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PC Reviews: Doom 3                               Genre: First Person Shooter: Survival Horror


Doom 3 Screenshots

The Final Say!


Doom 3
 - reviewed by Edwin Milheim
Review Date: August2004
Review Score: 9/10 
Distributor: Activision

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A demonic invasion has all but decimated the Mars research facilities. Horrific death stalks the deep shadowed corridors now and lucky you, you are one of only a hand full of survivors. Doom 3 throws you into the game as a new comer to Mars and as you get a fast run down on who you are and what youíre doing there, who you are is more of an innuendo because you find out more about everyone else than who the main character is.

Everyone just refers to you as MarineÖ.This is not overly annoying at all, but does leave some questions as to what the main character is all about. Getting to Mars there is not much time to really think about it at all, as the player soon gets his first mission orders, as the player character goes around and gets the lay of the base hints of underlying troubles are given. Something is not right and what ever actions have started the chain of events, it happened sometime ago. The player as the main character happens on the scene when things are coming to a boil and in no time, literally all hell breaks loose.

I am not sure what was scarier, playing the game or waiting for the game. Doom 3 is just one of those games with some heavy history to live up to. The original Doom way back whenÖbroke so many game barriers and just shaped a lot of what first person shooters had to follow, the bar was raised and the software designers everywhere answered.  So does Doom 3 deliver the goods? Does it really live up to the anticipation and hypes that come along with such a high profile games release?

The answer to that is a resounding yes. Itís a really good game, bordering on exceptional, not a spectacular game.  Id wisely did not over promote the game. There was enough information out there to cause a stir of anticipation but not so much so that the game did not live up to the hype. This game is all it said it would be and is not a disappointment at all.

Graphically the game is very impressive and has hit a new stride in the over all graphic excellence of a game. The game play on the other hand is a lot like the games of old; itís simple and straight forward in regards to level design. Now donít get me wrong the games expansive environments are a real thrill to play through and the directness of the levels lends itself well to the end product. It may be a classic use of, if itís not broke donít fix it. The overall high quality of the total package makes it work well.

The story is a basic plot that has been used to death in dozens of other games and stories, persons are doing some type of research and or experiments that perhaps they should not be doing and as a result release something that can perhaps destroy all life as we know it. As the character in the middle of this Hell fest convention on Mars, the player fights off hordes of demons and hell spawns using such weapons as machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers and more advanced energy weapons.

The advancement of the story as it is, and the distribution of information is carried out using a personal data assistant (PDA). Using this player finds Emails and voice files of various other personnel from the base. Now there are two schools of thought to this and from a dramatic story telling point both have merit. Some find the break in action to stop and read these emails and logs and listen to voice recordings to be distractions that kills the flow of the game. From a dramatic stand point, these looks into these peoples normal lives in the midst of all the Hellish chaos is a jarring eerie feel to it. In the long run youíre stuck with it any way because the emails and the voice recordings/logs hold clues and even have pass codes to lockers and other areas that you will need.

Add to these moments some cut scenes and lo and behold the story thrusts ever forward. So as you find your way in the darkest of areas take to heart that most of the levels are fairly linear, so getting lost is not too much of a problem here. There is some back tracking from time to time but it is far and between.

Doom 3 is not exactly scary in a pure sense; it does deal with a basic level of fear. Itís more of a shock effect as monsters come out of no where loping towards you from the inky blackness and even landing an attack before you even know what hit you. The suspense factor is low and itís more of an overwhelming dread because you know something is there around the corner, but itís not an out and out fear.  The events are often predictable, like a car wreck you see coming but you just cannot turn away. When it happens it is the basest of emotions, shock...  Once in a while the player is surprised by some kinds of illusions that seem to attack the senses and warp reality, they are far and between so they are not over used which are a good thing. The designers where smart in use of events, over use of certain things would have surly would have crippled this exceptional game. During a big event such as fighting with what could be considered a boss monster, something was taken from the experience. You kind of know they are going to be tough, but there is not even shock involved with the encounter. You are not afraid at all because such encounters are previewed by a cut scene so you expect them, no surprises here.

