This is the first gaming title I have ever played that made my heart rate increase and made me catch my breath as many of the nasties jumped at my character from nowhere. It's finally here. The much anticipated update of the Doom series, Doom 3, has finally reached our shores and it's definitely been worth the wait. The first title of the many soon-to-be-released next generation PC titles, it brings a whole new perspective to the table as game developers push the performance envelope. With the next evolutionary step in gaming comes a price though. Some PC gamers may find that Doom 3 runs sluggishly, or not at all, and may require a hardware upgrade. Minimum specifications include Pentium 4 1.5GHz/AMD Athlon XP 1500+ CPU, 384MB RAM, DirectX 9.0b compatible 16-bit sound card and 64MB graphics card, plus DirectX 9.0b.
For Doom 3, id Software has created an intriguing plot. Beginning on Mars, you play the role of a marine sent to the Union Aerospace Corporation's research facility. Upon arriving, your superiors immediately set you the task of rescuing a missing scientist. Once you reach him, trouble seems to be afoot and literally, all hell breaks loose.
Gameplay is pretty standard fare and is not particularly innovative, but still engrossing nonetheless. The focus seems to be more on the single player experience, but that doesn't mean the multiplayer mode will be lacking. In fact, two days post release, game modifications began appearing on the Internet. Patches such as ultra gore and ultra extreme quality showcase the strengths of the Doom 3 engine. Doom 3 currently only ships with five multiplayer maps and four game modes - eg, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Last Man Standing and Tournament. There are four difficulty levels available for single player mode - Recruit, Marine, Veteran and the unlockable Nightmare mode. The Nightmare mode is only unlocked once you have finished the game. It poses more problems, as the monsters appear more frequently, are harder to kill and inflict more damage. You will spend most of your time running around corridors blasting away at anything that moves, but some gamers may tire of the run-and-gun gameplay though. The level design is extremely detailed, with lots of close quarters combat required. But alas, it's mostly linear, with scripted events to tie the storyline together. There is some interactivity with the environments, such as movable boxes and exploding drums. There is also a high level of gore and blood in this title and although there is no gore model a la Painkiller, excellent gibbing effects are noticeable when you take down an enemy.
The weapon set has been updated for the latest release and reflects the close-to-medium quarters requirements (no sniper rifle here!). The weapons include your fists, flashlight, pistol, shotgun, machine gun, chain gun, grenades, plasma gun, rocket launcher, chainsaw, BFG and the secret soul cube. I only have two gripes concerning the weapons: the flashlight and alternate fire. You can't use the flashlight and have a weapon at the ready at the same time. This can be frustrating when searching darkened areas and a monster may rush you, leaving you no chance to switch back to your weapon of choice (a mod has already been released to fix this finicky problem). The secondary or alternate fire is also a noticeable omission and is usually included in most first person shooters (FPS) these days. The alternate fire just adds optional firepower when the conventional firing mode just doesn't cut it.
In the visuals department, Doom 3 has surpassed anything I have seen. In setting the scene, Doom 3's engine does an excellent job of rendering the dynamic lighting and shadows for realism. The way the light bounces off the textured walls and characters must be seen to be believed. Forget any screenshots or gameplay videos you may have seen prior to the release, you must witness gameplay first-hand to garner a true appreciation of what Doom 3 offers. FarCry set the benchmark for outdoor environment shooters, but Doom 3 has raised the bar for the indoor environments. The dark and foreboding surroundings provide an almost claustrophobic feel as you meander along the many corridors throughout the levels.
The audio also adds to the horror styling of the game. If you're after a more immersive experience, my recommendation is to play this title with a set of headphones on, as opposed to speakers. Those with Sound Blaster or EAX-compatible sound cards (and 5.1 speakers) will benefit even more later this year, when a patch to add support for Creative's EAX (Enviromental Audio Extensions) Advanced HD standard is slated for release. Even now however, the sound effects are also extremely noteworthy. The ambient sounds floating around will have you looking over your shoulder and exploring every dark corner to find their source.
Overall, Doom 3 is an impressive work of art. John Carmack has really gone to town on this title and it shows from the offset.
The gameplay, visual and audio effects make for enjoyable playing and the horror element had me wanting more. Other game developers take note, this how a FPS should be made. Bring on Half-Life 2, I say!
Visuals: Amazingly detailed textures and lighting effects
Audio: Scarily and eerily real
Gameplay: Run-and-gun close quarter combat style
Developer: id Software