PCGamer Review - September 2004 Issue - 94%
THE WORLD-EXCLUSIVE FIRST REVIEW
You've waited years. Now the wait is over. PC Gamer was the only publication in the world to review Doom 3 a split-second after id declared it "Done." We thought we were ready...
Turn out the lights. Get the surround-sound speakers in place. And say goodbye to sanity for the next 20-odd hours. The guys at id Software are famous for delivering a game "when it's done" - and we're here to tell you that Doom 3 is not only done, it's mind-blowing.
X The game opens up with your arrival at Mars Research Facility of the massive United Aerospace Corporation. It's the year 2145, and you're a Marine newly assigned to the facility's security detail. For the first 15 minutes,you're not even issued a weapon - the action unfolds in a pace reminiscent of the opening of Half-Life, as you get oriented around the security building and watch some video primers on your new job and new home. In this opening act, you're familiarized with your Personal Digital Assistant, wich will be your invaluable interface throughtout the rest of the game. Using this handy gadget, you can download info from other people's PDAs as you come across them, adding codes, access keys, and emails that contain crucial information you'll need to progress through the 28 maps to follow. Here's what you really spen those first 15 minutes doing: gawking. This is your chance to absorb the full shock of magnificant graphics engine put to stunning use. The enviroments are huge-scale and packed with detail. The base is a convincing Mars Station - less a far-future design than a depressingly postmodern corporate park. It feels lived-in, too - from the skin mags scattered on the kitchenette tables to the nastiest in the public rest-room toilet bowls.
But no sooner do you get oriented with your gear - and with the very cool physics model that lets you rearrange just about any object in the place - then all hell breaks loose. Literally.
The base is hammered by a shockwave of satanic force, and immediatly discover that almost evryone around you has turned into a flesh eating zombie - with a mindless devotion to snacking on you. Worse yet, the base has been invaded by a horde of nightmarish demons. Cut off from your fellow Marines (and stalked by some of their well armed zombie versions!), you've got only a comm link with your still human Sarge to steer you to safety
DOOM AND THEN SOME
For those expecting a "classic" run and gun Doom gameplay, the biggest surprise may be just how substanial this game is. If you try to blaze through any of these 28 missions you WILL be humiliated. Instead the only route to access is a slow and steady one, sticking to shadows, searching every nook and crany for health, ammo, and access keys, and generally advancing as methodicaly as you can.
You've also got to figure out whats happening. As you make your way through the different levels of the base, the pilot is revealed via the PDAs you pick up, and in breif conversations with the few NPCs who werent "turned" by the satanic attack. To make your way through the inevitably sealed-off access doors between levels, you'll have to read through email that progressively reveals a conspiracy of apocalypse proportions - the nefarious scheme of phsycotic Dr. Betruger, UACs cheif scientist, who's perverted a teleportion to open up a portal into hell-like demension. (Oh and if you didnt notice Dr. betruger is also keen on transporting his hellion army to earth.)
Gear is an absolute premium. All the old Doom weapons are back, but preciously rationed, and with an ever windling supply of ammo for each. The shotgun is your basic in close sledge hammer, while the assault rifle is your best down hallway exchanges with armed zombie marines. The chaingun provides a heavy punch for those hectic occasions when you need to yell "LETS ROCKKKK!" The plasma rifle was my personal fav, dealin streams of fiery blue death, although it runs out of ammo quickly. The rocket launcher scores devastating hits at a distance, while the stock pistol is suitable for minor enemies and desperate last stands. (And as for the BFG 9000 - you'll have to wait a bit before you get to arm it, but the wait is well worth it.)
But theres no need to worry that Doom 3 is as slow as spliner cell - hardly a minute goes by without a furious exchange of hostiles with some manner demonic beastie, imps, Hellknights, and Archviles are all back to shock and awe you with viscerally jarring attacks, and the endless stream of zombies and scuttling nasties gives you plenty to chew on (and chew up). The gallery of grotesquerie is the product of almost limitless imagination for horors - spiders that make your flesh crawl, infant "cherubs" mutated with fly wings, and other unamable terrors that blight the corridors of the possessed base
TO LAUNCH A THOUSAND PC PURCHASES
Early in the game, you're tasked with sprinting outside the mars Facility ( with rapidly depleting air canisters) in search of the next airlock. It was here that i really started to notice what I was seeing was graphics superiorty that not even current hot tech showcases like Far Cry could match. Dust blew around the martian surface and the dull brown/red hue of the sand and the twisted metal of shredded structures all semed so perfectly plausible.
