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Doom 3

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: id Software

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.

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PC Review - 'DOOM 3'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Aug. 12, 2004 @ 3:13 a.m. PDT

id Software's terrifying battle with the forces of Hell. A massive demonic invasion has overwhelmed the UAC's Mars Research Facility leaving only chaos and horror in its wake. As one of only a few survivors, players must struggle with shock, fear, and an all-out assault on their senses as they fight their way to Hell and back, in an epic clash against pure evil.

Genre: First-person Shooter
Publisher: Activision
Developer: id Software
Release Date: August 3, 2004

Buy 'DOOM 3': PC

Before its release, the buzz surrounding DOOM 3 could be gauged somewhere between Halo 2 and the Second Coming, so thick at times that one could almost feel it. Of course, the original DOOM games did raise the bar in a manner matched only by Half-Life years later, so the thousands of fans waiting with bated breath did so with good reason. Tidbits of information and screenshots were pored over by legions of fans, with much of the publicity surrounding how drop-dead gorgeous the graphics engine is. However once the game was released many people realized that the hype previously surrounding the game made the actual product seem a bit lesser in quality to some extent. It’s not that DOOM 3 is a bad game – far from it, actually – but rather it’s that other than the graphics, there is really nothing extraordinary about the game.

In DOOM 3, you play as a marine recently assigned to a United Aerospace Corporation research facility on Mars. The introductory sequence is well done if not a bit predictable, which sets up the beginnings of the plotline and additionally serves as a tutorial with a very natural feel. The plotline itself was actually created by a professional sci-fi writer contracted by id but remains fairly predictable throughout the game. Still, this "is" a DOOM game, so the plot serves more as an underlying reason as to why you are on Mars blasting hordes of demons rather than vying to be a contender for a literary award. As soon as you get your bearings on how DOOM 3 handles, the situation becomes hostile, with most of the station staff either zombified or killed, and in traditional DOOM fashion, it’s up to you to save the day.

The biggest change from the old DOOM’s to DOOM 3 is the pacing and mood. In the original DOOM, you felt like an absolute badass, blasting down countless zombies and imps with your shotgun while you traversed largely well-lit corridors and rooms. One on one, very few enemies stood a change against you, and most zombies and imps were little more than cannon fodder. In DOOM 3, the game is much slower in pace, much darker, and even lowly zombies can pose a relative threat. Instead of well-lit rooms much of DOOM 3 takes place in dimly lit environments with lots of shadows, with the occasional brightly lit science lab or pitch black corridor. The initial zombies are easily dealt with as they move slowly and are limited to swinging at you, but pistol and shotgun toting zombies or imps can pose a pretty good threat even in groups of one or two. The end result is that the game feels more like a horror movie than of an adrenaline-filled shoot-'em-up, which does make for a decent change of pace.

Initially, the game is quite frightening, more so of the deep underlying fear/dread variety rather than of outright terror. Enemies suddenly burst from shadowy areas, windows, grates, and vents, and suddenly jump in your face when you open a door. Sadly, the scares are limited to those varieties, and it gets way too predictable after about the first fifty times. Imps are shown to have the ability to climb on walls and ceilings in cinemas and scripted events, but never actually do so in combat which means you never have to watch the ceiling for anything suspicious. Rather, the game becomes a matter of thinking to yourself that "Hmmm, it’s been quiet. That means the next corner/door/grating/dark area will have an enemy that will jump out" as you scan the horizontal plane of the level. In contrast, take the aliens in Aliens vs. Predator, whose "scares" were due to the fact that the aliens could and would attack from any angle, above or below.

Actual combat isn’t that much better than the scare tactics, and while initially compelling, the game quickly becomes a corridor shooter in the truest sense of the word. Other than taking cover when fighting gun-toting zombies there is very little tactics involved in DOOM 3’s combat, which on one hand could be a throwback to the fact that it’s a DOOM game, and on the other hand the genre has advanced way beyond that style of play. Indeed, much of the game can be completed by simply walking up to creature, taking whatever hits you must, and blasting it point-blank in the torso or head with the shotgun. With the exception of a couple of the later creatures, even on the initially hardest difficulty setting, fighting monsters becomes a fairly easy and bland matter of getting close and blasting them, assuming they don’t get the drop on you somehow via one of the aforementioned predictable means.

One system that is fairly flawless if not an amalgamation of features from other games is the PDA system. Your PDA is the combination of keys, journals, and notes into one easily accessible method of use. Your PDA holds information about yourself such as briefing emails and your current objective given to you by a surviving Marine commander, but any time you come across someone else’s PDA, you can download their email, audio logs, and security clearance into yours for future use. Emails can be anything from banter amongst scientists (such as laments about loaning one's 10-sided dice to a crewmate) to useful tidbits of information such as locker codes to supply you with armor, ammo, and health pickups. Audio logs give greater insight into the current demonic events, while video clips are often UAC creations showing off sections of the labs or new technology (I now know exactly how the projectile of the BFG 9000 works).

