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Doom 3 Collector's Edition

Shooter / FPS video game by Activision for the Xbox

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Doom 3: Old school meets new school

  • Sep 12, 2005
  • by
Pros: mostly fun gameplay, phenomenal graphics and sound, nostalgic, lots of action

Cons: a little too nostalgic, some lame gameplay elements, sucky multiplayer

The Bottom Line: Excellent graphics and sound make up for the linear and flawed gameplay, but FPS fans might be disappointed

Doom3 has been called one of the scariest games ever made. I suppose this depends on what you consider to be “scary”. If monsters jumping out of the dark at you while making sudden loud monster noises is your definition of scary, than by all means, Doom 3 is a very scary game.

However, I don’t think the above description defines scary. No, dear reader, that is called having reflexes attached to a central nervous system. In short, friends, it simply means you are alive and functioning properly and it is cheap. And while Doom 3 is a good game, with a decent story and fantastic graphics, its biggest selling point (that it is scary) is mostly startling, sometimes creepy, and often annoying.

For the uninitiated, Doom 3 is the 3rd sequel to the Doom series by ID. The game was not the first first person shooter (that honor goes to Castle Wolfenstein), but it was the first one to make a mark by way of the drug dealer distribution model: Give away a couple of levels to get them hooked, and then sell the rest for a premium.

I remember playing Doom 2 in my college dorm over the school Ethernet and my mind was blown away that I could actually be playing against someone who was 2 floors away! Needless to say, the Doom franchise has a huge and important legacy in gaming.

Doom 3 for the PC was developed by ID software, but the Xbox port was contracted out to Vicarious Visions.

If you haven’t played the original Half-Life, then the story will be pretty original to you. If you have played that classic of all classics, then you’ll find the story to be startling similar. You are a soldier who has gone to Mars to find some extra work working for a large global research company. And to add some much needed conflict, the stereotypical ”but something has gone horribly wrong!” has been added and all the workers of the Mars station are now all zombie alien things. Your job as a player is not only to blast said zombie-aliens, but to figure out what that something is that went so horribly wrong.

The story is told in many voice-overs. Thankfully they are optional, in that you have to manually play them each time you pick up some dead person’s PDA. So if you don’t care about story and just want to run and gun, then you have that option. Sci-fi geeks might enjoy the story, but it isn’t very deep and certainly doesn’t break any new ground in the world of game narrative.


Doom 3 is a First Person Shooter, which means the player sees what the character sees. You wield weapons in front of you and aim where you look. Doom was one of the pioneering games that made this type of game popular, but Doom 3 doesn’t seem to have really taken it to the next level like other games have. I’m down with the old school, but no dual wielding of weapons? And what is with the flashlight?? Since when is it impossible to hold a flashlight in one hand and a pistol in the other? No, friends, if you want to illuminate the dark corner where the monster is no doubt laying in wait; you must first holster the one thing that will save your life when the monster jumps out to kill you: your gun.

As well, there are no melee attacks, unless you are currently using the flashlight. That means you may not bash the butt of your double-barreled shotgun into the skull of the bad guy trying to rip out your jugular, but yes, you may smack him in the nose with your Wal-mart clearance flashlight.

The level design of Doom 3 is decent, but it’s way too linear and with too much backtracking. Throughout the game, you have to go find a dead dude and get his security permissions to open a door you ran into 10 minutes ago. This is equivalent to the old-school “get the red key to open the red door.” As well, there are a few mind-bogglingly easy mini puzzles such as using a crane to grab the barrel and drop into an incinerator. Once the claw is lined up, you hit the green button and the game finishes itself! There’s no game in the game!

The control scheme is classic FPS, except for the trigger being the Action button. If you’re aimed at bad guys this is fire. If you’re aimed at good guys this is Talk. If you’re aimed at switches, this is Pull. And mixing those on one trigger can get a little messy at times. When I was escorting a scientist who was lighting my way with his torch, I would go from trying to talk to him to blasting the monsters when all I wanted to do at that moment was blast the monsters. And I can’t tell you how many times I would pump a round into a computer station that I was supposed to “interact” with because my reticule was a little to the left. This system works well most of the time, but I don’t know why they didn’t just have talk/pull on the green button since that is mapped to the ever-useless Jump….

