Review: Doom 3 (PC)
The long awaited sequel to what could be considered one of the greatest shooters of all time is upon us. Doom 3, the hotly anticipated third installment in the Doom first person shooter series (did I really need to clarify that?) stormed in the summer of 2004 and took the PC gaming world by storm. However, the frantic pace of the previous installments has been supplanted with an overall frantic anxiousness one could only ascribe to being involved in this universe being taken over by Hell. Could the Doom faithful and elite allow themselves to part ways with the old ‘run and gun’ style for a slower paced, horror-esque experience? Read on to find out.
id Software made it plainly clear they were NOT trying to re-create the experience of Doom or Doom 2. They were simply using the intellectual property present from these titles to create a new game. Doom3 basically scraps the first two games as if they never happened, starting with a clean slate. And now, for the low down…
Doom 3 sees you as a Marine newly stationed on Mars. Upon arrival you’re given a rather unsavory mission of clearing up some problems occurring at other areas in the station. Of course, id uses this time to SCARE THE CRAP OUT OF YOU… oh sorry. Anyway, as you have probably guessed, you begin to unfold a plot that will send the known universe reeling as Hell becomes a reality for much more than lost sinners.
The gameplay has changed drastically from the previous Doom games. Where, in the previous titles, you find yourself hauling butt around Mars base with trigger finger glued down, unleashing metal death on demons, devils and all kinds of hellish life, Doom 3 sees you stalking dark hallways, access tunnels and even the surface of Mars in a race to… ooo, sorry, almost let that one slip. Back to the gameplay… ammunition management plays a vital role in this game. Thing is, id Software has done a fantastic job of rattling even the deadlist of aims. Here’s what I mean; let’s say you’re moving down a dark hallway, low on ammo for the only weapon you have, the pistol. Now, if any other enemy, say a terrorist with a gun, jumped out with his gun aimed at you, no problem, headshot. But no, id desires for you to fill your pants so they have this highly-detailed, scary, hell spawned, venomous beast lurch itself out of a torn grate, hissing and whatnot as it HURLS ITSELF DIRECTLY AT YOU! I mean, come on guys, how in the world am I to keep my target reticle on the things head while shreiking like a little girl? I CAN’T! Ok id, you win. Doom 3 is freakin’ scary.
But I digress. Doom 3 is a first person shooter in the most unadulterated sense. The storyline is carried forward via in-game cutscenes (which look marvelous) and via PDA’s that you pick up along the way. id has done a fine job in moving the storyline with this method as the PDA’s are vital for door access codes, mission instructions, etc. Most PDA’s come with at least one audio log from a satisfyling dull voice (hey, come on, they’re stationed on Mars… what do you want them to do, sing to you how they found a dead scientist folded in half and shoved in an air duct?) and everything is pretty clear cut? My point? The story doesn’t get in the way of the game. It helps to drive it forward. This game is about shooting stuff (and being scared) and the storyline simply adds to it all, helping to immerse you in this hostile takeover of Mars by things humans should never see while breathing.
The weapons selection is old school which makes me very happy. If anyone knows how to make the shotgun or a plasma rifle just feel and look right, it’s id. As the game progresses you’ll be introduced to more powerful weapons that will help offset the lethality of the new creatures being introduced to you. I’ve only one caveat in the weapons department and that’s the grenades. They bounce around like they’re one of those little bouncy balls you buy out of a toy machine in the foyer of a supermarket. They’re so unpredictable I found them useful in only the most dire of situations (ie no more ammo).
What can also be described as old school is the opponent selection. My oh my are they back! id has resurrected some of your old favs from the previous Doom games with brand new faces and sounds (don’t worry, there’s new creatures too!). What’s so much fun is a majority of their old attacks are back, enhancing that feeling that even though this is the new Doom there’s still some links back to the ancestors. I’m also impressed that id has chosen to re-introduce these old favorites with new clothes in dramatic fashion, giving them the proper entrance they deserve. And, even though they look and sound great, don’t count on the AI getting in the way too much. Yes, they can dodge and pull back but it’s about headshots and the fact that Hell can spawn far more creatures than you have ammo to deal with unless you conserve and make wise choices… while screaming like a little girl.
Level design is off the freakin’ chain as well. (Almost) gone are the days of the textures on the walls simulating pipes and (what should be) other 3D features (I say almost because I did find the occasional textures that simulated what should be a 3D rendered piece of architecture). Don’t let this discourage you, though… this game is, by far, the prettiest game on the market right now. If you have the hardware to run this monster with all graphics settings maxed you are in for a visual treat on par with CGI-rendered movies from a short few years ago. With my review rig I ran most of the settings at a medium setting and the game STILL looked stunning. Shadow implementation also helps to set the whole tone and feel for this game. Therefore, do what you have to do, graphically, to get dynamic shadows working. You’ll take away from the whole experience if you don’t.
id also didn’t skimp on sound. A good 5.1 setup isn’t vital but the overall experience will be hampered if you can’t hear those nasties creeping up behind you. Each sound in the game, from weapons to monsters to doors to voice acting, is all top notch. Productions values are obviously very high and help to further engross you in Doom 3. I found the surround sound is implemented very well with sounds moving between sound points effectively and smoothly.
What could be considered a weak point of the game is multiplayer. Designed with four players in mind, Doom 3 MP seems as if it was thrown in simply because gamers wanted it, not because it could be a selling point for the title. The MP portion of the game finds you running around environments eerily similar to the single player part of the game, using weapons from the single player game, shooting up to three other opponents. Mind you, there are already mods that alter MP drastically but out of the box this wasn’t the case. I just found MP to be lacking to the point that when I think Doom 3, I think ‘scary single player’. MP doesn’t even come to mind.
So, what does all of the above mean? Doom 3 is a fantastic game, set to be remembered in the annals of history as one of the great shooters of all time. Even with the occasional AI flop and unmemorable multiplayer, Doom 3’s scary single player campaign and wonderful graphics make this game a must have for not only the FPS crowd but for the gamers that want a geniuine scare.
FINAL SCORE: 91/100