Monday, 30 December 2013

Doom 3 (PC)

doom 3 logo
Today I present to you the final Super Adventures article of the year and yes it's another bloody first person shooter. I figured that I should probably get this one out of the way now while the original Doom games are still fresh in my mind.

I get the impression that Doom 3 (or is that Doom³) isn't the most beloved of the franchise, possibly due (in part) to the fact that very little pisses gamers off more than when a developer tries to turn their franchise into something new to bring in a different audience. I mean when you go out to buy a loaf of bread you wouldn't likely be impressed to find that the baker has suddenly reimagined it all into... ice cream or something to better appeal to the teen demographic would you? Though unlike the XCOM, Syndicate, Resident Evil and Shadowrun franchises etc. with this game id software tried to turn their mindless mainstream shooter series into something slower paced and a bit more intelligent.

Doom 3 isn't entirely new to me, as I actually finished it back when it first came out, but I'm interested in seeing what I think about it now that it's a decade behind the curve and the shine's all worn off.

(Click the images to see them at twice the resolution!)

That's an... interesting choice for an intro: a computer display of a transport ship approaching Mars, with tiny video inserts showing footage of it flying around. Well I don't know about you, but all this computer jargon is definitely getting me hyped for some demon slaughter.

The third person on the passenger list is the new protagonist: Corporal Marine Transfer, replacing Doomguy as our silent space marine avatar for the proceedings.

Oh I see what they were going for here now, they're showing off their new GUI surface tech by pulling the camera back and revealing that we've been watching an in-game monitor the whole time.

It's interesting that with this remake they've actually gone back to the cinematic story-based approach that Doom was originally intended to have. I suppose it was simply the right time for it now.

First off the ship at Mars City are these two, Counselor Swann and his bodyguard Jack Campbell, here to investigate recent incidents at the Martian UAC research facility and to get things back on track.

I was impressed at how cheesy and embarassing their dialogue wasn't, right up to the point Campbell responded to being told they're here for damage control with the line "Right, you're the control, and if that fails, I'm the damage." Another line like that mate and you'll be sent back to wait in the transport.

And right behind them is Corporal Transfer himself, looking kind of... well, bland.

I wasn't convinced that he had the charm to be our designated saviour of humanity at first, but then I realised that he was doing Doomguy's trademark sideways glancing move here and I was won over.

Alright, the camera has finally floated into the back of our hero's head, Goldeneye-style, and I have assumed direct control. As much as I liked seeing Doomguy's twitchy little face staring at me all the way through Dooms 1 and 2, I think it's nice that they've pared back the HUD in this to something more subtle.

If you're wondering what the 'BFG Edition' of the game looks like by comparison, imagine this except slightly zoomed in, as the game has a lower field of view; the crates remain unchanged. Though you know what has been changed? The cutscenes are now unskippable, to ensure that players soak up every second of the cinematic experience! I'm getting the impression that this is one of those cases where it's better to stick with the original release.

And if you're wondering how it compares to the original Doom, it compares like this:

Doom (PC)

Man, what a difference ten years can make.

Though stick a few normal mapped textures on there, plus a bit of dynamic per-pixel lighting and maybe some stencil shadowing, and it wouldn't look so different. As long as you made it so that half the screen was absolutely pitch black of course.

I'd barely stepped inside the base before I fell right back out of Corporal Transfer's head again, to watch him silently report in with reception. I hope the game isn't going to make a habit of this as I find I generally enjoy a game more when I'm playing it.

Doom 3 monitor typing this transfer is exceedingly rude
When I regained possession of my puppet I steered him around to see what he was typing about me and... well it isn't all good. You can't see the text very well at this resolution, but it'll become readable if you click the image.

A corridor or two later and we're back to a cutscene again. This time Corporal Transfer is using his powers of astral projection to eavesdrop on a meeting between Counselor Swann and Dr. Betruger, the administrator of the facility.

