Saturday , 19 April 2014
Latest Reviews

Doom 3

Doom 3 is a good single player game built around an excellent engine. Id has made one of the most beautiful, ugly places to visit.

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Introduction

”A massive demonic invasion has overwhelmed the Union Aerospace Corporation’s (UAC) Mars Research Facility, leaving only chaos and horror in its wake.  As one of only a few survivors, you struggle with shock and fear as you fight your way to hell and back, in an epic clash against pure evil.  Built on id’s revolutionary new 3D graphics engine, Doom 3 draws you into the most frightening and gripping 3D gaming experience ever created.”

System Specs

Minimum:
Microsoft Windows 2000/XP;
Pentium IV 1.5 GHz or AMD Athlon 1.7 GHz XP processor or higher;
384MB RAM;
8x Speed CD-ROM drive (1200KB/sec sustained transfer rate) and latest drivers;
1.7GB of uncompressed free hard disk space (plus 400MB for Windows swap file);
100% DirectXR 9.0b compatible 16-bit sound card and latest drivers;
100% Windows 2000/XP compatible mouse, keyboard and latest drivers;
3D hardware Accelerator Card Required – 100% DirectXR 9.0b compatible 64MB Hardware Accelerated video card and the latest drivers.

As Tested:
Win XP Home
P-4 2.24Ghz
1GB Ram
80GB HD
GeForce FX5950U
SB Audigy
Version 1.0.+

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Gameplay

The original Doom slipped onto the scene using id’s shareware philosophy.  Immediately, the gaming world knew what greatness was.  The gameplay, the graphics, and the audio were so much higher than what was out at the time; it was deemed back then to be the best game ever.  Well, I can honestly say that the “best” just got a little bit better.

In Doom 3, you are playing a horror movie as it unfolds.  It has a deliberate pace with frantic moments.  The entire gaming package is designed to make your butt pucker, if not outright scare the begeezus out of you.  The blend of graphics, audio, and design all turn out one of the most totally engrossing gaming experiences.

 

Doom 3 is installed off of 3 CDs.  The install is straightforward, with disc one being the play disc.  The main menu is simple in design and easy to navigate.  Your main options are:  New Game, Load Game, Multiplayer, Options, Mods, Updates, Credits, and Exit.

I’ll get to the New Game and Multiplayer selections further into the article.  Load Game simply loads your games.  Options will allow you to configure your options and system to run Doom 3.  From here, you can change your key mappings, general control settings, game options, and system settings.  The system settings will be where most gamers will head to first.  Doom 3 is very forgiving as far as your system is concerned.  It does have a good “auto detect” feature.  For my system, it detected the high setting.  I turned on v-synch and 2x AA for my personal enjoyment.  For this, I got a 20.2 FPS using the timedemo feature.  I’m sure more hardcore tweakers with optimized gaming rigs will get much higher ratings.  My machine experienced no crashes whatsoever while playing Doom 3.

   

New Game gets you into the single player action.  The single player game is where the core of Doom 3 lies.  Sorry Quake fans, but this is the Doom universe.  It is slow and deliberate, with frantic firefights and scripted moments thrown in for good measure.  A comparison to the System Shock franchise wouldn’t be too far off.  The game play isn’t that far from the original Doom: Kill bad guys while moving through levels in a linear fashion.  Solve a puzzle here; kill the beastie there; all while trying to stay alive.  Doom 3’s levels aren’t open ended, for example, as some of the Far Cry levels are, but you really don’t miss much of that sparsely populated freedom.

You start out as a marine being transferred to Mars.  Your first assignment is to report in to the duty sergeant.  From there, you explore the base in search of a missing scientist.  This scientist is trying to warn you of impending doom when all hell breaks loose.  Demons appear, humans are transformed, and evil is awakened.

