Doom RPG Mobile Review
Since cell phone technology is becoming more advanced it was only a matter of time before someone decided to shoehorn a first person shooter onto the platform, and with that being said, there's no one that I'd rather have make that all important first stab than John Carmack. Id Software's famous programmer has achieved legendary status because of his contributions to the videogame industry, but while Carmack has pretty much conquered the PC platform he yearned to branch off to another medium. Thus, and with the help of developer Fountainhead Entertainment, Doom RPG Mobile was born, an enjoyable hybrid game that combines first person combat with RPG rules.
The fact that this game is even on a cell phone is quite amazing, in part because of how good it looks and plays, but what's also interesting is this is actually a brand new entry in the Doom series, though it doesn't always feel that way. You still play as a nameless marine who's sent to a mysterious Martian military base that's overrun with blood thirsty demons from hell. But what makes this game unique is its new monsters (which are really different variations of the same old types), new weapons like the axe and the fire extinguisher (used to put out fires and flaming enemies), and of course, the RPG elements. Unlike in the previous games in the series, where you just run about and shoot anything that moves, things are a bit more structured in Doom RPG Mobile. You have freedom of movement, but the developers have divided the game world into numerous squares and you can only move to one square with each press of the Up and Down keys (while turning with Left and Right). Furthermore, you can only fire your weapons when you encounter something that'll react to them, meaning you can blast a barrel of toxic waste or a monster but you can't just squeeze off a few rounds whenever you'd like, a smart decision since I have a tendency to accidentally press the Home/Ok key. Ammo can be pretty scarce in this game, so wasting it isn't cool.
In typical RPG fashion, you and the enemies take turns attacking one another. This means the Imp will figuratively roll the dice and unleash an attack, and more often than not those fireballs will slam right into your face. Of course, after the monsters are through kicking your ass then it's your turn to respond, and by simply pressing the Home/Ok key you'll blast away but not as much as you might like. You can only fire the shotgun, pistol, and rocket launcher one round at a time before conceding your turn to your adversary. However, in the case of the chain gun, you can unleash a three round burst.
Although the words Doom and RPG appear to sound like polar opposites this game plays remarkably well. What the developers have done is pack it full of lots of enemies and enabled the user to take them down with three hits or less, so even though the action is slowed down and I was taking a beating there was always hope that I would turn things around and give those demons some much needed payback. At first it was really annoying to not be able to shoot my gun at will, but as soon as I bought into the system and cast aside what I'm used to seeing in this game's predecessors the more enjoyable it became.
Jamdat claims there are 38 different types of enemies and on paper that's correct, but all that really means is Fountainhead took the same old bad guys and made them different colors. I've yet to figure out what the difference is between the brown and the green imp. All I know is whenever I take an axe to a demon's forehead they explode into several gooey pieces.
Speaking of the axe, it's easily the best of the game's ten weapons, even better than the mind control device that enables you to control the Cerberus. Similar to the flashlight in Doom 3 it's immensely powerful and it'll cut through most of the enemies, though it can also be used to chop through busted doors. The downside to killing baddies is you need actually make it over to the monster to attack it and that's usually a dangerous trek. However, since the majority of the creatures' attacks don't cause crippling damage it's usually worth the trip just to watch their gibs fly all over the place.
This wouldn't be much of an RPG if you couldn't level up, and in Doom RPG Mobile, level up you shall. Everyone begins the game with 30% health, and over time that number will be significantly increased. The extra boost is needed because the engine is more than capable of tossing over five enemies on screen at a time, and although all of the monsters cannot attack unless they're staring straight at you (there's no angled attacks whatsoever), it's possible to get boxed in and get destroyed from all sides, an annoying yet fair situation since everyone gets a turn to splatter everyone else. Thankfully, whenever the character levels up all of his health is restored.
Similar to Doom 3, there are survivors in this game but it's an inordinate amount. There are scientists, military personnel (the fancy name for expendable grunt), and people in plain clothes. They'll give you clues how to play the game, where to pick up special key cards, and who to ask to obtain special codes. Some will be eager to help you, some will refuse to talk, and others will transform into monsters. But most of them have something informative to say. Clues are the most sought after info, especially when they aid the player in solving a puzzle, none of which are too difficult. My favorite is searching an auto map in order to locate a code that'll unlock a particular door. To my surprise, the map itself is divided into four sections, each of which is in the shape of a number.
Despite Doom RPG being enjoyable to play it's not even close to being a perfect game. Jamdat claims that there's about five hours of gameplay here, but what the company won't tell you is most of that time will be spent backtracking. It's very tedious and annoying, especially since all of the monsters regenerate when you reenter a previously cleared area. On the flip side, these are demons from hell and I suppose they're not supposed to play fair, but in terms of solid gameplay design this is a bad move because this isn't a first person shooter. You can't strafe whenever a monster pops out from behind a corner because once the turns have been initiated you've agreed to pretty much allow this demon to take a shot at you. This results in the loss of health, med packs, and in some cases, life. But what really sucks is accidentally pressing the Home/Ok key when I'm standing in front of a major entrance. There's points in this game that sort of act as hub worlds where you'll have two or three doors that lead to different combat areas, and if you leave one of those areas before you complete it that means you'll have to kill all of those monsters again.
I also got lost quite a bit. Everyone's telling me to go find the green/blue/red key card and it's just a big pain in the ass tracking that bad boy down. That's another thing that pisses me off. Approaching a locked door and having to travel a billion light years just to grab a damn card is soooo 1994. These people are depending on this marine to thwart the demon invasion. Give the brother some damn keys!
What eventually happens is this game degenerates into a mindless blast fest. I never forgot that I was on a quest and that there were objectives to complete, but the more lost I became the less I cared about saving anyone. I'd just pop open the phone, murder a few monsters on the bus, save, and be on my way. However, the game's fun enough that doing that doesn't necessarily mar the overall experience. Cell phone games should provide quick bursts of entertainment and Doom RPG Mobile's developers have accomplished this.
They've also done a hell of job with this game's visuals. The 3D engine is remarkably smooth considering the platform and the environments are quite detailed. There are futuristic corridors and underground locales, and this is all made better by the splashes of blood that have been dashed about. It's annoying to constantly see the word DIE everywhere (Fountainhead must have only been able to write a three letter word given the technology...I guess), but it's better than nothing. Also, there are a lot of secrets in this game and you're encouraged to press on every wall in order to discover hidden rooms.
As for the enemies, they're extremely pixilated but they all stand out on the tiny screen. Other cool stuff, such as the fire balls, weapons, and flying gibs are also fun to look at. But what's really impressive, far more than the visuals is the sound. The gun blasts, demonic cries, and other neat effects have been pulled right from the original Doom titles and they sound fantastic.
More so than any of its predecessors, Doom RPG Mobile is supposed to inspire us to strategize and solve puzzles to reach its end, but even with these sophisticated elements it degenerates into a mindless shooter. I suppose that's fitting because it would have really sucked if the developers attempted to craft something totally different (like Doom RTS or DOOM the dating simulator). But even though this game loses much of its focus it still provides a hell of a good time and on a cell phone, no less. Sequels should follow, and if id Software is smart, it'll include the axe in its next first person shooter.
What's Hot: The solid engine, fun gameplay, and creatures/sound effects that have been pulled right form the classic series.
What's Not: Re-spawning enemies and back tracking.