Review by Psalm51
Motion sickness, scares and monochrome gameplay...you no likee?
ID Software deserve alot of credit for their work with Doom 3. In many ways, Doom 3 represents the perfect shooter experience. But, as the game goes on, and it truly goes on for too long, you realise that something is missing. Sure, I'm just finishing the game while playing it in 2009 and game was first released in 2004, five years ago, but I'm thinking of something different. The gameplay is pretty much nailed, the graphics top notch, the physics on display seems right and the earnestness in the logs vs small doses of humour here and there is all good. So what am I getting at? I think the word is that we, the FPS game players of 2009 (or even 2004) are looking for something more in our games. I am not referring to complexity here as we definitely don't want our shooters to be complex but we do want pathos, a connection with our avatar for it all to work. I just had no pathos or connection at all with my avatar in Doom 3. Without pathos, it all felt hollow; a technical marvel but a dumb game all the same. Perhaps Doom 3 is the dumb blonde of the FPS genre!
Introduction - I guess that you don't want me to take you on a history tour of games from the early 1990s but you appreciate that Doom, Ultimate Doom (a repackaging of the original Doom) and Doom 2 were games that sealed the FPS as a favourite genre for many of us. These games represent a great single player and multiplayer experience. Many of us who first got hooked on gaming as our hobby of choice remember that games like Doom were the games that got us hooked. Back then, life and FPSs were simpler and there was little need for pathos in a game if the other ingredients were good. Sadly, times move on and we want a little more from our FPS "once an evening" two hours on the computer gaming sesh. Sadly again, ID software didn't move with the times and Doom 3 feels like a game from the past. A damn fine game from the past, but one from the past no less.
Gameplay - 7 out of 10. Notice I used the words "nailed gameplay" and then ask yourself why I'm giving this category a 7 out of 10! Simply put, let me give you three problems with gameplay in Doom 3. The game is (1) too long, (2) too monochrome and (3) too hard. Let me take you through these in reverse order. Too hard...the first time I attempted Doom 3 I selected hard level of difficulty. I do this for all shooters that I "respect" and my decision to choose hard is rarely wrong. After struggling with both the first and second bosses in the game I realised that I had made a mistake and stopped playing. I have just about completed the game on this second attempt and I selected normal difficulty this time. Sure, it was more playable but still hard at numerous points. Enough said on that point. Too monochrome...and I mean relentlessly monochrome. I don't play games to be depressed but Doom 3 had that effect on me. A sesh of playing Doom 3 gave me corridor motion sickness and made me depressed...not good. Too long...sure, way too long and the worse for that fact alone. I like games to finish gracefully and without outstaying their welcome. Doom 3 did neither.
Story - 5 out of 10. Not much to report here as Doom 3 retraces the story from one of the earlier Doom games. Games and stories don't seem to mix that well and the story in Doom 3 qualifies I'm afraid. Man opening a portal to hell then facing the consequences seems to be it...yawn!
Graphics/Sound - 9 out of 10. The Doom 3 graphics engine is simply great and offers up the best part of the game experience. Weird, spooky sound is used extensively and adds greatly to the atmosphere of the game. The heavy metal theme tune that plays on game load is great to but there is a total absence of music in the game itself. Like I said to start off with, Doom 3 is the perfect (vanilla) shooter experience and this remark is aimed almost entirely at the graphics, sound and to a lesser degree, gameplay. I will add here that the Doom 3 engine was used to good effect in Prey. Prey, from Human Head Studios was also a let down of sorts but never because of the technology used. The Doom 3 engine has also been used in other games and is also the foundation of the new Wolfenstein game.
Play Time/Replayability - 6 out of 10. As mentioned above in Gameplay, Doom 3 is simply too long. It outstays its welcome "big-time." By the time you get to hell, you are wanting the game to finish, but there is still 30% of the game left to go. As also mentioned before, the boss battles can be hard and this fact alone can put you off playing the game (on a harder difficulty?) as second time. I guess that boss battles ARE meant to be hard but you know what I mean :)
Final Recommendation - 7 out of 10. They got it wrong. The industry experts got it wrong! Doom 3 reviewed well on release and garnered many reviews at or around the 90% mark. I suspect that a few of the reviewers played the game through to the end but most didn't, and most would not have picked up on the issues I picked up on. If Doom 3 was (a) shorter, (b) made you care more for your avatar and was less monochrome and (c) easier, then I too would have reviewed it as 90% game. As it stands, and perhaps the passage of time HAS affected my score after all, my conclusion is that Doom 3 is a great technology showcase game (much like Unreal 2) but misses the mark as a top FPS. It is an arguable point but I would say that FEAR was the game Doom 3 should have been. Perhaps if ID Software had added slo-mo in Doom 3 it would have made all the difference...who knows!
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Doom 3 (EU, 08/13/04)
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