Doom Resurrection is aptly named, the archetypal shooter having risen from the grave for the iPhone and iPod touch. The thing is, though, when the dead return, they never come back the same.
You know the story: future, Mars, research facility, teleportation experiments, hell unleashed. Mayhem ensues as you, the sole surviving marine, attempt to thwart the evil and escape, killing anything that moves along the way.
The game itself is clearly derived from Doom 3, the 2004 re-imagining of the PC franchise. Remade again for a handheld experience, Doom Resurrection is visually stunning. The textures, the models and the lighting all are superb, as are the sound effects. Doom Resurrection made me forget I was playing a game on a phone or a media player. The detailed graphics are something I would expect to see on a PlayStation Portable, and yet the frame rates are fluid on my iPhone 3G.
However, unlike the PSP, the lack of physical controls on Apple’s devices has condensed Doom Resurrection, too. At 80MB and eight levels of play, there is still plenty of game, but it’s a different kind of play.
The biggest change is the control scheme with the accelerometer being used to look and aim by tilting the device. It’s a responsive, well-designed implementation, as is the solution for player-controlled movement: eliminating it. A “shooter on rails” has been the pejorative refrain from critics describing the lack of free roaming in Doom Resurrection. Instead, the player is moved along a set path through the levels, pausing for combat and story exposition, the latter playing out in IM chat bubbles — voiceovers, please!
The UI is built around the core of the Doom franchise: shooting things. Up to three weapons can be cycled through, most of which need reloading. Ammunition, as well as health packs, are scattered and hidden on the levels. Touching them on the screen picks them up, but since movement is guided, they can be easily missed.
Besides shooting, there are three other actions the player can take during the game. On the first few levels, fat zombies will attempt to grapple and bite. Shaking the device pushes them off.
Dodging missile attacks like fireballs is accomplished by using the special move button located on the bottom, opposite the fire button. Timing is everything, and it’s best to learn early. Dodging is used throughout the game, as is cover.
Some enemies will stand off and shoot at you. In that situation, by toggling cover you can hide behind objects and avoid damage.
Whether behind cover or not, a yellow hexagon will appear as enemies fire. That shrinking hexagon represents enemy accuracy, and when it turns red you’ll start taking damage if you are out in the open.
Overall, the control scheme is great for a multitouch device. The question then becomes whether the game itself is worth playing, not to mention paying $9.99.
Play begins with acclimation to the control scheme and introducing the story that continues throughout the game. While some exposition can be skipped, other dialogue has to be tapped through, annoyingly even on replay. The story and dialogue could be better, too. One character, a little plot device robot that follows you, makes sounds in lieu of speech. Does a game that’s based upon blowing bodies apart with a shotgun really need a cutsie R2-D2 knockoff?
The repetition of the storytelling is a small annoyance; a larger one is the repetition of the killing. Sadly, there is no random spawning of monsters. The game is exactly the same, regardless of difficulty setting, and that would be the third disappointment. The four levels of difficulty are based upon how much damage attacks inflict. One other complaint would be that only a single saved game is allowed. Still, the complaints on play are small, and the praise deservedly big.
The first time through, around three hours at moderate difficulty, was a riot. The lack of roaming was never missed, the near-constant combat keeping me fully engaged. It’s not just point and shoot, either.
Nicely migrated from the franchise is the need to match weapon to foe. There are eight seven weapons: assault rife, shotgun, double-barrel shotgun, chainsaw, chaingun, plasma rifle, and, of course, the BFG. In my opinion, the assault rifle is a concession to the casual gamer, what with an infinite ammo supply, but the rest require judicious use of supplies.
The best firing solution is short bursts when possible. If not, switching weapons often takes less time than reloading. Frantically reloading while an unspeakable evil charges down a hallway is another hallmark of Doom. Resist the Pavlovian urge to reload after every kill, as there is often an immediate follow-up attack.
Of course, bosses require an entirely different approach: biggest weapon to smallest, full auto, keep shooting. The exception is the BFG. That weapon requires holding the fire button down as long as possible, releasing a correspondingly large plasma discharge. I love the BFG, and I love Doom Resurrection.
Summing Up: Gold Award
Doom Resurrection is bloody fun, if you swing that way. For those that do, but worry over a “rails” ride, Doom Resurrection is “rails” like a roller coaster. For those wary of repetitious play, the replay value is in the perfect level as scored at the end. New features will diversify play with future updates like leaderboards, downloadable content and cooperative multiplayer, but even without new play, Doom Resurrection is golden.
Doom Resurrection is the best game to date for the iPhone and iPod touch. Seriously, it is, and if $9.99 seems like a lot, it’s really not, not for a game that can compete with content on dedicated handhelds like the PSP. The big brains at id Software have done it by creating the next evolutionary leap in casual gaming, and it has teeth like razor blades.