Each girder, door, and window adds tangible substance to each scene, and even th \e effect of your flashlight shinging into a drakened corner looks ridiculosly real - as the light floods through a room , swinging back andforth, shadows are cast perfectly; dust particles gently drift into the cone of the flash light , eerily visible. And these are just the basics of the enviroment: just wait until you enter the depths of hell, and dive into some of the later mass melees,\. Doom 3, with all due awareness of hyperbole, is the best looking game you've ever seen.
Not surprising you'll need a monster system to render these monsters in all their intracetly textured glory. But the ability to play Doom 3 with all its visual magic maxed out is really a good excuse to trade up. A P4 3GHzwith a Georce 5950- class card will see u through okay. One of our test systems had a geforce 6800 ultra and ran flawlessly at 1024x 768 with high detail. (A higher level of quality and resolution is available , but the PC to run it well isnt)nning with a geforce4 MX card and 512 Mb RAM, the texture detail was great, although the game was choppier in spots.
Bottom line: If Far Cry didnt convince you, then Doom 3 should - the time to upgrade to a next generation 3D chip , or even an all new rig, is now.
SOUND, FURY...AND SCARES
While I was expecting amazing graphics, it was the sound effects and sound design that had me reeling. Footsteps echo spookily down halls; monsters issue bloodcurling shrieks; every hallway has an audible drip of menace and dread. Doom 3 is the reason to own surround sound speakers. The collective impact of sound design on the whole expierience cant be overstated, adding to the urge to switch out ll th lights, close the curtains, crank up the voulume, and let yourself be scared s***less.
And you will be jolted right out of your seat. I'm not going to spoil any of the socks here, but there were at least four occasions where i lunged back in y chair. Lead designer Tim wiltis is inside your head like a phycologist - and just when hes let you think you can lower your guard, he sticks the psychic shiv right into your nervous system.
Even when the scares arent heart stopping , theres a constant, simmering anxiety at each and every step. You basically subjecting yourself to a 20 hour cariac episode. At times, death brought sweet, momentery respite from the fear drenched mayhem.
The zombie plagued space station is creepy enough , but about mid way through the game you make a teleporteraided detour to hell. The whole feel of the game changes utterly - if you thought you were in desperate straits before, you now find yourself in a balls shriveling nightmare netherworld. (With no weapons!)
It's all leading up to a knees knocking climatic spelunk into the archealogical ruins beneath mars base where you enter a final showdown against evildoers amid the remnants of a fallen martian civilization. As the massive fright lifter descends so agonizingly slowly into the darkness, you may find yourself as I did, cursing out loud at the grim hold this game has on you.
Does Doom 3 have any missteps maybe just one; its attemps at humor feel way out of place. there are a few lame running gagas: PDA spam and an uber-nerdy string of emails between members of a roleplaying club. (The spam gag actually becomes a puzzle that requires you jump out of the game and use you web browser to find a code. Huh?) In one appalling instance, you even even become privy in a tounge-in-cheek directive by arcvillian Dr. Betruger, advising hellions on the proper way to prepare virgin sacrifices. These limp jokes server only to dump me out of the games carefully calibrated dread machine.
But no matter: The rest is all dynamite. Doom 3 took me 23 hours to complete on the medium difficulty setting. (For all those who rumored that the game would be over in a few hours- you couldnt be more wrong.) And for those 23 hours, you will never expirience a dull moment. Or even a less than mesmerizing one. Doom 3 is a masterpiece of art form - staying true to the frantic legacy of the Doom series, while ambitiously reaching new hieghts and bashing down the doors of the next generation of PC shooter. The bar is raised. Lets see someone else climb over it- Dan Morris
Highs: Extraordinary graphics and sound; incredible tension, atmosphere, and mayhem.
Lows: Some stabs at humor fall a bit flat.
Bottom Line: Just as we'd hoped, it's a non-stop ride of tension, carnage and terror. A new classic.
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