Doom 3 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doc_Brown   
Thursday, 02 March 2006 18:00
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Developer: id Software
Publisher: Activision
Demo
ESRB Mature 17+ (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence)
PEGI 18+ (Game contains depictions of violence)

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A Drop of Time
Long before Alma taught us the meaning of F.E.A.R., Doom 3 employed a spooky little girl of its own. Little more than a disembodied voice and bloody footprints, she only appeared a few times but achieved maximum impact as a result. In her final appearance, just as you’ve gotten used to the idea and are following closely at her heels, she attempts to lead you into an empty elevator shaft. The design is such a keen example of how to manipulate the player that it’s a shame the rest of the game doesn’t share such perceptiveness…

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Hell in a Hand Basket
The year is 2145. The Union Aerospace Corporation—your typical corporate superpower with military contracts and no ethical restraints—has managed to colonize Mars. They've set up a research facility there headed by one Dr. Betruger, and are doing all sorts of wonderful experiments for the good of mankind and the profit of the now multiplanetary corporation. Alpha Lab is home to the Elemental Phase Deconstructor, a nifty little gadget that can break the iron molecules making up most of the planet into hydrogen and oxygen for use as clean water and fuel back home.

Delta Lab, meanwhile, works on Betruger's pet project—teleportation. The technology works over short ranges, but there's a hitch: the trip should be instantaneous, yet there's a slight delay in all the experiments. It turns out teleportation works by hopping through another dimension, and in his infinite wisdom Betruger decides to turn the layover into the destination. Too bad it turns out to be Hell—or, as the game suggests in one of its brighter moments, our inspiration for Hell. As a marine newly-assigned to the Mars base, the job of keeping the hellspawn at bay falls on you.

The story progresses through cinematics, cutscenes, emails, and audio logs. It's all very well done, featuring notably solid voice acting in all but one case—your own. Developers take note: if the main character never speaks, it works best if you never leave the first person perspective. Still, for a company not known for compelling storylines this is a step in the right direction, even if it does ultimately fall short (not to mention bear more than a passing resemblance to Stargate: SG1).

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Otherworldly
There’s no doubt this engine is cutting edge—Doom 3 is one good-looking game. The bump-mapped environments, highly detailed models, and real-time lighting and shadows are all top notch. The designers tend to overplay the darkness, however, which creates something of a paradox: how can you see the characters and architecture they obviously put so much effort into? What’s worse, the levels as a whole are fairly unmemorable. With the exception of the single level set in Hell, a few surface jaunts, and some alien ruins, the rest of the game is set in the Mars base.

The advantage to being stuck in that high tech facility, however, is having ample opportunity to admire one of the features the game excels at: computer screens. Easily readable, simple to interact with in a complex fashion, and capable of showing full motion footage without any loss of quality, these are the best I’ve seen in a long, long time. Too bad the same can’t be said for the physics and ragdoll effects; although present, they’re more eye candy than relevant to the bulk of gameplay. The technology is there, it just isn’t being used to its full potential.

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We are Legion
Visually, the enemies you'll encounter in Doom 3 are just as impressive as you'd expect. What may surprise you is how diverse they are. There are scores of undead—some slow and dimwitted, others quick and smart enough to use weapons—and while the demons lack that kind of individual variety, they make up for it by having many distinct classes. Most of the classics make the transition over (oh how I miss you, Spider Mastermind), and in an interesting new twist, the demons burn into ash upon death and, I suspect, simply reconstitute in Hell.

The downside to the enemies is that their AI is less than impressive. At first they may seem quite cunning after many a dramatic entrance, but the problem is it's all scripted. Watching an Imp scurry over and under pipes down a wall is all very impressive, but once the script has run its course the poor devil is strictly confined to the ground. We've seen such a thing done in real-time before (Aliens versus Predator), so we know it should be possible. The lack of any challenging intellect is disappointing because there's potential here to do some truly interesting things.

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Bedknobs and Boomsticks
With the exception of the double-barreled shotgun, every weapon from Dooms past has been included in this latest iteration. In addition, we've picked up a flashlight, machinegun, grenades, and the Soul Cube. The latter is wonderful, a one-hit-kill that not only gives you your enemy's health but also functions as a major plot point. The ‘nades and machinegun, meanwhile, may not have much flash but they sure get the job done. However, it’s the flashlight—innocuous though it may seem—that is the most troublesome.

You see, the flashlight is defined as a weapon same as any other. Therefore, you can’t have both a gun and the torch selected at the same time. You wind up having to choose between being able to fight but unable to see what you’re shooting at, or having a clear view of what’s about to tear its way through your defenseless torso. It’s a cheap trick to boost suspense, and judging from the number of mods that have popped up to fix the problem, I’d say few are amused by it.

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Rinse and Repeat
And now the big question: is it any fun? I'm sorry to report that this may be the game’s biggest shortcoming. When you come right down to it, Doom 3 is incredibly repetitive. Despite a technology base that should have allowed the designers to do just about anything they wanted, and the franchise’s inherent potential to support a truly terrifying experience, gameplay is nothing more than a turkey shoot. It’s tolerable in small doses, but with twenty-seven mostly similar areas to explore the game long overstays its welcome.

It gets worse. Since the engine has so much invested in the graphics, the number of enemies is lower in comparison to its predecessors—which is a shame considering that, like Painkiller and its ilk, lots of enemies would have elevated the game some. It still endeavors to recreate that old school sensation, though, by having the bulk of them spring out of hidden compartments or teleport in around you. Instead of generating feelings of nostalgia, it seems startlingly out of place in a next generation game. Instead of genuine terror, we’re subjected to tedious funhouse style scares.

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Conclusion
Doom 3 sure looks good, but repetitive, unremarkable gameplay brings the entire experience down. Its flaws are so fundamental in nature that I fear trying to fix the game would be a fool’s errand. But there is potential here if properly realized. We’ve seen the videos depicting early gameplay more akin to the survival horror genre, and read of things such as zombies that never truly die. Let us hope that if Doom 4 comes one day, that is the game we get.  As for Doom 3, well... if nothing else you could hang onto it to play some of the great mods people are making for it.

Note: Originally posted at Hangar16.com on 08/24/04
 

Game Rated 6/10

 

 

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