The scariest game ever made has finally arrived on Xbox, and after twenty hours and five pairs of pants, I'm glad to say that Doom 3 certainly lives up to the PC original.
In case you've been living under the mother of all rocks for the past 12 years, Doom 3 is the third (surprise, surprise!) major instalment into the genre defining first person shooter series. More importantly though, is that Doom 3 has taken all the classic gaming from the originals and dropped it head first into one of the most beautiful and technologically advanced engines ever built. It's also worth noting that while the engine wasn't created specifically for the Xbox, it was nonetheless tailored with fore knowledge of the box's capabilities, and it shows.
As such, and now that the nightmares have ceased, I can say without fear of oblivion that Doom 3 is graphically the most stunning FPS I've ever seen on the Xbox. Period. It's overwhelmingly clear that special attention has been paid to the lighting effects that are so ubiquitous throughout the game, with each shadow proffering so much more than the usual black and white fare. Certainly no lesser in it's brilliance is the jaw dropping texturing that's found hiding behind the darkness. Each and every corridor you'll walk through (and there are quite a few) has been lovingly and painstakingly adorned with enough eye candy to differentiate each one from the next. Certainly though, id have spared no expense with the denizens of these passages either. Doom 3 boasts some of the most impressive creature art I've ever seen, and thankfully, that same creature art and everything else has made a near flawless transition from PC to console. The results need to be seen to be believed.
Surprisingly though, itâ€™s not the hellish visages thatâ€™ll have you reaching for the light switch when youâ€™re all alone. Playing like a carefully orchestrated thriller, Doom 3 uses sound to a devastating effect by giving near every creature itâ€™s own acoustic calling card and littering the game with triggered audio events. Like in any movie, these sounds play a massive role in creating a feeling of suspense and danger through a careful mix of low background music, eerie creature noises and deafening silence. That said, itâ€™s a real shame that the sound effects produced by your arsenal of weapons is blatantly average, even lifeless. Few of the weapons had any real visceral punch, which is a weighty discredit to the game considering that pulling the trigger is what first person shooters are all about.
While Doom 1 & 2 certainly put the â€˜mazeâ€™ in amazing, I am nevertheless thankful that Doom 3 has forgone the use of illogical labyrinth-like structures. Conversely though, one facet of the original Doomâ€™s that id did see fit to retain in Doom 3 is the extensive use of corridors throughout the game. While some may appreciate the feel this lends to Doom 3, most will simply find it monotonous and ultimately frustrating. Mercifully though, later in the game you will receive a stunning change of scenery (proving that the game engine can handle it), but even this is short lived and soon its back to walking the grey mile. Another questionable choice on idâ€™s part is the limited usage of the weapons on offer. Though youâ€™ll once again be making use of extra-dimensional storage space for your arsenal of ten different weapons, you will however find yourself using the shotgun almost exclusively. While this may not be such a bad thing when considering the difficulties of weapon changing on a controller, it does serve to make the game feel very straight forward when the same weapon tactics can be used on almost every monster. Asides from this, some of the weapons also felt unusually weak or badly integrated (such as the annoyingly bouncy grenade) and I feel that on the whole, a little bit of tweaking would have gone a long way in Doom 3â€™s weapon department.
Probably the most notable feature of Doom 3, besides itâ€™s graphics, is the old-school style of gaming that id have injected into their game. Old tricks (like the rapid acquisition of unwanted company every time you pick up a new weapon) make a reappearance in Doom 3 along with predictable AI and illogical plot devices. Though this does initially seem like a poor choice, considering that old-school gaming was defined by itâ€™s technological restrictions, it is however surprisingly fun. The original Dooms were masterpieces in their time, and who could fault id for using a tried and true formula. Besides, who cares about a plot when the graphics are just this good, and so what if you canâ€™t hold a torch and a gun at the same time â€“ it just adds to the atmosphere. Like any good horror movie, Doom 3 is best played with your heart in your mouth and your brain in your back pocket. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to appreciate these nostalgic nuances, and ultimately id may end up paying the price for aiming their game at a shrinking market.
Certainly a feather in itâ€™s cap though, is Doom 3â€™s addition of a cooperative mode. Dutifully, id have included a system link or Xbox live capable co-op mode in the Xbox version and have subsequently provided the game with some much needed re-playability. In a nice touch, id have not only changed the co-op mode at its base level by adding more monsters and weapons, but have also changed the game more subtly by correcting dialogue, removing time consuming text and including doors that can only be opened when both marines are present. Unfortunately, the gameâ€™s speed increases dramatically when playing cooperatively, and it would be possible to blitz from begging to end in less than 7 hours, which doesnâ€™t leave a whole lot else to return to. This is in part due to a relatively lacklustre multiplayer effort. Only four people can join in on the fun and game types have been reduced to only the bare-bones basics like deathmatch and CTF, all stretched thinly over a very limited number of maps. Arguably, this oversight is forgivable when considering Doom 3â€™s massive single player story (around 25 hours if you bother to look in every dark corner), but still, it did seem a below par effort coming from the people that coined the word â€˜fragâ€™.
On the whole, Doom 3 is a bit like liquorice: some people are gonna love it and others will be left wondering where they parked their warthog. Either way, id have given us a solid title that achieves most of what it set out to do in the first place, and even itâ€™s failings are heavily softened by itâ€™s gorgeous graphics. Doom 3 may not be as revolutionary as the originals, but itâ€™s certainly a technological leap forward from many of todayâ€™s top end games. In closing, if you havenâ€™t already played the PC original, then Doom 3 on the Xbox is a title well worth the wallet burn.
That is of course, if youâ€™re brave enough.