retrospective

  1. I'm gonna have to agree with LGR on the Doom II level design. I like to play through both of them once a year at least and I dread some of those levels as well BUT the new enemies and super shotgun make Doom complete. Maybe what we need is Ultimate Doom re-made with all the D2 enemies and super shotgun integrated,

  2. OPL3 music? I vote for GravisUltrasound. Sometimes I still listen to the Doom soundtrack as a background music. 😁

  3. Watching a revenant rocket hit and splatter an imp right in front of me was and still is the greatest moment in my gaming life.

  4. Finished CrispyDoom couple weeks ago.. Great choice with tons of options to setup. And I fully agree with you about those annoying levels… I always hated the fact you had to went through.

  5. I wondered if you would cover the media outcry against Doom II in relation to the Columbine shooting, but I completely understand why you excluded it (assuming it was on purpose). For those that don't know (or weren't alive yet), Doom II was the first game to be blamed for real life violence when it was discovered that one of the shooters had a webpage where you could download custom maps he had made for Doom II.

    These days, something like that would have been immediately removed from the internet, but it didn't work that way back then. The webpage stayed active for years after the tragedy, and out of sheer curiosity, I found myself (a teenager at the time) downloading and playing all of the maps he had created. There was something curiously eery about playing a custom map made by the most notorious murderer of our generation, especially knowing that the majority of people would never experience it for themselves. I've found myself wondering (though never actually seeking them out) if those WAD files still exist out there somewhere.

  6. First played this when I was in third grade, on my dads old IBM 486, couldn't even play full screen with a decent framerate. 25 years later, I'm still playing this game and loving it (albeit with mods and a source port). There just isn't any other game that I still come back to time and time again like I do with Doom.

  7. This is actually mildly mind-blowing because I vividly remember getting my copy of Doom II from Walmart for a couple bucks under the impression that it was the shareware and it turned out to be the full game.

  8. I regret losing my D!ZONE box/disc – I loved that disc! Along with the doom specs I wrote all kinds of tools for myself – a text based simple selection tool for the D!ZONE wads with a mode 12 map preview! I started to write my own editor but that quickly fell by the wayside.

  9. There's a small metallic auditory artefact in this voice track. It could be reduced with an EQ, somewhere in the upper mid-range.

  10. Gotta love them BFGs (BIG F*CKING GUNS)!!!!!!

    I love ChrispyDoom, I'm a Linux guy and love the fact it's compatible for everything. Correction though the source for the Engine was opensourced, not the game itself!

  11. This brought a tear to my eye, but also a question: Clint, do you still review older games on no such occasions as anniversary, as you used to? Can't remember I saw much out of you. If I don't count the notoriusly bad games you just review for fun.

  12. "proudly displayed in the PC gaming section of the local Kmart" – OW hit me right in the 'longing for the old days' gland..

  13. Astounding Work, I really enjoyed it!, See this New Album 'Monish Jasbird – Death Blow', channel link www.youtube.com/channel/UCv_x5rlxirO-WKjLIyk6okQ?sub_confirmation=1 , if you like to πŸ™‚

  14. I got lost so much in those downtown levels. Well, more often it was that I couldn't figure out what to do next, than lost. Great game though.

  15. i coulda had this or system shock. i went with doom II
    no regrets at all.

    i never played it to this day but i'll buy the remake

  16. What the!! I honestly had no idea that there is an opening to the left on the first level πŸ˜‚ 36 and played Doom II more than a few times… I didn't know.

  17. Nothing can quite match the feeling of shooting John Romero's head with an overpowered boom stick of destruction that is only the best gun ever in the history of everything ever.

  18. I have two sons. 15 and 13 now. I have all my classic consoles still hooked up to crt TVs. I have two gaming PCs and build them myself. Guess what is still the most played game out of all I have? You guessed it DOOM 2.. and it's source ports, mods etc. Especially my younger son. It's his favorite game. Even with all these new games with modern graphics, which he does play, I can usually find him on my computer slaying demons any given day. Fantastic video dude!

