Thanks to bubbles that pop (and probably terrorism), it's not uncommon for web journalists to feel redundant in this day and age. But even so, this column feels especially redundant today in its remit of providing buying advice to the EG-reading public. [Hang on. That's what this thing is meant to do? -Ed] Because, see, chances are that you're buying Doom III whether you're particularly interested in it or not. We actually bought it subconsciously and woke up covered in cacodemon bites this morning (it probably won't surprise you to learn that we sleep with pure evil). And, despite mountains of hype for id's long awaited FPS, we can't imagine there's an informed Xbox owner out there who isn't busy tracking down a copy of The Chronicles of Riddick at this point - it does more for the genre than the last few years of PC output cobbled together have managed. And it has a bald man with milk bottles on his face slapping Chesney Hawkes around in it. Who can match that?
Certainly, there's no question that Riddick ought to be the more influential game of the two. It's a fluid, varied, beautiful experience in which there's rarely if ever a dull moment, and it's one of only a few games released this year that genuinely leaves you wanting more - after a nevertheless satisfying conclusion. Its seamless integration of various elements and the handling of the plot and character framework's interactivity ought to be a benchmark for the genre - and for the handling of licensed properties in general. Whether or not it will be remains to be seen - such things do, after all, depend on myopic publishing executives who probably don't even play the games they green-light - but in the short term it's definitely a game you need to play. Granted, it's built on a rather puzzling premise - that, despite his obvious inability to function in brightly lit rooms, nobody in the entire prison thought it might help to deprive Riddick of his treasured sunglasses - but you probably won't notice by the time he's sneaking around the underbelly of the Triple-Max gibbing crazy mutant goblin things.
Doom III, on the other hand, is vintage id Software, crammed with hellish sights and sounds and a layer of visual polish that no other developer can lay claim to. Although Riddick certainly comes close, the lower resolution of the Xbox can't quite live up to what high-end PCs are doing with Doom. On the other hand, Doom does appear to be one of those depressingly frequent Marmite titles - judging by the US reaction, it's as unpopular with some as it is popular with its fans, and the lack of a solid multiplayer component definitely impacts its hopes for the future. After all, the 'pro gaming' crowd rely on a drip feed of new first-person shooters in order to survive, and in the absence of a new id title recently they've been living off scraps. A recent tournament apparently concluded with a final round involving critically ignored FPS Painkiller. Not quite the end of the world then - but it is set in purgatory...
Whether Doom is remembered favourably or not though, few can argue that it will be remembered. With no demo or test version trailing it and a genuine competitor in Valve's Half-Life 2 sucking up just as many column inches, the game has enjoyed one of the most protracted and unseen build-ups in id's history, and marks one of the first times that a trip through an id Software title has been almost completely unknown to its audience as they throw their money into the Texan's pot. It even enjoyed something of a hype cycle - having peaked early, the primed public almost completely forgot about it until Todd Hollenshead announced, "It's done," at which point it became an instant talking point again. Looking forward, it'll be interesting to see how well the Xbox incarnation fares later this year (or early next) when its contents have already been thoroughly documented - and whether the lure of a co-operative mode will capture anybody else's attention.
Outside of the top two this week though - and if those two games aren't plugging up the top two spots of next Tuesday's UK Charts, we're going to start taking hostages - it's rather quiet. Reverently so, perhaps. Somebody still had the bright idea to release Transport Giant on the PC, mind, to tackle id's invasion. Perhaps they're confident that the two demographics don't overlap that much. Konami almost certainly feels that way with Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, although we still don't know what "Reshef" actually means. It's okay though, you don't have to explain. We'll probably survive. (We've made it this far without fully understanding the difference between 'financial' and 'fiscal' years, so an intimate knowledge of Yu-Gi-Oh-specific terminology is probably something we can live without. It's not as if the giant ants will care.)
Finally, this column would like to correct a grave error made during the production of last week's column. At the time, we suggested that perhaps "America's 10 Most Wanted", which made a bewildering chart debut this week, might feature a "Pin The Dialysis Machine On The Elusive Terrorist Figurehead" sub-mission. We would like to apologise to any buyers in the audience who were mislead by our little quip and bought the game on the premise that it might be in the slightest bit interesting or comical. It is, by all accounts, the most vehemently repugnant and execrable piece of ill-conceived malware sold on these shores since, well, Rise of the Robots. The irony, we suppose, is that the world's first contemporary anti-terrorism game is probably pushing more people over the edge than anything else before or since. "Bomber."
- PAL Releases
- Doom III (PC)
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (Xbox)
- Transport Giant (PC)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction (GBA)
- Key US Releases
- Madden NFL 2005 (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- (Well, they care about it. Bless.)