It goes pretty much as you'd expect. Swann wants Betruger to stop screwing around there are way too many accidents going on around here and Betruger wants Swann and the UAC board to get off his back as "the board doesn't know anything about science." You can't build a hellgate after all without breaking a few scientists.

Dr Malcolm Betruger (Doom 3)                       |                          Dr Isaac Kleiner (Half-Life 2)
Out of of curiosity I thought I'd compare Dr. Betruger with a doctor from another famous 2004 first person shooter known for its flashy visuals.

Dr Betruger looks like Michael Ironside starring in a CG cartoon remake of The Island of Dr Moreau... called the Island of Dr Potato. At first glance his model appears to have a more detailed mesh than Dr Kleiner, but if you look at the outline you can see that his head's actually as angular as Kryten's from Red Dwarf. Dr. Kleiner on the other hand is missing the normal mapping magic that makes Betruger look eerily real, like a clay model.

I know I probably have somewhere to be, but they forgot to give me a map so I'm hanging out in the common area playing a bit of Super Turbo Turkey Puncher 3 instead. Gotta be honest, I don't think I'll be giving this arcade game a gold star; all those buttons and all I can do is punch.

Incidentally I know I'm in the common area, because the HUD tells me that in the bottom of the screen. It's apparently more important that I know the name of the place I'm in, than how to get to the place I should be.


EVENTUALLY.


I wandered down a few more corridors and finally ended up at Marine Command, where my new boss chewed me out for being slow and then gave me a actual job to do. I'm to head to the decommissioned decomissioned comm facility and look for a Missing Scientist.

Look at that, the developers made the effort to draw up a map of the comm facility for his little monitor screen, but I'm not allowed to have my own one to take with me and use! So unfair.

It's funny how the monitors in this are often much higher resolution than the rest of the level. It's like I've entered a low res world on the other side of the computer screen, where monitors have become windows to reality in all its infinite detail. Or something. I'll just shut up and go shoot some monsters shall I?

Doom 3: BFG Edition (PC)
And the award for least interesting screenshot goes to...

I just thought it was funny that Doom 3 keeps the exit cupboard from the original Doom, only reimagined as an actual elevator this time. You can scroll down now, I won't take up any more of your time over this.

It seems that underground security has a fine selection of goods on offer today, though the guy in the security booth will only open up the right hand window for me. Sadly only pistols are issued for scientist hunting duty.

I'll figure out a way to get my hands on those assault rifles eventually though, you just wait.

Then he even left me jumping up and down on the spot for 10 seconds while I waited for him to open up the door out of here. On the plus side I can now confirm that I can jump, which is something poor Doomguy could never do in the original games.

The game even has proper airlocks this time around, which is handy because it doesn't seem like the UAC corporation has gotten around to terraforming Mars quite yet.

This outdoor area is absolutely tiny (you can see the exit from the Mars City building on the left, and that's the door to the comm facility I'm heading to underneath my crosshair) but that's probably for the best considering that I only have 78 oxygen left, and I think that might be seconds. I reckon that's a bit crap really, considering I'm wearing futuristic military space marine space armour; he'd last longer than that with just a fish bowl on his head (well, okay probably not.)


SOON, INSIDE THE COMM FACILITY.


Well the good news is that I found the Missing Scientist and he seemed quite well... until a evil floating ghost skull flew out of the wall and possessed him.

The bad news is that evil floating ghost skulls are floating out of the walls and possessing people. Sounds like someone around here has been shoving strange crystals into an anti-mass spectrometer and has triggered a resonance cascade. Or maybe they've been testing an FTL gravity drive which opened up a gateway to a dimension of pure chaos, pure evil.

Either way it's basically the same as the set up for Doom 1, except I'm here to personally witness everything go to shit this time around. Yay.

And the Doom E1M1-style metal soundtrack finally kicks in!  Actually nope, it's all ambient moody horror music, radio chatter and a heartbeat.

Fortunately it seems that Corporal Transfer is apparently immune to demonic possession, as that would end the game pretty fast, though I've learned that he's very vulnerable to being smacked around and shot by zombies. I've also learned from the screams on the radio it seems that a fair percentage of the population now wants me dead, and that this flashlight is a terrible weapon.

