Review: id Software Doom Resurrection
If id Software's Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake titles were known for only two things, they'd be amazing 3-D graphics engines and intense gameplay. As the first Doom title for iPhone OS devices, Doom Resurrection ($10) offers more of the former than the latter, diverges significantly from the company's proven gameplay formula, and is over far too quickly, but it's a thrill ride for the 2 hours and 15 minutes it lasts.
Based upon the superb PC title Doom 3, Doom Resurrection places you in the role of a marine trapped on a human outpost on Mars that’s in the midst of being overrun by monsters from hell. As with Doom 3, you find yourself roaming the halls of a research facility, teleporting to hell itself, and eventually trying to escape from Mars in one piece. Your only weapons are a series of progressively more powerful guns and, at one point, a chainsaw, which collectively cut through enemies that walk, crawl, and run at you in groups. Everything from the levels to the enemies to your gun-toting arm is presented in smooth, highly realistic 3-D—quite possibly the best that’s ever been achieved on iPhone and iPod touch hardware—and as with prior id Software titles, you’re treated to a little head bobbing, dynamic perspective changes, and cool little special effects to make the whole experience engaging.
Despite a major change in gameplay, engaging is definitely the correct word to describe Doom Resurrection. In this title, id Software has stripped you of control over your character’s feet and most of the command of his head, taking you on a linear path through eight levels filled with monsters, ammo, health pick-ups, boxes, and explosive drums. The result is gameplay that feels mostly like Sega’s House of the Dead, where you’re drawn down corridor after corridor with the twin goals of keeping your health up and ammo flowing into the creatures that appear before you. You tilt the device to aim a firing reticule, tap on the screen’s bottom right corner to fire, then on the top right corner to reload. All that’s missing is the pumping House of the Dead music and voice accompaniment, replaced here by ambient noises and enemy screams; a real soundtrack would have helped the game a little.
Yet id Software makes up for the somewhat bare audio by continually mixing up the types of shooting, with some sections requiring the use of a dodge and cover button, others rapid reloading, and still others deft switching between weapons. Tapping on the screen is frequently required to pick up ammo and health; shaking the device is occasionally necessary to pull a monster off of your body. Much of the game’s challenge is in opening up boxes with your gun, then tapping to collect the power-ups that come out, or tapping quickly when the camera shifts from one position to another, sweeping across items in the process.
While Doom Resurrection never drags, it also never hits the heights of the game upon which it’s based. The gloomy, shadowy corridors of Doom 3 and related scenes of horrifying gore are basically gone here, along with the amazing lighting and blood effects they included; similarly, in an odd, off-pitch twist, a flying robot named Sam now meaninglessly accompanies you to automatically open doors and collect data while you’re walking around and shooting. Sam seems to have been included as a way to inject dialogue into the game and extend its apparent length by 20 or 30 minutes, and succeeds at both, though it also lightens the mood in a manner that’s more Metal Gear Solid than Doom. It’s hard to buy into your character’s concern for the robot given its modest utility and importance, particularly when you really want to be ripping up more of the freakish monsters that keep on appearing.
The single biggest issue with Doom Resurrection is its length. Less than two hours and 15 minutes after we first turned on the game, we’d beaten it, and our iPhone 3GS’s battery had gone from 100% charged down to 25% remaining power. Granted, there are multiple difficulty levels to select from, and the ending on the most basic level was so bad that we’d be curious to play through again to see if it gets any better, but the game’s series of numerous save-friendly checkpoints makes completion more of an inevitability than a challenge. You’re more likely to run out of juice for your device than to get meaningfully stopped by the monsters on your first play-through, and it’s a question mark as to whether you’ll want to revisit the levels again. There’s no multiplayer mode, and linear single-player levels, so the only draw is the chance to test yourself in the same places on higher skill levels.
For the price, and given its length, Doom Resurrection would merit a flat B rating were it not for the technical accomplishments of its graphics engine and streamlined gameplay, both of which work wonderfully on the iPhone and iPod touch for as long as they last. This is a House of the Dead-style shooter par excellence, hobbled only by duration and the expectations fans of the series will have for a game with the Doom name. With twice the levels or a lower price, Doom Resurrection would be worthy of any shooting fan’s dollars; as-is, it’s an impressive example of what the iPhone hardware can do in the hands of a technically proficient developer with impressive previously created art assets at its disposal.