Pros: excellent graphics engine, sound, fast paced gameplay
Cons: lack of environments, repetitive, too short, lacks buildup
Ive read most of the reviews out there on the internet, and Ive broken it down into two general consensus regarding the Doom 3 game. One side for the most part has criticized the Doom 3 gameplay as overly repetitive after the first 2 hours or so. They mention Doom 3 as a game that simply did not deliver and ultimately as a disappointment. Some other professional gaming magazines as well as Doom fanboys have defended the backlash, telling readers they had far too high expectations to start with, and that Doom 3 was made to be a simple, fast paced shooter and when viewed in that sense is a solid 3d shooter.
Im going to take a different path entirely because I honestly feel that most of the reviews online are by reviewers who have not beaten the game yet. I do in the end feel like Doom 3 was too little for too much production time; it is far too short of a game and the plot while it does poke at a lot of interesting ideas falls short. I do have to disagree with a few of the criticisms of earlier gamers for saying the gameplay is too simple, while it certainly is, most of those whove said that likely have not played the whole game. The game does change paces a bit here and there near the end. And so that said, heres the break down.
Most gamers unanimously agree that Doom 3 has a very solid graphics engine. The game uses a ton of new rendering techniques that allow textures to possess more depth, lighting and bump mapping that is so far revolutionary to the gaming world. Im sure most of you have seen screenshots by now and know what Im talking about so there is not much to say here. Hands down, with only Far Cry coming close (if arguably not better) than the Doom 3 graphics engine, Doom 3 is just plain gorgeous.
There is one oddball complaint however, that a few gamers have mentioned. It is basically the plastic wrap effect. For some odd reason, while there is blood splattered on walls, rust, dirt and all kinds of gory effects, everything seems to be wrapped in plastic wrap. While this effect may depend on the 3d card, I did feel while the game had a nice sinister mood, the fact everything was so darned shiny kind of detracted from the fear factor.
A huge downside to the graphics engine that comes as a tradeoff for highly detailed 3d models is the fact the Doom 3 cannot output a lot of onscreen enemies. Most people complained of the game having only a maximum of 2-3 enemies onscreen at a time. This is true for the most part, but at the end the amount of enemies onscreen does increase to around 5-6 at most. Thats still not a lot though compared to the original Doom 2 where you could have dozens of sprites onscreen easily, and so I think it is a serious drawback that ID did not make the 3d monsters a tad smaller or less detailed, and in doing so increase their onscreen output. It might sound like an impossible request, but if you notice Far Crys approach on the amount of enemies onscreen, they had plenty, up to probably 10-12 at a time in battle even with the games high detail level.
The graphics vary for a mere total of three unique environments, something most folks complained as being too redundant. The three environments basically are the Mars base before it gets wrecked, hell, and then the hell-like version of the Mars base. The best environment that few reviews mention is the hell environment. Most gamers have complained the game as being too claustrophobic, the corridors are generally too narrow to get any decent amount of strafing and gunfire in. Well in hell, this changes slightly as the environments do space out more, although not tremendously, it is a welcome change.
Finally, despite the high level of detail in the game, a ton of objects that should be interactive, such as, mirrors, vending machines, toilets etc., are still unable of interaction. The mirrors do not even break when being shot at, and the vending machines and other decorations, likewise, are invincible.
Doom 3 gameplay is redundant. It is inevitable because the game for the most part does only spawn 2-3 enemies at a time with a max of maybe 6 enemies. The first 2 hours are bliss as everything is still brand spanking new. The gamer is given a very similar to Half-life kind of base tour, where they are introduced to the PDA system, (an information system similar to the one used in System Shock 2) which can store emails and voice recordings of other staff members. After a 15-30 minute introduction where you do not have a weapon and get orientated with the base, something goes terribly wrong and hell is unleashed. From there it is maybe 6 hours of enemy blasting before the gameplay takes a sharp turn and the player descends into hell for a nice change of environment and pace. In hell, environments are more open aired and enemies spawn more frequently. However, hell is too short, and lasts for only about 2 hours of gameplay before getting sucked back to Mars for the rest of the game. The game finishes there in maybe another 2-3 hours of claustrophobic interior gameplay, and whoa its over. Yep, it totals to a little over 10 hours of solid gameplay for me making Doom 3 unusually short.
Basically all the weapons from the original make a comeback in Doom 3. The changes made in some of the weapons firepower are a bit of a disappointment though. Because the game focuses only on a few highly detailed, large monsters on screen rather than a bunch of lesser detailed monsters, they made each of the monsters more powerful and capable of taking more hits. The shotgun as a result, loses the kind of gun and run action it had in the original. The imps and Z-secs (the guards) dont just take one shotgun hit and die. They instead take several shots now; with the exception being that you run up to them and head shot them point blank with the shotgun. Its now impossible to line up and nail 3-5 enemies at a time with the shotgun like in the original because it has become so weak. The most Ive managed is 2 enemies. The most useful and overused weapon Id say now is the plasma gun, which has an extremely efficient rate of fire, and kills basically everything in the game at a good ammo cost. Everything else does not have nearly as efficient use as the plasma gun. The rocket launcher, which I used a lot in the original Doom 2 does not have as much of a place in Doom 3 because again, the corridors just are too narrow for clean shots. The BFG-9000 while it essentially acts the same way as the old BFG is a bit toned down and does not do as much area damage as it used to. It still however is the most powerful and solid weapon in the game, besides the Soul Cube...but Ill leave that for gamers to figure out on their own later.
