The game that defined a generation is back with tweaked controls and sleek presentation.
Those who were weaned on first-person shooters with games like Halo might be confused by the way the game plays at first. While the left stick moves and the right stick turns, the player isn't given full freedom to look around. Owing to the limitations of the PC at the time the game was originally released, the player's view can only pivot left and right. This makes running across bridges somewhat stressing, as there's no reliable way to see what's waiting below. Also, there's no jumping. Players can only move, turn, sprint and shoot their way through the game's many haunting levels.
There are familiar elements too, of course. Each level is basically a march from where the player is placed at the beginning to an exit door located in the depths of the level. Starting only with a pistol, the player will amass an arsenal of deadly weapons including a shotgun, a plasma gun, a rocket launcher, and everyone's favorite weapon: the chainsaw. Along the way, players will have to collect red, blue and yellow key cards in order to open doors in each level with the corresponding color frames. This may sound simplistic and cliche by today's standards, but it's worth remembering that this is the game that invented many of the cliches we see in FPS gaming. The only FPS convention not represented here are Nazis, but the large variety of mutated marines, fireball-slinging devils and other assorted minions from hell certainly make up for their absence. Even without the ability to look up and down, hitting enemies above and below is easy. As long as they're visible, just line the enemy up with the center of the screen, and the shot will go up or down as needed. Distance rarely becomes an issue: if it can be seen, it can be shot.
The game isn't really a true 3D game. The world is rendered in what would now be considered a primitive 3D architecture, but the enemies, items and weapons are all flat 2D sprites. This is a jarring mix of elements, especially as sprites will move in order to keep the front visible to the player. The enemy sprites have a limited range of animations, but the death of each enemy in a spray of blood and guts is still quite satisfying. The levels are fairly simple by today's standards as well. While there are stairs here and there, for the most part there isn't a lot of climbing involved. However, the sheer number of enemies more than make up for the primitive level design. At times, players will be besieged by tens of enemies, all trying to make a move on the player. As with the graphics, the sound and music are rather simplistic by the standards used today. Music is supplied by simple, repetitive MIDI strings, and most of the effects are crude and garbled. The one notable exception would be the weapons, which deliver a satisfying, believable sound upon discharge and impact.
The game's four episodes will keep players busy for a good long while, perhaps longer than any Xbox Live Arcade game ever released before. However, the real allure of the Xbox 360 version is live play. This is, unfortunately, where the game stumbles. As of this writing, all the matches were laggy to the point of being nearly unplayable, making it hard to maneuver about the maps at all. Of course, even without the lag, players are death matching in the single player levels, so it's really easy to go for prolonged periods of time without finding anyone to shoot, even in a full game. The most mileage the online experience will have is in the co-op mode, in which players can team up to take on the single-player game. Of course, that lag's gotta get fixed...
Online issues aside, those without a PC would be doing themselves a disservice by not picking up Doom. For a mere 800 Microsoft Points, players get a huge, fully fleshed out experience that can take hours, if not days, to complete the first time through. Have some fun with the original Space Marine!