 

This first level is an interactive walkthrough designed to give you a taste of the features in Doom 3.  You learn how to interact with other characters and items.  The “FIRE” button also doubles as a generic “USE” button in this regard.  Talking to a person, typing on a console pad, or pushing an airlock button are all done with the “FIRE” button.  The level of interactivity has gone up dramatically since the last Doom.  Later on, you control things like claw cranes and canister locks.  You also get assigned your PDA.

   

The PDA is your key into the facility and its story.  From this one item, you get information on weaponry, emails from other people, security clearance uploads, and audio/video logs.  Basically, this is the key card from the original Doom game combined with the log ability of System Shock.  You can download other’s PDAs into yours, gaining access to whatever was on that PDA.  This is a good way to learn even more about the back and current story of Doom 3.  It’s also a good way to learn about special little things hidden in the game, like spam mail for  http://www.martianbuddy.com.

 

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Gameplay (continued)

Other new features in this iteration of Doom include sprinting, the stamina bar, and the oxygen meter.  Because Doom 3 is slower than even the original Doom, your character needs to have sudden bursts of speed to get away from trouble.  The sprint feature allows you to do just that.  Tap the sprint key for a burst of speed.  Sprinting will deplete your stamina bar, however.  Oxygen is needed for the few outdoor areas.  Run out, your health will suffer.

Doom fans will relish in the fact that all of they’re old friends are back: weapons.  From the chainsaw to the BFG, you will enjoy each of them for their destructive abilities.  However, this is where I find myself having an issue with the game.  The weapons are almost exactly the same as in Doom.  There are no secondary fire modes that players come to expect in current shooters.  Also, there are no optics on the more advanced weapons, even the ones that show them on the weapon model.  There isn’t even an accessory rail on any of the weapons, forcing you to use a hand-held flashlight.  I thought this was supposed to be 2145, not 1945.  Having “de-powered” weapons does add to the sense of futility, though.  That must be a “design feature” that hopefully someone will modify soon.  I also hope someone adds flares or light-sticks. 

 

Doom 3 makes good use of its physics engine.  Monsters, characters, and objects get ragdoll effects.  Granted, they aren’t that complex, leading to some characters ending up in some compromising positions.  The physics engine also allows for small objects to be manipulated through simple pushing.  However, the physics engine doesn’t allow for more complex functions, such as environmental destruction.  For example, you can shoot through some glass with a pistol, but a BFG round won’t touch others.

  

The levels in Doom 3 are dark, dreary, and cramped.  There is not a lot of room to maneuver, making for an even more harrowing experience.  You get the sense that there is danger lying around every corner.  When there isn’t anything around that next corner, you start wondering where it is.  The game tries to stay fresh by not throwing the same creature at you time and time again. However, unless you can stay immersed in the mood of game, the later missions become more of a chore.  You pretty much know what is coming, when it is coming, and how to dodge it or avoid damage.  The 500th imp teleporting in just isn’t as scary or spectacular as the first 20 or so.  The actual mission progression is pretty linear.  It fits in with the Doom universe but hasn’t adventured far from the established norm.  Also, there are some particular jumping platform puzzles that really don’t belong in this type of game. Finally, the individual levels can take some time to load, breaking the captivation factor.

   

The monsters and minions of hell are full of personality.  The AI scripting is quite good.  The zombies will lumber towards you in an attempt to get their next meal.  The converted soldiers will use their weapons and training against you.  That means crouching to fire, ducking behind available cover, and leaning out to fire after reloading.  The netherworld creatures each possess unique characteristics as well.  The Imp likes to crawl on walls and ceilings, falling down to hurl fire and claws at you.  He will also pounce on you, making your life very miserable as your health and armor counter falls.  The pinky demon likes to charge at you, using his strength to knock you about.  Cacodemons tend to show up at the most inopportune times, namely when you are outside running out of oxygen.  Plus, id had to go and throw in spiders.  I hate spiders.

