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Chris Sell
13 Apr, 2005

Doom 3 Review

Xbox Review | The gates of hell are opened once again...
Doom 3 is actually a re-telling of the original Doom. The plot itself is pretty simple. You play the role of a lone marine soldier against the demons of hell. This time around it takes place in an outer space station, where the marine has just turned up for work. As you get further into the base, more and more details of what is going on unfold. It seems that the base is the home to some warp gates of some kind which allow scientists and researchers to get a better look at what other kinds of life exist in the universe. It's not long before you discover what they've found when you suddenly open up a doorway filled with flaming skulls and demonic screams. Hell of course is what they've discovered, and while they try to close the gateway, it's too late and most of base is soon overtaken by the demon forces, leaving you alone to defeat the evil and save the world. In a nod towards the Half-Life games, the introduction to Doom 3 happens in real time with you having full control over your character. You actually have to walk up to that video monitor to see the chaos happening elsewhere in the base. The game doesn’t switch to a separate screen, you are watching it as if you are actually in the game, while the game world continues around you which makes you feel more involved and certainly adds to the whole atmosphere of the game - something that this game relies heavily on.

By the time the demons have invaded you should be in the possession of 2 very important items. The first is the torch, which can be brought up at any time using the white button. You’ll be using it a lot so it might be wise to map it to another button if that doesn't suit you. Given the amount of darkness that floods Doom 3, the torch is quite frequently your only method of being able to see. When using the torch, you are unable to hold a gun which has both positive and negative effects on the game. On the plus side, only being able to use one at a time heightens the atmosphere and tension in the game. Running around without a gun in your hand means you're always at risk to an attack, but you need the torch to see so it's a risk that you have to take. So while the torch adds to the atmosphere of the game, it can often be the reason for alot of frustration. Swapping between your gun and the torch over and over can soon become tiresome, as does shooting an enemy in total darkness then having to pull the torch out to see if it died.

Your second important item is your PDA. While Doom 3 is certainly not the first game to use such a device - amongst others, the Splinter Cell games have used them for a while now - it is one of the few games to make it a little more seamless and integrated into the gameplay. The main use of the PDA is for reading emails, listening to audio clips and watching any video discs you discover that have been left by other characters in the game. These are used to fill in the background to the story, give a more realistic feel to the world through the believable voice work, or even update your security clearance which essentially works as a key to unlocking doors you need to progress through or give away access codes to supply rooms. Because all this is 'hidden' away on the PDA, they can be totally ignored if you wish, much like the data logs of the Metroid Prime games. Doom 3's story isn't really of main importance so leaving things up to the player in this case is a better decision than forcing them to sit through cutscenes that they probably don't care about.

Why hello there

Why hello there
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For what was originally a PC game, Doom 3 controls incredibly well. All the buttons are customizable as are the stick sensitivities. Aiming itself feels as smooth and steady as the Halo games and there's even the ability to turn quicker by moving the stick when holding the run button, a great addition considering the amount of times you need to quickly turn around in the game. Four different weapons can be mapped to each of the d-pad directions which makes pulling out grenades or equipping yourself with a chainsaw a very easy process. But it's the weaponry that the game first falls short on.

The guns, as a whole, lack satisfaction. Considering the Doom games are famous for their shotguns, the shotgun in Doom 3 is simply disappointing. The gunshot noise is totally underwhelming, it doesn't look particularly great and its animation is on the tame side. Compare it to the meaty sounding, powerful looking shotgun in the original games and you can't help but feel disappointed. It's not just the shotgun either, the machine gun looks more like one of those handheld hoovers you'd clean out a car with than a gun and the sound it makes is somewhat reminiscent of the 'Klobb' from Goldeneye. Which isn't a good thing, for those who've never played it. Thankfully the game redeems itself with a decent chaingun, rocket launcher and plasma hun and then there's the awesome chainsaw which really is a handheld death machine. But, considering the shotgun and the machine gun are probably the two most used guns in the game, Doom 3 suffers because the combat isn't very engaging or absorbing as a result. It simply doesn’t feel as if you’re shooting anything as the guns look, feel and sound weak and disassociate you from the experience. The lack of damage to enemies doesn't help either. With all the graphical power that Doom 3 has you would expect a shotgun blast to leave their mark on dead bodies, but no, bodies simply disintegrate within moments of death.

Doom 3's biggest problem isn't due to the weapons though, it's the core gameplay where it faults. While the game is incredibly atmospheric with its superb graphics engine, chilling set-pieces and excellent use of 5.1 ambience sound, Doom 3's gameplay is literally made up of walking down a poorly lit corridor, seeing enemies that spawn in or jump out and then shooting them. That’s it. You get the odd section where you have to escort someone and protect them, or parts where you're helped by the small robot drones you see early in the game, or even the odd puzzle here and there, but for the most part you'll just be walking around in darkness, shooting whatever enemy that decides to jump out on you. The gameplay is incredibly simple and lacks any real variation. The enemies are all a bit samey too. Design wise there's a decent amount of different types you encounter, but from a AI perspective most of them act very much the same. Once they see you, they'll come after you. Some move faster than others, some attack different from others, but most lack any real intelligence and can be dispatched quite easily by simply waiting around a corner until they come.

