Malcolm Owen On November 2, 2004 at 5:43 pm

About 10 minutes ago, as I sat here planning this massive missive that I call a review of Doom 3, I did something that I rarely ever did before a long stretch of writing. I started worrying. It wasn’t the game being scary, nor was it the burden on my shoulders of giving the game a thorough review without being too much of a geeky fan nor too hypercritical of it in search of gaming perfection. Not even the possible attack of the hordes of overzealous id disciples in Carmack, their one true god, believing that even a single utterance against his holiness’ graceful image would be blasphemy against the “true” faith and therefore punishable by death or playing Daikatana for an entire evening (whichever hurts more) could make me think carefully about what I say.

The worry comes from trying to work out how to review the game in the first place. I must try to confirm that it is a good game without wanting to have its babies, whilst balancing that with the fact that there are slight flaws in this supposed masterpiece, without being too harsh in a hypercritical manner that all good games get looked by. Doom 3 is the glorious return to the Doom series, carrying the ever similar simple storyline of being a marine and trying to defeat oncoming hordes of various creatures from Hell (or your bank manager) whilst also trying to escape almost certain death. If it sounds familiar at all, it’s because a large majority of first person shooters since the original Doom release have taken it upon themselves to use a similar storyline involving demons, the possible end of the world and the whole “you are a one man army” approach in their own way. By saying this, it’s as if the original Doom spawned a whole genre on it’s own, creating a cottage industry if you will.

Since then, time has moved on, and so has technology. Carmack et al programmed their butts off to give us the Quake games, and even stuck an oar in with the remake known as “Return to Castle Wolfenstein”. They have also matured as a team, learning from past successes and other people’s attempts at making their own version of Doom’s success, and the poured everything they knew into this game. It does appear at first that they have kept to the original themes of the series, but there is also the feeling that they don’t want to stick to the starter template that closely in this case, instead opting to try and break the mould that they created many years ago.

As expected of a development team as illustrious as this, Doom 3 looks fantastic in comparison to other similar games on the market. Indeed, it looks like the best in its field to the point where it almost becomes a technology demo for other development teams to stare; slack jawed in awe at its purity and near perfection. It is pretty difficult to compare the technical achievement of the game to anything else available today, short of trying to make Toy Story 3 on a Beowulf cluster in your basement. Humans look more human-like, the surroundings seem to be vaguely based in reality, and even the monsters have a feel that they could actually exist. They do look good. Heck, even the shadows are great.

The problem with this, however, is that most people won’t bother to stop and look at everything, despite there being a combat-less part before you even get a gun. The amount of detail is quite staggering, which can be seen immediately in the kitchen area you walk past before getting your marching orders. A TV has a rolling news report video that plays for a few minutes, but looking closer at it shows that it isn’t a simple animation repeating over and over as a simple texture. A video in fact, including changing imagery for each story talked about and a news ticker that we see on proper news channels. A button in the corner raises the shutters to the kitchen. Pressing it turns the lights off and opens the metal covers from the window, which allows you to see Mars for the first time, which probably takes a fair bit of inspiration from Schwarzenegger film Total Recall. This also allows you to see the effect a change of lighting has on an environment; the kitchen is tinted orange thanks to the light reflected off Mars’ surface. The nearby guards are not really awestruck about the world on the other side of the glass, but they are modelled to just as high a standard, signing the quality of thing to come in the near future.

As the first few monsters go through the door after you, there is a sense of quality that appears with them. Each of the zombies are pretty terrifying for the uninitiated to see at first, but after a while you get used to them. Indeed, the range of zombies available is quite high; normal zombies, zombies armed with chainsaws, guns, wrenches, flaming zombies and my personal favourite, the fat zombies. Zombies are also joined by various demons; Imps (claws and fireballs ahoy), Hellknights (Imp+1), Pinky (think of a bull, but like a zombie) and the cherub (a disturbing crossbreed between a demon and a baby) to name but a few. It is best not to say what the other lovely beasts are, lest they spoil the surprise too far, but they are all quite fun to turn into living impaired dog food using the weapons available.

Those remembering the original game will instantly feel at home with this season’s weapons of choice. As expected, the BFG makes a welcome return with its other brethren (Chainsaw, Chaingun, Shotgun, Plasma Gun etc), all displayed in stunning videogame Technicolor. The Soulcube is a weapon that can only fire once the deaths of other enemies charge it up, and then it attacks with such power that it kills almost any monster it touches, but this will not get as much use in comparison to the noble Flashlight. Due to the darkness of most of the Mars base, there is a constant need to use the torch to see, since there is a high use of the aforementioned shadows and dark sections. The need to use a gun against an enemy is therefore put against the ability to see what the hell you are attacking in the first place. This adds a lot of tension to the proceedings, but also a lot of annoyance as well. It appears that at some point in the future, it was decided that guns should not have flashlights attached to them. There is then a need to switch between the flashlight and your weapon of current usage on a regular basis, sometimes a few times in a single fight. Sure, the flashlight is a weapon too, but it seems a bit inadequate trying to thump a fat zombie over the head with it. This is why modifications such as the Duct Tape mod appeared within days of Doom 3’s release, to save us the bother of dying because we can’t see what we are shooting at.

Of course, for a game of this assumed greatness, it plays well. The scary parts fit well with the whole running-and-shooting gameplay that we all know and love. It does get a tiny bit tedious after a while, but the appearance of something new always tries to avert attention from this problem. Beasties appear from doorways, blocked doors, air vents, floor gaps, windows and also from within the walls themselves. This itself is a puzzle, because you would have thought that a giant death-dealing creature from Hell would have more intelligence than to hide in a space as large as a wardrobe with a wall for a doorway. In all the years of gameplay evolution, we still see the mysterious “hidden wall” monsters coming out to play, which is a letdown.

Doom 3 is a damned good game, and one that we were all expecting to do well. The minor issues do erode from the game, but not enough to avoid making it a must-have purchase…

Buy Doom 3 for the PC at
Buy it at EB


Similar to the original, but somehow different. Old dogs really can learn new tricks!


Maya? 3DS Max? What are they?


Terrifying cornucopia of demented souls. Or monsters.


So… Why haven’t you bought it yet?
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