DOOM³ (Windows)

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Written by  :  Tomer Gabel (4642)
Written on  :  Jun 20, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.83 Stars4.83 Stars4.83 Stars4.83 Stars4.83 Stars

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The Good

I've been a huge fan of Doom ever since the original came out back in 1993. For me, the Doom experience was always about just a few points:

  • Visuals to rival everything the market has yet seen
  • Sky-high production values
  • Solid level design
  • Thousands of challenging monsters and locations

Ladies and gentlemen, it took 11 years, but Doom 3 delivers. Oh boy, does it deliver. The shivers of excitement started the second I clicked on New Game and didn't stop for a minute. Doom 3 owns.

Visually, the game is not merely beautiful, great or even amazing as Half Life-2 was; it's nothing short of astounding. It's been well over half a year and I haven't seen anything even remotely close to the level of visuals I experienced in Doom 3. Everything looks so astoundingly detailed, right down to the rubble around the caves and the prickling hairs on the marine's fingers; the character models compare favorably to that of any game out there with the exception of HL2 - but whereas in HL2 the only genuinely impressive characters are the chief ones (Alyx, G-Man and three or four others) all character models in Doom 3 are extremely detailed and convincing. Despite claims to the contrary the locales are actually very varied (industrial-horror constructions, offices, dig sites, alien caverns and of course two kinds of hell) and all of them are ridiculously well-modeled and textures. I also readily state that the stones that comprise the final levels of the game are certainly the most realistic I've ever seen.

While I readily admit taking Doom 3's side on the classic "Doom 3 vs Half-Life 2" debate, it still astounds me that a lot of the HL2 proponents cite Doom 3's "lack of variety in enemies" as one of their chief arguments. While I always wish for more variety, Doom 3 definitely has a huge range of enemies: two kinds of marines, five or six types of zombies, imps, cacodemons, lost souls, arachnids, maggots, bosses and more (full list); the enemies inevitably become stronger and more varied as you progress in the game. Adherence to the classic FPS dogma is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly not in an oldskool game like Doom.

Another aspect of Doom 3 that resulted in a lot of consternation is its generous use of dark areas, so much so that Glen created the so-called Duct Tape mod for the game a few days after it was released. I first played the game with the duct-tape mod, and let me tell you: it detracts from the game horribly. I just finished playing the game a second time, this time at the highest difficulty level and without the flashlight mod, and it is so much more fun this way: more challenging, scarier and also quite a bit longer. The first time I played through the game I finished it in two 6-hour sessions; this time instead of taking less, it actually took me about 30 hours to finish the game. Do not play the game with the duct tape mod! Instead, put on your headphones, turn off the lights, crank the volume way up, make sure no-one disturbs you and play into the night. You'll enjoy it far better, I guarantee it.

The architecture and level-design is extremely impressive. A lot of the areas are obviously specifically designed to give a sense of urgency and claustrophobia; the open spaces are even worse (Doom games always tended to make you fear the quiet even worse than the turmoil). The various types of architecture make sure you never get bored with the surroundings, and if you're anything like me you'll find yourself spending minutes just staring out windows, or reading miscellaneous text off monitors, simply because it looks so damn good. The variety I mentioned earlier also means you have to adapt to various kinds of combat with various enemies: mostly shotgun and chainsaw for close quarters combat; automatic weapons outside; be extremely conservative with the way you waste ammo, use grenades judiciously, always use the least powerful weapon for any given task. At the high difficulty settings the game does pose a challenge (although not as difficult as I'd prefer) so it's important to get a feel for the game rather than running around shooting at things randomly: you may survive a couple of battles that way, but the next time you'll be facing a hell knight and you're out of ammo, well, sucks to be you.

The sound design is amazing. The music (though there is relatively little of it) is very appropriate, the constant background noises are simply magnificent: machinery hums, electricity buzzes, and certain areas that are obviously references to levels in the original Doom games even sound the part, albeit that much more detailed and spooky. Weapon sounds are minimalistic but appropriate, the monsters sound as you'd expect. Voice acting is surprisingly good, even (and maybe particularly) for the background characters - some of the voice logs are downright eerie.

Also, the plot does work. Yes, it's simple. Yes, it's minimalistic. But it works, and works well at that. The various PDAs and monitors are loaded with background information to help you get a feel for what's going on around you; admittedly I found it unnecessary in the original Doom, but in Doom 3 it really helps build an atmosphere.

Lastly, the game captures the Doom spirit perfectly. I was worried (particularly considering the rumors that the monster count has been drastically decreased) that Doom 3 will not feel like Doom; it's difficult to explain the distinction, but the way things behave and the game "feels" is absolutely Doom, which is absolutely a good thing. Playing Doom 3 has been one of the most satisfying gaming experiences I've ever had.

Here are a few final tidbits I couldn't really build a paragraph on:
  • Considering what the engine does, it's astoundingly fast. It runs very well with antialiasing on my machine (AthlonXP 2800+, Radeon 9800XT, 1GB RAM) and with slightly reduced details it runs impressively well even on older machines (and even a friend's Radeon 9600-equipped laptop).
  • The loading times are not awful, and a 30-second level load will last anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes of gameplay, which is damn good considering the immediate competition... *cough* HL2 *cough*
  • I have seen ZERO bugs on the game's first release. I bought it as soon as I could, played the first version start to finish and it was absolutely stable (both technically and as far as gameplay is concerned).
  • The game is certainly every bit as linear in nature as Half Life 2, but still "feels" a lot more open-ended; you never have to blast your way through a hardly-visible wooden barrier, or run through a corridor with 9 locked doors out of 10.
  • Doom 3 is not actually scary. Yes, there are a lot of "jump out of your chair" moments, but it's not genuinely claustrophobic nor genuinely scary. The only game to ever rate that in my scale was System Shock 2.
  • AI is weak, but is not expected to be anything else. Check out my response to A Gamer's Manifesto which goes into this in more detail.

The Bad

I have very few qualms with Doom 3. The primary concern is with its length; the first time I played the game it felt very short, but if you read this far you already know that turning off the duct tape mod has considerably increased replay time. The only issue that remains is that, because of the somewhat abrupt ending, the game feels more like Episode 1. I haven't played Resurrection of Evil yet so I can only hope the extension is appropriate.

The double-barreled shotgun is sorely missing, which also proves my previous point that the game feels more like the first in a series; another shortcoming that's supposed to be remedied by RoE.

The Bottom Line

The long-awaited sequel to Doom delivers and more so. It is one of the most enjoyable games I've played in ages, not to mention the most visually astounding game yet seen on the PC. Play it.