Doom 3: An In-Depth Report Feature - The Next Level

Doom 3: An In-Depth Report

Full-on and balls-out with id Software's hardcore FPS thriller.

Article by Ross Fisher (Email)
September 7th 2004, 05:00AM
 

But there is an endless sea of cramped repetitive labs and hallways. The few brief moments in larger environments only puzzled me as they brought me tears of joy. The engine seems more than capable of handling the great outdoors. The gun and run gameplay mechanics aren’t broken on the outside...so why not more of it? It would have broken up the monotone feel of the game, and maybe even allowed for some gameplay moments other than "oh look, another crouched imp waiting for me behind a door...oh what a surprise."

Doom 3 bored me even as it scared the shit out me simply because it was like a party guest who keeps going "I got you good!" Yeah, and I’ll jump the next time Bob... but that doesn’t mean I’m not tired of it. Perhaps those early reviewers were blessed when they found the stamina, and the time, to play through Doom 3 in one or even two sittings. The 20 (I found it closer to 15) hours of play time must have felt like a tight narrative. Spread out over a few days and multiple play sessions I found it feels like running through molasses.

Earlier I mentioned that I wished I hadn’t played Riddick first. I’m going to tell you why now. Because Riddick makes real-time lighting and shadows work as a gameplay mechanic where Doom 3 just makes me wish that they had duct-tape and night-vision goggles lying around somewhere in the complex. Riddick also had the good sense to throw variety at the gamer even though it was a scant 8-10hrs long.

Doom 3 would have benefited greatly from either more variety or a shorter running time. It certainly doesn’t have anything new to show you after the first three hours that justify the next seventeen quiet hours of wandering from one part of the now empty Martian base to the next.

Perhaps it was the way I felt like I was already a ghost that made the game seem boring. Despite the inclusion of realistic physics many of the objects in the game remain as if seated by crazy glue. Fire fights rarely bump anything around in a crazy Max Payne 2 sort of way. It’s also odd that things don’t break...shoot a computer screen and watch as the clearing smoke reveals the undamaged screen marred only by bullet decals being drawn over the screen.

Still I pressed on and was rewarded every now and then with a short in-game cinematic. Usually the "oh crap" music was accompanied by a new foe introducing himself, but some times I received either orders or motivation. Accolades must be given to id Software for tying up loose ends and explaining things in a clear fashion (and the bland generic corporate training videos you can pick up help as well). In fact they did such a good job I found myself going... "Is that it? Where’s the 'sequel written on the wall’ moment?"

So having learned the master plan from the evil one himself I found myself walking through a short hallway and under an overhang into a clearing...oh wait...that isn’t a roof above me! It’s the biggest damn boss I’ve seen since Serious Sam.

Thus began the battle of a thousand reload animations... having finally outwitted the final boss in what was an exhilarating fight, by running around in circles firing every weapon I had until the damn thing dropped dead of boredom I’m guessing, I turned my sights to the multiplayer mode...

Multiplayer? Much more fun than the pre-release whining about "only four players" would have you believe. Shooting the blue guy, the red guy and even the green guy took me back to a time when getting four people together for some afternoon Quaking in the school computer lab was a treat. A time before everyone had high speed internet connections.

That said, some of the maps feel a little big for four players, the physics powered barrel rolling aspect doesn’t do anything to justify the absurdly high sever-CPU requirements, and the layouts are bit confusing... still how can anyone look at the main room of Kokimo Reactor and not feel at awed at the sight of something we would have once thought possible only with a roomful of SGI computers?

Having reached the end of Doom 3 I found myself with a heavy heart. There is a deep desire in me to give the game four out of five stars if only for the amazing technical merits, and the well polished presentation... but... if the game was called "Demon Killing" and was built by some unknown developer we’d all be amazed by the graphics but quickly call them on the "find-the-red-keycard" gameplay cleverly repackaged as a "find-the-interactive-PDA-while-not-picking-up anything-near-a-dark-corner" gameplay. However, add an extra point if you plan to play the multiplayer mode, or any of the soon to be released mods, but consider it a three out of five if you’re single-player bound.

In a year when Halo 2 looms over even the soon to be titan that is Half-Life 2, id Software needed to release more than a colorful re-imagining of the first-person shooter that weaned a generation, they needed to release something that showed they were paying attention to the last ten years. When even "cheap" movie knock-offs like Chronicles of Riddick are mixing RPG-lite moments, "Thief" stealth elements, and moments of run and gun Doom gameplay it’s not enough for me that a game is just Doom 3 anymore.

Review System:
3.0ghz P4
1gig of RAM
Radeon 9800 XT
Logitech Z-680’s 5.1 Surround Sound

Score:


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