It’s gaming week on Appstruck and despite my bias toward the simplistic puzzle and cutesy adventures games available in mass numbers on the iPhone, I felt like starting this week with a bang, covering a PC turned iPhone game that manages to successfully compartmentalize a monster game with massive system requirements that choked enough people into major upgrades – or buying a whole new computer – at the time of its release, into the itty bitty iPhone. Not only this, but it’s a sequel to Doom, one of the most classic computer games, probably better known than Castle Wolfenstein 3D as the iconic “shoot ‘em up” game. Oh, that’s right. I’m talking about Doom 3, turned Doom Resurrection for the iPhone.
iD software’s technical director John Carmack really touts the belief the iPhone 3G S and future generations will become a serious contender in the handheld gaming platform field, saying in an interview “I love the iPhone. It’s a real game platform, not a tiny little toy,” claiming in terms of hardware the iPhone is actually “better in performance than the Nintendo DS and the Playstation Portable.” This is a big change from the original iPhone in just a few short years, when there was a big compromise in gaming compared to what you could play on traditional game platforms. With that said, it’s easy to understand the draw many graphics-hungry teenagers and young adults alike will have toward bigger, badder games with complete story lines. Doom 3, itself, was a whopper for the PC when it debuted in late 2004, requiring a minimum of 2 GB of hard drive space – 4, really, if you were running low -; 384 MB of memory, 1 GB for serious gamers; An Nvidia GeForce 3 graphics card or ATI Technologies 8500 – given the game’s demanding visuals, serious gamers splurged on a GPU from Nvidia’s GeForce FX or 6800 line or ATI’s Radeon 9800 or X800 series; and a minimum 1.5 – gigahertz Intel Pentium 4 chip or AMD Athlon 1500, but ideally a processor of 3GHz or more.
Those who relished the game really appreciated the unified lighting and shadowing, complex animations and scripting that showed real-time with fully dynamic per-pixel lighting and stencil shadowing, and GUI surfaces that added extra interactivity to the game. However, such graphics cannot be fully realized on the limited mobile platform to date. To adapt for the iPhone, John Carmack worked alongside Escalation Studios in down-rezzing the artwork from the original PC game, in other words, putting the game at a way lower resolution than can be produced on the more powerful PC platform. Obviously, we have a ways to go before playing with truly stunning visuals on mobile phones, but with the iPhone 3G S, we now have the physical foresight to understand iPhone games will definitely deliver these elements eventually, and Doom Resurrection is the first authentic proof for it. So long cutesy puzzle games, make way for the PC turned iPhone games.
The plot of Doom Resurrection is similar to that of Doom 3, but it takes place in a different part of the space station than the Doom 3 story. The game starts off with ominous music and a transmission overview of the events that happened at the Union Aerospace Corporation, an advanced weapons and defense research facility that expanded into biological research (nothing like unlimited government funds and no moral or legal obligations to open a dimensional rift into hell). The transmission further states that at approximately 21:00 hours June 2145, something happened in the delta labs that required marine forces to be deployed throughout the facility. Your character is a part of one of those teams, Bravo Team, and you are the sole Marine survivor at the start of the game, stuck on Mars with legions of demons from hell. It looks to be a good morning.
As in Doom 3 you can play with four levels of difficulty – Recruit, Marine, Veteran, and the iconic Nightmare mode – and you may speak to scientist characters and use all the original PC game weapons, including the starting paltry machine gun that can barely take down a zombie – but which, thankfully, has an infinite supply of ammo – the double barrel shotgun that blows enemies to bloody, pink rain and disjointed limbs, and even the BFG, which I hope all of you know by now is the Big F***ing Gun (evaporates everything, but uses ammo like there’s no f***ing tomorrow, which frankly, could very well be the case in this game). Your enemies are all grotesquely rendered – proving the down-rezzed iPhone graphics actually pull a punch and still look impressive – and blood gushes with every bullet smattering into flesh, your screen shaking as they hit, or <insert EEEWWWWW here> when you get leapt upon and have your flesh succulently feasted upon by the hideous fat zombies with open cross-sectionals of their abdomen. The first enemies are variants of zombie: slow moving ones with no weapons, fat ones with a penchant for human flesh, and more hardcore shotgun guys with black armor and a need for speed. Imps are quickly introduced, flinging fireballs at you which you must dodge (use the button on the lower left) and those large, scary demons that look like a biological monstrosity - bioengineering, genetics and crossbreeding gone awry – with metal legs and a giant, naked pink walrus look to its front with ravaging shark teeth and a big bite. Don’t worry, later in the game there are plenty of lost souls, specters and spiderdemons to keep the frenzy fresh. Doom hardly ever lets you down.
