Those familiar with id’s genre-defining Doom series can revel in the fact that this is the definitive Doom experience. While it’s taken longer than most of us would have liked for the Xbox version to emerge, id has definitely made it worth the wait.
As a drastically overhauled retelling of the original Doom’s storyline, Doom 3 has you lacing up the boots of a battle-hardened marine who’s been reassigned to securing the UAC (Union Aerospace Corporation) Mars research facility. You’ll receive your first assignment from the ?sarge’, and begin your search for a missing scientist who’s been reported as being unstable at best. During this particular assignment, you’ll follow a spider-like robot for a while to help guide you. While it might not seem particularly special, this portion of the game is but a taste of things to come. Your tiny arachnid android moves with a stunning degree of realism. It’s actually downright creepy (and a little charming), as the little bugger absolutely won’t let you get lost. If the bot guide should round a corner and you neglect to follow, he’ll backtrack and impatiently peek around the corner, seemingly annoyed that a professional marine can’t follow a simple order. Rest assured, following that cute robot around is where all the cuteness in Doom 3 ends, because almost as soon as you locate the missing scientist, you’ll find yourself immersed in the stuff that nightmares are truly made of.
Doom 3 absolutely drips with atmosphere – quite literally at times. Moving through the foreboding hallways of the Delta labs, every facet of the environment looks thoroughly alive and believable. Steam hisses from exposed vents, LCDs flicker as they display diagnostic information about the base’s operations, and your flashlight will scarcely illuminate dingy corridors. Sadly, despite UAC’s considerable advances in technology, your poor marine still won’t be able to duct-tape that flashlight to his shotgun, but this element serves its purpose by leaving you overly suspicious and horrified of every darkened nook and cranny you come across. Speaking of which, Doom 3 is dark – disturbingly dark – like id wanted to redefine darkness for this game by making you wonder if your television is even turned on. Sometimes this can become somewhat tedious, but mostly it just scares you senseless. Things can become especially horrifying in some of the larger areas where the beam of your flashlight doesn’t hit a wall, but rather descends into an endless void, forcing you to carefully watch where you’re walking and at the same time remain aware of any enemies that might spawn from the darkness. For the most part, all of the graphics in Doom 3 have retained the astounding level of quality seen on the PC version. A lot of the classic enemies from the Doom series make a return and move with such eerie precision, you’d think id got in touch with Lucifer himself to see if some of his minions wouldn’t mind doing some motion capture work. Every NPC is beautifully modeled using some nice touches like bump-mapping and shading that will often leave you just watching them for a while before continuing on your mission to find out (pardon the pun) just what the hell is going on.
If the crisply detailed environments don’t instill enough dread in you to rattle your nerves, the audio in Doom 3 most certainly will. Deep, thunderous fits of demonic laughter occasionally ensue, typically just before legions of hell spawn are unleashed from the darkness to obliterate you. In most videogames of this caliber you would expect some epic, over-the-top music to accompany all the action, but Doom 3 uses music sparingly, like a fine spice. The music that’s there is great but, at the risk of ruining the mood set by ambient screams, whispers, and satanic mutterings, it’s used with restraint to prevent overshadowing that feeling of terror in the pit of your stomach as you grip your controller. All of the in-game speech is also phenomenally done, with some of the best delivery every heard in a videogame. Most of the voice clips will come in the form of PDA audio logs recorded by personnel, which can be found strewn about offices and computer systems throughout the base. Also, you will periodically receive scrambled transmissions from the sergeant regarding your next objective, though you can always check your own PDA if you forget what you’re supposed to be doing amid all the running, screaming, and demon blasting.
Aside from the use of PDAs to progress the story, check emails and view videos, Doom 3 never strays far from its FPS roots. As far as controls go, this is a textbook FPS game. You look with the right analog stick, move with the left, and pulling the right trigger fires your weapon. You can use the white and black buttons to access your flashlight and PDA respectively. All the weapons you’d expect to find in a Doom game are here, including the shotgun, BFG, and the ever-popular (though gruesome) chainsaw. All of the weapons pack a punch and exhibit a believable degree of recoil to make it feel like you really are a marine that’s highly familiar with and trained in the use of multiple firearms. Another great feature that’s been made exclusive to the Xbox version is the inclusion of an online co-op mode so you and a friend can run and gun against the legions of hell. It feels a little stripped down and there’s very little story to speak of, but at times it can be much more frightening than the single-player experience. More frightening because sometimes you won’t expect your partner to come barreling out of a pitch-black room and you’ll probably end up accidentally blowing him away more than once – unless you use the very handy option of turning off friendly fire. There is a slightly annoying delay in the time it takes to access your PDA or access the menu screen to adjust your game settings, but this is a minor flaw in light of the polish that can be found in every other aspect of Doom 3.
If you don’t mind shelling out a little more cash than usual, then for about $10USD more you can purchase the collector’s edition of Doom 3, which also includes the full versions of Ultimate Doom and Doom II, complete with split-screen multiplayer if you’ve got an itch to play these classics with some friends. There are also developer interviews and a full episode of G4: Video Game TV ?Icons’ which discusses id’s rise to fame in creating one of the most recognizable franchises in the history of videogames. All of this still comes on a single disc and is packaged in a classy, embossed metallic case. Basically, if you’re going to buy Doom 3, you may as well go all out and treat yourself to the entire Doom legacy.
At the end of the day, Doom 3 provides a gameplay experience that rivals most survival-horror games in terms of providing a jolt to the senses. Doom 3 doesn’t just scare you; it mortifies you, just before it breaks your glasses, gives you a stern beating, and steals your lunch money.