Review: Evilly resurrects the same game.
You've got to hand it to id Software. Whenever they do something, the whole gaming community ? consumers and industry alike ? sits up and pays attention. Take last year, for example, when id once again proved they are the leading game engine developer with the long anticipated release of Doom 3. The game itself was a throwback to the days of the simple run-and-gun of the original, but the creepy sound effects, pitch black hallways and eye-popping graphics kept gamers riveted to their seats ? when they weren't jumping out of them from sheer fright, that is. Even more amazing was the fact that the delayed Xbox version looked nearly as good as the high-powered PC version, a phenomenal technical achievement that still has people scratching their heads wondering how the heck they did it.
id's games have traditionally been followed by expansion packs created by third-party developers. Given the huge success of Doom 3, it's not surprising that Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil has been released to give gamers more of that dark creepy shooter goodness we all loved. Unlike the PC version however, Xbox owners don't need the original to play it so all you have to do is pop it in your tray, turn off the lights, and get ready to introduce some ugly demons to your good friend Mr. Shotgun. So should gamers once again sit up and take notice of this new addition to the Doom universe?
Developed by Nerve Software, Resurrection of Evil picks up the story two years after the end of Doom 3. The greedy and unscrupulous United Aerospace Corporation has tried to cover up the horrifying events at the Mars base, but a strange signal originating from the ancient archeological dig Site 1 is detected. Elizabeth McNeil ? who we discovered through e-mails in Doom 3 was Betruger's assistant and was kicked off the planet for having grave concerns about his questionable research ? is dispatched along with a team of Marines to investigate. Naturally, you play as one of those Marines. Once on the planet, your team breaks into a sealed chamber at the dig site and stumbles upon a mysterious ancient artifact. Being the curious guy you are, you pick it up to have a closer look. Unfortunately, touching it causes a portal between Hell and Earth to open, once again releasing a horde of bloodthirsty demons eager to munch on some human appetizers. D'oh!
Needless to say, things get a little hairy from this point onwards. Luckily, McNeil will help you along the way by providing you with vital information and objectives, the latter of which consists entirely of exploring extremely dark areas and blasting anything that moves. Hmm, sounds familiar doesn't it?
As before, your flashlight is one of your most important assets, but this time around you apparently remembered to bring some duct tape because it is now attached to your pistol. You still have to switch from the flashlight/pistol to a stronger weapon to take out most enemies, however, but it feels a bit more comforting knowing that you can at least get a shot off before having to change weapons and fight blindly in the dark.
The booby traps (where grabbing a power-up causes demons to materialize) and ?monster closets? (where demons would suddenly burst out from the walls) return but thankfully aren't as prevalent as before. However, the pattern of demons first materializing in front of you with his buddy popping up behind you stays the same. Enemies only appear two or three at a time, just like before.
Sounds like the same game all over again, eh? That's because it is ? the gameplay is exactly the same, the simple ?run right at you? enemy AI is the same, the stunning graphics and hair-raising audio effects are the same (which is a good thing) and the reliance on darkness to scare the poop out of you is the same.
So what's different? First, think of RoE as an extension to the story rather than as a brand new game. As such you will visit brand new areas of the base, including formerly unknown archeological dig sites. The maps are a bit more open and varied, so the monotony of walking down one narrow hallway after another is thankfully gone. The increase in elbow room also lets you dodge and maneuver a heck of a lot better.
The biggest news is the return of the fan favorite double-barreled shotgun, which is absolutely devastating up close. You can easily take down all but the biggest demons and bosses with one or two shots, although you have to be light on your feet to avoid their attacks while you endure the agonizingly slow reload time.
Another new weapon is the Grabber, which as its name suggests, allows you to grab and move objects via an energy beam. Based on an actual development tool id uses to manipulate and place physics objects in maps, the Grabber is similar to the Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2 but is much more useful. Not only can you move inert objects like crates and boxes, but you can also grab enemy projectiles like fireballs and fling them back into their face. Nice! You can also grab small enemies like the spider-like Trites, the uber-creepy Cherubs and those damn annoying Lost Souls and slam them into walls. As well, powerups in hard to reach places are no longer a problem and explosive barrels can suddenly become giant hand grenades. You have to be quick, though, because the energy beam doesn't last forever and you are still vulnerable to attacks while using it. Generally, it is only useful against the smaller enemies like Lost Souls since trying to grab a fireball and flinging it back takes more time than simply whipping out your shotgun and blasting the bugger to smithereens.