Which leads me to the button scheme. The green button is for Jump, which must be the most under-utilized part of the game. The only reason to need it is because perhaps at one point, the floor caved a foot or two. So now you have to jump out of the hole to keep moving. Oh and did I tell you that this is done most conveniently when you’re being chased by a not-so-slow monster? The Blue button is reload, which comes in very handy. The red button is used to cycle through your weapons. The 4 d-pad directions are automatically mapped to the least powerful weapons in the game, but that can be changed in the settings.

Fans of the Doom series will find it nostalgic that the exact same weapons are in Doom 3, including the chainsaw and the BFG 3000. Those of you who have never played Doom will find the weapons bland, consisting mostly of machine gun and shotgun ballistic types with only a couple of plasma weapons. The rocket launcher is always fun, but in the narrow passageways of the environment, it’s not always the safest weapon to use…

Another annoyance. If you’re used to tossing grenades with the left trigger, forget about it. The grenades are treated like another weapon and you must switch to it to use it. Luckily the D-pad Down is mapped to it, so it isn’t that much of a drag. But still, did they not take any cues from Halo?

And finally, the PDA is your Personal Data Assistant. It allows you to read email, listen to briefings and, get this, absorb the security clearances, email, and audio logs of any other PDA you come into contact with. Apparently corporate network security in the future becomes even worse. Regardless, this is where the story is pushed forward and is a clever way of telling the story without forcing the player to sit through 500 cinematics with every random person they come across. A nice touch is the ability to start playing an audio log and then put the PDA away with the log still playing while you go about walking around, exploring or blasting baddies. Think of it as a 23rd century Podcast!

Gorgeous. Virtually flawless. I’m amazed at how good this looks on the Xbox. If this game doesn’t show off the superiority of the Xbox, then no game will. Every texture is hi-res and bump/texture mapped giving the illusion of more detail without the polygon cost. This enables the artists to add even more detail elsewhere. This lighting is perfect and a game like this needs superior lighting.

The models are disgustingly detailed down to popping skulls and the slow burn away effect when you put one under. Most are nasty, some are creepy. Obviously great care was taken to ensure the models were the goriest and most effective they could be.

There is no real music per se in Doom 3. Instead we are given atmosphere and ambience. And that is the only part of the game that ever approaches “scary” for me. By nature, I’m more attuned to things aurally and the distant sounds, not-so-distant sounds, echoes, and vibrations added real sense of dread to the game. Distant screams, crackling radios, my own footsteps hitting a different material all gave me pause to look around for the next bad guy to come out. Well done.

As well, the voice-acting is exceptional. They hired a fair number of actors to do the PDA audio logs and some of them are funny, some are serious. All of them push narrative along in one way or another and the actors read their crisp writing with much skill. As well, the in-game dialog is well written a performed. More kudos to the team for taking voice-acting seriously.

Multiplayer was an obvious afterthought. The co-op is decent, but the LIVE and system Link is lethargic. Not only are there only 5 maps, but each game only supports 4 players. Don’t even bother.

Parents Should know...
Doom 3 is rated M for Mature because of sheer gore and fright. Keep the controller from the kids. Luckily the giant monster on the cover should discourage most grandparents from purchasing it for Billy.


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About the reviewer
Jeffrey Kafer ()
Ranked #721
Voice over artist specializing in audiobook narration. Hear more at http://audiobook-voice-over.com/ and http://JeffreyKafer.com
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Science has unlocked the gates to the unknown. A Sci-Fi horror masterpiece, DOOM 3 is like nothing you've ever experienced. Dramatic storyline, pulse-pounding action, incredible graphics and revolutionary technology combine to draw you into the most frightening and gripping first person gaming experience ever created. Fight for your life in single player, online multiplayer or the Xbox LIVE exclusive co-op mode. This Limited Collector's Edition includes full versions of the original Ultimate Doom and Doom II playable in single player, split-screen co-op or deathmatch with 2 to 4 players on one Xbox.
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ESRB: M - (Mature)
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: March, 2005

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