   

Bosses show up throughout the game.  They are there to provide what I consider the closing of a chapter in the storybook of Doom 3.  They are big, tough, and usually need a pattern to destroy them.  You definitely need to stock up on weaponry and supplies before confronting these behemoths.

   

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Gameplay (final)

After finishing the game, I really don’t see much of a replay value.  I mean, you do unlock the nightmare difficulty level after you finish.  However, there are really no main plot branches in the story.  You have few decisions, and they don’t really matter.  Still, it can be done for bragging rights.  I’m also sure that the real gem will be the mod community.  As of yesterday, there were already multiplayer mods out there increasing the player cap.

Multiplayer functionality is in Doom 3, but it is really treated as an afterthought.  The game is set up to run in a client server mode, the developers say to enable the tracking of all the individual items present in a level.  Also, they cap the player limit to 4, but mods out already have upped that to at least 16.  Setting up a server and browsing for games are quite easy functions, with sorting and filtering as easy as point and click.

There are 5 maps and 4 modes of play included out of the box.  Each map is quite small for a multiplayer game, so having the cap at 4 players isn’t such a bad idea.  The maps are reminiscent of levels in the single player portion of the game.  As such, game features such as lighting and darkness add new twists to any would-be fragger.  If you switch to your flashlight to see in the dark, it could give you away if someone is hiding there.  If someone is hiding there, you can’t shoot without light. 

   

There are 4 modes of play:  Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, and Tournament.  Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are standard fare for most shooters.  Last Man Standing gives each marine limited numbers of lives.  Last one standing, wins.  Tournament is like “king of the hill,” the winner keeps playing until he is offed by a challenger.  The loser goes into a spectator queue, waiting for their turn to challenge the victor again.

  

The multiplayer pacing is quite fast, due to the smaller level designs.  It does tend to get a bit twitchy at times, but at other times a deliberate pacing helps.  It really depends on the level and the number of players.  Also, due to the client-server setup, the lag is not noticeable, even with all of the effects, on a good host PC.  Some cons are that the default marine player models look really goofy.  They also move a bit stiff.  It is also hard to get into games because of the player cap.  I think a final con is the lack of play modes.  Again, this is something that should be modded by the community.

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Sound

As I established above, Doom 3 plays more like a horror movie than a frag-fest FPS.  To this end, the sound can be equated to what you would hear in a theatrical release.  It is that damn good. The music is scored by Chris Vrenna, formerly of NIN. It has a gritty, industrial feel to it. The music usually doesn’t kick in until something major happens, like a boss fight. Of course, there isn’t much need for music when so much else is going on with the audio in the game.  It is apparent that id wanted to not just make a great game, but make sure that all of the game’s pieces lived up to the graphics and gameplay.

The voice acting is very good. A good deal of the back-story can be learned from listening to conversations and playing the audio logs discovered in PDAs. The synch between the spoken parts and the models are pretty much spot on. You also get to listen in to the radio chatter, once equipped. This turns quite frantic once hell is unleashed on the base. Civilians cry out for help, while marine squads report in with situation reports.  You also get audio hints from those trying to guide you through the levels. Finally, there are always the voices. These voices will laugh at you and taunt you the deeper you go. Sinister and malevolent, they squeal with delight at your imminent doom.

  

Sound effects are very professional. From the groans of the zombies to the firing of the weapons, the sounds are very realistic and pretty much spot on in representation. Probably the only issue with sound is that there is so much noise on the outside of Mars. I know that the planet has an atmosphere, but it really isn’t enough to carry sounds waves like those represented in the game. Also, while doing the outdoor missions, the hardy marine on O2 sounds like an asthmatic in an iron lung. It can get annoying to hear that loop over and over again.

Ambient sounds play a critical role in this game. They enhance the already creepy atmosphere. You can hear steam, drips, and creaks. Metal sounds as if it is near fatigue. A low humming can be heard from behind the walls, signaling perhaps that the facility itself is alive. Each piece of electronics has some sort of sound associated with it, if you listen closely enough. The creatures can be heard scurrying along metal floor plates, and impending evil is usually announced by resounding heavy thuds on the walls or by the cackle of those disembodied voices.

