I hate to bump t/nc from the top story so quickly, but that's the way it goes sometimes I guess. Anyways, I finally completed Doom 3 and since no other staff member has reviewed it yet, I went and did so. Seemed like Doomworld should have a Doom3 review, eh? My major consensus was that Doom 3 is a lot of fun. It has a couple problems, but overall it's quite an enjoyable game and I think fans of the original will enjoy it (if they haven't already). There are also a bunch of 800x600 medium quality screenshots for your enjoyment, hooray!
Four years ago id Software announced their next game would be Doom 3. The announcement was received largely with open arms (with the exception of a few crazy classic Doom fiends who insisted the game would never live up to the original and possibly even make people forget about the original). Four years is a very long time, and Doom 3's development was peppered with its share of hype thanks to all the interviews, showings at Quakecon and E3, various hires screenshots released by id and even a leak of an E3 demo two years ago. Of course the game was finally released, and the question begs, was it all worth it?
If you're not into the whole reading thing the short answer of it is 'yes'. Doom 3 is quite an excellent game, though not without its share of flaws, it's probably one of the best pure FPS games to date. It's got its share of scary and creepy moments, as well as times where you will have a ton of stuff to kill. Those of you who want to learn more can keep reading.
Doom 3 of course takes place on Mars, not the moons of Mars as in the original. The good old UAC is holed up there in a variety of poorly ventilated and really dark tech bases doing those crazy teleportation experiments. The story is pretty true to the original for the most part, though that's not exactly an arduous task considering the 'story' of the first game takes up a page in the manual and then never appears again within the game (aside from some very general text after each episode). Doom 3 expands on this basic story with a variety of PDA messages and video discs you pick up while in the game. PDAs are mainly used to tell the story of what went down before the disaster with e-mail and audio logs of various scientists and UAC workers. On top of that most of the levels look to have some sort of purpose and have areas that aren't there just for the sake of being there as in the original.
Not to say there aren't spots like that either. A few times you'll no doubt find yourself scratching your head thinking "what was the point of that area?". I suppose I can pass this off as an homage of sorts to the originals, but when you have 'realistic' levels with seemingly random areas it sometimes feels weird. Likewise the use of classic Doom traps where you enter an area and a wall lowers into the ground to reveal a monster is very, very Doomy. However such traps really don't fit well into the maps because the little rooms the monsters are in serve no purpose except to case the monster (and it seems unlikely the UAC would plan that far ahead).
The beginning of the game concentrates on scaring the player. The opening level is somewhat reminiscent of Half-Life where you don't have any weapons or anyone to kill and then you end up watching an experiment royally screw everyone over and Hell is unleashed. Unlike Half-Life though, it's not really your fault, so you're only trying to survive and I guess save humanity rather than cover your own ass. After that you have sporadic flashes of red and hear laughter or a voice. The first couple times this is pretty creepy, but after a while it starts to wear thin. Likewise the beginning of the game literally had me jumping and even yelling at the game once or twice in surprise (due to springing monsters), but after a little while you start to look for little crevices and such and you begin to realize where stuff will pop out of (though once in a while one or two will still get you). Near the end of the game the crevice method is pretty much abandoned and everything just teleports in. Also might I add that the monster teleport animation is quite cool looking. Sure beats some lame green blotch.
I also might take some time to mention that Doom 3 is really, really linear. Not that this is a huge problem; I normally don't have a problem with super-linear FPSs as long as they're entertaining (Half-Life, Red Faction, Quake 2 etc), and I think Doom 3 is. However, for whatever reason, I just seemed to notice it more with Doom 3. Take that as you will.
Okay, getting into the general things, if you were expecting a hugely innovative FPS out of Doom 3 you will pretty much be disappointed. Outside of the engine it's pretty much just a bunch of poorly lit hallways connected to more poorly lit rooms. The tech base maps are very similar to each other with very little (if any) distinctness to them. They still look great thanks to the top notch artists at id, and the level design is stellar, but there's nothing much to set them aside from each other.
