|Doom III's lighting is the best yet seen in PC land|
Well, it was inevitable. No, I'm not talking about the fact that I've finally gotten around to posting a review on here. I'm talking about Doom III's backlash.
It was barely out a single day when the crashing and the burning began. Internet message boards, chat rooms and web sites alike were alive and buzzing with hateful, destructive and near sociopathic slander directed towards iD Software's latest PC odyssey. Yet meanwhile the gaming press is proclaiming it yet another masterpiece.
Such clear cut divisions boggle the mind, but it's the kind of random hatred and - to be blunt - stupidity that's becoming all too common on the world wide web these days. Everyone has an opinion, sure...but why must they be such murderous ones?
Reasons for such bitter distain regarding this game in particular seem to range from the semi-credible "it doesn't feel much like Doom", to the moronic "it's too dark", on to the down right untrue "there are no physics!". Such statements are generally followed with the now obligatory "DOOM III IS GAY!" closing argument. God I hate the internet some times.
I bet the people who complain Doom III is too dark and resent having to use the flashlight so often are the same people who didn't understand The Blair Witch Project.
Don't Believe the Hype
Let's put things into perspective. Doom III was in the works for over four years - an age in gaming terms. Consoles have come and gone in shorter time than that. Yet for this entire period, iD never ceased to claim that it would be worth the wait. Not only that, but that it'd go on to redefine anything and everything we expect from a video game. Big words.
So naturally, when the game finally shows up and ultimately we're greeted with a first person shooter that is, well, just a first person shooter, I guess it's fair to say that many got slightly bitten by the hype. Cue that backlash.
|Even on medium settings the textures are incredibly detailed|
As for me, I'm easily pleased, I guess. Because I for one, dig Doom III.
For me, Doom III's a rare game that truly starts to push the boundaries of gaming as an art form. Playing through the opening segment for example, it hit me harder than ever just how far videogames has come over the years. In fact I don't even consider this a plain old computer game - for me this, more than anything we've seen before it, is as close as we've come to an interactive movie.
Think about it. Just like a film, Doom is written, built, lit, directed and acted, all by a group of artists who are, more than anything else, really just storytellers at the end of the day. Their tools may be different, but the end result is the same; the audience take their seat and are transported away to another time and a place for a few hours. The only real difference being that in this movie, you
are the protagonist.
The result? A film that you don't just watch, but truly experience
- and it's an important concept 'cos it's something that games will, in theory, always have over movies.
It's sad in a way. If Doom III were in fact a film, it'd be raking in wonderful praise for its exquisite cinematography. The way the in-game "sets" are built and lit rivals anything you'd find in a major Hollywood movie, with a depth, clarity and believability that's just perfect for it's dark horror atmosphere.
|Tom didn't appreciate being interupted mid dump|
It's been ten years since Doom II came out, when our heroic yet nameless space marine battled the hordes of hell on Earth, and sure enough, he has to do it all over again here. Thanks to advances in technology and game design though, we actually get a little more depth to the plot this time - one that owes just as much to Half-Life as it does Doom.
A big part of this game's brilliance is its atmosphere though, and you can thank two main elements for that; the previously touched upon graphics, and the arguably just as important sound. Scholars could spawn endless papers on either subject, but allow me to tackle each one briefly in my own words.
The first Doom was always an important graphical game. Although not the first, er, first person shooter of all time, I would say it was the first truly believable
one. Thanks to its seminal architecture, beautiful textures, and ominous lighting, the original first episode of Doom sucked you into a time and place like nothing else of its era.
These things are naturally hallmarks of Doom III too. In fact, the entire engine appears to have been built around the ability to create the most deeply realistic lighting effects ever put to monitor. It really is a sight to behold, and flavours the game with its own look really unlike anything else seen before.
They Took My Baby
It's not until these impressive visuals are married to the most ambitious of in-game sound-scapes that the illusion becomes complete though. In fact, in terms of sound work, Doom III is just as ground-breaking as its graphics.
|Finally he realised what the safety button was for|
ID have always impressed aurally (must spell that right). The reloading sound from the old Doom shotgun back in the day was a genuine highlight of the entire game, and between Doom's follow-ups and the Quake trilogy, they've certainly gone on to do wonderful things in all their subsequent titles too.
Doom III takes everything great about their back catalogue and melds it all together. We get the horribly unnerving grunts and growls from the original Doom. We get the gorgeously clanking metallic vibe of Quake, not to mention more than a hint of Trent Reznor's classic score in the ambient music. And yet the more sci-fi stylings of Quake II and III also shine through in the various weapons and equipment at your disposal.
Going back to that music in fact, iD go way out on a limb this time around. Save the very occasional piece of incidental score work - which is largely brilliant, minus the grating heavy metal intro - the score is, in fact, made up from nothing but sound effects. Machinery, air vents, lava, breathing, evil laughter - there's a sense of melody to all these "instruments", and they're fired off and layered as if conducted in an orchestra. A genuine musical score would have significantly reduced the tension and fear that's created by this much more realistic soundtrack as a result.
If anything, the easier and more mundane sound effects such as pistols and machine guns come off as the weakest link, but really this is truly inspired work, and worthy of awards.
