No one can argue that id Software pretty much defined the first person shooter genre. With classics such as Wolfenstein, Quake, and Doom, odds are at some point you have played a game they developed. It has been 10 years since we first sat at a DOS prompt and launched the original Doom, and today we sit with Doom 3, a retelling of the original story.
The year is 2145, and the place is Mars, where you play a space marine stationed at the Union Aerospace Corporation. Not long after you arrive, all hell breaks looks as demons start flooding the facility. It appears the demons are after some teleportation technology being developed at the UAC facility, and your job is to find out where they're coming from and stop them.
Make no mistake though, this is a first person shooter and accumulating frags is at the heart of the gameplay. id Software in my opinion has always produced their games with the engine in focus, not the story. Doom 3 attempts to deviate from that path and show they can not only produce terrific technology, but an engrossing story.
id Software has hired Matt Castelo, a professional writer from such games as the 7th Guest and the Eleventh Hour, to pen it. Right from the start you are pulled into the game after landing on the planet and being greeted by three guards who will help brief you on the current situation. Once you begin playing you will notice everything feels scripted. This really helps suck you in and fight through the various levels as you truly feel you are playing the story, rather then just waiting for another cut scene.
To help aid the story along you have a PDA at your disposal. The PDA is used to track e-mails, audio recordings, and video files available to your own character; but more importantly, it can also store the same sorts of data contained in other characters' PDAs, which you'll find scattered around the base. This includes e-mails, video files, and also keys to help gain access to various areas.
All this talk about the story and mood the game presents probably has you asking yourself if this is truly a game developed by id Software, or a third party title on one of their engines. The simple truth is this is the first time I have ever cared about a story this much in a game id produced. Don’t worry though, the classic run and gun gameplay is still a treat to witness.
The truly great thing about the combination of the tech and story is the fact this game will scare the shit out of you. The games graphics are breathtakingly sharp and smooth looking. Lighting effects help build the moment and the textures compliment the level design in every way. Shadows line the rooms, light glimmers, and monsters pop out of the darkness. I’m fully confident this engine could produce bright cheerful levels that would look stunning, but the darkness it is capable of showing is down right scary.
One of the more impressive effects in Doom 3 is the introduction of “Heat Haze.” For those using DirectX 9 compatible graphic cards, Heat Haze adds a wavy “ripple” or "mirage" type effect to objects that have heat or steam coming from them. Heat Haze is also evident on fireballs being thrown by demons and produced by certain weapons in your arsenal that create a type of energy impact. Just think of the middle of summer where you can see the heat rising off of the road. This effect takes place in the game and just makes you appreciate how much work was put into Doom 3’s effects.
As previously mentioned, the game managed to scare the shit out of me at times. While the graphics helped this fact, the sound is what really sent chills down my spine. The voice acting featured is some of the best I have seen so far in a FPS. The ambient sounds though, are sweet as hell. While exploring the levels you can hear screams, gunfire, and moans and groans. This helps add to the felling of chaos that is occurring around you. With sound being your greatest sense in this game at times, it really helps to know where your enemies are in the darker part of the levels.
Multiplayer will be familiar to anyone who has played an id Software title. This is typically the bread and butter of their engines, but with the single player being so engrossing, Doom 3 still manages to take the multiplayer and make it the best deathmatch title presently out for fans of classic FPS action. Most levels are designed with 4 players in mind, but provide the same intense action as the single player.
With all the good the game has, I feel it just gives a glimpse to what this engine may produce. While this review is Doom 3 specific, it is hard not to give the game two overall reviews, one for the game and one for the engine. In the end with the kick ass story, plenty of scares, eye candy around every corner, and the reason to invest in surround sound, Doom 3 scores a 10 on all levels.
Jump out of your chair and run to the store to pick up Doom 3. The singleplayer adventure alone is worthy of a trip to your wallet. Doom 3 is one of the best first person shooters of 2004!
FINAL SCORE: 10.0
Stunning graphics, very moody play
Scared the piss out of me at times, very system intense