What is there left to say about a title as seminal as DOOM? The combination of John Romero`s design, John Carmack`s programming, and the musical styling’s of Bobby Prince brought forth a heady brew of gore and violence never seen before in a game, heralding the era of the First Person Shooter.
Of course time hasn’t stood still since those halcyon days of 1993 and numerous sequels have come and gone, but the first two titles still hold fond memories for those of a certain age. The first DOOM was met with a muted reaction when it appeared on XBLA and now the second title, the imaginatively titled DOOM II, is finally here after a slight delay (caused by Bethesda buying out iD).
Developers Nerve (who were also involved in porting the original DOOM) have seen fit to include a whole new episode to accompany this release, so you have the option of playing the original DOOM II: Hell on Earth and the new campaign, entitled No rest for the living. The former is, as you expect, rammed with imps, shotgun wielding grunts and an array of weapons with which to, (and we’re paraphrasing the game at this point); “get some meat”.
Of course, looking distinctly primitive nowadays, there`s still a certain rough charm and a good deal of nostalgia surrounding DOOM II, and it succeeds in invoking memories not only of the mind, but in the muscle as well. The instinctive hand movements over a keyboard have to be dismissed as of course you now have to take on the hoards of Hell with a control pad.
It`s amazing just how straightforward everything is; no up nor down, no regenerating health, it`s you, as many weapons as you can lay your hands on and being ready for action at any given moment. It`s certainly a ride, one that swings from disdain at the enemies falling at your feet, to cowering in terror as your health meter sits at 4% and a Cyberdemon tries to make a necklace from your gizzards, while your only protection is a pistol (since you wasted all your BFG ammo being a smart arse earlier in a level). For sure the atmosphere is still there, even when you finish a level and the background resembles something from a Slayer album cover, all Pentangles and Skulls, while the `chugga-chugga` MIDI sound rocks away in the background, tallying up your score, enemy kills and secrets found.
In contrast, No Rest for the Living is a mixed bag when compared to DOOM II. It retains the same look and enemies, but can come off as feeling like a bad WAD file from a fan that hasn’t quite cut their teeth yet. That might sound harsh, but when what seems like the entire cast of enemies pour out of a secret panel you’ve just accessed like a Broadway curtain call, it doesn’t inspire fear, it just seems a wee bit lacking in invention. While it’s by no means bad, across the nine levels in encompasses it doesn’t hit that sweet DOOM spot as it should.
Multiplayer as you might expect is almost laughable, certainly not in a bad way, but rather in how rudimentary it is. Thankfully some modern concessions are included with the package and the ability to play Co-op over Live is a welcome addition.
A bit like those records your dad owns which sound old and a bit musty, DOOM II will probably only be treasured by those who have fond memories of countless hours spent hunched over a keyboard and monitor, playing game after game. If you want a trip down memory lane there are worse ways to spend your time or Microsoft Points than investing in this slice of retro goodness.