Doom 3

This one was a long time coming!

I remember when this game first came out on the original Xbox – back when Circuit City was still a thing. I was excited to pick it up, and quickly fell out of love for the dark environments.

The version I’m reviewing is a port, played on Xbox One: as are a lot of my reviews of Xbox games these days, as they’re the most easily accessible (and documented) on the updated system.

Doom 3 also received an update since that fateful day I picked up a copy. The dark environments forced you to use a flashlight or a weapon – while the update allowed for the flashlight to remain on while wielding a gun, etc.

While the flashlight still drains, this change made the game more accessible for dolts like myself… though I wasn’t quite on board with Doom 3’s approach at first either. The first two Doom games were simple run-and-gun to the exit first person shooters. Doom 3 takes a more narrative approach, adding a PDA (ahem, tablet computer for you youngsters) to check emails, audio/video clips, and your inventory.

The PDA is essential for knowing some objectives or getting codes to storage lockers, which are typically stocked with a gun you may not have acquired yet, armor, and ammo. You will also use quite a bit of computer terminals and monitors throughout the game to unlock areas or solve minigames.

The extra computer/tablet content also widens the depth of the game, as you play the titular role of a space marine who is stuck on a Mars research facility that just so happened to also open a portal to Hell.

The dark environments are often covered in blood and guts, and you’ll fight zombified humans and demons in tight corridors that ratchet the game back to its roots.

You also encounter some NPCs, some friendly, and some, well, no spoilers here…

Having played every Doom game created, I was upset with myself for taking so long to give this one its rightful time. Looking back at a 2005 release, this game was pretty groundbreaking even if the pace wasn’t “arcade” enough for me way back when. The visuals hold up well, as Microsoft always had their eye on creating HD content even back when the first entered the video game console market.

The audio is full enriching, with gun shots, explosions, and the occasional creepy whisper of something not of this world. I won’t say that this is survival horror at its finest, but the game pushes enough buttons to creep you out at times.

Speaking of buttons, the controls are tight as well, and there aren’t many sections that require stupid jumps or tightrope walks leading to cheap deaths. You can also save at any time which is a lifesaver for some of us who need to take our gaming sessions in small chunks.

The best part of Doom 3 by far is the weapons.

Everything you could want is here in this edition, from the classic shotgun and chainsaw to the BFG. As the game progresses you get a sense of your own progression – and some over-the-top classic bosses top the cake.

Like practically every other Doom game ever made, Doom 3 holds its own as a unique entry which serves as a bridge from the old FPS run/gun style to a more in-depth experience worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series or any first person shooters.

Perfect Dark Zero

Here’s a game I had much higher expectations for and wish I had a different rating system to give it a different score.

A thumbs-in-the-middle still seems fair, but a lot of my criticisms with Perfect Dark Zero stem from the large shoes it had to fill from the Nintendo 64 original that this sequel is largely based on.

That N64 title is largely considered one of the greatest games of all time. It was a follow-up to another cult classic, Goldeneye 007, which was also on the N64 and developed by Rare. Without the 007 license, Rare created its own characters, storyline, etc. and dropped it into the same game engine while adding improvements – that game became known as Perfect Dark, headlined by a female secret agent in the future called Joanna Dark.

While that game dealt with Area 51, government and corporate conspiracies, this one lifts a similar concept into a much more powerful set of hardware in the Xbox 360. The result is expected to be more of the same goodness that was on the N64, but the game almost feels like too much of a departure in ways from the original and that’s what left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Don’t get me wrong, the futuristic sci-fi secret agent storyline is still there, as are some of the favorite weapons such as the P9P, Falcon, Magnum, or CMP150. However, unlike the original, you can only carry so many weapons – this is a big downer on the game and actually affects your ability to play through some levels if you choose the wrong gun to walk around with.

Furthermore, dual-wielding guns, a pretty big deal from the Goldeneye era of first-person shooters, requires you to use both triggers on the 360 controller – each gun runs out of ammo independently and zoom/scope functions are neutered in this mode entirely.

I’m sure that was a high concept on “realism” but in a non-realistic setting, it falls flat.

