/>Published by Activision
Developed by Id
While most people could agree that Doom 3 was a good game on the PC, the argument is still going on as to whether or not it was a great game. Read around and you’ll see the same complaints popping up time and again. People didn’t like the unrealistic overly dark environments. People didn’t like that the game used the same few scares over and over again until it became predictable. People didn’t like that you couldn’t wield a gun and shine a flashlight at the same time.
Obviously, the Xbox port was never going to do much to address those issues, but all things considered I must say it’s been the better experience.
If you look at it with the eyes of a PC gamer, you might be disappointed. Granted, the game doesn’t look as good as its PC cousin, that sports higher resolution textures and display modes, but there are few multiplatform games that you can’t say the same about. The truth is that this is one of the most impressive looking games on the console. The combination of the lighting and the bump mapping add up into a very immersive, cohesive whole.
Contrasting shadow and light wrap and fold more realistically over the environment than you’re likely to have seen in any other game. Doom 3’s atmosphere is almost inescapable at times, and when it all holds together there are few games that can match it.
A lot of that is down to the sound design. What sounded good on the PC if anything sounds better on the Xbox. The most notable thing to this gamer’s ears are the gun noises, which were really lacking punch on the PC version. It’s not so much that the sound design has changed; it just seems to resonate that much better here. It’s one of those games that is going to make those that own surround systems very happy. Those rear speakers are going to scare you to death, and save your life repeatedly in almost equal measure. Atmospheric sounds abound, creepy whispers circle you, and things attack from all directions.
Controls have been well handled, taking the Halo-esque standard and wisely sticking to it…you’ll find the controls streamlined even for an Xbox game. Doom 3 has enough buttons to spare to allow the D pad directions to be mapped to any weapon you should want for easier and quick selection of weaponry. The only real complaint about the controls is that you cannot throw a grenade on the fly, and it makes the already pretty sucky grenades almost completely useless.
The game isn’t without other problems. Whether or not the torch will bother you, you probably already know. Personally I like the added tension of deciding whether I want to be able to see or defend myself, and while it’s no more unrealistic than demons from hell or carrying 10 big weapons and lots of ammo, it is more unconventional.
The level design is monotonous. Grey metal walled, darkly lit rooms and corridors. I could cheekily suggest that we shouldn’t expect a diverse color palette from ID, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re going to spend 90% of your time in that kind of environment. This is one thing that is worse on the Xbox as it’s missing some of the PC’s exterior sections. If you got bored playing Halo, then I think you’re likely to get bored here too. Really though, even Halo offered up more diversity.
There is a really nice change of pace towards the end, where the level designers really go to town, but I personally feel it comes too late. If you have the patience to make it so far, you will be rewarded…but you might not have the tolerance for it.
Frustratingly, for most of the game you aren’t really going to feel like you’re doing anything but trying to catch up with other marines who are always seemingly just a few steps ahead. It doesn’t help that this is very much a carrot on the end of stick, and the tantalizing thought of fighting along side a few marines never comes to pass.
You see, the world of Doom 3 revolves around you much more than it should. Everything is set up to be triggered by the player when they hit a given invisible trigger…and there’s nothing you can do about it. Most of the enemies spawn in, or are stood in the darkness or a hidden closet waiting for you to step on the right section of floor before popping it, and while this can catch you by surprise and give you a good jump scare, it only works once. Should you die and have to replay that section, you know exactly where the monsters are, or at least, where they will be.
But worse is that you come to learn all of IDs tricks. The triggers may be invisible, but there are patterns and rhythms to them, and after a while they’ll almost completely stop catching you by surprise. If you stand still in a room without monsters, nothing will happen…and it’s almost crippling. You can catch a breath and collect yourself whenever you want.
Which all really means that Doom 3’s single player campaign is best played in smaller doses. As soon as you feel yourself getting on top of the game, as soon as you get a handle on it again, it’s probably time to stop playing. Sure you could just blast through the whole game in a few sittings, but really I think it’s probably best to take it in half an hour, to an hour, long sittings.
While they have trimmed some areas from the PC version as hinted at before, a lot of those areas weren’t rewarding from a game play point of view, and the more to the point Xbox version is definitely a small improvement.
