Demons never looked so good
Wed, 24 November 2004
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If Jesus Christ was to appear live on television would it get talked about as much as Doom 3? The magazine and internet hype of this game has been astronomical. The only way it could really live up to such enormous expectations would be if, once installed on your computer, Doom 3 came out of your monitor, turned into Angelina Jolie (or Brad Pitt if you are female. Or gay) and performed numerous sexual acts for you. To be blunt, Doom 3 does not live up to the hype and probably doesn't even come close to being as amazing a game as many people were expecting. But it doesn't suck either.
One aspect of this game that really is almost as astounding as had been claimed is the graphics. Doom 3 is the best looking game ever. It is as simple as that. I didn't think anything would top the looks of Far Cry for quite some time, but in most ways, id's game blows it out of the water. The one thing Far Cry still has the edge in graphically is that the outdoor levels have such a huge draw-distance. Doom is nearly all enclosed and dark, so the engine doesn't have to allow the player to see very far ahead. Apart from that Doom 3 has the edge in every way. The character models are rock solid and superbly animated. The texture details are incredible. The lighting effects…oh those lighting effects!! They are utterly mind blowing! Lights swing above you and move in real time. Your torch casts realistic dynamic shadows and on and on it goes. Try looking in one of the mirrors in the game while holding the torch, it is amazing! It sounds a bit funny to say this, but I will anyway- the game is worth playing just for the lighting. Because this is a benchmark and a glimpse of what is to come. The lighting helps enormously in creating the game's atmosphere. That is easily Doom 3's strongest quality- its atmosphere. Another way the astonishing graphics create a strong atmosphere is by all the work that's obviously gone into the designs of the monsters and environments.
The sound adds to the atmosphere too. It isn't in the same class as the visuals, but it certainly isn't too shabby. Some of the more powerful weapons could probably be a bit louder, but they each have a distinct sound at least. The voices and monster noises are all very nicely done. There's no background music at all, I think it works well without it, others may not agree. Even though the right music could have made it even more engrossing, the wrong music would've really hurt it. No music is either a safe bet or a lazy cop out, I'm not sure which. There is usually some kind of creepy noise happening though, so what you are hearing never gets left out of the experience. The most impressive part of the sound to me was how two voice tracks could be playing simultaneously as well as various other noises happening and it all remained clear.
With a great sense of atmosphere the game must have a pretty top notch storyline going for it right? Actually, no it doesn't. The story of Doom 3 is all very B-grade and nonsensical really. It goes something like this: It is the future. You are a space marine. Your are on a research facility on the planet Mars. Demons invade the joint and kill nearly everyone. You have to shoot the bastards dead. The end. Okay, there is a little more to it than that, but not much and none of it really makes a great deal of sense. You'll notice it is pretty much the exact same premise as the original Doom and that's because this is more or less a remake.
The way Doom 3's plot is advanced is more interesting than the plot itself. Scattered throughout the levels you find the PDAs of dead soldiers which contain emails to read and/or voice recordings to listen to. It is somewhat similar to Metroid Prime where the back story and information came from scanning everything throughout the game. At first this is quite interesting, but after a while you'll be likely to stop caring and just want to get on with the action. You should probably still check them all though because they sometimes contain the code numbers needed to unlock certain doors and storage cases. Doom 3 isn't about plot. Think of it like a horror/slasher movie; you just need the thing to look stylish, have some creepy looking monsters and go nuts with the violence and mayhem. If you try to ponder and make sense of it all, the whole thing falls apart.
Some have claimed that Doom 3 isn't at all scary. I tend to disagree with that. It has a couple of moments that catch you off guard. The darkness is threatening, when you can't see what is lurking you naturally feel a little tense. There are also a few portions
of the game where strange things happen- like a ghostly voice saying "follow me" and "they killed my baby" followed by the sound of a baby crying, which slowly morphs into something more like a demonic laugh. That kind of thing is what I mean by atmosphere. Really it isn't so much flat out scary as it is mildly eerie. We've become too accustomed to these things since the original Doom all those years ago. We have played all the survival horror games and so on that have trained us to expect things to jump out of the dark at us during a game.
