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Genuinely pleased with "Doom: The Lost Mission" - Elf M. Sternberg
Genuinely pleased with "Doom: The Lost Mission"
Since I have an X-Box 360 now, I've been playing a lot of old games that can be had in the Gamespot "Used" bin for less than five bucks a pop. I played through Doom 3, which I've praised before, and Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (RoE), which I panned. The difference between the two is rather straightforward: Doom 3 had an underlying story, whereas RoE was a rather dull first-person monster hunt that happened to be set in a place vaguely resembling the Mars base of Doom 3.

The Lost Mission is much better than Resurrection of Evil. It consists of six Mars maps from the original Doom 3 development cycle, heavily edited, plus two new maps set in Hell. It's rather short; Doom 3 took twelve hours to play through, whereas Lost Mission will take only 2. The (new) premise is that you're a soldier from Bravo Team, the squad you were supposed to meet up with in Doom 3 but never quite did, who finds himself alone in a part of the base with yet another secret teleporter project, who has to shut down the teleporter lest the demons find it and use it to get to Earth.

Gameplay is much better developed than RoE. Since the player is assumed to be a skilled marine, and the game authors know you've already played at least one other Doom 3 game, it doesn't mess around. Monsters that in earlier games are reserved until far later in the cycle appear much earlier.

The game's second level hands you the double-barelled shotgun from RoE, which is fantastic because the game then sends you a goddamned arch-vile to take out with it. This is a monster usually reserved for Artifact-level weapons! The fourth level doubles down with an arch-vile who summons hell knights and revenants! The respect for the player's anticipated skill level is remarkable, and quite enjoyable.

In all three games, you find people's cell phones lying around with memos, emails, voice recordings, and security keys for getting through locked doors. It's a fairly common trope. In Doom 3, those phones also told stories: arguments among crew members, basic kvetching about life on Mars, crappy food, missing home. Many phones had messages from other people, showing an interconnected community. RoE's writers didn't understand that; there a sense of "used furniture" about the messages, which further the game but don't give you a sense that Mars was a place where real people lived before disaster struck. Lost Mission is much better. It's a very short mission, so the underlying themes are around a tragedy that happened to a technician named "Jenny," and how her death affected the positioning of tools, weapons, and medical supplies, all of which is dealt with surprising subtlety and effectiveness. Sadly, you never find Jenny's phone. Security's efforts to deal with the early effects of exposure to Hell's madness, and a cultural conflict between the science crew and the construction crew, are also handled deftly. This sensitivity is what RoE desperately needed, but failed to have.

Anyway, obviously I enjoyed this game much more than Resurrection of Evil. Dear ID, more of this please. Doom 3 was a lot of things: A great story, a horror game, a combat game, a jumping-at-shadows survival game. Doom 4 so far looks like a boring splatterfest; please make it better.

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