They don't make em' like this anymore.
8 years ago a game by a small development team broke cover, snarling and blood-thirsty, a monster of a game. It delivered excellent graphics, terrifying and gripping gameplay, and a solid and interesting storyline. This was no ordinary first person horror shooter, this was Doom 3.
By todays standards Doom still deliveres quite a punch. Maybe the graphics are showing their age. But even then, they're not all that terrible. Doom still doesn't feel like any other game of it's type (even now), it was and still is a pace-setter for the horror FPS. If you want to make an wicked scary game, that keeps you riveted from the get go, look no further than Doom for inspiration.
So what is it about this beast that we all love so much? Like a zombie lurching from the shadows; it's all in the delivery and presentation.
Firstly the attention to detail in Doom is what really pulls you into the twisted world of Mars City where the game is set. You arrive on Mars as a Marine assigned to a security detail at a big research lab. It's all pretty standard and normal until you are tasked to find a missing scientist. This transitional period in the beginning of the game is very smooth and well written. It draws you in nicely as things go from normal, to weird, to worse. From then on you decend into a terrifying world where every movement on the game makes you nervous, and every sound in your living room makes you jump.
If there is one thing Doom excels in, it's suspense and the creation of a foreboding environment. As you play you become more and more uneasy, every new unopened door fills you with dread at what may lie behind it. The threat of every corner and every shadow being home to some grim demon waiting to jump out on you. But its not an endless trail of destruction either, there are quiet spells, it keeps you guessing. You never know whats coming and this holds you on a knife edge for the whole ride.
What's more is that Doom doesn't rely on just blood and gore to create the horror feel like so many others. In fact, if you took the blood out it would still be as grim. It uses simple but cleverly presented devices to horrify your little gaming world, like darkness, and flickering lights which obscure things: Did I see that? Was there something there? It creates a sense of closeness and claustraphobia, like you have no escape routes, and no place to hide. It makes you choose between holding the flashlight to illuminate those dark corridors, or holding a weapon to murderize anything that might be in them. That choice alone keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Instead of just finding a keycard or codes written somewhere to move forward, you must find PDAs which belonged to people. On the PDA there can be useful information like codes to equipment lockers and door access. In addition there are often data files that contain the back story to the game. Like voice diaries from the ex-owner of the PDA explaining the 'stranges noises' or 'odd behaviour of people' they had witnessed. This adds a different dimension to the play and depth to the game which most games of this type lack. The only respite you get from the suspense is listening to PDA messages and reading journals and emails about the horror that's developing. It doesn't let you escape from the story once your in it, it keeps you riveted.
Doom 3 creates this foreboding feeling like no other has, even the Resident Evil series doesn't deliver this kind of atmosphere. F.E.A.R gets closer but no cigar. Too many horror games just rely on trying to disgust the player with as much blood and guts as they can code in, Doom doesn't do this. It plays with your senses and your feelings of aloneness and fear, which only works because the story and environment are so well delivered. Sure the monsters are scary looking, but they are only as scary as they are because of the atmosphere of the game; you never feel safe.
In this respect Doom is the complete horror game package. But it doesn't stop there, it's also wildly enjoyable to play. Especially with a friend for a wingman to watch your back while you're playing. Taking it turns to get your ass handed to you by demonic monsters as you navigate the dark and grizzly world of Doom.
The weapons kit is fun as well, ranging from pad-mashingly ineffective to blindingly awesome. From the generic FPS staple; the hand gun (which any frequent FPS player will know is a gun shaped paperweight most of the time let alone when facing zombies, or worse.) to the infamous BFG9000 which will DESTROY everything in a room, it kinda wouldn't be Doom without it. Even the humble flashlight can be used to batter the odd zombie to death, which is guaranteed to fill you with satisfaction.
All the action dynamics are smooth and responsive even as a console port. You won't get the response time of a mouse, but dial the sensitivity up to 10 and you should be able to swing round and give that demon scum some lead in the face. As in classic Doom style, a lot of stuff will attack you from behind.
It's great the Doom 3 got the HD upgrade because this game really deserves not to be forgotten, because once you've played it, you never forget it. So it's old now, so it's still essentially A to B shoot the bad guys on the way (isn't that all CoD is?) so what? You could do much worse than pick up a copy of Doom 3. It's still a BEAST, and we love it.