Friday, July 5, 2019

Game 2: Doom 2

Back in the '90s, frequently successful shareware titles would have a commerical sequel. Wolfenstein 3D, Spear of Destiny. Commander Keen, Commander Keen: Aliens Ate My Babysitter. Last Half of Darkness, Last Half of Darkness II. Yeah, after you go past the iD software titles you start going down a rung or two. There are more titles by people who would go on to switch to commerical models. Doom, being that it was iD's most popular title yet, would continue the model previously followed by Wolf and Keen*.

Doom II (or Doom ][) continues where Doom left off. Any episode of Doom, really. Episode 1? The portal is their invasion portal. Episode 2? It's Detroit. Who knows what the future will bring there? Because you're the baddest guy around you're going to kill off all the demons. Punch 'em all to death. We know you can do it.
Once again, this reflects my playstyle of letting go of my shotgun only when I die.

You have a new weapon, the super shotgun, and new enemies: Former captains, who use automatic sniper rifles; Revenants, who fire homing missiles; Pain Elementals, who shoot Lost Souls; Hell Knights, the Baron's uglier little brother; Mancubi, who are the opposite of Incubi; Arachnotrons, who shoot plasma; Archviles, who resurrect your enemies and burn you in a column of fire. In the same time it took me to write that all out, they've all been used. You are barely out of the first "episode" before you've seen all of these. They're mostly more difficult to deal with than the original's enemies. The Mancubi shoot a pattern of fire blasts that are tricky to get the pattern down on. Pain Elementals are really obnoxious, but that's more down to me not liking respawning enemies in these games.

The first episode or first thirteen levels are a mostly brown and dark grey affair. The levels are okay. I like American McGee as a person. He seems like a cool dude. Had a hard life from what I've heard. His levels in Ultimate Doom and here are not very good. There are a few things I go, "Ah, that's neat" on, but the rest of it needs some lighting. Nothing exciting until we hit Map 7, Dead Simple. With a few exceptions, at this point you haven't had many interesting fights or layouts. I guess the fight at the end of Map 6 is okay. It's more of an eh, I guess I paid thirty bucks for this stuff. Still better than Corridor 7. When you get down to it, there's nothing before Map 7 that should be any worse than after Map 7, but it is. They backtrack in a way that doesn't feel like a gradual clearing out of the level and more of a, I'm here again!?

At this point, you can kinda tell who is doing which map. Petersen mostly does open, colorful stuff; McGee screws around with the lighting too much and usually has a gimmick; Romero does wide open damage floors with gimmicks.
The second episode is where ][ finds its legs. After Downtown. Downtown is ass. It seems like a nice, open level where you know what your rough route is, but it's a trick. The use of verticality displayed here wouldn't be good in a full 3D game, let alone this. It's got too many enemies for its own good, which is funny, since it doesn't have that many. It's possible to make good looking tall buildings in the Doom engine, but this isn't one of those times.

Between Map 8 and Map 29, with exception to Map 13, I find there's not much for me to talk about. It is a bit formulaic, since you could cut most of them down to a hub the level named with X & Y encounters. Y can be a real nailbiter if you don't get the archville quickly. Make sure you find the Z secret, it makes encounter X real easy.

The Living End deserves special credit for being probably the greatest penultimate level in any shooter ever made. You fight over tight corridors over a wide open pit of lava surrounding a central tower-ish structure. I never thought of it this way before, but it comes off as an early attempt at someone imitating the giant towers that frequently appeared in HP Lovecraft's Dreamcycle works. Since it was made by Romero, who knows if that's accidental or not.

I don't have much to say about the final level. The final boss is a wall texture that spawns other monsters. Killing it causes it to thrash across the landscape. You'd think the level would be designed as a landscape, rather than an ugly room that looks like a sewer. I suppose that's a criticism that can be applied to a lot of Doom levels.

I criticized Doom for having un-secrety secret levels. Doom 2 does it in a different way. I do not know if I would call it good. Doom 2 features two Wolf3D levels as secrets. That's kinda the cheap way to do a secret area. It also has another new enemy, the SS, or the sub-machine gun guys from Wolf. I'd say their actual name, but I type German like I speak it: Nachtmahr. I think they're also the two most notable levels of Wolf 3D, precisely because they are in Doom 2.

The super shotgun is a solid addition the player's arsenal. It's not necessarily a better weapon for the job. It's very thirsty. 8/10

You can improve on perfection, although they still need to learn to space their stuff out more. 10/10

This hasn't changed. 0/10

Doom 2 starts off weak and finishes strong. Kinda the reverse of the original. 8/10

Player Agency:
It's exactly the same as the original. 8/10

This also hasn't changed. 1/10

You'd think this hasn't changed, but this is Doom 2: Hell on Earth. It's not very Earthy. It's more like the demons backed up all the septic tanks when they brought Hell with them. 8/10

There are some much needed graphical improvements in this compared to Doom 1. It doesn't use them, but I think that's covered elsewhere. 8/10

If only Carmack and Romero would've listened to you, Hall. If only. 1/10

Some of the new tracks are pretty sweet. Some. The Demon's Dead, Into Sandy's City and Shawn's Got the Shotgun. I don't really remember the other ones except for the first one, and not in a good way. Also, The Healer Stalks is apparently a rip-off of Atheist's Samba Briza:
I liked Samba Briza, but it just doesn't translate well to midi. The rest is meh. So 6/10

That's 58 out of 100. That feels right. It's slightly worse in some regards, and better in others. I suppose it would've been more equal if Doom 1 only had a 9 for enemies, but that reflects that a Doom level can feature any combination of its monsters and still come out strong.

*And Catacombs, I guess? That series is weird, commerically.

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