Doom 3 Reader Review
Ever since I watched Total Recall on video I've wanted to take a trip to Mars. I've longed to visit those rolling hills, dusty plains and that woman with three tits. Now thanks to Doom 3, Mars is my oyster.
Just in case you've actually been on Mars for the last few years and haven't heard of Doom 3 - here's the low-down. It's a remake of the original game, where the action took place in a research centre where all Hell literally breaks loose following a scientific mishap. As a marine, it fell to you to single handedly battle Satan's minions by shredding, shooting, blowing, pulping or vaporising them into oblivion. Solving simple find-red-key-to-open-red-door type puzzles and killing the baddies made progress through the levels. Doom defined the First Person Shooter genre and heralded a new era of multiplayer gaming via network play.
The most striking thing about Doom 3 is undoubtedly the excellent graphics. Programming maestro John Carmack has created a new game engine that is capable of creating some of the most detailed indoor environments ever seen on a home PC, (well when it was released anyway). Even on medium settings, each room is packed with sumptuous graphical detail and exquisite real-time lighting effects. The visuals undoubtedly provide much of the enjoyment with the game - I often found myself pausing during quiet moments to admire the surroundings, some of which represent the most impressive vistas seen in a videogame for years. Equally visually impressive are the station's inhabitants. Most of the enemies from the original return, albeit in altered forms. Some are more recognisable than others, but all represent a significant improvement over their forebears. Gone is the lethargic, cuddly Imp, replaced by a sprightly, vicious monster capable of completely scaring the shit out of you.
Less convincing, however, is the meagre artificial intelligence on display. All enemies ever do is attack, attack and attack in the most predicable manner possible. Outflanking manoeuvres and teamwork are totally out of the question, with enemies choosing instead to take everything you throw at them squarely on the chin as they charge forth. Half-Life did better six years ago, not to mention Halo's Legendary AI. Ultimately, all Doom 3's enemies amount to is very pretty cannon fodder, which is a pity. One of the most appealing aspects of any FPS is the weapons the player wields. Most of the old Doom weapons have been revamped, from the groovy chainsaw to the BFG 9000. However, the excellent double-barrelled shotgun is strangely absent (you’ll need to pick up the expansion pack for that). This is a shame as some of the weapons on offer fail to deliver the visceral thrills that they should, with the pistol, machine gun and plasma rifle feeling like different types of pea shooters.
The situation isn't helped by the fact that id software have chosen to ignore the advances made in this area over the past couple of years. For example, there is no Halo-esque melee attack available for any of the guns, nor do any of the weapons come with an alternate fire mode either, surely a prerequisite by now. Id has also come under much criticism for its failure to enable players to carry a torch and a gun at the same time (there is a "duct tape" mod available to counter this). I think it's a good thing though. Fumbling around for your torch to catch a glimpse of enemies bearing down on you before drawing and firing into pitch black adds considerably to the sense of tension.
Indeed, atmosphere is something that Id's depiction of Mars certainly doesn't lack. The darkness, exemplary ambient sound effects and constant skirmishes combine to create a genuine sense of unease, and uncannily, a foreboding sense of doom. Rarely has a videogame had the capacity to instill such palpable tension, let alone sustain it through hours of gameplay. The sense of immersion is slightly threatened during the game's third person cut-scenes, in which the player loses control while the action is interrupted. Thankfully, these are kept to a minimum, with the story unfolding through interaction with the player's environment. Audio logs and radio transmissions must be listened to, e-mails read and video monitors watched, to find out exactly what's going on. The narrative provides an adequate background for the action, and a decent enough incentive to continue the bloodletting. The corporate videos on show are worthy of note, as is the voice acting, which is excellent throughout, (with the exception of the cheesy, token Oirish guy). However, while listening to a dead marine's chirpy audio log and reading his e-mails is atmospheric at first, it does prove a little tedious after awhile.
In truth, the game as a whole becomes somewhat banal after a dozen hours gametime. The detailed corridors tend to lose their lustre when you've seen a thousand of them. But just as the game starts to become a chore it changes pace and direction. The difference between the final third and the rest of the game is sort of like the difference between Alien and Aliens. The tense atmosphere remains, but is the result of the adrenaline fuelled action as opposed to unsettling scary moments. Enemies finally become a handful as they threaten to overpower you by sheer weight of numbers, while the intensity and relentlessness of the action is reminiscent of the original Doom. While it hardly represents the zenith of the genre to date, Doom 3 is nonetheless, a very entertaining title. It's old-skool gameplay and impressive technology provide plenty of thrills, which ultimately will prove good value for money for action fans. Doom 3 favours style over substance - it's certainly not going to change the way games are played. If that bothers you, look elsewhere, if not, then buckle up and enjoy the ride.
7 / 10