/>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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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
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