- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Doom 3 from Activision for Xbox, rated M: Content suitable for ages 17 and older, $49.99. A thrilling ride awaits players daring enough to visit a Mars colony plagued by gruesome happenings in this next installment of one of the most popular first-person shooting games of all time.

Through frighteningly realistic action, Doom 3 provides the ultimate in horror-science-fiction interactivity.

Within the single-player campaign, the player takes control of a Marine who has been reassigned to the Union Aerospace Corp.’s massive complex on the red planet. (This organization’s credibility is on the level of Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corp.)

The routine replacement assignment deteriorates quickly as residents become possessed by demonic forces that have been released in the bowels of the Delta Labs and quickly are turning the base into a supernatural catastrophe.

The player must survive as, through a first-person perspective, he collects clues and data in his personal digital assistant, and, of course, wields massive firepower, including ancient Mars technology, to splatter the Lovcraftian monstrosities out to consume him.

Claustrophobic passageways mix with darkness that will have the player sweating with anxiety in this hell-forsaken world. which requires strategy and observation skills rather than running and gunning for longer survival times.

The multiplayer modes include cooperative challenges as well, with players needing help from either an Xbox Live or System Link connection.

Creepy characters, haunting sounds and 3-D chambers of fear all equal a cinema-quality experience that will put a stranglehold on any mature player willing to deal with the subsequent nightmares related to entering their version of Doom.

Area 51, from Midway for PlayStation 2, rated M: Content suitable for ages 17 and older, $49.99. A famed government research facility becomes the basis of another first-person shooting extravaganza as an extraterrestrial contamination threatens to infect all of Earth’s inhabitants.

The adventure is a very watered-down version of Doom despite the Hollywood firepower surrounding the game — David Duchovny of “The X-Files” sleepily voices the hero, hazard-materials specialist Ethan Cole; shock-rock star Marilyn Manson vocally represents a supercreepy alien named Edgar; and the Academy Award-winning effects company Stan Winston Studios provides the creature creation.

As Cole, the player works through a quintet of levels filled with dark corridors as he encounters a standard issue of mutating monsters.

He has at his disposal a selection of weapons to stop the infected scientific researchers and soldiers and a scanner that basically unlocks extra goodies in the game.

A few enjoyable features include Cole’s becoming infected by the pathogen himself and using some cool powers against the aggressors, collecting files on almost every conspiracy theory, and stopping by the set of the faked moon landing — hidden, naturally, on the Area 51 site).

Decent graphics enhance the Area 51 experience, and the obligatory multiplayer function accommodates up to 16 pals for an evening of survival.

I-Robot: All-Access Collector’s Edition, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated PG-13, $29.99. This two-disc DVD set offering the latest “definitive look” at the Will Smith pseudo-science-fiction blockbuster reveals itself as another attempt by Hollywood to squeeze every dollar it can from consumers in love with the digital video format.

Not to be confused with the “Special Spectacular Edition” or “Super-Duper Fan Edition,” this set offers the same film that was released on DVD five months ago — it’s not even a director’s cut. Fans willing to fork over the cash, however, get an extended experience with a second disc that unloads a four-hour behind-the-scenes deconstruction.

Even broken into easy-to-navigate chapters, that’s still a whole lot of time for a viewer to spend learning about what became a routine action thriller instead of a true adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s classic examinations of mechanical men. I’ll gladly appreciate this type of rerelease for epics such as “Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars” — films that offer innovations to the DVD medium — but I’m not quite sure the extra bucks equal extra entertainment value in this case.

Only segments with real scientists discussing the evolution and realities of robots and with Mr Asimov’s daughter and editor reflecting on his achievements distinguish this mega-presentation, which is too bogged down with the same old stuff.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected] washingtontimes.com).

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