Although not new to the game, grenades have been greatly improved so they are not so ridiculously bouncy. The superball grenades from Doom 3 are thankfully gone, allowing you to throw them with much greater accuracy, which makes them useful weapons for a change.
The creepiest new weapon is the mysterious Artifact you stupidly picked up to cause all this trouble in the first place. It looks like a deformed heart and pulses with disturbing yet cool animation. Unlike the SoulCube, which was a weapon created to fight evil, the Artifact is pure evil and was entombed to prevent it from ever being used. Fortunately, you can use its powers to fight against the demons but first you have to charge it by sucking up the souls of dead humans. As it does so, it starts pulsing faster and faster, which is really creepy to see. It also sucks up the powers of the three powerful demon bosses Betruger has dispatched to retrieve the Artifact, after they are defeated. The first power you gain is Hell Time, a Doom version of bullet time where everything around you slows down but you still move at the same speed. The others are Berzerker, which gives you quad damage, and Invulnerability. Best of all, the powers are cumulative so eventually you can use all three at the same time ? and trust me, you'll need them because the last few levels are pretty brutal.
But what good are new weapons if you don't have new enemies to use them on? Making their gaming debut are the Bruiser, a hulking huge demon that is extremely tough and loves to throw fireballs; the Forgotten, which id describes as an ?old school version of the Lost Soul?; and the appropriately named Vulgar, which is similar to an Imp but is much faster, tougher and uglier. All of the previous enemies also make appearances as well.
The single player campaign consists of 23 levels but most of them are very short; some only take a couple of minutes. Overall it should take you around 10 hours to complete the entire campaign. Most of the maps are quite small and populated with few enemies; it's simply a matter of triggering the enemy spawn, kill them, then move on to the next trigger point. On a few occasions the framerate dropped considerably when there was a lot of action on the screen but for the most part the game played smoothly.
When you get tired of the violence, you can try and find three silly video arcade machines. This time around, instead of punching turkeys you can shoot balloon riding bears, blast asteroids, and even play a pretty darn cool version of BreakOut.
Other than these relatively small changes, there is really nothing in the single player campaign that you haven't already seen before in Doom 3. This is good if you can't get enough Doom 3, but bad if you were expecting something new. Such close similarity sadly causes the game to lose its scariness, as you begin to ignore the darkness and creepy sound effects, and are no longer surprised at things jumping out at you. Of course, if you've never played Doom 3 before you'd probably need to change your underwear a few times but for Doom vets, it just feels like recycled material.
Fortunately, the multiplayer component has undergone some significant changes. Resurrection of Evil supports double the number of players over Xbox Live and System Link, to a maximum of eight. Gamemodes include the return of deathmatch and team deathmatch, of course, along with the new capture the flag mode (sadly, co-op mode does not return). The seven maps are nicely varied and are quite small and cramped, resulting in some very intense one-on-one battles. They are full of many dark places to hide but camping is a bad idea as the abundance of weapons and powerups means someone will quickly find a way to smoke out your lazy camping butt. One of the more unusual maps is called Central Processing, which consists of four rooms (all filled with plenty of computer racks to hide behind) surrounding a wide open central room. Smack dab in the middle of this room is the all important rocket launcher but if you grab it, the floor opens up beneath you where you will fall to your death if you're not quick enough ? a fitting end for those annoying rocket whores, don't you think?
As in single player, the most powerful weapon is the double-barreled shotgun, so the first person to grab it usually has a big advantage, especially in such tight quarters. This can make games somewhat unbalanced. Games can also be quite laggy, which doesn't help matters much either.
Overall, the changes make multiplayer much more enjoyable than before, mainly thanks to the larger number of players. Gameplay is typical id, fast and brutal. However, once again there is nothing really new here that Doom 3 or any other online FPS doesn't already offer or do better.
Quite frankly, the most enjoyable part of Resurrection of Evil is the inclusion of the full versions of Ultimate Doom, Doom II, and the Doom II Master Levels (which were previously only available in the Doom 3 Collector's Edition). I had an absolute blast playing these, more so than Resurrection of Evil, as I relived fond memories of gibbing heavily pixilated demons from my gaming days of years past. The funny ? if not disconcerting ? thing is that the gameplay really hasn't changed all that much since then. Resurrecting the old school shooter worked once, but repeating it is getting, well, old. If id decides to do another Doom, hopefully they will utilize more modern gameplay features like intelligent AI that today's more sophisticated gamer expects.