Doom 3 works the first time you walk into a new room and get attack by a monster from some unexpected direction. If its repetition is something you can see past, you’ll find one of the most horrifically inclined first person shooters in a long time. While it’s influences are as apparent as ever (Aliens with demons), that doesn’t undermine how fun it can be when it works…the only thing that undermines that, is some seemingly lazy or unimaginative design.
Thanks to its completely prescribed gameplay, the replay value of the single player campaign is almost nil. Yes you have a difficulty select, but it doesn’t change the game as much as you might hope. It doesn’t add any more enemies, just makes the ones that are there tougher and do more damage. Nightmare mode continually drains your health until it reaches 25%. Not my idea of fun anyway, but you might get some enjoyment out of it.
No, for replayability you have to look to the multiplayer. First of all, unless you were fortunate enough to get the collectors edition, which offers some of the classic doom games playable in split screen, you’re only looking at system link and Xbox Live. Doom 3 is already pushing the Xbox to its limits, which makes split screen out of the question.
The multiplayer offers three modes, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Co-op. The first two are pretty self-explanatory. There are a handful of levels playable with up to four people. It’s the same package that left most PC gamers underwhelmed. Sure it’s okay, but the shadows turn Deathmatch into hide and seek with guns. What should be faced paced gets reduced to a crawl as you check out every shadowy corner. No doubt some people are going to find it fun, but Xbox Live has a lot of better things to offer.
Fortunately, one of those “better things” is part of this package. For me, the two player Co-op is the star of the whole show, single player included. While it doesn’t offer any adjustable difficulty like you might desire, and while the story maybe be mostly missing, along with a good chunk of levels, there’s still a good six hours of fun to be had in the Co-op mode.
What impresses me most about it is that while the levels here are mostly identical as far as layout goes, what has changed are the enemy placements and the weapon placements. The levels have been tweaked to work with two people and work they do. While Doom 3‘s Deathmatch loses much of what made the single player work, Co-op throws away anything that slows the game down, and somehow ends up working better than the single player.
Without fixing the inherent problems, Co-op manages to make the game work all the same, flaws intact. For example, dark areas encourage team work thanks to the restrictions of the torch, as one player tries to light the way while the other player tries to cover them. Trying to shine the beam onto monsters, while keeping yourself clear of the other persons line of fire and safe from the monsters yourself is just as scary as relying on the torch shining whim of the other player. It’s not uncommon to find yourself plunged into darkness with next to no health, as your torch bearing companion is torn to shreds.
Most importantly Co-op stops the world revolving around you. All the monsters are still triggered as before, but now, you’ve added a random element to the mix. You could be stood still reloading, and find a cacodemon spawning in right next to you. Like campfire horror tales, you actually start scaring each other too. You won’t play through co op without being made to jump by suddenly running into your companion. It’s a cheesy scare in a horror movie, but it’s a testimony to Doom 3’s strong atmosphere here.
It doesn’t offer any incentives as far as replayability goes, but I’m replaying the Co-op currently with a different person, and it’s a different experience so I’d argue it has more replayability than the single player as you can change a big element of the game by just diving in with a different buddy.
Amongst my fondest memories of Doom 3 are playing Co-op and hanging back to reload while my companion decided to forge on and listening to the ensuing gunfire, monstrous growls, and genuine screams of fear, knowing that if whatever else was in that next room killed my companion, that it was coming for me next. I expected Co-op to be fun……”a blast” as ID had suggested, but was very pleased to find it was something even better. It was scarier than the single player.
If you haven’t got Xbox Live, or a friend with an Xbox and a copy of the game, I’d suggest renting this one first, unless you already spent a bit of time with the PC version and didn’t mind its flaws there. If you played the PC version, there really isn’t much to see here beyond the Co-op, and I can’t promise you you’ll find it worth the $50. But if you do have Xbox Live, and a willing friend, I fully recommend the experience. Subtract a full mug of blood if you don’t have Live.
