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The original Doom helped spawn the first-person shooter genre. It sent players into hell equipped with a range of weaponry to combat demons. Ten years later Doom 3 was released and, while it is a quantum leap forward in terms of graphics and visual effects, the game-play of the much loved original has hardly changed with the passage of time.
Doom 3 is an action-packed survival horror which will have you jumping and flailing around spraying the tight corridors of the base on Mars which you are investigating as demons leap out of the depths and try to take a bite out of you. It’s a genuinely intense experience with a typical sci-fi story but you may find the action begins to lose some of its impact because the game-play doesn’t evolve as you progress through the game.
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The most obvious departure for the series is the new inclusion of an involved story line which sees you conversing with various characters and reading up on the strange events that are unfolding via various emails and audio clips that you find dotted around the base.
Sadly the level design is less than imaginative and you’ll find yourself weaving your way through a series of dark corridors in a linear fashion. While the levels look fantastic the game-play is less than impressive. The only thing that makes progression tricky is that your strafe-fire technique constantly leads you into confined spaces and the designers cheat by spawning in enemies behind you. The lack of room to manoeuvre makes this a frustrating experience at times and a careful search around in the darkness is rendered useless because enemies just materialise at various trigger points.
There are slight differences in the creatures you face but the majority charge straight at you without displaying any tactical intelligence. The weapon set is the usual classic line up and, as with the original Doom, the shotgun is an effective tool at close quarters. Weapon changes are forced by a lack of ammunition and the necessity to find the codes which unlock ammo dumps as you progress further into the game becomes a real chore.
While it is a fairly scary experience most of the scares actually come from the sound effects which are truly demonic at times. The sound also provides the player with their best cue about impending attacks so headphones or speakers are essential.
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Graphically speaking Doom 3 is very impressive and on release it was lauded for having a terrific dynamic lighting system which features models casting shadows. The darkness certainly helps to build a high level of tension in the sparsely lit monster infested environment. The base itself and the various characters and hideous monsters are beautifully modelled and well animated and the visual effects on the textures add an extra level of detail and reality. The interactive panels are also a nice touch and allow you to progress through the game without pulling you out of the environment for a menu screen.
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The multiplayer mode is deeply disappointing and feels like a late addition which lacks proper design. The player count is limited to four which is not enough to have a decent multiplayer battle. Maps are reworked versions of the single player environment and the modes are all variations of a simple death match. The expansion pack belatedly upped the potential player count to eight but Doom 3 was never going to be the multiplayer first-person shooter junkie’s game of choice and it is best viewed as a single player experience.
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Minimum system requirements were quite beefy at the time of release but shouldn’t present a problem nowadays. My machine is a beast so Doom 3 runs very smoothly but as a minimum you’ll want a 3D card capable of running Direct X 9b, a processor of at least 1.5 GHz (ideally 2GHz or above) and 384MB RAM (ideally higher again). It’s also quite a hefty install and you won’t have much change from 3GB.
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Doom 3 is a decent first-person shooter and it makes for quite an enjoyable and epic horror experience but the game-play is very dated and first-person shooter fans will find it tired and predictable when compared to more recent releases. While it is certainly better than the Doom film based on it, it doesn't advance the FPS genre like the original Doom did.
With such a limited multiplayer it certainly isn’t worth getting for multiplayer gamers even if you do invest in the expansion pack and the online experience cannot hope to compete with market leaders like Call of Duty.
If you are fan of the horror genre, you prefer single player games or you fondly remember the original and fancy a blast of familiar game-play with an updated veneer then turn out the lights, put on your headphones and prepare for a journey to hell.