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Doom 3

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Partway through the game you spend some time in Hell.  Quite a cozy place for a heathen like me ;-)

This game was 1/3 of the reason I bought my new machine.   (The other 2/3 is Half-Life 2.)

I had played it for 20 mins or so over at Bruce' when it first came out.  Even in that short time I could see that the monster spawning is pretty predictible.  I read one site that talked about the expansion and how they had addressed the "Monster Closet" issue in that one.  It was actually fairly rare that I got really surprised in this game.  Usually I could see it coming and was just wondering about the details.

One thing I did with my new rig was splurge on a Z-Board and a Nostromo N52.  I plugged in the Z-Board first and used it for a coupla hours.  Maybe that spoiled me, because when I installed the N52 I didn't like it nearly as much.  I started to remap the keys, but I was getting frustrated with that pretty quickly.  I only gave it an hour or so, and then I went back to the Z-Board.  I need to spend some more time with that.  The Z-Board layout isn't perfect, but it was plenty Good Enough.  Certainly better than a regular keyboard.

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Looking ahead
Pretty gruesome

In a few spots the level designers did a pretty good job of letting you see ahead, similar to Half-Life.  You'd come to a window or look across a chasm or see a walkway above you.  Awhile later you'd pop through a door and realize you were approaching a portion of the map that you'd seen before.  I don't know what it is about that, but it's incredibly satisfying to me.  It really builds a sense of accomplishment.

The game was just filled with little touches that fleshed out the world.  Chairs and trash cans and computers in the offices.  A few mop buckets here and there.   Soft drink cans and paper strewn about.  The lockers look well-used.  In several of the email boxes of the NPCs there was spam similar to what you see today.   Also bounce messages.  A lot of little things that built atmosphere.

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Face example
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View outside

Visually, of course, the game is incredible.  The human character motions in the cut scenes are incredible.  Albeit the faces aren't quite there.  Those still look very unrealistic.  A few views and trips outside onto the surface look really good.  And just generally top quality textures everywhere.

But one visual and play element where they totally dropped the ball is the darkness.  Sure, Doom is meant to be played in the dark. And the setting is supposed to be dark and spooky.  But I agree with many people on the net who refer to this game as Flashlight 3.  Far, far too much of the game is spent peering around with the flashlight.  Luckily, it has infinite batteries.  But the fact that I had the flashlight toggle on the right mouse button shows how much this was used.  Without it, most of the time is spent in complete darkness with maybe some panel lights across the room.  It's kind of spooky at first, but then it just gets old.

(Update 13/MAY/06:

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Original gamma
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Adjusted gamma

I forgot to include the caveat that I have a very old 21" CRT.  Over the years it has definitely gotten dimmer.  I'm certain that makes a difference with dark images.

But I do remember adjusting the gamma in the game when I started playing.  And when I got it bright enough to see it appeared all washed out to me.  Just now, I was gamma correcting the images I was going to add to this review.  And they look much better than I remember.   Possibly, Irfanview's gamma correction is different than the one in-game.  Though that's unlikely.  Anyway, the images I'm going to post here show much more detail than I saw while actually playing the game.)

The monsters are mostly pretty good.  Most are clearly derivative of the earlier Dooms.  The imps throwing fireballs, the big round floating monsters, the flaming skulls.  Several others.  They did have one or two that looked kind of the same, but didn't fall to the same attacks.  In Doom 2 you took out the pink guys with the chainsaw.  I wasn't ever really able to use the chainsaw much in this one.  Most of the slow enemies would go ahead and hit you while you were sawing them.

They had a few new monsters.  One was spiders.  I'm a bit of an arachnaphope, so those bugged me a little.   And, there tended to be a lot of them, so you end up dealing with them for awhile.   They'd eat up quite a bit of ammo.  After the initial rush, though, they trickle in a couple at a time, so they stop being much of a threat.

Another new monster is a guy who thwacks you with a Stretch Armstrong tentacle.  He was kind of annoying, because he was tough enough that he almost always got a coupla thwacks in before you could finish him off.

I mostly enjoyed the weapons.  If you were in the middle of a fight, though, the reload sequence seemed to go on a bit long.  And the magazines on a couple of them were a bit small.  Obviously, those two things make you quite a bit more frugal with your shots.  It's a gameplay personal preference issue, and I can't fault them for their choices.  But I might have chosen values a bit friendlier to the player.

The levels were generally very linear, but with the look-ahead aspect to some levels they didn't always feel that way.  But because of that linearity I only had to refer to a walkthru three or four times.  Once, I was in a series of two rooms and a couple of hallways.  There was a room next to one hallway that I thought was blocked by glass.  It turns out, there was no glass.  I think I spent over an hour looking for a doorway into that room.  Another time I triggered three big monsters and was wondering what the trick was to defeating them.  It turns out I just needed to conserve my ammo and health.   Also, I ended up stumbling onto a different path that let me take out one of the monsters prior to that trigger.  And the third time I can remember I cheated to get the code to open the room to the BFG 9000.  I'm pretty sure I had picked up the PDA with that code, but it was days or weeks earlier, and I didn't have it handy anymore.   Oh, yeah, and one other time I came up against a boss monster who required a trick to kill.  I'm not sure I ever would have figured that one out on my own.

One advantage of the linearity is that you didn't spend a lot of time running errands that had you criss-crossing the entire level over and over.  There were a few hub-n-spoke levels, where you had to go down one spoke in order to find the code or flip the switch that let you deeper into a different spoke.  But they tended to be pretty short, so that you could move on from there relatively quickly.  Or, if it was a long excursion, then it was a full mini-quest, and by the time you got back it felt like you'd really accomplished something.

One minor verisimilitude break was the placement of ammo and health.  In most areas they made sense.  They were next to dead bodies, or in storage lockers.   But there was also a lot just strewn about.  Especially in the Hell section, finding ammo stuck in corners and crannies kind of stood out.

I liked the story okay.  But in the end it was just a device to have monsters jump out at you so you could kill them.

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Reminiscent of Doom2

On my brother's Game Total Value Scale, Threat of Heavy Sleep Loss.  Often strongly reminiscent of Doom 2, it's just plain a lot of fun.


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Editing history:

13/MAY/06: Added screenshots.  Added caveats about old monitor and gamma correction.

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Last modified: September 25, 2006
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