Had Doom 3 been more like its expansion, Resurrection of Evil, there would’ve been no doubt it could compete with Half-Life 2.
RoE was developed (in conjunction with id) by Nerve Software, who gave us Return to Castle Wolfenstein. I would argue that RoE is easily a better-polished game than Doom 3 or Wolfenstein; its problem however is that it offers too little game for the price.
The main attraction is a new single-player story set roughly a year after Hell’s first invasion. The UAC, in all the brilliance of an evil sci-fi corporation, decides to re-establish a base on Mars to get at the secrets of the alien civilization previously found there. It’s hardly a minute before your character re-opens the Hellgate accidentally, forcing you to find your own way into Hell to destroy the responsible artifact.
The artifact is one of the best features of the game, and one of the coolest visual effects I’ve seen for a weapon. It’s a beating heart with machinery run through it. It’s so corrupted by evil, it feeds on souls, and floats between your character’s fingers. As you hold it, your hands gradually shift from young and healthy to withered, spotted and old. Such a small effect, but it’s incredibly seamless, and contributes to the atmosphere RoE depends on.
In practical terms the artifact allows you to enter dilated “Hell Time.” Yes, it’s a terrible name for the power. Thankfully it’s very useful, because there are moments in the game when you’d be torn to shreds, if you didn’t have the extra time to react. The number of enemies on-screen has shot up dramatically in some places, if not to original Doom levels.
That and a few other things help RoE feel more like a proper Doom game than Doom 3 did, ironically. The higher body count is amplified by claustrophobic level design, which prevents you from dodging as much as was possible before. When a Hell knight stomps after you in a corridor that’s barely wide enough for it to fit, you regain some of that fear that made Doom impossible to touch.
And I never knew how much I missed a double-barrelled shotgun until I played RoE. In Doom 3 nothing, including the chainsaw, seemed adequate for point-blank encounters. Now you can finally blow away imps and zombies in a single shot, just as in Doom II. There are even hints of the old game in the reload sounds and animation.
Continuing on the subject of weapons, much has been made of the “grabber” being a direct rip of the gravity gun in Half-Life 2. It’s undeniably similar, but it does function differently. Its use is almost exclusively offensive. If an enemy throws a fireball or any other projectile, you can use the grabber to catch it and toss it back, a tactic that’s actually required to defeat a few bosses.
What I enjoved most in RoE was an attempt to revive Doom’s sinister mood, which should be de facto when your enemy is Hell incarnate. id was so conservative with Doom 3 it’s like they were worried about it being called “a Satanic influence” - which religious critics would call it anyway. RoE’s levels are littered with skeletons, hanging corpses, blood, and broken machinery. The expansion’s version of Delta Labs is reminiscent of the escape sequence from Aliens, with burst pipes, sirens, and pulsing red lighting, on top of other things.
RoE is also harder than its parent. Here, Marine difficulty is roughly equivalent to the Veteran setting in Doom 3. I can promise you that at least one of the bosses is tougher than anything previous. There are new grunt enemies too, such as a deadlier imp-like creature with touches of Giger, and other variants on the core game’s archetypes.
But if Doom 3 was as long as an action game ought to be, RoE is too short. I’d figure there’s at most ten hours of single-player content. Although an expansion shouldn’t have to match the content of the original, this one hardly seems worth $30 or so US. For less than twice that cost, I could have more than twice the game if I wanted.
Compounding matters is that the multiplayer additions are meaningless. Extra deathmatch maps, support for eight players, ThreeWave CTF - none of these are relevant if you can’t find anyone to play with! The best I could manage was several rounds of DM on one server, which was, admittedly, loads of fun while it lasted. I could not find a CTF server with tolerable ping.
At the risk of sounding extremely pretentious, Albert Camus once said, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.” This quote occurred to me because while Camus was exaggerating (slightly), my philosophy of reviewing is that ultimately readers have a single question in mind too: is this worth buying? If it were my money, no, I wouldn’t pick up Resurrection of Evil. The kicker is that what content exists is actually a lot of fun. If you were enamoured with Doom 3, and especially if you have a group of like-minded friends, you might be willing to bite the expense.