The gameplay basically for the most part consists of back strafing and firing as enemies run up to you. The game has very typical spawn spots, they like to spawn enemies in front and in back so its a matter of knowing which directions to strafe, finishing off enemies in front of you as fast as possible, then spinning around to finish off the enemies in the back. The game utilizes a lot of dark corridors to scare you by having enemies spawn from hidden chambers (classic Doom style). Its a bit nerve wracking maybe the first few times, but after a while I got really used to running dead into the dark spots to gun down the enemies that almost 90% of the time were there. Plus all the power ups in the game tend to be hidden in the dark spots of the game, making it worth running into. Finally, while you could take lots of damage running toward aliens in Half-life, running toward imps or wraiths that are still spawning is a very good simple strategy as they cannot fire and take damage. Most enemies can be killed before they get off a good shot, as long as you run toward them with the shotgun (as the game probably does not expect you to do) rather than away. With distance, damage decreases significantly, so it is usually favorable to run toward enemies, and when they try to swipe at you, to step back and blast away.
I watched in some report on Doom 3 that they actually hired a professional science fiction writer to help them script out the plot for Doom 3. It certainly feels like it has that professional feel because of it, but there simply lacks too little conspiracy and detail. All the characters you encounter only have a few things to say before you never see them again (or you can kill them if you like). The audio files tend to flesh out most of the games information and add a nice level of world detail to what has been going on prior to the incidents, but it just seems like too little in the end. It would have been nice to have a few flashbacks or cut scenes to show the actual demise of the place and kind of add to the atmosphere rather than just hearing about it. The few cutscenes that are actually in the game are for the most part solely for the purpose of introducing new enemies. The rest of the games plot is essentially driven by PDA information.
The game had a lot of potential for more. It was going through like this whole concept of explaining the teleporter technology that they were developing as potentially gates to hell and how the Mars bases demise slowly began as the crewmembers began to get sick and strange occurrences began. However, after the set up, it just stops. The ending of the game is so blatantly simple and short; there is no wrap up, or closing dialogue, absolutely nothing. Its just one 1 minute cutscene, and then presto, credits.
The last gripe is pure linearity. I expected this in some sense, but it would have been nice to give a few more options, maybe providing the player a few paths to complete one level rather than forcing the player through the entire game on a given path.
Sound is plain incredible. The game makes full use of 5.1 system setups, so you can hear voices from all angles, and there are freaky whisperings, zombie grunts and all kinds of cool sound ambience throughout the game. The use of personal audio files of dead personnel for extracting new information about the plot is great, since you can play the audio files while you run through the game. The gunfire is probably the one complaint I have. It is not quite as explosive the shot gun actually sounds rather weak to my ears (but it has been significantly weakened so maybe thats why). Overall I wish the gunfire had more punch to it but other than that a very, solid use of sound given that you have the proper setup for it.
Fear Factor 3/10
This game is not scary at all in my opinion despite what many gamers have posted on the boards of peeing in their pants and what not. I think the first hour or two and hell portions of the game are scary. But the rest is not. The reason is because of the formulaic fear approach that ID uses. The surround sound of haunting voices, the weird blobs of flesh (that dont do anything), the enemies that pop out from the dark corners, or drop from the ceilings or dart at you after you open a door. It gets old very, very, fast. The game essentially desensitizes players to fear after the first few hours. You get used to enemies spawning in every room, and so there are no quiet moments where you wonder if there will be one in that room you walked in, because about 90% of the time there is one as expected, and another 90% of the time, it will likely spawn in a dark corner in front of you, with one following behind you for a good scare. Maybe games like Silent Hill have honestly desensitized me to the kind of horror action Doom 3 was trying to offer, but to me this game honestly was far shot from the fear that I wanted in a video game. A few exploding grates and freaking hallucinations were a nice touch, but there should have been more melting walls of blood, and actually less enemies to build true anticipation and uncertainty.
Final Score 8.5/10 (not an average)
Ive noticed a few more gaming sites, such as the highly critical GameSpot, giving Doom an 8.5 and I feel that definitely is more of the score this game reflects. Dont get me wrong though. This is a very solid 3d shooter game. But when you compare it to Far Cry, the only other next generation shooter on the market now, Doom 3s pitfalls become evident. The gameplay is too simple because of the lack of onscreen monsters, the fear factor dies out early because of formulaic fear approach, the plot has lots of potential but does too little, and the lack of interactivity (in huge contrast to the use of vehicles and large scale environments in Far Cry) make this game a disappointment.
Its also far too short and unvaried to be an exceptional game. It would have been nice to spend more time in hell (I never thought Id say that), and the Mars environment got old pretty fast. ID should have gotten a step further and maybe even sent Hell to Earth. A few detailed environments on Earth would truly have been spooky and did seem possible with the game engine.
Finally, the short game time of about 10 hours puts this as one of the shortest 3d shooters Ive played yet. I also did get most of the items of the game and finished all the audio dialogue. There is not much replay out of this game, though I guess I might be tempted to up the difficulty to see if the gameplay changes drastically. If this game had come out a year ago, it might have been well applauded for. But given Far Cry, which almost matches this game in terms of graphics, and surpasses it in gameplay, Doom 3 falls short of the mark.
Nonetheless, given the 3d shooter market, and how there hasnt been good 3d shooters since Serious Sam 2, Thief 3 (if you consider this a 3d shooter) and Far Cry, Doom 3 is definitely along there with the best. Every 3d shooter game does have its shortcomings, and so Doom 3s shortfalls are to be expected.