DOOM³ (Windows)

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Written by  :  Chris Wright (105)
Written on  :  Sep 19, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars

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Impressive visuals, but lacking the soul of the original

The Good

2004 was, at first glance, a fantastic year for the first-person shooter genre. Spring gave us the unlooked-for treat of Far Cry, summer brought the release of the long-anticipated DOOM³, and Valve finally completed their work on Half-Life 2 by the winter. While all these titles made significant advances in graphical rendering, they represented more of a technological advancement than an evolution in gameplay. But first, let's look at what's right about DOOM³.

The first thing that stands out is the atmosphere. It is dark, but the lighting is dynamic and very realistic. In fact, superior lighting is the biggest advantage that DOOM³ has over its main rival, Half-Life 2. Now, John Carmack, the brains behind id's game engines, has said that in order for DOOM³ to run properly, the basic color scheme of the gameworld needed to be black, black, and more black. And this is the dominant feature of DOOM³ -- the levels are dark, claustrophobic, and poorly-lit. After trapezing around on bright sunlit tropical islands in Far Cry, the dark, tight corridors of DOOM³ are more than a little disturbing. But the DOOM series is all about fear, dread, and horror, so all this gloom is both appropriate and immersive. But, if you like things bright and cheery, this is not the game for you.

Moving on: the gameplay is solid, though it lacks any innovation. The run-and-gun philosophy behind the prior DOOM games has been tempered somewhat. Instead of blasting your way through a dozen demons, DOOM³ requires a more cerebral approach. You'll need to move forward slowly, patiently, listening for every sound, checking in every corner, creating a mental schematic in your head in case you need to turn heel and run away from some horrific cybernetic demon-dog.

The bosses are impressive but for some reason lack the personality of their counterparts in DOOM. I really hated that Cyberdemon and Spider Mastermind in classic DOOM, but the bosses here are just too menacing and overwhelming to give me a chance to loathe them. I just frantically pumped round after round into them, loaded time after time after getting wasted, and eventually polished them off. Still, they are quite memorable. Regrettably, though, the final boss is more of an RPG encounter than a real challenge. You can only hurt it with one weapon, the SoulCube, which is homing. So you just strafe around in circles, keeping your distance from various yard trash enemies, and the boss (a different incarnation of the Cyberdemon) will never hit you with his rockets. Your homing SoulCube takes four or five deployments to kill the big meanie, and that's it, game over.

The Bad

The plot of DOOM³ is a bit muddled and uninspired. I get the feeling that id was far more concerned with creating a graphical masterpiece than a dramatic one. Still, three years after Bungie released the compelling and story-driven Halo, it would have been nice if id had aspired to create a more coherent and sensible storyline. Perhaps they did aspire to this: but the bottom-line is that they failed. The demons of Hell don't appear to have any reason or purpose to their existence: they are just mean and ferocious and aren't driven by an intelligent force like the Spider Mastermind in the original DOOM.

Furthermore, the chief antagonist of DOOM³, Dr. Betruger, appears to be such a wicked and hateful human being that he'll sacrifice the entire human race in his quest for power. I find that a bit unrealistic -- nobody is that evil.

The Bottom Line

DOOM³ is a graphical triumph, but it offers little in the way of gameplay innovation. Still, if it ain't broke don't fix it, right? DOOM and its sequel were big hits, so I don't blame id for keeping it simple and just focusing on their technology.