Xbox
Like in Doom before it (and Half-Life 2 shortly after), I'm stuck firing from the hip as my Blade Runner looking pistol doesn't even have any iron sights on it to aim down. An aimed view would be pretty superfluous in these short hallways anyway.

These enemies seem far smarter their Doom 1 predecessors, as they're demonstrating both an interest in self-preservation and an awareness of cover. Though they don't seem to show any reaction to being shot, which kind of takes some of the joy out of it really, especially as my screen shakes all over the place when they manage to shoot me. C'mon, even the bloody turkey in Super Turbo Turkey Puncher 3 gave me some visual feedback to show that I'd hit him! Their lack of a pain response is also frustrating because it means I can't interrupt their gunfire, forcing me to run and find my own crate to cower behind.

Oh right, I should mention that the red screen next to the door indicates that I need a certain PDA to unlock it. Or a 'red key' as they were known back in the day. I suppose I'll be doing a little bit of backtracking then.

Oh look at that, an enticing stash of body armour, shells and a shotgun. I like how they have little lights on so I can still find them in the dark.

Well I certainly can't foresee anything bad happening if I go over there and collect that obvious loot.

Oh no, I was dropped into a room full of zombies! Though on the plus side at least I was able to grab the shotgun first, so I can deal with them in one or two shots now.

I like how they have a Blade-style vampire disintegration effect when shot. I'm sure they actually put it in to save rendering corpses, seeing as the game has rarely put more than three characters on screen at once so far, but it still looks cool.

Here's an efficient screenshot for you, showing off that the game has Half-Life style health panels on the walls instead of regenerating health, the fact that I have to reload my shotgun one shell at a time, and that the game uses that cool GUI surface tech for things like the security terminal on the right.

This room is actually the security booth I was standing in front of so many screenshots ago, and that computer over there on the right lets me unlock that other window with the assault rifles behind it if I navigate into its locker access sub menu and click the 'LOCKER 1' button. The crosshair turns into an on-screen mouse pointer when I face the computer screen and I can select the options directly from inside the level. It's incredibly slick, even today.

Oh hey it's an imp!

He's pretty similar to his Doom incarnation really. He can leap around now, but he still likes to stand still and lob fireballs at me (with added smoke trails now!) He seems to take a fair amount of hits with a shotgun to take down though, which is a bit of a pain seeing as I don't have many shells left and this thing takes ages to reload compare to the one in Doom (which took no time, as the game didn't have reloading.)

At last, the mystery of the chainsaws on Mars has been solved! It's just a shame really that I found this in an office and not next to a box full of chainsaws. Oh well.

I've been accumulating a fair number of these emails and System Shock 2-style audio diaries along the way; it seems that the staff here really loved the sound of their own voice. In fact it sounds like they loved it so much that they made sure to record all their mundane audio logs in a soundproof recording booth.

You know what I haven't been accumulating though? Maps. They've added this separate PDA screen into the game featuring countless emails, voice tracks and even video clips, but apparently decided that adding maps would be more effort than it it's worth.

The game seems as fond of dark hallways as Doom 2 was, though in this they've kindly given me a handy flashlight so I can see what I'm running into.

Unfortunately I can't equip the flashlight and a weapon at the same time though as either duct tape hasn't been invented in this universe, or he doesn't want to get the handle all sticky. Honestly I am not finding this to be a massive problem though so far, as I can switch between my gun and torch with a click of a mouse button. Plus it does add to the tension, in a survival horror kind of way. Better this than fixed camera angles and tank controls y'know?


Doom 3 BFG Edition (PC)
Wait, don't jump to the bottom of the page and write up a scathing comment just yet. I'm not saying that I think having to switch between gun and torch is a good feature, I'm just not bothered by it. There's mods out there to get rid of it anyway, and id themselves apparently changed their mind about it later, as the BFG Edition features a shoulder-mounted flashlight with a recharging battery instead .