The sounds and music are a mix of top notch cinema style sounds; very good voice acting and creepy sounds that ad to the atmosphere of the game. Everything is there from the creatureís howls, roars, moans and groans, to shifting metal sounds and the howl of the martian winds outside. The auditory experience combined with the visual stimulation makes for a complete package. The only criticism I would have is that some of the weapons sound some what weak. When I fire something like a shot gun or machine gun, my surround sound should be blasting and it should prompt the police to visit because they think a war is going on in my house. This does not happen. While the weapon sounds are ok, they donít prompt any true satisfaction in regards to their sounds. 

As noted earlier the graphics are top notch with the shadows providing a creepy feel, so much so you just dread what may come out of the darkness or some little cubby hole in the bulk heads. In fact it is rare indeed when you find yourself in an area that is even remotely well lit. This brings me to one other gripe. What genius decided that while holding a pistol the player could not hold a flash light as well? You canít strap it to any of your weapons; in fact you end up switching back and forth from weapon to flash light. This is really bothersome, I mean come on, the military has some nice hardware and most times has equipment to handle most situationsÖso why oh why there is no night vision goggles or some other type of helmet to aid in looking into the darkness? Ok sure I can give them that, but the whole flash light thing there is no good reason that you should not be able to hold a weapon and a flashlight at the same time. Ok Iím off my rant. 

By the end of it all the single player experience is a ripping good time, it best it may very well symbolize as an apology for the multiplayer aspects of the game. The game supports only up to four players, using a few of the maps in a second thought gesture of what passes for death match modes. This pretty much means that when searching for a game, the limit of four players is going to almost assure that most servers are going to be full.  The over all experience in multiplayer is little more than run around and blast other players while you try to keep up your health and armor. Most of the games that I even managed to get into had so much lag it was more of an exercise of frustration and little else. 

In the end the looks of the game are nothing new when it comes to other games of the genre, but the over all package and the way it's presented is just top notch and when folks out there manage some new mods for the game it may well breath some new life into this Hell Spawn of a thriller Doom 3. 

With all the heavy graphics and sounds, what kind of system you're running and what you're running the game at may well mean a lot in the over all experience. Have things set too high, and your looking at a variation of a slide show.  Playing with the settings most people that have even the minimum requirements for running the game will find a happy medium and a truly enjoyable game. Here are the basics of what the settings do at the very simple level. Please note that additional graphics settings can be managed in the Advanced Options of the setup screen. 

Ultra High Quality

If you can run the game here then more power to you. You must have some kind of mutated video card because I donít think they even make these beast of a cards yet. Ultra High is made for cards of the future that sport 512 Megs of memory. These are not long in coming, but you canít get them yet. At this level the game uses uncompressed high rez textures. Diffuse and specular maps use the maximum rez and no compression. The end result is a massive 500MB of texture data.  This level defaults to a resolution of 1024x768.

High Quality

This mode is perhaps the more easily attainable by a good percent of us out there in gaming land. It does use uncompressed normal maps and textures, the diffuse and specular maps are compressed and the over all load on the graphic memory is reduced. The default resolution is 800X600.

Medium Quality

For those of us with 128 Meg video cards this is perhaps the best option. The resolution default here is also 640X480. I found my best experience here. The game compresses normal, diffuse and specular maps and the textures. With a tweak here and there this turns into a very enjoyable game experience.

Low Quality

If you have a card with as low as 64MB of memory then this is the best option for you over all. Everything is compressed at this setting. The default resolution is 640X480. The image quality does take a bit of a hit, but not so much so that you wonít enjoy the game. 

When all is said and done some of the higher settings have a lot more in common and the difference is just minimal at best. Doom 3 is blast of a sci-fi horror game that is well worth the price of admission where so many other games out there just make you feel taken advantage of and wondering why you shelled out so much money for the frustrations. Doom 3, even with some of its gripes outshines everything out there so far. The bar has been raisedÖ.whatís coming next? 

Have fun, play games 

Edwin Millheim

Copyright ©2004