In an era when most publishers are content to churn out annual expansion packs masquerading as full sequels, it's heartening when they're honest enough to actually put the real thing on the shelves. You know that with an expansion pack you're getting essentially more of the same and it doesn't matter, because that's pretty much all you want; an expansion of the game you love.
The trade off, though, is that historically this extra content is farmed out to another developer to basically make more maps with the same game engine - albeit a team that's normally not quite as talented as the game's creators. But we're dealing with id here, a company not exactly in a hurry to churn out games before they're ready, and its choice of Nerve to produce Resurrection Of Evil was evidently an astute one. This is no slapdash rush job to appease the faithful, but a genuinely high class next episode that neatly moves the Doom III story on to a satisfying degree.
Set two years after the epic climax of Doom III, a UAC satellite monitoring Mars detects a beacon still emitting a signal from Site 1 - apparently a 'long forgotten' facility that existed before the invasion. A 'massive' research and security team lead by the (predictably massive-breasted) Dr. Elizabeth McNeil has foolishly been sent to the red planet to investigate in some hare-brained attempt to discover a bit more about the ancient civilisation that once lived on Earth's neighbour. Greedy, ugly profiteering ahoy.
But really. What did they expect to find two years after the entire UAC dig site was spectacularly wiped out? A few skeletons and some charred shattered remains? Maybe the presence of hell itself on the red planet two years back might have given them the impetus to stay the hell away, but there you are, an innocent Marine combat engineer wandering the lonely tomb only to find yourself uncovering an ancient artefact and opening up a portal to hell itself. Cue violent attacks from floating flaming skulls and assorted minions from hell. Best saddle up.
Taking my cynical hat off for a moment, the plot may well resemble Swiss cheese, but it's not that it really matters about ten seconds into the proceedings. You're simply there wanting ten more hours of Doom III action and that's what you're damn well getting, soldier.
Doing the resurrection shuffle
Fittingly for a game involving Satan's spawn, Resurrection Of Evil starts off like a house on fire. Stolen mercilessly from Half-Life 2, the first new toy you get to play with is the Ionized Plasma Levitator, or 'The Grabber', or, more accurately, the game's Gravity Gun. Working in a virtually identical manner to Valve's creation you can pick up and lob small to medium-sized objects at enemies, or in some cases pick up the enemies themselves and propel them (such as the flaming skulls) to their instant doom. You can't, however, chop zombies' heads off with handily placed saw blades, so minus points for that particular oversight.
Alongside that particular novelty you also get the double whammy of the Double Barrelled Shotgun and The Artifact. The former simply arrives for no good reason other than to sate the needs of Doom II nostalgists (and is mightily powerful, make no mistake), but the latter is probably the key new addition to the entire package. This hideous beating heart tempted the UAC back to Mars in the first place, with archaeologists reasoning that it's somehow tied to the three demons who pursue it. Well that's just great. Why not send an innocent Marine armed only with a shotgun and a pistol down to Mars to fight off immensely powerful demons in the name of science?
But it turns out they were right about this curious thingum enabling the bearer to do 'extraordinary things': Doom III, meet my good old friend Bullet Time. I'm sure you'll get along well.
Plays a mean organ
And indeed they do. Basically, whipping out your pulsing 'organ' (for want of better imagery) and hitting the fire button slows down time for a good 15 seconds or so (up to a maximum of three times), allowing you to whip around and cap everything in sight before it can so much as blink - especially useful in some otherwise impossible boss encounters. As you progress The Artifact enables you to also go 'Berserk' and run around punching everything to death in one hit, and latterly makes you temporarily invincible, which all comes in handy from time to time. Interestingly, the ammo for your hearty toy involves picking up the souls of downed former UAC employees which litter the base. At least they didn't die in vain...
Much like the original, Resurrection Of Evil is one dark and gloomy game, and creeping around the abandoned base will once again require plenty of switching between the dreaded torch and your weapon as a succession of creatures leap out predictably every time you turn your back. After the experiences of Doom III you simply expect things to leap out at you, and RoE takes just as many opportunities to scare the bejesus out of you.
But is it as scary as Doom III? Arguably no, because by this point you're well and truly conditioned to things that mysteriously jump out of service hatches go 'boo!' and throw fireballs and plasma at you. Besides, when things get truly hairy you simply whip out the Artifact, slow down time and nail them with far more success than before. It's simply not as challenging as it once was, and with far less in the way of exposition, it's arguably not as immersive on a narrative level either. But likewise it's not as intrusive, so some may actually prefer the more consistent action.
It's also a game that largely uses the exact same creatures as previously, meaning there's little sense of the unknown, but what is known is fabulously animated, brutally evil and incredibly detailed. There are one or two new creatures, admittedly, but these are really just variations on what's already there. Nerve tends to save its best moments for the various boss encounters that appear every two hours or so, but, again, your new time-slowing abilities combined with your Grabber make short work of anything the game can throw at you. Even the final boss was dispatched with relative ease in slow motion, and that, you could argue, was a bit of an anticlimax.
It was also bit disappointing to see the typical over-reliance on picking up PDAs to progress through the game. A little more imagination here would have gone a long way, with maybe more puzzles to get stuck into [or, you know, any -Ed], a little more narrative interaction rather than this continual reliance on 'find the key to unlock the door'. But if you're just here to blast through a few more zombies in one of the best looking game engines around then there's no way you can complain too much at what's on offer here. Remember, this isn't a sequel. You pay for more of the same.
Aside from the single-player antics there have been a few positive tweaks to the multiplayer experience, which now increases the player count from the miserly four to a more respectable eight, and throws in a CTF mode for good measure. With some decent new maps on offer and the addition of the double barrelled shotgun it's a far more solid multiplayer offering than it was last time, but still not exactly something that will distract you from your online gaming for more than a few hours (or until people work out where the Rocket Launcher is, which as ever kills the fun dead). And why can't we use the Grabber, eh?
On reflection, if you were in the camp that loved Doom III for what it was, warts and all, then you should definitely treat yourself to this well-rounded episode. It's not offering anything revolutionary, and you could argue that it doesn't fix anything that was wrong with it last time out, but the new toys are a lot of fun, it still stands out for looking absolutely stunning and given that it lasts about as long as most full priced shooters you're getting good value for money. One of the better expansion packs you'll come across, and not the kind of cash in fodder that's often associated with these things.