LATER, IN THE ADMINISTRATION BUILDING.


Xbox
Aw crap. I could've totally taken these two out on the PC, but I'm struggling on the Xbox version. Either the difficulty has been rebalanced, I'm crap with a controller, or maybe I'm just on a run of bad luck here (probably option 2 I must regretfully admit).

They've definitely remixed the levels though: taking out large rooms, removing windows, and connecting the hallways up differently so I have even less clue about where I am and where I'm going. Plus Corporal Transfer's walk out of the shuttle dock took place in a cutscene and his short trip outside without a space suit has been removed entirely.

Gotta say though, this plays just like Doom 3 otherwise and it even moves at a reasonable frame rate. It's bloody impressive seeing this coming out of an original Xbox. Plus it even has a quick save button! Seriously!

Huh? Finding the combination for these lockers usually just involves skimming some nearby emails, or (if I'm unlucky) listening through an entire audio log, but this one's given me a website address to visit and I don't think it means in game.

Tragedy! Martianbuddy.com links to Bethesda's Doom 3: BFG Edition page now, which seems to imply that they want me to buy a new version of the game just to open this box.

martianbuddy.com back in happier days
Here's what the site used to show though, revealing that this equipment locker is actually a 'promotional award cabinet' that the company managed to get shipped to Mars and then installed into a secure area without anyone opening it to check what was inside. And now the treasure is all mine.

I won't tell you what I got from it just yet though, I think I'll hold onto that secret for a little longer.

Okay a portal accident is one thing, it's happened to the best of us, but when you've got executive officers setting up demonic rituals in their executive offices then I think that's a good sign that something pretty fucked up has been going on in this place. That looks like another PDA for me to swipe though at least.

This red tint reminds me of the short hallucination scenes the game's been throwing in every now again. Sometime I'll enter a room and the screen will turn red, then creepy things will happen, mostly involving me not being able to do anything for 5 seconds. It was a nice idea, but I think other games like F.E.A.R. have handled this kind of thing much better.

Every good first person shooter has to feature a tiled room at some point (often in a train station), and this certainly qualifies. It looks like a pre-rendered background for a PlayStation horror game.

Also the game gets bonus points for having proper working mirrors. Poor Corporal Transfer may not see his legs when he looks down, but at least he can always find them reflected in the mirror.

Man, I have no idea what these idiots were thinking, opening fire at me in here; haven't they seen Total Recall? Shooting guns next to the thin panes of glass that keep that delicious breathable air inside the base where we can all enjoy it is just asking for disaster. If any one of those windows breaks, I'm screwed.

Oh shit I just noticed that my oxygen meter is ticking down! Uh... panic!


LATER, IN ALPHA LABS - SECTOR 3.


People have accused Doom 3 of being repetitive, and I can kind of see where they're coming from when you compare it to a game like Half-Life 2, which is always shifting its gameplay style in fear that your attention might be wandering. But Doom 3 isn't always about shooting imps in dark corridors; like here I get to play a crane game for a bit, making use of the awesome GUI surface tech to... imitate arrow keys.

Hang on a second, some enemy just broke into the room behind me, so I gotta turn around and shoot them.

Oh, seeing as this is the only screenshot to show the assault rifle, there's something important I need to explain about it: the top of it is lit up blue by the ammo display screen! That's actually all I had to say, sorry.


ALPHA LABS - SECTOR 4.


Another bald scientist huh? I guess the Doom 3 engine, sorry I mean the id Tech 4 engine doesn't do hair very well. I wasn't expecting to be given a choice in a game like this, even if it is just a 'murder the innocent bloke for the lols: yes/no' button. Hmm let me think about this...

Soon after this though I was given a more interesting choice. The game branched off into two separate (short) paths that weaved around each other and I had to decide between the obstacle course route or the dark shooty route.


LATER.


Plasma rifles are cool, spiders not so much. These things barely take an ammo to kill, but they keep respawning out of walls for way longer than my interest in shooting at them lasts out. Plus they don't even have eight legs!

