The game looks phenomenal, and reminds us of the glory days of staying up late playing Doom back in '93, but what has changed since then?
The original Doom was released on December 10, 1993. It eventually became one of the most popular, best selling, and most played games on the PC. It was THE first person shooter. It was followed by Doom II in 1994, and a retail fan-made expansion to Doom II titled Final Doom. However, the series lay fallow in the new generation…until the announcement of Doom 3. Screenshots and movies of the game poured onto the internet, much to the pleasure of rabid Doom fans everywhere. The game looked phenomenal; the graphics were absolutely beyond anything that was seen before.
The graphics in the game are unbelievable...
...but they come at a high cost: huge system requirements.
Now, the game is finally out. Doom 3 does indeed deliver jaw-dropping visuals, but it also offers simplistic gameplay, a throwaway story, and overall cheap trills. Not to say the game can’t be a decent monster fragging hunt, but it fails to innovate in anything except for graphics and audio design. That’s not enough; great graphics do not make an innovative, interesting, and fun game.
The story of the game basically goes like this: you’re a new recruit at the Union Aerospace Corporation Mars Base. Something goes terribly wrong and monsters start appearing. Yeah, that’s just about it. In case you didn’t notice, this is basically the same exact story as 1993’s Doom. It’s 11 years later; the industry standards have risen a bit. Oh, there are a few decently constructed cutscenes, but they’re unlikely to provoke your interest due to being simply uninspired.
Most notably, the graphics in the game are spectacular. Most of the time, your screen is shrouded in darkness, but when you pull out your flashlight and look around, you realize the graphics are marvel of graphical engineering. The bump mapping really brings the textures and monsters to life. However, under direct light, the monsters in the game look like they’re coated in thick plastic, which somewhat takes away from the beauty of the graphics. Still, some people may enjoy this plastic shimmering effect.
The audio in the game in the game is brilliantly executed. It is what really creates the atmosphere. As you’re creeping through the research labs on Mars, you’ll hear faint sounds, slowly making you more and more nervous. These sounds can either be a lurking enemy, or they may be red herrings; it all depends. It’s a beautiful moment when you hear some faint voices, figure that it’s just a mind game the game is trying to play, and seconds later you get assaulted by a fast-moving imp. Moments like this are created very much in part thanks to the audio.
This brings me to the gameplay, which doesn’t contain the high production values of the rest of the package. You’ll mostly just move from corridor to corridor in the Mars Base, stepping outside on Martian soil every once in a while. The actual mechanics of the game are in no way flawed, but they are pretty uninspired. Shooting up monsters is not that satisfying, because they’ll disappear shortly after you kill them, and only rarely react satisfyingly to the impact of your weapons. Speaking of weapons, you do have a nice cache of weapons you can use to ward off hell’s minions. You have a pistol, a shotgun, a plasma gun, a rocket launcher, and other standard Doom fare.
It's too bad the gameplay can't match the high standard set by the graphics...
...because the game largely plays the same as Doom did back in 1993.
The AI will rarely exhibit any kind of intelligence beyond walking towards you. Occasionally the zombified soldiers will retreat a few steps to escape your fire, but most of the time they’ll stand there and blast away at you. Zombies and imps are supposed to be dumb, but even the most basic of animals exhibit intelligence, yet these creatures do not. If you’re not mowing down enemies, you’ll likely be hunting for PDAs, which serve as keys in Doom 3. In addition to that though, these PDAs also contain voice logs from their owners, and their emails. These “extras” sometimes contain codes to lockers filled with ammunition, and come in handy, but it’s such a bother listening to these uninspired voice logs and reading the hordes of emails.
The atmosphere is probably one of the better parts of the Doom 3 gameplay. As you make your way through the Martian base, you will almost always be shrouded in darkness. This sets up a lot of potential scares from various scripted events in the game, which unfortunately get very tedious after a while. A quarter of the way through the game, you’ll be able to predict virtually every ambush and the game will become run and gun action with a few unnecessary pauses. The game tries its best to make you scared, namely by not allowing you to use your flashlight and a gun at the same time. So you’ll basically have to choose between seeing where you’re going or being able to defend yourself. In context of the game’s environment, this is pretty silly. The game takes place in the future; you would think that they had guns with flashlights mounted to them. If not, there would be a roll of duct tape somewhere in the entire Martian base. Fortunately, fans of the game have taken it upon themselves to remedy this with mods, such as the popular “duct tape” mod, which attaches a flashlight to several of your weapons.
The potential for modifications such as these is a very good thing for Doom 3, as mods are largely responsible for games being played long after their release. Case in point, Half-Life and its subsequent mod, Counter-Strike. Though Doom 3 sports a 15 hour long single player “story mode”, it’s unlikely you’ll have an urge to play it through more than once. Fortunately, the rather large fan base of Doom will ensure that you’ll have fresh content for years to come.
The game does ship multiplayer, however there is a ridiculous limit of four players. Four players in a PC online shooter is way below the bare minimum nowadays, which is at least 16 players. Such a crippled multiplayer is a horrible design choice that once again had to be resolved by fans of the game. There are mods out that rectify this silly constraint, but it doesn’t excuse iD for not including a more beefed up multiplayer in the retail version.
Unlike the first or second Doom, this game tries very hard to scare you...
...but it doesn't take long for the 'scares' to become extremely predictable.
DOOM 3 VERDICT
Doom 3 seems to try its hardest to ignore every single gameplay innovation since Half-Life, which fluidly combined action with puzzle-solving elements and an intriguing story. Furthermore, the developers depend on the mod community to fix the parts of their game that they made foolish design decisions on. Doom 3 can be a decent run-and-gun experience with some frights thrown in, but that category is far better handled by games like Painkiller and Serious Sam. If you loved the original Doom, Doom 3 won’t disappoint. If you’re used to seeing a little more substance with your style, check out Far Cry or Half-Life 2.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Walking down a hallway and hearing a voice or scratch. Deciding the game is trying to play tricks on you, you keep walking only to have a monster jump into your face.