Currently, I am listening to Doom 3 using a pair of headphones plugged into the sound card.  I’m sure that the auditory enjoyment would be even more greatly enhanced with a 5.1 system.

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Graphics

The brand new engine from id makes the world of Doom 3 the most beautiful ugly place to visit.  The environment is gritty, dirty, and industrial.  The UAC facilities looks like a secret research base would – minimal human pleasantries, maximum industrial ability.   The textures and lighting, combined with claustrophobic level design, turn out to create the spookiest atmosphere I’ve ever played in since System Shock 2.

  

The textures used in the game match perfectly to the atmosphere they want to create for the Mars facility and beyond.  The industrial look of the human areas is matched in excellence by the bio-organic hell that slowly incorporates itself into our dimension.  During the later levels, form and function fade away as the tentacles of hell reach forth to devour all in its path.  The bio-mass walls undulate like evil, rippling flesh.

  

Perhaps the best feature built into this game is the use of lighting.  From the moment you step into the Doom 3 world, you notice how dark it is.  This darkness is one of the key factors adding to the eeriness of the Mars facility.  It also gets the adrenaline pumping, not knowing what is lying around in dark corners and shadows.  The shadowing effects are the best I’ve seen.  From the light pouring over a rotating ceiling fan, to the shadows cast off of a person’s glasses when shined with the flashlight, in-game lighting doesn’t get any more realistic.

  

The amount of lighting that is done real-time with this engine is phenomenal.  Candles give off an eerie red/yellow glow.  Weapon’s muzzle flashes light up the immediate vicinity. Your flashlight, used more prominently perhaps than your weapons, really shows how powerful this engine is.  The light diffuses at distance, and through smoke and steam.  However, lighting doesn’t always play into the game realistically.  I have shined my light far away to illuminate a zombie, yet they only react to proximity.

  

The character models make up a great part of the video manifestation present in Doom 3.  When coupled with exceptional texturing and skeletal animation, the actors appear to have a look and feel that is better than others seen in any game to date.  No better example can be seen than to look at the revenant up close.  You can see its skeletal structure, and you can examine how it moves.  All of this holds true, except for the faces of human marines;  they look like they just stepped out of the Cro-Magnon era.  Also, when you look a bit closer, there are some ragged edges to be noticed.  Some of the model textures appear pixilated on very close inspection.  This is something you wouldn’t miss in a fully lighted environment.  I’m wondering what other things the dark might be hiding, besides monsters.

 

Though most of the missions are indoors, there are a few that require you to venture forth into the Martian landscape.  This is perhaps the best rendering of Mars I have seen to date.  The dust and wind blow like they are in a storm.  The colors are a ruddy, red hue.  Best of all, outdoor depiction doesn’t cause a performance hit.  While not massive, the outdoor environments can be an example of how this engine can be a complete rendering package.

 

The game engine is used to render all of the cutscenes.  These scenes usually have you coming into 3rd person view, the scene, then fading into 1st person view.  They help move the story along without interrupting the gameplay.  Cutscenes are also used to introduce the player to a new enemy that he will be facing.  It is kind of a “heads up” for those that might be just plowing through the levels.

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Summary

Doom 3 is a good single player game built around an excellent engine.  id has made one of the most beautiful, ugly places to visit.  Building on a solid engine, the game play embodies the classic Doom atmosphere.  However, if the immersion factor is lost, reaction can turn into routine, soiling the experience.  For those able to stay in tuned with the atmosphere of the game, the sensations of panic and fret from the first few levels can grow into a desire to keep looking around each corner and in each hole.  Fans of the Doom universe, or those wanting a slower paced, single player horror/shooter, should not miss this one.

Rating

I give Doom 3 an 8.5 out of 10.  It also earns the Bjorn3D Seal of Approval.

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