Unfortunately, I cringe at the aforementioned statement. Let’s focus on the word “hardly” in that statement, shall we? I felt nostalgic playing the game, but it barely holds a candle to Doom 3, which in its day was one of the creepiest and most scintillating games on the PC. The darkness was thick and ominous, with realistic lighting that cast waving shadows as you bumped into a lightbulb, causing it to shudder and wave back and forth on its wire. It was impossible not to feel trepidation at every dark corner (and the whole game was dark corners), your heart pounding, palms sweaty, never knowing when a creature was going to leap out of the darkness and eviscerate you. Doom Resurrection is just as violent and bloody, sure, but the lack of ambient lighting and mood really detracts from the game’s atmosphere; thus, tragically, the element of fear so intrinsic to Doom 3 is somewhat, but not fully realized.
Certainly, not everything is next-generation. While the music sets the mood, the story unfolds through text-based still frames, which end up being more comical and cheesy than befitting of a terrifying horror game. That’s clearly a limitation of the mobile platform. Also, make sure you’re in a good and comfortable position for the auto-calibrating feature that happens at each level for your aiming mechanism – otherwise you may end up tilting your phone at awkward angles trying to get your cursor back in the middle of the screen. Think of it as re-learning the whole aiming curve. Since you tilt your iPhone around to aim, the game is trying to take full advantage of the iPhone’s user integration, but it also helps to make way for frustration and trouble when first trying out the game. In good news, Doom Resurrection runs fine on the iPhone 3G (even better and more smoothly on the iPhone 3G S) with only the occasional slowdowns in action from too many enemies on screen at once.
While Doom Resurrection is visually pleasing for the iPhone and impressive to behold, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the mobile platform still leaves a lot to be desired, and adapting the Doom 3 PC game for the iPhone was definitely no small feat. Obviously, some compromises were made, and in the event of maintaining aesthetics, with Doom Resurrection we get a pretty bad case of form over function. I’ll just say it plainly: you don’t control your character’s movement in Doom Resurrection.
I’d like to say this restrictive movement compromise isn’t too bad given the limitations of the iPhone, that it’s just too hard to control movements at the same time you’re controlling your aim with just your fingers tapping on a screen, but I just don’t agree with this. Doom 3 is a shooting game, not a point and shoot game, and the fear and fright and intrigue of the game goes hand and hand with the ability to roam freely, explore the environment, and get yourself into massacre trouble. Putting the game on autopilot turns Doom into an even more repetitive game of mindless gore, where you don’t even have the option of stopping and examining those grimy pipes should you need a breather (though the low res graphics probably won’t have you looking around). With the game forcing you on a pre-assigned route, there’s only a select few seconds at times to blow up boxes and pick up ammo, and worse, there’s no way to back away from the oncoming charge of those brutish demons. At times, your character hilariously moves toward the enemies, when he could easily snipe them from a distance, which any intelligent player would do before facing deathblows at point blank. Come on iD Software, really?
Doom Resurrection is selling for $9.99, which may be more than some people are willing to spend, especially for a game many would consider watered-down from the original version. However, for those serious gamers interested in testing the nascent 3-D gaming water of the iPhone, then Doom Resurrection is a sure fire way to see what is currently available technology-wise, and what possibilities ensue from it. If Doom Resurrection continues to sell well in the AppStore, it may just prompt more developers to create high-quality games that surpass the very simplistic games that breed in numbers for the iPhone, and effectively have the iPhone transcend from phone into proper gaming platform.
*Carmack quotes from http://www.slidetoplay.com/story/stp-interview-id-john-carmack-doom-resurrection