Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
great experience 1st time / once finished not much to do
on 17 August 2004
I remember asking my parents to buy me a PC for schoolwork just so I could play doom outside of the school IT department back in 1994 so when a reimagining of the original Doom was poised tentatively for 2003/2004 I took quite alot of interest in it. Doom III is, at least in technological terms the pinnacle of ID's evolution of the first person shooter. The minimum specifications are quite high and when they say minimum spec they really mean it.
You'll notice fire distorts the air with heat, windows crack and refract and reflect light differently although wandering around and attempting to interact with these features shows that they are not implemented in any way where they become useful or obstructive or interactive beyond just being eye candy. You can push certain boxes around and they will collapse and fall as realistically as the havoc 2.0 physics engine permits to date but there isn't really any necessity and very rare opportunities to manipulate objects in a way that makes new areas accessible. The inclusion of little touches such us these are an admirable move towards a more seamless, realistic gaming environment. Although gaming hardware is rapidly becoming capable of rendering these details, game design hasn't advanced sufficiently enough to incorporate these touches into context where they are fully functional and nowhere is this more evident than in Doom III. However, the developers have given the user all of the textures, maps and models to modify the game.
Playing a little way through the game you can see where the seams start to unravel. In ID's attempt to create a claustrophobic nightmare of an experience they opted for a plethora of scripted 'jump out of your seat' moments coupled with the spawning of monsters in the dark behind you, often in areas that you have already cleared. These encounters follow a very sequential nature and the game exploits this scripted fear tactic relentlessly. Where handrails are broken you can expect zombies or imps to climb out and attack you. Later on when you can expect wraiths to teleport behind you and attack in almost pitch darkness. For a game that is currently at the height of the evolution of the FPS and the expectations of the gaming community, the inclusion of 'spawning behind your back' monsters seems kind of retrograde. Sometimes you feel as if no amount of awareness or preparation can help first time round - it doesn't reward resourcefulness but tests, at every turn your reflexes and your heart rate. Once you have played through at least once however this doesn't apply anymore. It loses even its unpredictability because you now know where all the scripted sequences will occur. But Doom III is more of an experience than anything else. First time round this is twitch gaming in the vein of Aliens versus Predator crossed with the original Doom, which of all FPS games currently available, Doom III most closely resembles. it is slow paced, stomach churningly intense and claustrophobic. This wont be to everyone's liking. Over time attacks and ambushes become expected and although the intensity of these encounters is rarely less than immense, there is something very exhausting and demanding, tedious, even empty about slugging your way through the mars moon base. Many have complained about the flashlight and how you must alternate between it to see anything in the darkness and a weapon in order to fight an enemy lurking in said darkness. I think that this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the game and is a great tension builder - in order to see, you must temporarily sacrifice your ability to defend yourself. Which means you wont want to see what is probably going to attack you. This dichotomy, coupled with the surprise! nature of the game's encounters WILL completely wreck your nerves first time through the game. After you complete it there's not much else to do. Multiplayer is an afterthought. 5 maps. 4-player limit.
In sound terms it definitely has its moments. The ambience is incredible and in the absence of music helps to elevate tension to an almost unbearable degree. The weapon sounds lack something however and this directly translates into a wider negative on the game as a whole. Volume is the most noticeable - they are far too quiet. Doom III's firing sound lacks the bass/midrange punch of the initial discharge and the snappy treble tail of the weapon reload. Additionally, enemies do not seem to react much to being shot - they just keep attacking. Coupled with the mute weapon sounds it seems more like you are tickling enemies to death as opposed to riddling them with holes. This in turn has a very noticeable effect on the feel of the weapons; in particular how powerful they appear to be. Also, ID continues to pursue the 'fisherprice' look of all the weapons (which began with Quake II) so most of them look like toys. All of doom 3's weapons are surprisingly mute, made ineffectual by a lack of visual and auditory feedback. This is something that can so easily be corrected however and modifications already exist to remedy some of these problems.
Overall, Doom III is an impressive experience but doesn't have long lasting value. It's a good game to jump in and finish a level in an hour and then go about something else and come back to later. It is not particularly demanding in game play hours although at times it can be difficult so expect to have to play through certain areas multiple times. For those people who enjoy the adrenaline rush and the heart beating in your throat moments of survival horror games, you wont find many as intense as this. Just don't expect this game to be replayable or great for multiplayer. Think of it as the best interactive nightmare you'll ever get and you'll love this.