But that's the point of Doom 3. It's meant to be simple, it's meant to be a 'shoot first, think later' kind of game, and it does do that well. The problem is that many first person shooters, including the original Doom games, have far more interesting level design, while the likes of Serious Sam and Painkiller are better examples of mindless shooting. For most of the game, you’re stuck in small, dark, cramped corridors that while they do have a superb industrial feel to them, soon becomes stale. Take a look at all the best FPS's from recent years and they all have one thing in common - large open areas. The likes of Half-Life 2, Far Cry and the Halo games are arguably all at their best when not confined to indoor areas. Unlike when the original Doom was made - where the technology at the time meant everything had to be corridors - we now have the power to do something more and it's a shame Doom 3 didn't try to. That's not to say that FPS's need to be outdoors to be good, last year's The Chronicles of Riddick proved that a corridor based game can offer diverseness in environments. Besides, Doom 3's corridors could have been made more interesting with masses of enemies to battle with, but rarely do you get a large confrontation with the enemies. They mostly just appear one after the other giving you time to reload and gain health before taking on the next one. All the tension that the darkness and sound are supposed to build is lost when it’s just 'another Zombie' that appears. Even as the enemies get bigger and more impressive to look at, they rarely offer a huge challenge, and you never encounter those full-on wave after wave swarm of attacks you had to suffer in the original Doom games.

Brendan's last date was a disaster

Brendan's last date was a disaster
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Doom 3's graphics have always been the biggest reason for all the hype and it is certainly one of the most realistic looking games on any console. How Vicarious Visions/id Software managed to pull it off on the 733 MHz, GeForce 3-based Xbox is quite impressive as it’s clearly a title that pushes the machine to its limits. The environments are highly detailed helping create the dark, gloomy, metallic world of Doom 3. The lighting effects are far beyond what anyone thought consoles would be capable of. Realistic shadows bounce back and forth off the walls in accordance to any light sources and the results are truly amazing. At a push, I would say that The Chronicles of Riddick is the better looking of the two games though. There are some noticeable aliasing issues here and there and textures are really quite blurry when up close. The character models, especially the enemies, are my biggest gripe. They simply don't have enough polygons and don't look very solid at times because of it. But those are only minor gripes for an otherwise drop-dead gorgeous piece of software. It supports 16:9 for all you widescreen owners while the framerate is surprisingly very stable at 30 frames per second.

The audio is a mixed bag. The voice acting within the game is surprisingly well done which is important due to the amount of audio clips that are found and the amount of chatter heard on the radio. If it was poorly recorded or the acting was sub-par, the effect would have been lost and it would have detracted from the atmosphere of the game. They also make good use of ambient audio throughout the game with screams, shouts, evil laughter and various haunting noises all helping pile on the tension. Musically the game is lacking any real soundtrack which is a shame, but probably a decision made to keep the focus on the atmosphere, and I've already mentioned the weak weapon sound effects which do detract from the combat somewhat.

As many may be aware of, the Xbox version of Doom 3 is not a 100% straight port of the PC version. Due to hardware limitations on the Xbox, the levels have all been separated into smaller areas. Also, some areas of the PC version are just completely missing from the Xbox version. For example, the first 2-3 hours of the PC version is only about 45-60mins long on the Xbox, and I think the game is better for it actually due to the improved pacing. Despite the cuts, the game still clocks in at a good 10-15 hours on the normal difficulty setting, which is about par for the course for an FPS. There are some Xbox Live features that extend play time further. While the deathmatch is pretty much a waste of time (it's incredibly basic and just too dark to work as a multiplayer game), the co-operative feature is certainly worthwhile. You and buddy can play though a total of 20 stages taken from the single player. They've done a good job in picking which levels would work better with two players with most of the more open levels being on offer for co-op play. On the downside this means that it's only about 5 or 6hrs in length, but it's still a good addition. Having 2 players suits game very well with one player (usually the one with less health) being able to sit behind and light up an area for the other player. Having 2 players also means you can save each other from enemies attacking from behind, something you have to frequently suffer when playing alone.

Despite alot of criticism for most of this review, Doom 3 is a decent game. The atmosphere it creates is superb and with all the lights off and the sound up loud is genuinely is quite an unnerving experience. But once the scare factor wears off, which is does, you are left with a modernized version of Doom that feels more like a first-person survival horror game than the all out shooter than it could/should have been. The enemy AI is too simple to challenge the likes of Halo or Far Cry and its battles aren't big enough and its levels aren't interesting enough to be a great 'mindless shooter'. Mindless shooters these days are supposed to thrill by offering crazy weaponry, huge setpieces and a variety of interesting locales - and Doom 3's problem is that it doesn't really deliver successfully in these key areas.
The Score
A decent game that unfortunately fails in a few key areas. With more work put into the weapons, more diverse locations and more/or smarter enemies this could have been up there with the best. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Doom 3 Content

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Doom 3 Preview
18 Jan, 2005 The Xbox is doomed.
Xbox owners may not see Doom III until 2005
23 Aug, 2004 'Probably not going to come out this year' is the word from id Software.
6 Comments
9 years ago
sounds comparitive to the PC version then...

except there's co-op...
9 years ago
Yeah, pretty much. It's not as good graphically as the PC version, but it makes up for it with co-op and the improved opening hour (much of the PC's early 'walking around with no gun' areas have been condensed into a much more enjoyble shorter section.)
9 years ago
I was watching the guys at gamespot.com play it, it looked pretty darn cool! The co-op mode would be really cool! Like you don't have to always be together, kind of like free roaming!
4 years ago
PC-Version is better than the XBox version.
4 years ago
That's awesome, right there.
4 years ago
Look at all his posts, they are all as informative as this one!
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Activision
Developer:
  Vicarious Visions
Players:
  1-4

Extra:
Xbox Live compatibility
16:9 widescreen

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