4 out of 5
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PANTHER RIDGE Review – When Your New Job Takes You To Interesting Locations
Written by Ryan Swantek
Directed by Ryan Swantek
Director Ryan Swantek’s graphic-take on a young woman unhappy with her looks in White Willow was in my useless opinion, one of the strongest short films to hit the horror genre in quite some time. It was brutal, unflinchingly ruthless to eyeball, and best of all for a first-time directorial effort, there was no apology for what was put before us – let’s venture over to Panther Ridge.
So what comes around in the second-time in the big guy’s chair? Well, when I’d heard that it was a sadistic look into the BDSM scene, I’ll admit I was a bit intrigued (no, I’m not into that stuff, ya kooks) – I’d just honestly hoped for a bit more than what was tossed to me. This particular short film is titled Panther Ridge, and it tells the story of a young lady who is getting a fresh start in a new career – that of a dominatrix, of sorts. As this presentation begins, she’s smack dab in the middle of a dungeon with a very unlucky prisoner and the woman who will be guiding her in her “training.” I’ll tell ya, first days on the job can be stressful, but with the correct forms of relief, you can make it through the day all the while exorcising some pent up demons as well.
Commence brutality upon this poor tied-up fool and the lass roped up across from him, for they know not what lies in store for them next, but rest assured they’ll be making a blood donation whether they want to or not. Unfortunately my self-imposed hype proved to be insurmountable as Swantek’s second time up to the plate resulted (for me, anyway) in a big swing and a miss. What worked in his maiden voyage with Willow was the notion that you were going to witness the repercussions of a tortured soul as she looked in the mirror, whereas this time we’re watching some poor sap get the snot beaten out of him, and I could honestly see the same thing in a number of other productions for a longer stretch of time (if you dig that sort of thing). I’ll await Mr. Swantek’s third production when it’s time, and hopefully it’ll pack more of a sustained punch than this quickie.
Swantek’s sophomore directorial endeavor unfortunately isn’t much more than shock and torture-porn crammed into an abbreviated timeframe – been down this road more than a few times.
EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS Blu-ray Review – Savagery & Sexuality From The Master Of Sleaze
Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Monica Zanchi, Donald O’Brien
Directed by Joe D’Amato (Arisitide Massaccesi)
Distributed by Severin Films
After taking famed sex icon Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) to Bangkok (1976), America (1976), and Around the World (1977) legendary sleaze director Joe D’Amato decided to mash up two of Italy’s most notorious genres by sending his beautiful muse down to the Amazon rainforest, cinematic home to countless hordes of cannibal tribes. The Italian cannibal craze of the late’70s was just beginning to take hold, offering D’Amato a ripe opportunity to satisfy both the bloodlust and, well, regular lust of exploitation devotees worldwide. For the most part the film plays out expectedly, with a reasonably large group of people meeting in the Amazon and trekking off on a quest. By the end, that group has dwindled down to only a few members, all of whom probably have a lot of regret about traipsing through the jungle. Aficionados will get a bit of a “been there, eaten that” vibe from the film, which hits every trademark of the genre sans animal cruelty, but Emanuelle herself spices up this cannibal comfort food with an alluring performance capped off by one helluva genius ending. The film also holds the dubious distinction of showing a penis being eaten less than 15 minutes after the opening credits. You set a high bar, Joe.
When an unlucky nurse has half of her tit eaten off by a newly-arrived mental patient, a girl found in the Amazon jungles, journalist Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) infiltrates the sanitarium to score a hot scoop. Armed with a camera concealed within a baby doll head, Emanuelle surreptitiously snaps a few shots before making the new girl talk via… digital means – and I’m not talking technology. Emanuelle takes her information to Professor Mark Lester (Gabriele Tinti), a museum curator whom she hopes will fund her expedition. He agrees. Then, she goes and screws some random guy in broad daylight down by the river. Later, she comes back and has more sex, this time with Mark. The next day they leave for the Amazon.
Upon arrival, the two are met by Isabel (Monica Zanchi) and Sister Angela (Annamaria Clementi), both of whom have altruistic plans of their own in the rainforest. Their trek soon brings them across Donald (Donald O’Brien), a hunter who is on safari with his wife and a guide. Now that the film has brought together a large group of people, some of whom are more reprehensible than others, it’s time to pick them off and watch in delight as cannibals of the Amazon gut them, skewer them, and devour their flesh while the soothing sounds of Nico Fidenco play in the background.
