2004 - the year of the FPS? Ok, maybe every year is the year of the FPS for the PC, but 2004 stands out from the pack because not only did we see the sequel to Deus Ex, but we also experienced such new comers as Far Cry, Painkiller, Breed and of course Unreal Tournament 2004. Not only this, but we expect the arrival of Half Life 2, the sequel to arguably the most popular FPS of all time. On top of all this, we expected the release of Doom3, the highly touted and long awaited addition to the infamous Doom series from idSoftware. Well, as you probably know, the wait for Doom3 is now over, as it is finally on retail shelves. The question remains, though, does it manage to live up to the expectations?
Doom3's storyline is reasonably generic, it's not hard to spot this straight off the bat. Like many FPS games before it, the story basically starts like this - everything seems normal, you're ordered to investigate a strange occurrence and before you know it, all hell has broken loose - literally. As you progress throughout the game, obviously more of the story comes to life but, again, don't expect anything groundbreaking in this department. Unfortunately, for some gamers, this will certainly feel a little dated, because a lot of us really have "been there" and "done that" in the gaming world before, probably more than once as well. The game doesn't take very long to get to the good stuff though, so you're atleast quickly into the action; after being introduced to your new job it is only a brief wait until it becomes time to kick hell spawn arse.
With that said however, another 'issue' arises, and that is the gameplay itself. For some people out there, Doom3 may have appeared to be the 'end all' of FPS gaming, but it is really not quite at that level. Doom3 is much more of a "vanilla" FPS when it comes to the actual gameplay - but lets not forget it is a member of the Doom series here we are talking about, should we really have expected any more than no-nonsense FPS action? What Doom3 does is get the fundamental aspects down very well and it basically sticks to those to create its experience. In other words, nothing that happens in Doom3 probably hasn't already happened in gaming before, however Doom3 just does them all, well atleast most of them, very well. Perhaps the only somewhat unique aspect to Doom3 is its PDA system. As an employee of the UAC, you are given a PDA to check mission status, read emails, watch video disks, access special security areas etc. You can even collect other PDA's that are laying about which are usually a good source of security codes and other useful information vital to the game's story.
One fundamental aspect which Doom3 didn't quite impress on, however, is the weapons. Besides the fact there is no sign of any alternate fire mode, you have a pretty generic lineup of weapons at your disposal - a pistol, shotgun, rocket launcher, plasma gun and chaingun to name a few. This is a little disappointing, because not only does the game reuse some Quake sounds (e.g. items pickups), it also basically reuses the exact same arsenal (remodeled for the new engine of course). If anything, Doom3 atleast has a chainsaw, which can wreak some serious havoc, however that hardly saves an area of the game I had personally expected more from. Nevertheless, you have plenty of fire power available, I had just hoped for maybe a fresher approach to this area of the game.
Getting to the positive side, the environment and atmosphere created by Doom3 is truly second to none. Thanks to the hugely touted graphics engine, which lives up to all the hype by the way, and the awesome sound system, Doom3 can go beyond many other first person shooters in creating an environment that is highly immersive. Every single room you enter from start to finish will have you on your toes, checking every dark corner for lurking hell creatures, occasionally looking behind yourself just to make sure you're not being followed. Although most of the levels are very similar visually, for some reason it never really came across as repetitive, just authentic. The world Doom3 creates feels very believable, it's not like you're in one part of the world and then another all of a sudden, you're basically stuck in the same huge complex with the exception of the final few levels, but I'll won't spoil that one for you.
With this said, the level design is pretty good. At times it felt like I had no idea what I was meant to be doing, but thanks to the reasonably easy to navigate levels all I basically had to do was follow the path of chaos and end up at my objective. There are times in the game where you have a choice, so some elements of the story are nonlinear, however the actual level design itself is pretty linear - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. For the type of game Doom3 is, that is an action shooter, the last thing I want to do is find my way through a maze of a level, and whilst at times there will be maze like sections to maps, for the most part you move quickly throughout levels knowing exactly where to go next.
Doom3, on top of the single player story mode, also features multiplayer gaming. There are only 4 included modes - deathmatch, tourney, team deathmatch and last man, all of which are self explanatory. To compliment these modes you have a handful of maps, 5 to be exact, which is a little on the small side really, but the main attraction to Doom3 is certainly its singleplayer mode, I get the feeling multiplayer was only included because it is now somewhat of a requirement for FPS games these days. Nevertheless, I'm sure idSoftware are relying heavily on the community to develop mods and maps and other addons to spruce the multiplayer component up, because at the moment it is very basic. With such an impressive engine, I believe that it is only a matter of time before hugely successful mods become available for Doom3.
After looking at Doom3 screenshots and movies, it is apparent to me that the only way you can truly give the game's visuals justice is by experiencing them yourself first hand. Simply put, there is no PC game to date that surpasses Doom3's visual splendor. Far Cry was a great looking game, and funnily enough it is practically the exact opposite of Doom3 when it comes to environments, but the winner in my opinion is clearly Doom3 as it really seems to immerse you with its visuals; there really is no single frame in this game that doesn't manage to impress the eyes. Of course, that is presuming you have the PC to run it. Although many reports indicate a midrange 2.4GHz Pentium4 system with a Geforce4 Ti4400 is adequate for impressive gameplay, to get the best experience you will certainly want to hook yourself up with something more along the lines of atleast an AMD64/high end P4 with a 9800Pro, and even then you won't be at max image quality as that was developed for 512MB Videocards in mind (which aren't available in the mainstream yet). Since a significant amount of the gameplay relies heavily on the environments and hence the visual quality of the environments, a less than impressive PC will impact your experience playing Doom3, I'm sure most bad guys just aren't scary at 640x480 with low detail.
Many people really weren't expecting too much from Doom3 as a standalone game, it was more the powerful engine and modding capabilities that these people were looking forward to, however when it is all said and done, Doom3 is an immersive FPS that gets the job done. It is true that the story behind Doom3 isn't exactly fresh, and the characters aren't as compelling as some featured in other FPS titles out there, and there is no doubt that the true Doom3 experience is with a top of the line PC, but nevertheless, Doom3 is a force to be reckoned with and despite the fact not much is incredibly new, no PC game collection is complete without it. It is as simple as that. For the seasoned FPS gamers, Doom3 is a little empty beyond the eye candy, because on top of the predictable storyline, the gameplay basically consists of running around shooting baddies, completing generic objectives in the process, and rarely strays far from this, but is that really a bad thing? This is, after all, Doom. Maybe it was the incredible visuals that somehow portrayed a sense of "ultimate FPS" to the masses, I don't know, all I know is, true to the series, Doom3 does the basics, and, in the most part, does them very well - why people expected much more I'm not too sure. If you buy Doom3 in the hope it will redefine your FPS gaming then you will probably crash and burn, but you if buy Doom3 in the hope it will feed your FPS addiction then you will most probably enjoy it immensely right up until the end.
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