The same can also be said of the bigger guns in the game, such as the sniper rifle “Jackal” or fan favorite RCP-90. Picking one of these weapons up requires dropping the smaller handguns. This also occurs if you want to carry land mines or grenades as well; if you’re like me, you just go on without and totally lose the experience of using those goodies.

That’s a real shame too, because some of the additions may have been worthy, but who knows if they were necessary. In my experience, they were not. Ditto for the secondary fire feature on almost the entire arsenal available to you too. (The laptop sentry gun seems much less effective than in the first Perfect Dark, for example.)

There’s also flash bangs and riot shields, nice for eye candy, but pretty useless over making sure you holster the P9P for its scope function when also wielding a close combat weapon, such as a shotgun. About the only piece that feels right with the weapons is reloading times and how fast Joanna moves on screen. The shotgun will take awhile to load shells, while the M60’s weight slows you to a crawl.

The plasma gun is a nice addition, but if not for the walkthroughs and internet guides, I would’ve had zero clue about several other weapons that are available, notably never coming across the rocket launcher.

And that’s about how this game unfolds too. Often I found myself traveling in the wrong direction or going through a level entirely backwards due to a lack of knowing where to go and what to do next. A lot of the levels are recycled ideas from the first game too, such as ancient ruins, underground bases, and a jungle board.

The most unique level is the second one, the first “true” level (since the first is a simulation). You arrive at a night club and are asked to use stealth to locate your first objective. Good luck with that, as the AI sees you and starts a gun fight no matter what: the shots fired alert other enemies and you’re involved in a button smasher from the get go. But that’s okay: just run to a corner and allow the exhaustive supply of AI opponents to come right to your death trap.

Then you can simply run around the board until suggestive arrows finally send you the in the right direction to complete your mission, should you not fail it first by being spotted.

Spotty AI, confusing level layout and gimmicks, such as strange boss battles or using a special gadget to complete a task, hinder the overall experience. Often, the gadgets won’t work, or a certain area will see an NPC not move into the proper spot, an obvious bug which leaves you stuck and restarting. (Thank God there’s checkpoints.)

In all, I enjoyed the game more as I played through, but realized it was far from the source material of the N64 classic. Those with nostalgic feelings over that game would be best served to approach this with caution while also being thankful you can find it relatively cheap these days.

Otherwise, a full-priced Perfect Dark Zero is simply not worth the price of admission.

TimeSplitters: Future Perfect

A knock on Electronic Arts even to this day is that they became too big for their own good. Around the era of the PS2 EA had grown into a gaming giant, tying down licenses for anything and everything they could including James Bond 007 and the NFL.

EA also took a stab publishing the third iteration of Free Radical Design’s TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, which would be the third iteration of the game, and last, of the TimeSplitters series. It followed a relatively unpolished first title in the series and it’s incredibly polished and vastly expanded, critically acclaimed sequel TimeSplitters 2.

Unfortunately, I felt that Future Perfect falls flat.

The addition of a central characters, Cortez, reminds me of a mix between Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Vin Diesel, but in a much more comedic tone which at times is borderline cringy. That leads to a lot of full motion video interruptions in the game that didn’t exist in the prior two titles, which focused on split-second fast-paced action.

That doesn’t mean that this game doesn’t have it’s moments, and while I still give it a thumbs up at the end, on a scale of where TS2 was an 11 out of 10, Future Perfect falls somewhere around 6. The game feels like a corporate suit made tweaks to it and is otherwise out of place from the other games.

The storyline follows the same time travel pattern where Cortez goes through various levels based in the past, present or future. Weapons and enemies are styled to each unique level and if you had only played this version of the game, you would likely be thrilled.

However, it’s too much of a rehash on the previous titles and perhaps a step back due to the pacing. Still, it offers many of the same concepts originally brought on by development team members who previous worked on Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64, plus brought back the famous mapmaker, challenges, as well as online play (which was still in its growing stages and not as commonplace at this point in time).

If you like first-person shooters, or any of the aforementioned games, I’d give this a go. Otherwise, it’s a title that can, sadly, be passed on. (Which I hate saying, as TimeSplitters 2 is one of my all-time favorites.)