Later in the game you get to Hell, however. The Hell maps are among the best level design I have seen in an FPS and a very welcome change after traipsing through all the tech base maps. Easily up there with some of the early maps in Alice (though Alice as a game was a fair bit more dull than Doom 3) if you've ever played that. To go back to the Half-Life comparison, it's sort of like the very first time you get to Xen and you go "oh wow this is awesome". Only this time you never come to the realization that the maps suck ass. The absence of jumping puzzles (which never really bothered me in Half-Life, but it probably wasn't a very good idea to center Xen around them) is a big help of course. The neat things like shifting stones and the cool architecture as well as the fact that all the demons are branded adds quite a lot. You'll probably be sad when you have to leave Hell and go back to some more tech base maps.
Of course it wouldn't be Doom without your favorite monsters. Most of them are pretty scary the first time you meet them, and all are more formidable than their classic counterparts. Imps toss fireballs still, but also leap with astounding speed and accuracy. Getting trapped in a corner with one usually means death for you (or at least a nice chunk of health loss). Pinky Demons are bigger and faster (faster than you, in fact) but are used very sparingly (probably because of their size). Cacodemons are back with their huge mouth, though they're no longer red and have two eyes now. The Revenant is probably the most faithful recreation, down to his yell and homing missiles (which you can shoot out of the air). Hell Knights are downright terrifying, though once you have some bigger weaponry you can usually make short work of them. The Mancubus is the toughest one to deal with. He's still lumbering and slow, but he has a lot of health and spares no expense on his fireballs.
There are also a variety of new guys, but for the most part I found them to be pretty mundane and dull with the possible exception of the trites which are those creepy heads with spider legs things you've no doubt seen screenshots of. Trites are the Lost Souls of Doom 3 (as in, annoying as hell) which is odd because Doom 3 has Lost Souls though they don't appear enough to annoy. They still scream like little bitches though. Also the cherubs (flying babies) are pretty freaky and also a bitch to kill thanks to their small size and per-poly hit detection (no more bounding boxes).
Most of the original Doom weapons return. Fists, chainsaw, pistol, shotgun, chaingun, rocket launcher, plasma rifle, BFG. There are also grenades which I almost never used and an assault rifle which is like the poor man's chaingun without the spin up. The only real complaint I have here is that the Berserk powerup seems really out of place the two times you get it, plus the screaming and weird view you have when you get it is kind of stupid. That's a minor gripe though, really. Oh yeah, you also get a flashlight which, to much chagrin, can't be used in conjunction with a weapon. This adds a bit of a gameplay choice as you can choose to go into dark areas unarmed but able to see, or armed but unable to see. You can smack things with the flashlight, but it does little to monsters aside from annoy them.
I could spend some time here talking about the engine and dynamic lighting and all that, but did you honestly expect an engine that wasn't top of the line and revolutionary from John Carmack? The engine is great and will no doubt be used for years to come. I'll just say that I played the game in 800x600 with medium detail on a Athlon XP2000 with 512MB of RAM and a Radeon 9600 and it ran very nicely most of the time and looked quite awesome to boot. There simply isn't a better looking engine out right now. No complaints here. It will also be pretty cool in a year or two when most machines will be capable of running Doom 3 without an slowdown (which is a bit of a problem against the larger bosses).
Overall, as I said, Doom 3 isn't perfect, but I had quite a lot of fun playing it and I suppose that's what really counts. I could have done with less dark and steamy tech base and more Hell (or even some sort of Mars outdoor maps aside from the small "don't run out of air while you run to an airlock!" areas). The PDA system is pretty nice, but it brings up a lot of reading (some of which I skipped) and some of the entries are pretty hit or miss in terms of getting you to care (we get it already, people were going insane, Mars is a bad place!) and sitting through an entire soundfile for a locker code is a pain in the ass (especially if you get ambushed and miss it and have to listen to the damned thing again).
Anyways, id definitely surprised me with this one. I was expecting the same old boring standard id FPS that they've made since Doom (or even since Wolf3D), and I guess I did get it, only this one has levels with a purpose, some genuinely frightening moments a pretty nice story (rather than the complete lack of story prevalent in previous id games) and a whole lot of fun. If you're a fan of the original Doom then you will probably enjoy this as a worthy upgrade and retelling of the original. All the fear and action that made the original so much fun and so popular has returned, and it's quite enjoyable.
Fun Factor: 9/10
Replay Value: 5/10
Click here for a spoiler shot of the Cyberdemon