Though they do have creepy upside-down skull bodies, which I guess earns the developers bonus points for creativity (or for being fans of The Thing).

Hey, it's Swann and Campbell again; I've been catching sight of these guys every so often along the way through windows, always just a few rooms ahead of me. They're like the game's version of Half-Life's G-Man.

Wait, was that a BFG blast just then? Campbell has a BFG? Damn, now I really need to catch up to them, if only to ask if I can borrow it.

Oh right, that "Game Saved..." message is there because the game has a quicksave button and I just made good use of it, as I do every time I reach a place that I feel safe (which is less often than you'd think with all these dark corners, teleporting enemies and jump scare monster closets). To be honest though I haven't had much need to load any of these saves, as the game has been pretty generous with health pick-ups and most of the deaths I've suffered have been due to falling off ledges in the dark.

Yes I know there are obvious yellow signs next to the holes, I'm just dumb.


FIVE MINUTES LATER, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLASS.


Oh shit, I've finally reached a boss fight! It's the spiders' mother and she actually has a full eight legs for once (plus two arms).

I'm starting to think I should bring out the big gun for this one.

Special delivery from martianbuddy.com! Man, this is the best free gift I've ever gotten out of a vending machine; it cut through her in seconds (well, tens of seconds). Incidentally the pistol, rifle and chaingun all use separate ammo in this unlike in the original Doom, making them all useful (in different situations).

Well I fought a boss, escaped the Alpha Labs, and found the BFG (sort of), so I think this would be a good point to turn the game off.


I'll warn you now, first person shooters are my genre; I like all kinds of games, but these are the ones I tend to gravitate towards the most. So please take that into account when I say that I really quite liked Doom 3. In fact I resent the fact that I have to type this up, as it's cutting into my 'playing Doom 3 some more' time.

The thing is... I didn't entirely enjoy the combat, well not as much as I could have anyway, and I think that is mostly due to the weapons I was given and the lack of feedback when I applied them to enemies. The demons are a little bit bullet-spongy and when you combine that with their non-reaction to taking damage, it leaves you feeling like you're just shooting at a wall. I mean how am I supposed to be smug after reacting just fast enough to nail an imp center mass with my boomstick as he's leaping at me from behind the door I just opened, when he doesn't even flinch and I take damage regardless?

But I found that the combat has worked more than well enough in the overall scheme of things to keep me entertained, considering I was also exploring shiny metal Mars base corridors, piecing together the events that led to this shocking health and safety violation from audio diaries, and watching the story play out in the present around me. In the classic FPS style the game is linear without feeling restrictive, and despite my commander's continual pleading for me to 'pick up the pace' I found I could explore every dark corner of a level to my satisfaction before moving on. In fact I usually had to, because the game doesn't have a bloody automap.

Speaking of dark corners, if there's one thing the game does have in spades it's darkness, and man is it beautiful. The game lacks traditional pre-computed static lightmaps and presumably can't spare enough dynamic lights to make up the difference, with the result that the visuals look like they've been airbrushed onto black paper, and personally I find the look quite appealing. Now that it's trailing way behind the cutting edge I find it easier to accept the visual style for what it is, rather than judging it by how close it gets to imitating reality.

Doom 3 may not be a great game and I can definitely see why others would dislike it, but I want to keep playing, so it gets a gold star. In fact I can barely tear myself away from it, so it wins the prize as well.

    
My ratings might not have all kinds of fancy numbers, but at least they come from the heart.

Can't say much here. Used too many words already. Please leave comments though. Comments are good.

1 comment:

  1. I love Doom 3, too bad it gets really underrated by the console CoD worshipping folk. Actually, lesser enemies like zombies DO react to the gunfire but since they desintegrate easily it is hard to see. Try using pistol or smg on them. Also if you saw any of the ISIS videos online (I believe we all have some dirty secrets like this) you'd know that Doom 3 has really realistic ragdolls compared to, say, Half-Life 2

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