So many of these Italian cannibal pictures feel interchangeable because the formula is incredibly simple – send a group of naïve outsiders into the Amazon and let an indigenous tribe kill and eat them, usually in the most horrific manner possible. What sets this film apart from so many others is in the title: Emanuelle. Gemser is not only easy on the eyes but she has this magnetic presence on screen, not because she is a great actress but her looks, abilities, and personality combine to create one of exploitation cinema’s most capable and sultry sirens. It is entirely due to her ingenuity here that anyone survives at all. She isn’t a rag doll, tossed around and used for sex and companionship; Emanuelle is a woman in charge of her own sexuality and she calls the shots. This film was made during a time when women were often used as set dressing or spent most of a film being subservient, so it’s a nice change of pace to have one in the lead who takes control and it feels natural, not forced.
Don’t go thinking this is some kind of strong female-led picture that celebrates womanhood or anything. D’Amato never likes to peer too high from his gutter view, and “Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals” is a sleaze sensation; a cornucopia of cannibalism and carnal acts that culminates in the titular heroine literally becoming a god… temporarily. D’Amato takes two of humanity’s greatest loves – eating and screwing – and builds a story around them. Besides all of the aforementioned fornication, nipples are eaten as an amuse-bouche, penis tartare is part of the starter course, a vagina makes unexpected friends with the business end of a machete, a woman is gutted like a deer, and one guy learns a thin rope can still be strong enough to tear the human body in half. Nobody gets out of this thing unscathed… except, maybe, for Emanuelle who seems unfazed by every atrocity the world throws her way.
Ugly films need beautiful music and the lush, soothing sounds of Nico Fidenco make for the ultimate dichotomy of relaxation and revulsion. Fidenco’s score is less the serene soundscape Riz Ortolani composed for Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and more of a funky, porno-lite trip down ‘70s Lane. Oftentimes the composers on these rough Italian pictures delivered scores that felt like they belong to something more refined and accessible, not a movie destined for banning in multiple countries and cut to ribbons in others. Fidenco provided the score for many entries in the Black Emanuelle series and while those films might be past their prime the music is completely timeless.
Severin has provided a new 2K scan from unknown elements, delivering a 1.85:1 1080p image that falls right in line with most of their catalog. The picture has been cleaned up enough to allow for high-def improvements in clarity and coloration to (mostly) shine through, while still retaining a gritty look to remind viewers this is still a grindhouse picture. Film grain is heavy and active, swarming the picture but never becoming noisy. Contrast is variable, as is sharpness, with some scenes looking closer to HD than others. Colors are accurate but a bit anemic, too, with only a few instances of truly popping against the ever-present jungle greens. Detail is swallowed up in darkness, so don’t expect to see much of it when night falls, which thankfully isn’t often. I’ll say one thing Italy sure does make for a fine Amazon stand-in.
Audio is available in both English and Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono, both of which offer a similar audible experience. The standout here is unsurprisingly hearing Fidenco’s score in lossless glory. The ADR work is typically poor and obvious, but everything is understandable and there are no noticeable issues with hissing or audio damage. Subtitles are available in English.
The World of Nico Fidenco – The legendary composer sits down for a new interview, covering his career and the Emanuelle series. In Italian with English subtitles.
A Nun Among the Cannibals – Actress Annamaria Clementi provides a new interview about her role in the film and what it was like working with D’Amato. In Italian with English subtitles.
Dr. O’Brien M.D. – This is an archival interview with Donald O’Brien, who played the wild and wily hunter, Donald, in the film.
From Switzerland to Mato Grosso – Actress Monica Zanchi gives a new interview that covers her career.
I Am Your Black Queen is an audio-only archival interview with Gemser.
A theatrical trailer (in SD) is also included.
