Doom III
By: Drexl on February 14, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Platform: XBox
Also available on: PC
Developer: id
Year: 2004
OFLC Rating: MA15+
When id Software dreamt up the idea of Doom all those years ago one would imagine that the visions they had in their heads didn't transfer too well to the technology available at the time. It still became one of the best known and best loved video games of all time though and was responsible for the word 'frag' appearing in the vocabulary of video gamers the world over. PC owners battled through the shareware chapter that was freely available, shelled out for the other chapters, hooked their systems together for 'deathmatches', modded and hacked the game allowing you to blast Homer Simpson or Bill Gates and created extra levels to frag their friends on. It's safe to say that id's sorta-3d blastathon secured its place in video game history.

Years go by and the number crunching power of the PC (and home consoles) increases. Via one sequel, a couple of add-on packs and the Quake franchise, id Software present PC owners with Doom III, a system-sapping swirl of real-time lighting and fire spitting demons that had all but the highest spec-ed PCs shuddering to a five FPS slideshow. It's a sure bet that Doom III is what id designers really had in their heads all those years ago - Evil Dead meets Aliens indeed.

Now console owners can join in the blasting with the Xbox version. Graphically and sonically it may well be a huge leap forward (more later) but the plot is as it was all those years back. Bad-ass marine called into investigate disappearances and strange goings-on at space-base somewhere, dead people all over the show, nasty monsters out for Marine blood etc, etc. Simply rack up the fire arms and carve a path through anything in your way, usually monsters of increasing size, speed and nastiness. An occasional diversion is provided by the need to track down keys for the locked doors barring your progress - Doom fans stop me now if this all sounds familiar... So, in all honesty, it's a remake not a new game - tarted up to take advantage of modern gaming technology but a remake all the same...

...and that's damn fine by me.

Many first-person shooters have been padded out with twisty plots and subplots and various other tasks designed to make the experience more of a challenge for the brain rather than the trigger-finger. Doom III, refreshingly, places the emphasis firmly on blasting anything that gets in your way - simply mow down your foe and move on to the next one. Even the need to side-track while searching for the key cards to unlock doors is kept to a minimum and the path through the levels is pretty linear. There is very little here (in fact, nothing at all) to get in the way of the blasting fun.

So, as mentioned earlier, the only steps forward taken here are graphically and sonically but this serves to ramp up the atmosphere considerably. Real-time lighting effects mean that the player is frequently plunged into complete darkness (with the ominous growls of something nasty approaching to be heard on the soundtrack), shadows of approaching monsters stretch out along the walls and floors and the flickering lights of machinery occasionally illuminate areas of the level allowing the player brief glimpses of what may be lurking in the shadows. This claustrophobic atmosphere is enhanced by the fact that the player can only equip one thing at a time, either a weapon or a torch, but not both. id came in for a bit of flak for this when the PC version of this game hit the shelves but I think it's a stroke of genius and it certainly serves to increase the tension level of the game. The soundtrack is equally nerve-shredding with demonic growls, strange whispering noises and the radio chatter of your rapidly dwindling Marine buddies. This reduces as the player moves further into the game until you are all on your lonesome...

The baddies are a mixture of (mostly) old 'friends' and (some) new foes to carve your way through. The linear nature of the game allows id to add short intro movies for when a new creature is introduced. Old friends present and correct include the fireball launching imps, the big, fat floaty-head thing and, a new addition, some gross and very annoying spiders. All look and sound fantastic and have some cool death effects for when they find themselves on the receiving end of a well-placed rocket. The creatures scurry up walls, drop from the ceiling and crash through walls and the floors at carefully chosen moments, usually resulting in a 'holy shit' remark from the player and any spectators.

Microsoft's second best console, I'm happy to say, handles the action without breaking sweat. 95% of the PC version is present and correct and the visuals are smooth and detailed - great eye candy. I've previously had a problem playing FPS with a joypad but a tug of the left trigger allows the player to spin round in double quick time to successfully emulate the quick turning that can be done with a mouse and, therefore, avoids the annoyance of waiting for your character to slowly turn around when a monster attacks from behind. Halo fans will be immediately familiar with the control layout as they are virtually the same - move with left thumbstick, look with the right. Sonically the game is top-drawer as well with a nail-biting surround track available. Multiplayer fans are catered for with system-link and Xbox Live! deathmatches to frag their friends and enemies.

The release under review here is the UK 'special edition' release which comes in a cool little metal case and comes with some neat bonus goodies. Firstly we have some promo stuff in the form of a decent 'History of Doom' TV special which is broken into a few chapters but the biggy is the inclusion of full versions of Doom (Ultimate Doom to be exact) and Doom II. Looking and sounding exactly as they did all those years ago it's surprising that, even though they look piss poor by today's standards, they are still extremely good fun to play. They are both offered here with multiplayer options as well, just to add even more value.

Doom III very definitely falls into the most basic category of video game - if it moves, kill it and, as such, its strengths could be seen by many players as its weaknesses (or vice-versa.) Personally, I love it for the simple gorefest that it is although I accept that many people may become bored of it rather quickly, due to its somewhat repetitive nature. It's also worth mentioning that seasoned FPS gamers may want to jump into the game on the higher difficulty settings as the mid-range settings are a little on the easy side, at least for the first 75% or so of the game.

If this review were for a movie rather than a video game then I would be rambling on about 'Argento-esque' lighting, the liberal 'Fulci inspired' gore and the distinctly 'Mattei-like' lack of plot and creativity. Those three remarks should be considered recommendations by the way and, as such, Doom III comes highly recommended by me.
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