I loved Doom 3, but the “Ressurection of Evil” expansion was lackluster at best. It had a sloppy, slapdash feel to it that negated whatever tension the thing was trying to build. From the opening cutscene, it introduced a world full of cliche’ nonsense that alienated me right away.
Stealing a page from Marvin the Android, Elizabeth McNeil’s arm doesn’t seem to fit quite right. Also, what’s up with the normals on her fingers? It looks like she stuck them in a pencil sharpener. This is to say nothing of her breasts, which seem to come from the base of her ribcage.
The mission is led by Dr. McNeil, who hangs around the control room and points at the screens with her freakishly mishapen arms. She’s watching as the team of marines goes deep into Mars in search of the source of some sort of signal radiating from within the planet. I’m not sure what’s wrong with these people. The previous Mars base was destroyed when the gates to hell broke open and demons flooded out. The installation (which surely cost hundreds of billions to construct) was ruined and hundreds (maybe thousands) of people were killed.
Now they get “some sort of signal” from within the planet – from down in the ruins where the trouble started – and they throw together a mission to check it out. I’m sorry, but nobody’s that curious.
Is that some sort of form-fitting backback, or is Dr. McNeil a hunchback?
In the first game you played as a grunt, fresh off the boat. You didn’t know your way around and nobody knew your name, but that was understandable because you were new. In the expansion, you’re the leader of the group of men going into the ruins. Despite the fact that you are a ranking member of the team, nobody has bothered to learn your name, granted you any sort of security access, or even given you any equipment. Everyone just calls you “marine”, which just doesn’t make sense. I mean, who could forget a face like this…
Since you’re dealing with an archaeological site millions of years old, the obvious way to investigate is to send in a group of marines with plenty of C4. The site may be priceless, but digging is just SO boring.
Left:Not wanting to waste precious time walking to safety, our demolition expert set the timer for about four seconds and then ran for it.
Right: John Woo enters the field of archaeology.
And inside you find a glowing, pulsing, levitating heart that seems to be made from stone. Power radiates from it. Fantastic. An amazing find.
Showing less self-control and common sense than a child, our hardened marine walks in and – without saying a word to anyone – picks up the supernatural thingy. Even in normal, non-supernatural archeology, you don’t run around grabbing stuff. Nothing will distance the player from their own character than establishing early on that their character is an accomplished idiot.
“Artifact shmartifact… this sucker will be worth a fortune on EBay!”
The gates to hell fly open (again!) and evil stuff comes out. Everyone dies but you and Dr. McNeil, which is about the most unfair thing I’ve ever seen. She’s the dunce who led the team back here, and your character is the grabby moron who picked up the thing and brought the demons. If there was any justice, you two would have been the first to die, followed by the people who animated Dr. McNeil’s pipecleaner arms.
Note to extinct alien races: If you’re having trouble with invasions from hell, rather than build a super-weapon to fight evil, you could always just stop building gates that go there.
In the first game, you were just a hapless guy who got here as the trouble started. This time around, you play the guy who’s at fault. I found myself in the akward position of needing to apologize to every corpse I found along the way.
The entire experience was not at all frightening. Note that the game looked the same, sounded the same, and played the same as Doom 3, which had a number of really scary moments. I’ve harped on this subject before, but Resurrection of Evil is the perfect example of a game with the right ingredients and the wrong recipe. Both games had the same basic mechanics but Doom was great and RoE sucked.
If you want the player to be upset when everything is destroyed by evil, then take the time to let them explore the place before it gets destroyed. If you want them to be upset about the people who die, then let them get to know a few of the people before they die. Otherwise the ruined buildings and dead bodies are just scenery. And most importantly, if you want the player to be immersed in the game, you have to let them connect with their character first. None of this has anything to do with how spooky the sounds effect and lighting are, or how yucky and spikey the monsters look.
Like with any other medium, you need to start with a good story and go from there. It doesn’t have to be fancy, long, complex, or full of symbolism, it just needs to be a story worth telling. If you don’t have that, then all of your sexy technology is going to waste.
Developers take note.
The Best of 2013
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2013.
Mass Effect Retrospective
A novel-sized analysis of the Mass Effect series that explains where it all went wrong. Spoiler: It was long before the ending.
Fixing Match 3
For one of the most popular casual games in existence, Match 3 is actually really broken. Until one developer fixed it.
A programming project where I set out to make a gigantic and complex world from simple data.
Skyrim Thieves Guild
The Thieves Guild quest in Skyrim is a vortex of disjointed plot-holes, contrivances, and nonsense.