Near the start of the spectacular Doom 3, recently released for Xbox, a space marine explores the creepily empty yet relatively tranquil bowels of Mars City, circa 2145. He finds a scientist who tells him something ominous: "The devil is real. I built his cage."
Shortly thereafter, all, uh, hell breaks loose as maintenance workers, scientists -- even his fellow marines -- suddenly mutate into irate zombies hoping to force-feed him a nice heaping of smack-down. Oh, and then angry, giant multi-eyed monsters slither out of a ventilation shaft and start chucking fireballs his way.
Looks like his fun is just beginning.
Doom 3 is a welcome update of the classic first-person shooter, and it's been done right. The sounds are top shelf, the levels are expansive, and the controls intuitive. But the best thing about this incarnation is the graphics. Whereas in the original the monsters all seemed flat and the walls plain, in this outing everything is richly detailed. The labyrinth of corridors of this Mars City is full of dark shadows with creepy things that jump out and strike. And it's oh, so nice.
Details: Xbox platform; $49.99; rated mature (blood and gore, intense violence).
Taking on the top dogs
Sure, NBA Street Showdown is basically the same great game that was out for the consoles earlier this year, just shrunk down and made portable for the Sony PSP. But here's the little add-on that makes it a must-own: the Arcade Shootout mode, which is sort of like the pop-a-shot basketball found at your neighborhood Chuck E. Cheese. Rather than winning tickets to exchange for, say, a plastic novelty comb, gamers earn credits that unlock NBA legends such as Magic Johnson when a basket is made (sometimes into moving targets). We could play this all day and night. And we have.
Details: PSP platform; $49.99; rated everyone.
Unwelcome body slam
Wrestlemania 21 feels more like a game the makers had to put out than one they should have put out. (The real Wrestlemania 21 happened last month at Staples Center, so naturally there has to be a tie-in game.) Technically, the game is a big mess, with commentary and replays that skip and stutter, and menu interfaces that seem like an afterthought. That's too bad, because the game features some of the best wrestler rendering to date. Further proof the game was rushed out: Both the instruction book and the on-screen control directions proved to be wrong. Ouch!
Details: Xbox platform; $49.99; rated teen (blood, language, sexual themes, violence).
For the match-inclined
This is going to be complicated, so bear with us: Polarium for the Nintendo DS is a crafty little puzzle game in which players try to draw a continuous line over similarly colored tiles in an effort to get those tiles to change to their polar opposite and thus disappear. (We warned you it would get rough.)
Though this is not for everyone, those who enjoy mathematically charged puzzles or the classic board game Othello will dig it. Sadly, what should be the best part -- the Tetris-like speed rounds, in which tiles fall as you try to eliminate row build-up -- gets frustrating if the DS's stylus can't recognize your input.
Details: Nintendo DS platform; $29.99; rated everyone.
A gamer's paradise
Hey kids, the circus is back in town! The international event for all things video game, also known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is being held at the L.A. Convention Center this week. The big news this year is all about the next-generation consoles -- PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Revolution.
The show is open only to the media, but don't despair. We've got your ticket inside.
For daily reports from the show floor, including video clips and a blog, visit latimes.com/e3. And for a wrap-up of the coolest games, the best parties and all the rest, see Monday's Calendar section.