Another effective feature is the way buttons and interactive computers are handled. Instead of a use key or breaking the action by switching to a computer screen when you interact with them, in DOOM 3 simply putting your crosshairs on a screen or button within a couple feet of you changes the crosshair to an interaction icon, allowing you to use computer terminals in a very natural manner while at the same time never taking away the immersion nor your guard. Buttons, health terminals, security access controls, and switches are all handled in the same fashion: simply point and click. Since the cutoff range from interaction to crosshair is so short, you never get into a situation where you interact instead of shoot something, and yet the range is far enough so that you don’t have to buddy up with whatever it is with which you wish to interact.

In all honesty, though id Software has repeatedly stated that they wanted to bring back the DOOM franchise for a last hurrah with the most advanced graphics possible, the game itself almost seems like a vessel to show off how awesome the graphics engine is. With a straight face, I can easily say that DOOM 3 has the best graphics of any game ever created, period. While the model and texture quality isn’t much greater than that of the recent PC title Far Cry, what makes DOOM 3 look so stunning is its lighting engine and attention to detail. There is virtually nothing in the game that looks out of place, of low quality, or that looks like a mere means to take up space until the player reaches the next room or object.

The lighting effects easily make the graphics engine what it is. Everything has a real-time, pixel perfect shadow from an Imp to a crumpled pop can, and everything not only casts a shadow on the floor and walls but casts its shadow onto itself and other objects, this effect alone is undoubtedly what makes DOOM 3 look so good. Any spotlight effect such as your flashlight or the headlight on a tram casts moving shadows, which sounds like an incredibly un-noteworthy thing until it is seen in action. In a nutshell, you can count on the fact that there is likely already a line of developers drooling over using the DOOM 3 engine for their upcoming game.

Id Software not only created the graphics engine from scratch but the sound engine as well, and it shows. For users with surround sound setups, there has never been a game that allows you to locate an enemy on sound alone with such accuracy or efficiency, almost to the point as if you were using your own ears in the game space. All of the creatures you face have their own array of hellish screams, grunts, moans, and cries, though the single line of warbled speech that the gun-toting zombies always mumble before they approach gets a bit overused. All of the weapon sounds fit the gun, though the shotgun doesn’t sound quite as powerful as it did in the original DOOM games. As for music, most of that side of the audio is nonexistent with the only musical piece played on the main menu. Far from being a silent game however, nearly every area of every level in DOOM 3 bears witness to the sounds of machinery, hissing air, the crackle and pop of flames, or other ambient noises. The lack of music does well to make the game a much deeper and scarier one than that of its predecessors, but the advantage is lost in most cases due to the gameplay’s predictability.

DOOM 3 multiplayer is a shoddy affair at best which all the patches in the world couldn’t completely fix. DOOM 3 has an integral server browser that allows you to see a list of servers and join them. However, the filter system doesn’t work, and since server names aren’t accompanied by a lock icon as seen in most games to designate it as password-protected, finding a server to play in becomes a matter of trial and error. Worse yet, without modifying the game, internet multiplayer is limited to a maximum of four players, with LAN play limited to eight players. There are some obscure technical reasons for this, but with the single player portions of the game having a rather low replayability rate, one would have hoped more attention and polish would have been lavished upon the multiplayer aspect. As a final kick in the pills, DOOM 3 supports all of two gameplay modes, deathmatch and team deathmatch. Suffice it to say, the ability of having a maximum of 2 vs. 2 in team deathmatch or a whole four players in regular deathmatch doesn’t exactly make this reviewer want to stand up and dance a jig.

In essence, DOOM 3’s strongest aspect (being a faithful homage and end to the original DOOM games) is also its weakest (never mind how good they were, the DOOM-style of gameplay is a decade old). Initially scary, the game becomes largely predictable and, even on the highest difficulty setting, surprisingly easy to progress. DOOM 3 does borrow heavily from what newer games have set forth, such as the way Half-Life introduced you to the game and the overall feel of System Shock 2, so if you are going to borrow, you may as well borrow from some of the best. On the flip side, it means that none of this is new territory, and without the fancy graphics and esteemed heritage, DOOM 3’s gameplay would barely make a blip on the radar.

In short, DOOM 3 is just like DOOM and DOOM 2 with its gameplay and combat, and if you didn’t like the originals you won’t find anything in DOOM 3 to change your mind. Even casual DOOM fans will find any compelling reason to play the game quickly wane, possibly even before the end of the first run through the game. Hardcore DOOM fans will enjoy the fact that DOOM 3 is just like their baby, only with a facelift and some fancy new gameplay features, but everyone else might want to tread with caution as DOOM 3’s initial scares and wows over the graphics give way to predictable, uninspired gameplay all too quickly.

Score: 8.1/10


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