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Doom 3

Think back to 2004. There were two big titles in the First Person Shooter Genre released near the end of that year. These were Doom 3 and Half-Life 2. Doom was out in August, Half-Life in Novemeber. What do I remeber most about them? I remember the Doom system requirements looking at my computer and going "Yeah, right, dream on bub." I also remember Half-Life looking at the same computer and going "Sure, lets play." The load times were rather long, but the game was gorgeous and ran without lagging. I aso remember replacing that computer and having Half-life go "Hey, you can turn up the graphics options even higher now" and it was spectacular. On the new box Doom went "Ugh, you want me to play on that? All right, but crank the resolution and detail way down." It ended up looking like the original doom - except it crashed every time I interacted with a terminal in the game. I'm now on my third box since 2004, and finally Doom will run normally. And you know what? It looks like crap. I'm not comparing it to games that came out from 2005 on, I'm comparing it to Half-Life 2, which game out the same year. The people all look like they have square heads with faces that got hit by a shovel. Everything looks like it's made out of plastic, the flesh, the fabric, the metal, the rock, all looks like plastic. If this were Lego Doom that would be just fine. This however, is regular Doom. I'm sitting here thinking "What does this game need all those system resources for if it looks like this?" What they had tried to sell us what that it was some gorgeous photorealistic masterpiece that couldn't be realized on last gen hardware. It isn't. It is the purtid result of lazy programmers who didn't want to do the work needed to make it efficient. I haven't even gotten to the gameplay, this is just my visual impression.

It suffers from something in gameplay I like to call "not being fun". This is a severe disease that is almost universally fatal to the games which it afflicts. Fun is the only measure of value for a game. Doom 3 is a collection of cheap shots and artificial handicaps to cover for a ragingly stupid AI. Lets start with the old classic - the trapped powerups. After a few hours of gameplay, my reaction to seeing powerups is "What are they going to ambush me with this time?" Even if you've cleared the area, stepping into the space containing the powerup is a script trigger that spawns some set of enemies nearby - usually in melee range. It only worked once - when the script trigger instead caused the floor to fall and drop me into a group of zombies that I couldn't have swept from above. But there's still a problem with that - prior to my picking up the powerup the zombies were completely silent. Everywhere there is a zombie active in the area, you can hear it. They make a distinctive groaning sound. As I said, this was a classic move that harkens back to Doom's roots, so I'm not going to harp on it anymore. Instead, I'm going to harp on the lighting. Tell me, why does this game need so many system resources when my screen is 80-90% pitch black 80-90% of the time? And then there's the flashlight mechanics. As you should know by now, by default you can't use the flashlight at the same time as your weapons. Otherwise you would actually be able to see where you are shooting. And the flashlight when it's up doesn't even center on your crosshairs. It aims below and to the right of your crosshairs, lighting up a tiny circle in the lower right quadrant of the screen. Why? so you can't see an enemy and switch to a weapon to shoot it. Because if your light were centered of your crosshairs you could line up your shots by seeing your enemies. You can simulate this gameplay mechanic by putting your head in a duffel bag and trying to box one of your friends who is not similarly impaired.

Lastly there's the stunlocking. From what I can tell, enemies can stunlock the player by causing damage, but the enemies do not likewise stumble when they take damage from the player. Again, this is probably to compensate for the horrible AI, which I found myself routinely exploiting. I never felt any immersion, only annoyance. I could practically see where I tripped over the script triggers on the map. These same scripts are fond of spawning enemies behind me in areas I have very thoroughly cleared already. Another cheap shot. Lastly there's the obsession with ingame cutscenes. Pointless ones that happen whenever you stumble onto their trigger and leave you in the worst tactical position possible even when it's a movement pattern I'd never do as a player. When I enter a room, I sweep the corners, looking for consealed or otherwise waiting enemies and areas from which I could be ambushed. When I stumble onto a cutscene trigger, the PC strolls casually into the center of the room and sits there watching as six demons crawl out of the woodwork and pose rediculously. Okay, it's supposed to be menacingly, but I just don't see it. I'd have been shooting the moment they poked their ugly faces out of the vents.

What do I have to say that's good? Hrmm... I guess the voice acting was all right. But I wanted to shut that damn radio off from minute one. I don't need to hear these stupid random screams from NPCs I never met while trying to listen for the door code in an audio log while fending off an Imp. Oh yeah, that reminds me. If you miss the spoken code in an audio log, you have to play the entire *bleep*ing log over again to get the code. And they're ALWAYS at the end. There's no option to skip forward in the audio log, no fast forward, and no text annotations you can scribble just in case you forget what the code was. To make matters worse, there's no sense that at one time the facility had a logical layout. It always feels as though the path from point A to point B always went through hazards X,Y and Z, even when the facility was running normally. And is it me or are the zombies far more dense in population than the staff they supposedly came from?

--Robert McCarroll