SIGIL II, original Doom’s brand new sixth episode, is the most visceral, adrenaline-inducing and brutal PC gaming experience I’ve had in 2023

I deliver chainsaw death to the demon horde, all the while dodging incessant gun fire, balls of fire and flying, shrieking, flaming skulls. Oh, and did I mention I’m doing this in hell, with lava and poison-filled pits left, right and centre? This is John Romero’s SIGIL II, the hard-as-nails unofficial sixth episode for Doom, and it’s simply awesome. It’s also my personal pick for recognition in the PC Gamer Awards 2023.

As someone who played the OG Doom when it released, I played and loved Romero’s first return to making full episodes for the game that made him, John Carmack, and the rest of the id Software team development legends back in the 1990s, with the original SIGIL released back in 2019 dramatically rekindling the original Doom fires. And there was no better fire stoker than Romero, who always brought an extra level of Doom Guy infernal to the legendary FPS.

You’ve got to fight with everything you’ve got. Stop moving for a second and you’re toast. (Image credit: Romero Games)

SIGIL II builds on the SIGIL by taking everything up to an even more metal, insane level. If you thought you needed to rip and tear to the maximum in SIGIL then think again, as this episode really is the most devious, hellishly hard, and brutally satisfying episode of Doom ever made. And its soundtrack by Thorr is just incredible.

SIGIL II’s levels are something to behold, a hybrid of the human and hell worlds, and vary dramatically in size and complexity. Romero clearly loves to surprise gamers and keep them on their toes, as there is a subversion here, a twisted, warped-ness to how levels flow and how enemies appear and attack that is fresh and adrenaline inducing.

Personal Pick

(Image credit: Future)

In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2023, each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We’ll post new personal picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.

It’s clear that, despite Romero very carefully building SIGIL II as an extension to the original Doom, the master level designer has elevated his craft to a new plane, all the while maintaining that made-in-the-1990s feel. A good example of this is how Romero introduces extra levels of verticality within these levels, or shootable Baphomet eyes that allow progress or unlock secrets.

But it’s the synergy of the whole experience that reminds just how groundbreaking the original Doom was. In SIGIL II, with rock-leaning heavy metal blazing in your ears, and a shotgun smoking in your hands, the armies of hell encircling you, FPS nirvana is attained.

Often combat will hang on a desperate knife-edge. You’ve just got to keep ripping and tearing (and often praying!) to get out of there alive. (Image credit: Romero Games)

But that nirvana will see you and your emotions taken to hell and back, as be under no illusion that SIGIL II is tough-as-nails hard. Even playing on Hurt Me Plenty, you better be prepared to rip and tear to the max, and if you crank up the difficulty through Ultra-Violence and on to Nightmare, you better be prepared for an onslaught from Doom’s demons the like of which you’ve never seen before.

Romero has confirmed that he has primarily designed the levels to be played on harder difficulty settings, with the legendary game dev always playing his own creations on Nightmare mode, but no matter your choice of hardness, SIGIL II is a brutal experience. It’s also tricksy and devilishly devious as hell, too, with traps, ambushes and wickedly intricate pathways continuously keeping you on your toes.

You will die. (Image credit: Romero Games)

It’s also the closest experience I’ve had to genuine PC gaming time travel, too. Playing Romero’s SIGIL II absolutely recaptures the feeling of playing the original Doom back in the 1990s. It’s hectic, genuinely panic-inducing, and a visceral audio-visual assault on the senses. It’s PC gaming come full circle and, in my opinion, an experience not to be missed.

Oh, and best of all, SIGIL II is completely free to download and play today (although I’d recommend buying the version with Thorr’s incredible soundtrack), with all you need to dive into its hellish world being the original doom.wad and the free Gzdoom software to run it. Rip and tear, until it is done.

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