Not only did Bethesda grace the Switch eShop with the presence of Doom recently, it also saw fit to give us its similarly-adored sequel too (as well as Doom 3, but we’ll get to that). At first glance, Doom II looks like a carbon copy of its predecessor but it’s got a little more than that going on, to the extent that the two do feel slightly different to play.
Set immediately after the events of the first game, Doom II sees you landing back on Earth (which looks suspiciously like Mars did in the original) only to find that demons have invaded and killed billions. Time to blast more baddies into gooey, fleshy chunks.
In terms of feel, Doom II is practically identical to the first game. This isn’t really a surprise given that, back when it was originally released, the difference between the launch of the first and second game was a mere nine months. If you reckon each FIFA sequel is ‘the same game’, imagine how much of a field day Reddit would have had with this one if it existed back in the day.
That’s not to say there haven’t been any changes, of course. While the general mechanics are unchanged, id Software made use of improved hardware – computers were upgrading at a ridiculous rate back then – to build on the groundwork laid by the original and make the sequel’s 30 new levels larger and more complex.
The first Doom’s stages were maze-like at the best of times, but some of the levels in Doom II are full-on labyrinths, with all manner of switch-flipping, door unlocking and teleporting going on. That automap feature is even more useful than it was before, and you’ll be checking it regularly as you reach the back half of the game.
The stages also look more varied than they did in Doom. There are more wide-open spaces and multi-tiered areas, and there’s been the greatest attempt made to give certain rooms a unique appearance rather than giving everything the same grey textures. It’s clear that id Software was trying to push the technical boundaries with this one.
The number of enemy types has also been doubled. Joining the usual grunts, imps and demons are the likes of the Chaingunner, the Mancubus (an obese monster with flamethrowers for arms), the grotesque Arch-vile and our favourite, the Arachnotron: because nothing says character design like an evil brain monster in a robotic spider suit. The majority of these enemies are significantly harder to defeat, meaning the game’s overall difficulty is higher as a result.
On the weapons front, there’s only one addition: the Super Shotgun. We already sang the praises of the shotgun in our review of the first Doom so it’s a little disappointing – though not surprising – that this advanced version couldn’t improve on perfection. It’s more powerful, but it uses up twice as much ammo and takes an age to reload, so you may as well just stick with the old faithful.
With regards to the Switch port specifically, it’s the same story with Doom II as it is with its predecessor. We’re still talking an odd 35 frames per second and some minor stutter as a result, we still have borders on the side, a slightly squashed aspect ratio and slower music. And yes, we still have that requirement to log into a Bethesda account, which – again – Bethesda has promised it’ll remove, but is still there at the time of writing. That said, if you’ve already been through the process with Doom it’ll automatically log you into Doom II the first time you play it... somehow (which makes us wonder if Bethesda links your Bethesda account to your Nintendo account).
While the Switch version of the original Doom included all three chapters and the bonus fourth chapter included in Final Doom, Doom II didn’t have any official expansions at the time it was released. Instead, it got Master Levels for Doom II, an official level pack including 20 user-created stages. As a nice touch, the Switch port of Doom II includes Master Levels too; selecting it on the main menu brings up a list of all 20 stages you can select from at will.
One thing it doesn’t have, though, is No Rest for the Living, which was a newer expansion pack created for the Xbox 360 version back in 2010. That included an extra nine levels but is nowhere to be seen here, meaning that old Xbox 360 release technically remains the definitive version of Doom II.
Is Doom II better than the first game? It isn’t better or worse, it’s just slightly different, and which you prefer will come down entirely to your own personal taste. The first game remains a masterpiece of level design and tension, whereas the second goes bigger in every regard but makes both combat and map navigation trickier as a result; if you like having more of a challenge, then, Doom II may be your game of choice.
The fact there’s so little in it, though, makes it clear that no matter which Doom you buy you’re still easily going to get your money's worth, despite its technical flaws.
Much like the port of the first game, Doom II on Switch delivers a solid rendition of a classic FPS with only a handful of audio and visual issues preventing it from being perfect. It holds up just as well the original Doom does, and its price is similarly reasonable: as a result, we naturally recommend this one just as much as we do its predecessor.