The Creeping Fear
|At his most desperate hour, our hero's diarrhoea got out of control|
I could go on and on, but you get the gist. These technical wonderments are what support Doom III's prize accomplishment; its fear factor. Yes people, this is by far the most scary video game ever created. The haters may go on about how the System Shock games did it first and better, but I'm sorry chaps...it takes Doom III's near photorealism to evoke such feelings from me. The Alien Vs Predator games nearly got to me a few times, but Doom's shocks and scares are the first to truly make me jump and yelp, even looking over my shoulder at 2am when heading for bed.
These scares of course include the traditional "Boo!" gags, where demons jump out from behind you, and that's fine and all, but it's the more surreal and highly unnerving psychological shockers that got me. The slimy alien shit engulfing the base around you for one, not to mention the demons from hell seemingly infecting our hero's mind and projecting twisted images and sounds into his head for another.
I really don't wanna spoil or ruin anything for you, as without these scary moments, Doom III is essentially only half a game, but as a word of advice to those squeamish ones out there; don't look in any mirrors.
|The engine is capable of stunning outdoor scenes, sadly rarely used|
This emphasis on scares gives Doom III a change of pace from the earlier games in the franchise. No longer will you face down 20 imps at once in those huge outside arenas, engagements this time around are much more of the one on one variety, confined most of the time to tight, cramped corridors. This doesn't appear to be any sort of limitation of the engine, as towards the end of the game the environments open up considerably, along with multiple combatants on screen, yet such encounters are definitely the exception not the rule. Isolation and fear are the name of the game here, not all-out action.
I have no idea how a friend tagging along would influence the game in that regard, as there's nothing scarier than solitude when battling the spawns of Satan, but I guess we won't find that out until the Xbox version plops out next year with added co-op campaign. Until then, there's precious little on offer here for the multiplayer crowd, other than a very basic deathmatch mode. Which sorta makes sense, considering Doom originally invented the term.
|Sadly the Cacodemon isn't actually made of cack|
Long time fans will be happy to hear elements of the original games remain in other areas too. ID claim this is no proper sequel, but more a "retelling" of the original story. This certainly rings true if you study the overall layout of the missions, as although there are no clearly defined "episodes" this time around, that same transition from the Mars labs to Hell itself is present and correct.
The Hell levels in fact, would be unquestionably the highlight of the game. Lava rivers, human lamps and living scenery all give it a grotesqueness that is as beautiful as it is terrifying. I would almost put the artistic work here on the same pedestal as HR Giger's designs on Alien. Inspired stuff.
The original monsters return too, and spotting and comparing the old guys with their new face lifts proved half the fun for me. The Cacodemons - an iconic sight back in the day - are a standout presence, as is the all-encompassing evilness of the Arch Vile to name another. That's one creepy arse mother fucker that haunted me to death 10 years ago and similarly gave me my fair share of scares today. On a more subtle level, you may also spot the odd texture reappear which brought a smile to my face as an old skool Doom modder.
The Ultimate Doom
If I could change anything about Doom III it would be the release date. After such a long wait, the final unveiling was somewhat overshadowed by two earlier games in my opinion. First off was Far Cry, a similarly horror themed FPS utilising many of Doom III's ideas and technology, sadly matching iDs game in some ways, and even over taking it in others. Gameplay wise, they're strikingly different, but comparisons will be inevitable.
The other game I mention is Chronicles of Riddick on the Xbox, a wonderful underdog of a title that came out of nowhere recently, and at times looks almost as good as Doom III...despite running on a measly console. Doom's hefty system requirements may well not sit too well with Joe Public when his 700mhz Xbox looks pretty much as good.
I think Doom III just about beats out both games at the end of the day mind you. It's just so ridiculously polished you can see your face in it. The technical achievements with the engine deserve credit alone, but when coupled with the fact that the underlying game is also fucking insane and continues one of the most beloved series in all of gaming, Doom III solidifies itself as something truly special. Plus, man how nice is it to get such a violent, adult game for a change, full of hideous gore and entrails?
Fuck the Haters
|Must...refrain...from making another faeces joke...|
When I have such love and adoration for a game and really appreciate the endless hours (and indeed years) put into it like this, I can't help but be filled with immense rage when I then come online to spot some teenager from NoWheresVille, USA proclaiming with all the charisma and wit of The Simpsons' comic book store guy; "WORST GAME EVER". This is the latest in a long line of worrying internet trends of bashing the next big thing, and is an unfortunate fashion that stems to all forms of entertainment.
From what I can gather, it can be traced back to The Phantom Menace. Ever since then, whether it be The Matrix sequels, Deus Ex 2, the latest Kevin Smith film, or whatever else we're lucky enough to get our hands on, there's always been the haters right there at the foreground. Those spunk dribblers who rip to shreds any and everything they can get their little rat claws into. And I tell you, it's giving the internet a bad name.
And sure, I realise the hypocrisy of posting paragraphs of hateful rantings about such people, but it just saddens me is all. I guess in the end though, they are the ones losing out, right? While busy bragging to their virtual mates about how "ID SUCKS SWEATY DICK CRACK", covered in Doritos bags and day old slimy pizza, I'll be here enjoying that classic final battle against Doom III's Cyberdemon again and again in pure contentment...with a big old grin on my face.