- BRAND NEW 2K REMASTER OF THE FILM prepared for this release
- English and Italian audio tracks, with optional English subtitles
- The World of Nico Fidenco – an interview with the composer (27 min)
- A Run Among the Cannibals – an interview with actress Annamaria Clementi (23 min)
- Dr. O’Brien MD – an interview with actor Donald O’Brien (19 min)
- From Switzerland to Mato Grosso – an interview with actress Monica Zanchi (19 min)
- I Am Your Black Queen – an audio commentary by actress Laura Gemser (11 min)
- Original trailer
There is no point to making complaints about plotting when watching a film with this title. D’Amato promises viewers nothing more than a sleazy time intended to induce equal parts creep and kink into a span of time. Severin’s release offers a cleaned-up picture and a solid selection of extras that catch up with a few of the principal cast and crew.
KAET MUST DIE Review – A Game Worthy Of Its Title
Available on PC through Steam
Rated T for Teen
If you are looking for a new survival horror game that is both challenging and irritating, then Kaet Must Die could be your new obsession/torture. The indie game is set in an underground sewer where you are Kaet, a psionicist cyber punk trapped by a “blood witch” named Annalinnia. The objective is to figure out how to escape the ‘dank’ sewer before time runs out and Annalinnia takes your life. Along the way you’ll have to tiptoe over comatosed zombies and frighten off Jawa like creatures with light you absorb from glowing mushrooms. And that’s about it. The game was created and developed by Strength in Numbers Studios Inc., a fairly new gaming company in the world of survival horror.
Now, I normally don’t play these types of survival games. As a novice in the indie survival genre, the experience of trying to complete the first level of Kaet Must Die was quite tedious. Now this is to be expected, as their advertising makes it quite clear that the good folks at Strength In Numbers studios are shooting for the “difficult games are fun” crowd. They give the player plenty of warning that they will need more than luck to survive. Yet here I am to tell you that the first level is possible to get through regardless of what difficulty you select. It just might take a few hunderd tries.
The game starts you off in the underground sewer with Kaet’s sanity at ten (read “sanity” as “health bar). Kaet’s sanity will drop when not in lit areas, another reason why you need to collect the glowing mushrooms. Having six minutes to follow the clues and find the skulls before time runs out gets tricky, especially when Anna comes for you by randomly generating around the map until luck is no longer your friend. Levels will become progressively more difficult, and your time limit changes depending on the size of the map. It’s not terribly complicated, but also not terribly exciting.
There are a few upsides to Kaet Must Die. Like every good survival game, Kaet Must Die has decently immersive visuals and sound. The look and feel of the game is much more appealing than some, from the detailing of the zombies to the sewers you land yourself in. Not that sewers are a pretty place to be in, but they have a solid fantasy/horror vibe. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of cohesion to the various sub-par lights and average shapes. It can be downright impossible to tell where things are around you. You’ll want to keep your ears open, as frustration will become all too familiar when you are too late to hear the gentle snoring of a zombie or the disturbing giggle of the Jawa-like creatures.
I would say that it’s nice that they at least let me change the controls, but for some reason they don’t save when you quit the game. The only settings that stay exactly where you set them are the basics for resolution, sensitivity, and graphics. Now, what is not so frustrating is that after you get killed three or four hundred times, the skulls that you need to escape Anna won’t randomly be somewhere else when you restart the level. Another upside is that as you slowly start to regain Kaet’s powers, you will finally be able to slow down the creatures and make your way to exactly where you need to go. One of Kaet’s powers is the classic stun. Using this power to stun any monster in place for at least five seconds was a relief, and gave me time to focus at the task at hand. Like the mushrooms, Kaet’s stun powers need to be recharged by absorbing puddles of glowing red blood. Simple, right? Well, sort of. Clues left behind hint that the blood makes you more powerful, but also slowly kills you.
For anyone who is not typically good at horror survival games, this isn’t for you unless you have the patience of a saint. The difficulty comes in three flavors: Challenging (Easy), Difficulty (Normal), and Nightmare (Hard). If you’re one of those people that absolutely must have a zombie apocalypse survival plan for any possible situation, you’ll probably find some enjoyment from Kaet Must Die. For everyone else, I would wait for a Steam sale. There are 10 levels to get through to beat this game, but have fun and good luck getting past level 1.
This indie survival game is too irritating to play. Kaet Must Die is near impossible to finish and it’s not a lot of fun no matter how many times you die..
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