Review: Doom Resurrection for iPhone

Chris Holt
14 July, 2009
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Fire up that chainsaw, zombie demons have invaded the iPhone.

Doom Resurrection
Doom’s Day Scenario: You best shoot the shambling undead before they attack you.

Yes, thanks to a collaboration between Id Software and Escalation Studios, the gun-toting carnage of Doom has arrived for your iPhone or iPod touch, or at least a spiritual port of Doom 3 for the iPhone. While not as graphically complex as its computer cousin, the developers cleverly use the tools available to them to make a Doom game that takes advantage of the iPhone’s controls and gives a whole new generation of players the opportunity to play the iconic series.

The artwork and plot of Doom Resurrection are ported from Doom 3, which is itself a retelling of the original Doom. For those unfamiliar with the nuanced lore of Doom, a cryptic scientific experiment on a research base on Mars goes horribly awry and you play as one of the sole surviving marines in a desperate attempt to get off the facility alive. On your journey, you’ll encounter fellow survivors and invading armies of hell’s minions. Fire-hurling imps, bizarre mechanised dogs, gun-toting zombies, and flaming skulls are just some of the many campy and deadly enemies you’ll have to defeat in order to escape.

Thankfully, you’ll have plenty of firepower to ensure your survival and their extinction. The Doom series of games is renowned for certain iconic weapons, including the shotgun, minigun, chainsaw, and BFG. They all return here in addition to a plasma rifle, double-barreled shotgun, and an assault rifle that serves as the default weapon for the game (it’s the only weapon available on every stage and equipped with infinite ammo). The accelerometer controls the aiming reticule and the crosshairs calibrate every time you enter a new area. It’s also easy to pause the game and recalibrate the crosshairs if you find your placing situation is not to your liking.

While it’s nice to see the iconic weapons alive and well in the Doom series, it’s frustrating that you only have three weapons available to you at any one stage. Usually, this is only the assault rifle, shotgun, and another rotating weapon. When you start a new stage, you’ll often find you’ve lost a weapon or two, and in only one stage is this absence addressed.

The save system is done by checkpoints, which are frequent. Surprisingly, there are very few load screens in the game and the battery isn’t drained particularly quickly—whatever Id Software is doing to preserve battery life, I hope the company shares these trade secrets with notoriously load-screen heavy and battery-draining developers like EA.

Still, Doom Resurrection falls short of being a truly ideal Doom experience. It’s a “rail shooter;” the player is able to aim the space marine’s weapons through the accelerometer and fire, dodge, or gather weapons through touching the screen. But movement is only performed by the computer (except for specific event-specific dodging or diving for cover) and so it’s easy to memorise where the enemies will appear when you replay levels. So instead of immersing yourself in the world of Doom, you’ll be shooting at things on this amusement park ride.

Doom Resurrection
Armed and Dangerous: You can find new weapons like Doom’s infamous BFG.

You can’t strafe or retreat when confronting with oncoming enemies, limiting your tactics and increasing the game’s difficulty. You don’t truly “move” the player anymore than you do when reloading in a game like Time Crisis Strike. You’ll find one of your biggest challenges of the rail shooter setup is that you’ll be constantly looking to tap on items to pick them up while the camera is moving and you’re dispatching enemies. For a small screen, there is often a lot going on.

Usually, the camera only moves after you’ve cleared the enemies in a given scenario. However, on one of the later hell stages the camera panned away before I had killed an approaching demon. While I was fighting another enemy in full view, the demon was still hacking at me and slowly killing me but I couldn’t see it so I couldn’t do anything to prevent my imminent death. These moments were rare in the game, but nonetheless frustrating.

Doom Resurrection captures the close-quarters combat, terrifying atmosphere, and gunplay of the Doom series pretty well. It’s a far cry from a true first person shooter but it’s by no means a quick cash-in. That said, you still feel like John Carmack and company could have done more with this title. Having Id Software waste its considerable talents on designing a rail shooter is akin to having Monet waste his time painting band fliers or getting Hemingway to author greeting cards.

Doom Resurrection might be a pretty rail shooter, but the chosen genre limits how good it really can be. Simply, the iPhone demands a legitimate first person shooter with movement and aiming; if other developers can create a joystick using the touchscreen that allows players free movement, Id Software sure can.

Doom Resurrection is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.2.1 software update.

[Chris Holt is an assistant editor at Macworld.]

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