Product Type: Activision PC games
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All DOOM and erm... GLOOM
Doom 3 (PC)
Member Name: The Duke
Doom 3 (PC)
Date: 07/09/04, updated on 11/11/04 (387 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent graphics and sound, Astounding sense of atmopshere
Disadvantages: Poor gameplay with flaws, No real innovation in gameplay
id were the first real pioneers of the FPS genre with their Doom games (and the associated game engine that went along with it) and then with the first real 3D game engine with Quake. In fact, such was their skill and popularity, that it was quite a few years until someone else produced a 3D game engine that was capable of matching id's.
Arguably, they never really got to grips with designing games. Yes, their 3D systems were above criticism, but the games, while above average, were hardly outstanding examples compared to Sim City, Half Life (which uses a modified version of id's Quake engine), Deus Ex etc. It could be said that their 'best' game was Quake 3 Arena which was no more than a flashy multiplayer game without any of the trappings of a plot or the need to build up atmosphere etc.
So now we get onto Doom 3, one of the most eagerly awaited games of recent years along with Half-Life 2 and Duke Nukem 4. id are renowned for producing games that really test your PC's hardware. In fact, it was the release of Quake (the first proper 3D game) that prompted a huge rush of sales of dedicated 3D graphics cards. Doom 3 is no different and the recommended specifications to run are at least a 1.5 GHz CPU, over 2GB of hard drive space, 384 MB RAM and a 100% DirectX 9.0b compatible graphics card (if you are thinking of buying this game, you must investigate whether your graphics card is compatible with this game!).
There's not much of an introduction, but you are an anonymous sol
dier of some description who's just arrived on Mars for a tour of duty at a research station sometime during the latter half of 2145. Your travelling companions are on Mars to investigate what appears to have been a series of bizarre events and accidents. However, just as you're thinking of getting settled in, you're called out on your first mission. As the new guy, you've drawn the short straw and have to go find a scientist who has gone missing.
After a bit of faffing about, you eventually come across the stupid man who's ranting on about letting someone know about something and how it's terribly important and must be done and then the lights go out.
Suddenly, a weird lighting thing appears with what looks like skulls flying away from it...
And the noises start...
All of a sudden, the scientist turns into some kind of zombie creature and starts to attack you...
And all you've got is a torch. A torch and a gun. A torch and a gun and one arm seemingly, seeing as you can't shine the torch and aim the gun at the same time. That could be a problem what with the screams echoing around the now deserted research station and the emergency lighting making the walls and floors look as if they're covered in blood. Which, on closer inspection, it turns out to be. Bugger.
Aaaaaargh! I want my mummy!
Let's not beat about the bush here. Doom 3 is not a game for kids. It's bloody frightening. The starting levels are extremely dark, so much so that it's a game best played at night or with the curtains drawn otherwise you'll not see very much. There are good and bad points to this.
One of the negative points to the game being so dark is that you really can't appreciate properly how good the graphics are. Once again, id have done themselves proud with their 3D engine, but their designers have also gone to town in creating a believabl
e looking futuristic off world colony (and their work is even better when you see the station after THE INCIDENT). On top of that, the various effects are also amazing. The lighting effects, in particular, are excellent and link well with the proper environment without looking out of place and everything casts the correct shadows with the inclusion of the now obligatory dynamic lighting effects. Let's face it, Doom 3 runs a brand new 3D engine, so it will be a treat to look at and play with, and is very scalable so that even if you're really close to the minimum recommended specification (as mentioned above), you'll still get a playable game.
Sound, again, is another good feature. As you walk around the levels, the sense of being in a haunted house is probably the best comparison to make when you hear the echoes of the screams, the mysterious voices etc. with no obvious source. Coupled with this, a lot of work has gone into the mechanical sounds as well such as the machinery and weapons sounds. The voice acting is excellent, and there's plenty of it. Not only are you taunted by your enemies throughout the game, but there are plenty of audio journals to find on your way through the game as well as cut-screen scenes.
Gameplay, though, is a completely different matter. Doom 3 is pretty much the same basic story as the original Doom (which I've never played), although told with the tools available today. While the storyline is only part of the game, the gameplay is perhaps the most important element. I think the game suffers from two major flaws. The first, and most obvious flaw, is the fact you can see practically nothing. You wander around with your torch, trying to find out where to go next. When enemies do appear, you have to switch to your weapon and hope that the ambient light from the scenery or your weapons fire will be enough to be able to track your enemies. The amount of times I died purely because I couldn't see the
enemy, are too many to mention and the cause of much frustration.
The second flaw is that the gameplay resembles that of Doom and Doom 2 rather than those FPS games of today. So, in Doom 3 you can expect a fairly linear path through the game, monsters and enemies who spawn all around you, even in rooms which you have just cleared, a lack of logic where monsters apparently spend hours waiting in cramped areas behind walls for you to walk past so they can jump out at you and good old trigger points where nothing will happen until you activate the trigger by "walking" through a certain point or picking up a certain item. The game basically involves shooting anything that moves with little or no variation that you might expect from a modern game such as outdoor levels, driving vehicles, stealth missions etc. There are the odd distractions, but these are so few and so short that they really make no difference to the overall gameplay.
The atmosphere though, is astounding. The use of lighting, while not being terribly good for gameplay, does add huge amounts to the atmosphere especially with the incredibly effective torch effect. The sense of walking around a previously vibrant community where something has gone seriously wrong is always very evident. The introduction where you get to see the research station before THE INCIDENT helps with the sense of doom (no pun intended) and the gimmick of finding people's PDAs, complete with audio logs, emails, security codes providing clues for extra ammo etc. is also a big plus point. When I first started playing Doom 3, I was only able to play it in short bursts such was the fear factor/tension involved. Having monsters suddenly jump out at you with a shriek is not good for the heart. This is definitely not a game for kids!
The overall game itself reminded me of a cross between Half-Life and another old game called System Shock 2. Both games were FPSs and had bags of atmosphere and a decent
bit of plot, too. The problem is that Doom 3 doesn't appear to be significantly better than these games except in terms of graphics and sound, despite these other games being the best part of six years old.
I've dipped my toes into Doom 3 multiplayer once, but it wasn't anything outstanding. It's just typical multiplayer FPS gaming with nothing really out of the ordinary.
Doom 3 succeeds on many levels ? graphics, sound and atmosphere mainly, but fails in perhaps the most important area of all ? gameplay. Essentially, it's a game designed by nerds for nerds; the attention to detail is amazing and contributes to the atmosphere, but atmosphere alone does not make a good game. If you like your games to be a bit 'retro', then you might find Doom 3 to your taste, but it wasn't my cup of tea at all. Where I can see Doom 3 succeeding is when third party developers get their hands on the game engine and manage to create something a bit more up to date.