However, Doom 3 also has a more tongue in cheek aspect going on. It is a fun kind of spooky if you catch my drift. Again I'd equate it to a horror movie. Evil Dead 2 would be a good example. There is blood and guts and gore, there is darkness and evil too, but at the same time it is all so over the top and silly and that is why you find it entertaining. I mean that as a compliment by the way. I seem to remember reading that Romero and Carmack (creators of the original Doom) where hugely influenced by the Evil Dead movies. There are quite a few little gags thrown in throughout the game for those who look for such things.
Playing the first Doom for the first time was an amazing experience. The first time you play Doom 3 it is an amazing experience as well. The original Doom remained amazing to play long after your first time. Doom 3…doesn't. There's just not that much beneath the surface and it isn't unique now like it was back then. The gameplay is as shallow as the original (10 year old) game, but not quite as franticly fun because there aren't as many enemies to kill at once.
There are none of the features most gamers have become used to seeing in modern First Person Shooters. There aren't any vehicles to ride around in. There is no stealth required. There is little in the way of tactics needed to progress either; the monsters all run at you in a fairly predictable fashion, it is mainly just shoot and dodge like the old days. Sometimes you can use the computer terminals to open doors and that kind of thing, but you can't interact with the majority of the environments. There are some hidden areas to find, but mostly the levels are extremely linear, and they barely encourage any exploration. In fact Doom 3's gameplay is a complete regression. The fact that you need your torch to see your way quite often can be frustrating as you can't use a gun at the same time. Presumably this was done to increase the tension, but it is really more effective at pissing the player off.
So why did I still find it fun to play? I think it is a combination of a few things. The atmosphere, as I've already explained, is the main part. The controls (standard mouse and keyboard combo naturally) work just fine also. Being able to quicksave any time you want is handy for those with time restraints to their gaming, though some may find it reduces the challenge too much for their taste. Also…well… this is DOOM baby! Most of the old monsters are back and seeing them looking so incredible is a pleasure. It has the definite feel of the old Doom most of us loved; the whole nostalgia factor certainly plays some part in it.
Probably the other thing was how basic it all is. Sometimes that can be a positive thing. There's something to be said for relatively mindless action in small doses. Just running around awesome looking levels shooting awesome looking monsters and that's that. It doesn't even make much difference which weapons you use (until you get to the later stages at least); some just kill quicker than others. Don't go trying to find more substance to all this style because there really isn't any. If you can live with that and it doesn't bother you then go ahead and play Doom 3. You will most likely enjoy the time you spend going through it.
The game is pretty long and there are different difficulty settings to suit all skill levels, so it should last you a while unless you play in marathon sessions. It gets better the further you get. Later stages feature bigger, meaner monsters and a few instances of insane amounts of enemies attacking at once, the way old school Doom players like it. You are also treated to even better looking levels towards the end. Whether you'll come back to it is another matter, the action is fun but it is also repetitive.
There is one other issue to mention. The system requirements are ridiculous. You will need a top of the line system to run this game. If you were thinking of upgrading your PC just to play Doom 3, I don't think it is worth it. However if you were going to upgrade anyway, this is definitely the first thing you should play to check out your new hardware in action.
Those expecting Doom 3 to replicate the impact of the first Doom will be very disappointed. It does replicate the feel of the original game and that is what I liked about it. If you want a FPS that requires a little brain power and has some variety and depth to it you are better off playing Far Cry. However, if you just want to unwind after a hard day, not think too much and have a bit of fun shooting evil monsters in the best looking game yet, Doom 3 won't let you down. If you let yourself get immersed in the incredible atmosphere you might not even notice (or care) that the game plays like something from the past. It doesn't succeed in being a revolution in gaming but I don't think that was ever the intention. It does succeed, well and truly, in being an incredible looking re-imagining of a classic game.
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Graphics to die for. Gameplay not as impressive, but still fun.