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A tense experience and the inclusion of Co-Op features marks the return of Doom as a worthwhile purchase...
When a game stems from such a legendary heritage as Doom and the somewhat-subdued-yet-still-talismanic, id Software, there was little doubt that Doom 3 would split the masses when it found its way to the PC last year. Despite once again heralding Carmackâ??s technical expertise and likely demonstrating an engine at work that would go on to become a benchmark within the genre, many fans were left disappointed by the lack of innovation shown within the actual game, criticising the somewhat outdated levels, map designs and general experience.
There can be no doubt however that Doom 3 nailed the atmosphere angle from every direction, creating a highly tensed experience that would have you screaming in just the right places; in this respect sitting in front of a Home Entertainment set-up completes the overall experience in a way that not many would be able to appreciate from their PCâ??s.
The story behind Doom 3 is unlikely to cause any surprises being a typical re-working of the standard Doom storyâ?; once again players take control of a largely anonymous Space Marine, called by the Union Aerospace Corporation to its beleaguered research facility on Mars - cue the Gates of Hell opening, everything going wrong and lots and lots of pant-filling moments in the style that weâ??ve become accustomed to with Doom.
Without doubt the highlight of Doomâ??s conversion to the Xbox is the inclusion of a much-needed Co-Op mode, allowing two players to share the terror and rather amusingly scream at each other via Xbox Live. Any first-person-shooter worth its shotgun should feature a Co-Op mode of sorts, however Doom 3 goes about it with a little more thought and attention than weâ??re typically accustomed to - certain maps are re-designed to reflect having two main characters while some of the cut-scenes and dialogue have also been changed to accommodate this. The Co-Op mode provides a lot of entertainment and works extremely well for the nature of the game; plus those who criticised not being able to shoot at the same time as holding a flashlight can double up and realise it wasnâ??t really that much of an issue in the first place.
Continuing with the â??flavour-of-the-monthâ? promotional routine, Doom 3 is available in humdrum Normal release along with a Limited Edition version. Surprisingly the LE is actually worth the extra, bucking the trend with the inclusion of The Ultimate Doom and Doom 2 â?“ ideal for the id fanatic. While the games feature a variety of Co-op and DeathMatch modes, the inability to hook this up for some nostalgic blasting on Xbox Live is a slight disappointment, but certainly worth the extra money if you fondly recall wandering around darkened corridors with a buzzing chainsaw the first time around.
The rest of the game is Doom 3 as you either love or hate it; Vicarious Visions have done a surprisingly good job of bringing the PC version to the Xbox, but whether or not the game can hold its own against the likes of Halo2 or even The Chronicles of Riddick is very much down to personal opinion. Some certainly do not appreciate piecing together the story by collecting the various PDAs throughout the game, and itâ??s fair to say that this does get a little monotonous after a while, breaking up the action ineffectively and hardly represents the most revolutionary story-telling technique weâ??re ever likely to see in a videogame.
The lack of Doomâ??s signature â??monumental odds stacked against youâ? in terms of stumbling into a room filled to the rafters with imps and demons is also an issue of contention amongst the hardcore; although one thing that canâ??t be faulted is the gameâ??s sense of atmosphere and with it creating a worthwhile experience even if youâ??ve picked up every first-person-shooter the Xbox has to offer. Thereâ??s simply nothing quite like Doom 3 to have you screaming out aloud and jumping for cover; again itâ??s a case of the typical tricks, but when Light and Dark, Sci-Fi and Gothic come together like this, itâ??s hard to fault and manages to faithfully replicate the Doom experience.
Many have however criticised... many were quick to question why in the 24th Century can a Space Marine not wield a weapon and a torchlight at the same time, refusing to realise that itâ??s all about the choice given to the player â?“ do you illuminate the way ahead at the risk of being unarmed or literally take a stab in the dark and have the safety of a shotgun by your side? Itâ??s a conscientious design decision by id and makes the game what it is, without it we can guarantee the game would be far less enjoyable and one hell of a lot less atmospheric.
Even as id fans we do have issues with the somewhat suspect level designs, particularly those that challenge you to backtrack with little direction or advice. Itâ??s also fair to say that the action in general is somewhat primitive; itâ??s not lacking impact, action or intensity, in fact it has these by an abundance, itâ??s just that the â??line-up-and-shootâ? AI is somewhat less then what we expect these days and can begin to grate after lengthy periods with the game â?“ and sadly thereâ??s nothing else to grab your attention during these moments.
In classic Doom tradition, what the game does do well is making the player act conservatively when it comes to burning through the ammunition. Again there are some issues over the weapons on offer (most notably the absence of the dual-barrelled shotgun) and the game certainly bows down to the age-old FPS theory of bigger means better, however a sense of panic and needing to make every shot count does permeate throughout the entire experience and helps to raise the sense of tension within the player.
Sadly however the Quick Save option often negates this sense of tension, possibly ruing the experience somewhat for those a little too eager to make use of it. Aspects of the feature are absolute genius, but on the flipside it can completely destroy the overall experience and what youâ??d expect from the game. Simply by tapping the Back button, a Quick Save will momentarily pop up and record your progress; ideal for the first few frustrating moments when you didnâ??t realise it was there and have to replay the entire stage again, but then you realise that it is there and use it more then you probably should - essentially transforming the game from a suspense-driven, tense thriller into a routine method of saving regularly and reloading. The debate continues to rage on as to what Save option provides the best balance, however thereâ??s little doubt that the sense of atmosphere that Doom 3 instils in the player is greatly affected by this and that a limited amount would have benefited the experience far more.
As weâ??ve already stated Doom 3 excels in the presentation stakes, its combination of startling effective visuals and gut-wrenching clanks is enough to terrify anybody and creates an experience wholly unlike genre definers such as Halo 2. Naturally itâ??s texture and overall resolution that suffer somewhat from the Xbox port, however the game still has a very solid, natural and believable look, thanks largely to the lighting engine, normal mapping and some simply sublime animations â?“ just watch the railing creek under the weight of a Pinky!!!
Perhaps the most disappointing element of Doom3 is that itâ??s not going to stay in your Xbox for long; once youâ??ve passed through the Single-Player campaign and tried out Co-Op, a scant few selection of DeathMatch variants provide the only source of replay. Sadly these are highly unlikely to become an Xbox Live favourite, suffering from a lack of variety and only being able to put four players on the map â?“ having done so much in the past for multiplayer in the first-person-shooter genre, Doom3 feels wretchedly lacking in this area.
However the fact remains that the genre has advanced very quickly in recent years, and it’s in this regard that Doom 3 shows its age in terms of innovation, gameplay and level designs. Sadly there’s very little to sustain your interest beyond the Campaign mode, so if you’re looking for something beyond a frantic blast from the past you may want to look elsewhere…