  19. I prefer the original Doom. I played Doom 2 first and it was alright. I couldn't get myself to keep playing because the levels were half the time awful! I especially hated lvl 19 the citadel. I mean I had to find a darn secret to complete it! Doom 1 was much more thought out and I enjoyed it a lot more. Even though I don't like Doom 2 as much as Doom 1, it's still amazing.

  20. One thing that's great about the super shotgun is it's basically a rocket launcher in shotgun form, meaning you only need 2 shells for roughly the same firepower as a rocket, with none of the worry of splash damage from the rockets. Perfect for circle strafing the hard monsters.

  21. Sandy Petersen is a legend in table top RPG design, especially his work with Chaosium, he brought us the Call of Cthulhu RPG at a time when Lovecraft was very niche (and is arguably partially responsible for the popularity of Cthulhu today) and huge contributor to the Runequest game system and background.

  22. "Unbroken things can always be fixed with more guns… This was made in Texas after all."

    Hell yeah! Well said, LGR. Well said.

  23. How the hell did I not know about jazz jackrabbit doom?
    Worth mentioning: there's also the cacowards that showcases some of the best mods/wads released each year.

  24. You forgot to also mention that the pain elemental has a pair of beefy arms, unlike its cacodemon cousin, which helps it pick up chicks and practice good table manners.

  25. When I first played Doom II as a kid, I never got past The Crusher (level six). When I encountered my first Revenant, I was like, "Nope!"

  26. I love Doom 2 so damned much. I actually did a Let's Play and video review of Final Doom earlier this year on my gaming channel

  27. I almost thought you would get passed the Romero stick figure… And there it was in all his glory… Thnx for this! (and reminding my age)

  28. Unpopular opinion.
    Supershotgun is overvalued, the normal one is still better and more fun.

    And doom 2 is unfortunately (on the whole) inferior to doom one as an experience >.<

  29. I don't get what's so hard about navigating Downtown, there's a nice big arrow etched into the ground to show you where to go!

  30. Love those minimum requirements and people still ask if they have a PC/Laptop that can run this 25 year old game πŸ˜‚

  31. Favorite enemy:
    Mancubus, fun to strafe kill with a super shotgun

    Less favorite:
    Archvile, boring, so long as there's a piece of wall in front of you and it they're no threat

  32. Feeling badass? Brutal DOOM 2 + 10X MOD (every monster is 10 times multiplied) + DoomMetal music mod Vol4. Your welcome. (Use also ZDL + GZdoom.)

  33. Best game ever. I got this on its original release and I still play a few levels at least once a week today. I can't help wondering how many of today's AAA games will still exist 25 years from now

  34. The best part about doom 2 was when my uncle claimed the john romero head in the last level was actually michael jacksons head and refuses to listen to anyone claiming otherwise to this day. Also monster condo is the best level in doom 2, prove me wrong

    Any plans for doing some of the older classic dos games like castle of the winds or one must fall 2097?

  35. It took me until the Steam days to actually own a legal copy of this. My parents knew a "bloke down the road" (every neighbourhood had one), who pirated everything, for a small fee. Granted, we lived somewhere retail availability was not the greatest, and he had all the super-powers that came with frequenting BBSs back in the day, but I still feel a little bad about it. We had boxes and boxes of pirated floppies, and later, music CDs and Playstation games, all from this one guy. Even had his home-printed ordering list on the kitchen table, most of the time. A list he updated regularly and made sure we had. The 90s were a very different time, for piracy.

    Nowadays, I figure, if I have the hardware and the money to pay for something, I should pay for it. I haven't pirated a game since 2008, the last time I was unemployed long-term. Well, unless you count emulation, but frankly, I've bought so much on Nintendo's Virtual Console, AND I've bought their mini consoles. I'm not paying again for the same games I've already paid for twice. They can owe me.

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