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Doom 3

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


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Xbox Review - 'Doom 3'

by Eric on April 7, 2005 @ 1:29 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/Vicarious Visions
Release Date: April 4, 2005

Buy 'DOOM 3': Xbox | PC

When Doom 3 finally made it to PCs after a long five-year wait, people were simply blown away by the graphics, since the engine behind the title was doing things that once were only reserved for CGI movies. People began debating about how the Xbox version would compare to the amazing PC version, which needed a powerful system in order to render the game smoothly. The naysayers were skeptical about such a robust title running on the dated Xbox hardware, and rightly so, but now that I have put many hours into the Xbox version, I can say that Vicarious Visions was able to do great justice to Doom 3 on the console. Not only did VV make a successful port, they even threw in some additional goodies that are not in the aforementioned PC version, just to make sure your appetite was whetted.

Id Software decided to enlist the help of Vicarious Visions to do the actual port of Doom 3 to Xbox. When the initial announcement was made, people were wondering why Id had selected a little-known developer, known mostly for handheld games. It was this background that made them such strong candidates, since handheld games require developers to use low-level programming languages to code directly to the hardware itself. This is exactly what the doctor ordered, since Id was trying to get the very most out of the Xbox hardware for such a high-profile title. They did work closely with Vicarious Visions to ensure that there were no problems getting the graphics engine running smoothly on the Xbox.

Vicarious Visions did a really good job because the Xbox port of Doom 3, for the most part, looks almost exactly the same as the PC version, which is an incredible feat. Naturally, the PC version is noticeably better, but it is quite remarkable for a four-year-old console to even come close. The most impressive and ground-breaking part of the Doom 3 engine is the lighting and shadowing system, which is also the part that demands the most resources, but Vicarious Visions was able to port that over, keeping much of the game's shadows and lighting fully intact. As you walk through the game's levels, you will see real-time light sources move and illuminate environments; shadows will react and change in real time, depending on how the lighting is affecting different objects in the game. The game's character models are also self-shadowed, and even those shadows react and change in real time, depending on the lighting. Overall, I was very impressed with how they were able to keep the most impressive features of the game's engine.

The other big feature of the engine is polybump mapping, which, despite its name, actually uses normal maps generated from high-polygon CG models and applies them to low-polygon in-game models, which helps to decrease the strain on the hardware. The end result is very impressive: all of the in-game objects, especially the character models themselves, look much more detailed than their low polygon counts would suggest. This technique was necessary, since the Xbox does not have enough RAM to incorporate the same high-resolution as the PC version's normal mapped textures. VV needed to remake the textures with lower resolution in mind, but it seems that they simply decreased the resolution on the existing PC textures, which affects the graphics quality and, in some cases, even makes them look pixelated.

The good news is that Vicarious Visions did a wonderful job with bringing Doom 3 over to the Xbox, and the bad news is … that Vicarious Visions did a wonderful job with bringing Doom 3 over to the Xbox. You see, they also ported over the gameplay. Doom 3 on PC was an incredibly fun and scary game for the first few levels or so, but after that, it quickly became redundant as you did the exact same thing level after level. Walk into a room, exterminate the demons that appear before you, move a bit further into the room, and lay waste to the creatures that pop up behind you, lather, rinse, repeat. There were a few times when a baddie would drop down from above and catch you by surprise, but most of the time, the levels and rooms followed the same basic pattern. The Xbox version does have one advantage over the PC: it seems to be a bit scarier. Even though you know where a monster will come from, having it pop up on a big-screen television can still be terrifying.

Another problem with the gameplay on the PC version was the constant need to use the flashlight to see in dark areas. While this made things pretty intense and frightening on the first few levels, it quickly became annoying as you progressed in the game and had to keep switching between the flashlight and a weapon, since you could not use both at the same time. While this still holds true in the Xbox version, VV made great improvements to the overall brightness of the screen, and while there are still areas that will require the use of a flashlight, it is nowhere near as frequent as it was in the PC version.

Most of the levels from the PC version made it into the Xbox version, and I can only guess that the segments that were cut were done to smooth out the gameplay. Many of the pointless areas from the PC version have been removed, and we're left with is a much more enjoyable gaming experience. For instance, the levels dealing with hell spiders on the Xbox version are much more streamlined, and the time spent with them is kept to a bare minimum.

Due to the Xbox's limited amount of RAM and Doom 3's large levels, loading time was a big concern in the early stages of development. Thanks to the Xbox's hard drive, however, Vicarious Visions was able to stream a lot of data from that into memory on the fly, resulting in very large levels with only a few more "Loading…" sections than the PC version.

While the single player mode is pretty much the same as the PC version, the multiplayer segment has been beefed up a bit on the Xbox. The same four-player death match has made its way over, and while it is not the most exciting multiplayer game on this console, it certainly gets the job done. Luckily, Vicarious Visions and Id also decided to add two-player co-op mode over Xbox Live, which basically takes the most fun parts of the single player game and alters them to work better with two players. Adding a second player to the mix makes a huge difference in terms of how the game is played and adds depth and strategy that is not found in the single player game.

While I had a blast playing with a buddy over Xbox Live, there were a couple of issues that should have been addressed prior to release. The biggest one is the fact that if you or a friend dies, they are respawned at the beginning of the level. Meanwhile, your partner has to set up shop and wait for you to work your way back. Thankfully, all of your guns are still there and your buddy can't take them, but the long wait can get annoying, especially once you get deeper into the level. The other problem is slowdown, not to be confused with lag (of which we did not experience much). In co-op mode, Vicarious Visions has added a lot more demons to the mix, but Bill's little black box just can't handle all of the extra models and effects being tossed around, and this results in some massive slowdown at times. While it can be pretty bad and annoying, it really did not harm my gameplay experience too much, and at the end of the day, I still had a great time playing co-op mode.

Another cool addition to the Xbox version is the inclusion of Doom 2 and Ultimate Doom in the limited edition of Doom 3. Both of these are perfect ports of the PC version and run at a blazing-fast 60 frames per second. For people like myself who grew up on these great classics, playing them again on a television in all of their glory really brings back some great memories. You can save at any point during these games, and to top things off, you can even play four-player splitscreen multiplayer. I would have loved if they had also included online death match and co-op modes over Xbox Live, but as it stands, these are still two great additions to the title.

Even though I was slightly bitter after playing through the PC version of Doom 3, I really enjoyed the Xbox version. It is just a cleaner and higher-quality gameplay experience, since many of the uninteresting segments from the PC have either been changed or completely removed. Add in a very fun online co-op mode and the classic Dooms, and you have got yourself a very nice package. Even though the core gameplay is extremely basic and mostly unchanged from the PC version, Doom 3 still ends up being a very fun game that I'd recommend to any Doom or Xbox FPS fans.


Score: 9.0/10

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