It's been just a few months since Vicarious Visions did an admirable job of bringing id Software's graphically superior Doom 3 to the Xbox, but now publisher Activision is already prepping the game's first expansion pack, Resurrection of Evil, as a stand-alone game slated to hit Microsoft's console in October. We just had a chance to get our hands bloody with a demo version of Resurrection of Evil to determine whether this quasi-sequel will maintain the high quality set by its predecessor, as well as to discover any new gameplay goodies that may have been added. If you were impressed by the original Doom 3 on the Xbox, early indications are good that the follow-up will deliver once again.
Resurrection of Evil begins with the Union Aerospace Corporation unwisely deciding to reopen the Mars excavation site that acted as the backdrop for all the hellish goings-on in the original game. You'll play the role of a combat engineer who goes in with the initial exploratory team to access some previously sealed ruins. It seems these ruins were closed for a reason, since you quickly encounter a mysterious demonic artifact that promptly slaughters all the other humans in the area and opens a new portal straight to hell. How convenient. Even worse, the forces of the damned--led by the corrupted Dr. Betruger from the original game--are seeking that artifact, so it'll be up to you to both fight off wave after wave of hellspawn and use the device to defeat Betruger and seal up the portal once and for all.
If you played Resurrection of Evil on the PC (or even the original Doom 3 on either platform), you'll know what to expect from the game on the Xbox. You'll essentially run from point A to point B in a given level, looking for the appropriate key card or switch to open up the path to the exit. Of course, you'll obliterate all manner of zombies and hellish demons on the way there, and for that you'll have access to the same massive arsenal that was available in Doom 3. From the shotgun and chaingun to the rocket launcher, grenades, and BFG, there are plenty of ways to fight off hell's armies. The game will offer a few new enemies as well, such as a faster, supercharged version of the imp.
Oh yeah, about that artifact... It confers some nifty powers. As you play, you'll be able to charge the hell weapon with human souls found conveniently in corpses that litter the base. When you unleash that power, you'll be able to slow down time, seriously increase your melee damage output, and even become invincible, depending on how far you've gotten into the game. It might sound like these hell powers would make the game a little too easy, but at least in the PC version of the game, the difficulty ramps up to the point where you'll need to rely on them.
Luckily, the designers threw a couple of other nice upgrades into Resurrection of Evil's weapon lineup on the PC, and those additions are, of course, present on the Xbox. First up is the double-barreled shotgun, which is a nice nostalgic nod to Doom II--and more importantly, an incredibly powerful close-range weapon. But it only holds two shells at a time, so you'll have to use it judiciously. Then you have the grabber, a physics-based weapon that can pick up crates, explosive barrels, and other objects to hurl at enemies. The grabber is even more useful for plucking the demons' fireballs right out of the air and sending them flying right back. Finally, we've observed one addition--or, more accurately, a consolidation--unique to the Xbox version of Resurrection: the flashlight has been merged with the pistol. While this isn't a major change, it's nice to have at least some sort of ranged offensive capability while you're squinting your eyes in the darkest corridors.
This Xbox version of Resurrection of Evil will ship with some other goodies, in addition to the all-new campaign mode. Primarily, there's the competitive multiplayer via Xbox Live, which will feature deathmatch, tournament, and last man standing modes across a variety of new maps. Sadly, though, it looks like the two-player cooperative support that was popular in the Xbox version of Doom 3 has been dropped here. But then, the game will support downloadable content, so you never know. And at least you'll get access to those vaunted PC classics Ultimate Doom, Doom II, and the especially punishing Doom II: Master Levels, which will provide a healthy dose of nostalgia and give you some extra multiplayer madness besides.
The quality of Vicarious Visions' original Doom 3 port surpassed many gamers' expectations, given the apparent limits of the Xbox hardware. After playing through a few missions in the follow-up, it looks like Nerve Software's effort is at least equal, if not superior, to the original. This Xbox version retains a truly impressive amount of the considerable detail present in the PC version, from the normal-mapped characters to the spooky real-time shadowing that's largely responsible for the game's thick sense of atmosphere. Obviously, some corners had to be cut--many textures are noticeably lower resolution, for instance--but overall, what we've seen of the game so far looks remarkably close to the fidelity of the PC original.
Resurrection of Evil features some nice enhancements to the Doom 3 formula, yet that formula remains essentially unchanged here, so your interest in this product ought to be predicated on your satisfaction with the original game. At the least, we can say after blasting through a few levels that the Xbox port quality here looks to be just as solid as it was with the first Doom 3 last April. This "expansion" disc doesn't actually require the original game to run, and Activision is letting it go for a fairly modest $30. So if you're jonesing for more demonic action on your home theater, Resurrection of Evil will likely satisfy. The game is slated to ship in the first week of October, so look for a full review soon.