Doom II XBLA Review

   17/06/2010 at 09:10       Phil May       4 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - Doom II, Xbox 360, Bethesda, ID Software, Can I play, daddy?

It’s 2010. The first person shoot ‘em up genre is slowly dying. Coughing its last few mouthfuls of black phlegm up in a beige-coloured post apocalyptic crumbling urban landscape riddled with bullet holes. If there’s one recurrent theme at this year’s E3, it’s that all the FPS games shown off are slowly blending into one, indiscernible save a few character design changes and the odd gameplay quirk here and there, but all following a template laid down 17 years ago by one mighty mutha of a game. Id’s peerless Doom.

It wasn’t the first, and purists will probably argue forever over which game truly was the first ever FPS to grace gaming machines. Doom II has just hit the Xbox Live Arcade and it takes me right back to 15 years ago when I first got hold of an illicit copy of the install files, along with a bunch of other college miscreants – and proceeded to spend hot airless lunchtimes in our gigantic lab of ropey old 386s trying to get the game to work. We succeeded, and lunchtime Doom and Doom II sessions became the stuff of legends.

Playing this creaky old granddaddy of a game on the Xbox 360, retooled by Bethesda (apparently they’re quite well known for something else, damn, it’s on the tip of my tongue…a little help please?) but retaining absolutely all of its core features as well as giving you a whole new bunch of maps to play with, Doom II is a great lesson in what the First Person genre should be about. Exploration, a tiny bit of puzzling, practically bugger all storyline or plot, and a hell of a lot of gutwrenching butchery, bullet pron and gore.

Hurt me plenty

The sequel casts you as the same soulless nameless space marine you played in Doom 1, and the character has become something of a walking parody as you could probably see his traits in practically every other FPS game that’s ever been yoinked into existence. He’s not important, he doesn’t need an identity, a painful childhood, a rambling backstory or an angst-ridden woman waiting for him at home, he needs guns, bullets, armour and that’s pretty much it.

Thrown helplessly into a labyrinthine set of claustrophobic corridors and rooms, Doom II’s main hero doesn’t arse about making long rambling speeches, doesn’t need to see his family or brother or favourite uncle killed by an oppressive government regime, he just ups and starts shooting at whatever comes into focus.

On the 360, as you’d expect for a machine that is like a death star compared to the PCs I first played the game on, the whole thing runs as slickly and smoothly as butter drips off a warm crumpet. You can dick around with the graphical settings and give the whole thing that weird XBLA trademark “Flash game smoothie” visual makeover if you so require, but purists will probably enjoy playing the thing on a huge telly, looking as blocky as hell. It doesn’t really matter, it’s not out to wow you with its visuals, it’s out to rip your still-beating heart out of your chest and slap you around the chops with the wet end.

For the bizarre molluscs amongst you that haven’t heard of the Doom series you basically work your way through each level from start to finish, shooting everything in sight, collecting health, armour and other powerups as well as lots of different weapons. There are rudimentary puzzle elements (opening doors, finding switches, using the map to figure out where to go next) but these are secondary to the shooting action. You don’t even need to aim really, just keep your finger on the fire button and move as quickly as possible before the enemy hordes (human or demon) turn you into a crispy critter.

Let me see you stripped down to the bone

Multiplayer is catered for, but don’t expect gigantic death matches filled with players, Doom II is strictly 1-4 players either via Xbox Live, or rather deliciously you can opt to go local splitscreen multiplayer and keep your enemies within elbowing distance. In either mode, the game works beautifully and it’s easy to see why I remember not being that impressed with the likes of Halo and Goldeneye when they first arrived. I’d already been playing stuff like this for ages before those two games hit the shelves.

Bethesda have included all of the original Doom II and Final Doom levels, and built a bunch of XBLA exclusive ones too, so there’s a heck of a lot of life in the game. I expected to be slightly underwhelmed by the familiarity of the game, but for something this old, Doom still feels as horribly addictive and as vital a game as it did all those years ago, and I really can’t imagine I’d ever feel like that about many FPSes that have passed through my machines since (in fact, thinking about it, this is probably the 7th unique version of Doom I’ve owned across several machines from the PC to the SNES to the Gameboy Advance so it must be doing something right).

Keep it shooty, simpletons

There is enough new stuff here to justify you owning both of the XBLA versions of Doom including that aforementioned “No rest for the living” bonus XBLA chapter, but don’t expect mould-breaking stuff if you’ve already played through and enjoyed Doom 1 and don’t really want more of the same. Aside from a new weapon or two, some neat Avatar clobber and a couple of different powerups and enemies, it’s really all about the tight and rock-solid new level designs in Doom II and the frenetic, unstoppable enemy onslaught you’ll face before your final showdown with a sumbitch of an end-of-game boss. For FPS fanatics though, this is an essential purchase that any FPS development team should be force-fed before they start work on whatever generic-looking beige piece of crap they want you to spend your money on next.

Brash, ballsy, gory and full of the sweetest and most playable shooting action available, Doom II is a faithful conversion that is easily worth the 800 points it’ll cost you.

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