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Doom 3
game: Doom 3
four star
posted by: Laurie Taylor
publisher: Activision
developer: id Software/ Vicarious Visions
ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 12:00 AM Tue Jun 7th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Tue Jun 7th, 2005

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The Doom games changed the face of gaming on their own and through their conceptual offspring like Quake; even designers like American McGee have roots with Doom. The Doom games helped forge a world of LAN gaming and PC game arcades, led Open Source game design innovations, helped spawn some of the first professional game players, and even popularized and validated gaming through books like David Kushner's Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture.

Now, they've made another excellent game. However, the legacy of the Doom games from the games themselves and their significance to gaming as a medium leave Doom 3 with impossibly high standards to live up to. Even with those ridiculously high standards, Doom 3 succeeds as an excellent game in its own right. Like most other reviews of Doom 3, this review focuses on what could have been better. That isn't to say that Doom 3 is a bad or flawed game, it just means that everyone wanted and expected  - and these are unfair expectations - more.

The most immediately noticeable success in Doom 3 is in its graphics. Even on my non-spectacular, non-HD TV, the graphics are richly detailed and immaculately rendered. Overall, the game is quite dark, which aids in the creepy atmosphere and allows the lighting effects to shine. The lighting effects stand out because so much of the game is played in shadow. The flickering lights, the flashlight that illuminates the area exactly in its sphere of projection, and the various lamps that offer light in contained areas, all make for a horrifying atmosphere through light and its absence. This even comes across in the vision segments when the game goes red and seems to pulsate with light. The almost oppressive darkness also forced me to play in the dark, which aided in creating the game's creepy atmosphere. The monsters are also exquisitely rendered with some of the monsters being simply mutated versions of the humans and others being monsters straight from Hell, complete with eyes and appendages in places they don't belong. 
While the graphics themselves are incredible, the sound is even more powerful in creating the eerie gaming atmosphere, and that's even on my non-surround sound setup. Doom 3 doesn't have an overall soundtrack, which allows the ambient sounds to create the game's atmosphere. Many horror games omit totalizing soundtracks in favor of atmospheric sound like the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. While they may use soundtracks for portions of the game, the sound in them like Doom 3 is largely from the gaming environment. Areas with more noise-creating objects better highlight the complexity of the game sound in Doom 3 with different sounds getting louder and softer based on the player's proximity to objects. In one room, the overall radio chatter is in the background, with the demon noises streaming in, the sound of the player's footfalls echo slightly, a monitor buzzes, enemies move through creating additional noise, and several machines also thump in the background. These aren't just static sounds, but sounds that vary based on the game actions and the player's position.

The removal of a soundtrack works incredibly well for the majority of the game, especially for the early levels when the radio chatters with soldiers who are separated, lost,and about to die. The chatter and many aspects of the sound and visuals are reminiscent of the second Alien movies, Aliens, when the marines are attacked near the reactor while searching for survivorsfrom the Alien attack.
The graphics and sound for Doom 3 create an amazing spatial atmosphere and the NPCs and storyline aid in doing so. However, the narrative never fully fleshes out into the engaging story it sometimes seems to want to be. Many games use only basic narrative elements to create the story backdropon which the game is played without getting in the way of the game play, while others like System Shock 2 and Thief, use richly detailed narratives to help flesh out the gaming world. Doom 3 takes the basic approach and does a good job at it. At points, though, I wished I could have had more of the narrative. I appreciated the additional narrative components like the messages in the PDAs from various characters, but they didn't seem to gel into an overall story or storyworld as well as I would have liked. This could just be a matter of preference, and many gamers will probably enjoy the fact that Doom 3 doesn't clutter itself with  too many conversations or narrative components; after all, a narrative explaining Hell and Mars might get a bit too absurd or far too creepy in line with Event Horizon

Doom 3's game play is what gamers would expect - you pick up a variety of weapons and use them to fight the hordes of monsters while also finding cards and codes to get more supplies and to go to new areas. Also as expected, Doom 3's selection of weapons is good and each one offers slightly different options. The flashlight even serves as a decent weapon for the easier enemies. The monster AI doesn't seem to be brilliant, but the generally tight and confined spaces mean that the monsters still prove to be more than worthy adversaries. Doom 3 on the XBox doesn't allow players to play multiplayer on a single XBox. Multiplayer is only available through XBox Live or by hooking multiple XBoxes together for LAN-play. LAN play is what I would expect from a computer game, but the only major changes I would expect from a console port would be the interface changes from keyboard and mouse to controller and the ability to play multiplayer on a single console machine through a split-screen display. It's possible that Doom 3 requires too much of a processing load to be able to play with multiple characters on the same box, given the additional lighting and sound effects that would have to be processed simultaneously. However, this seems like a major omission for a console port.

The XBox version does allow for co-op play, as long as you have XBox Live or more than one XBox available. The co-op play works very much like playing single player, only with two people.  The campaign is slightly shorter in co-op, and the levels are slightly changed, but overall the game remains the same. Co-op mode does shorten the game experience, but considering how important multiple players are to Doom gaming, it makes the game much more valuable. In terms of play value, the collector's edition of Doom 3: Collector's Edition includes full version of Ultimate Doom and Doom II, and can support up to 4 players in split screen. With multiplayer and co-op support on XBox not being a perfect scenario, the extras in the collector's edition are a much better deal for anyone purchasing, rather than renting, Doom 3.

Overall, Doom 3 on XBox plays similarly to Doom 3 on PC, with some of the same complaints and some of the same praises. The graphics and sound are amazing, the narrative components are interesting, and the overall game play is quite good. Doom 3 excels as a video game and players will definitely appreciate its solid and enjoyable game play, especially given the gaming value since the single-player mode offers 15-20 hours of game play. That said, Doom 3 probably won't excite or amaze players the same way the earlier Doom games did or the same way Halo and Half-Life have in more recent years. Doom 3 is an excellent game and, perhaps if it hadn't been saddled with the legacy of being a Doom game, it could be allowed to enjoy its success without the comparison.

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