Doom 3

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Format: DVD
Developer: Id Software, Inc.
Mac Distributor: Aspyr Media
Minimum System Requirements: 1.5GHz G4, Mac OS X v10.3.8, 512MB RAM, 2.0GB hard disk space, 64MB ATI RADEON 9600 or nVidia GeForce FX5200 graphics card, DVD drive, 56 Kbps modem for internet play
Review Computer: 2.5GHz Dual Processor G5, 512MB RAM, Mac OS X v10.3.8, ATI RADEON 9800 Pro graphics acceleration
Network Feature: Yes
Price: $49.99
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence)
Availability: Now
Official Website: (the source of these screen captures)

I don't pretend to have learned a lot from video games. Sure, some first-person shooters have taught me about the geography and weapons of World War II, and I may know a bit more about municipal infrastructure thanks to Sim City, but, by and large, I don't owe my college degree to the gang at Aspyr. One bit of wisdom I have taken away from video games, though, and will continue to pass on to future generations, is this: Don't ever settle Mars. It always ends in the zombies and the blood and the death.

Here, then, is Aspyr's Doom 3, the sequel to the game I never played, which was a sequel to a game I never played. I understand the importance of Doom to the computer gaming world, but I also understand the importance of Led Zeppelin to the rock and roll world. That doesn't mean I need to own any of their albums.

Doom 3 paints a picture of a futuristic world where humans have developed the technology to settle Mars, but haven't really progressed much in the field of flashlight or infrared goggle technology. Note to the scientists of tomorrow, today: when designing the buildings of Mars, include a back-up generator in the event that a.) the lights should go out, and b.) the powers of hell should be released upon the planet when the lights go out. I mean, throughout this game, the machines that are splitting atoms and storing energy in the space between the molecules can keep running, but the hallway lights can't stay lit?

Doom 3

Oh, and note to the military of tomorrow, today: it's hard to use a machine gun and carry a flashlight at the same time. Either strap a light to a gun or provide soldiers with infrared goggles or something. Or maybe, instead of wondering why the Marines of the future aren't provided with the ability to see in the dark, I should be wondering why zombies and spider-type things with a giant mouth atop an upside-down head can see so well. I mean, come on, the head's upside down; surely, that's a handicap? Some zombies had no head and all and still saw me better than I could see them (note, the screen captures on this page have obviously been brightened considerably so you can better see the detail).

Doom 3 has a story...or, as I'll more accurately call it here, a sequence of events. As far as I can tell, a super mega-corporation (corporations are the Nazis of the future) called Union Aerospace Corp. is mining Mars in hopes of using its resources to turn the planet into one inhabitable by humans, amongst other things. But, of course, it all starts to go wrong when workers begin ending up sick or dead. You learn most of this well after the sick or dead have tried numerous times to kill you, because the sick or dead left behind their PDAs for you to read. I'll ask all of you a favor right now; on your PDA, please leave the security codes to weapons/health cabinets so that after you become a zombie mutant, those without a decent method of seeing around in the dark can easily use your PDA to get quick access to better guns and power boosts. Or, just leave the good stuff lying about on your desk instead of locked away in some stupid security cabinet to begin with. That way, we won't have to listen to your recording or read your e-mails, thereby killing our momentum.

In Doom 3, you play a Marine who's name, I believe, is Marine. You're a new recruit on Mars when, while searching for a missing scientist, all hell breaks loose. Literally. Most of your fellow Marines and UAC employees are turned into flesh eating zombies, which makes one wonder why zombies are always so eager to eat people. Do they ever get full? If they found the fridge, would that be enough, or do they have to eat living people? If you were lazy in real life, would your zombie incarnation be lazy, too, and thereby not bother eating a living human in hopes that someone will just cook him up a nice monte cristo?

Zombies end up being the least of your problems, though. There are bigger, faster monsters out there, there are plenty of them, and none of them seem to share your inability to see well in the dark. Truly, over half of this game involves finding a light that still works so you can lure your enemies into the realm of visibility. Thankfully, armor shards for your padding and med kits for your health have lights on them. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks its too dark on Mars.

Doom 3

In many ways, then, Doom 3 is no different from its predecessors (from what I know of the previous versions), or from pretty much any other first-person shooter ever created that isn't Deus Ex. You follow a linear story-line that involves being attacked by more powerful enemies as you progress. Weapons, armor and health power-ups are scattered about to help you on your way, as are various plot elements. There are boss monsters to fight, doors to unlock and mysteries to unravel as you work your way to a climax that will require you to pull off the "impossible" in order to save the world. Usually, you're saving it from either Nazis or zombies. Here, it's from the demons of hell...and some zombies. I would think it's unfair to expect a single Marine to save the Earth from such a foe, but I recall a real life commercial for the Marines in which a guy vanquishes a fiery demon ten times his size with nothing more than a sword, so I figure Marines at least have to expect such missions.

And yet, Doom 3 rises above these myriad cliches for two main reasons. First, these cliches were pretty much created in the original Doom, so it's forgivable that the developers would want to continue serving the game's bread and butter. Second, the technology that powers the game makes it all look so pretty...when you can see it.

Doom 3 is built on Id's new 3D graphics engine that makes the game "Too lifelike for comfort," according to Time Magazine. I'm not sure what they meant by this...whether the game is good or the technology is scary. I'll hope it's the former, although I kind of disagree. Yes, the few human characters in the game do look amazing. They move in a realistic manner, they're textured and lit in a way that doesn't make them look like wallpaper, and their expressions are built around what they're saying, not thrown on top of it. The monsters look equally as good, but you can't really call them "lifelike" since nothing in this form has ever had life. Graphically, this is easily the most advanced game I've ever played, and probably the most impressive, but it's not the coolest looking. I've made the case before that it's more important graphics look cool than real. Games such as Tron 2.0 and XIII don't look real, but they're done in a manner that I found more appealing visually than Doom 3. For an even better example, see the film Sin City when it's released on April 1st (see the trailer here). There's nothing at all realistic looking about this movie, but by God it sure is striking.

Doom 3

What's more, the amazing visuals of Doom 3 come at a heavy price. I ran the game on a dual 2.5GHz G5 with a Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition, and I still had framerate problems. Even worse, I hadn't even maxed the game's graphics settings. I'd like to know what system the developers were using when they were porting this game to the Mac, because if I can't get smooth gameplay on my system, I can't imagine there are many who can.

Still, Doom 3 works very well because it remains true to its purpose; it kicks butt. There's no need to worry about a story, after all, when you're more worried about what's going to jump out at you from behind that door you're about to open or what at the end of that long corridor just knocked out the lights. Although the perpetual darkness is rather annoying, it provides for many startling moments. I certainly grew tired of having to use that damn flashlight to find my way about, but I never got sick of the general creepiness that accompanied said moments.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Because the early levels are all the same, the "scary" moments are all the same. That's not to say they're never effective, but...playing through this game is a lot like watching the same horror movie multiple times. If it's good, it's good, it's just no longer all that frightening after a while.

Once you manage to trudge your way through most of the game, things do start pick up. I mean, you get to go to hell. That has to be something right? Although Doom 3 does mostly waste the Mars landscape (Red Faction did a better job with that), hell's pretty cool, and the following levels continue to be a bit more interesting. The question is whether you'll have anything left in you to propel you forward.

Speaking of continuing play, there is a multiplayer component to keep you going, but it's mainly an afterthought. About the only good thing about it is that it's Mac to PC compatible, but this doesn't matter too much because only four people can play at once. This makes sense, as anything more would cause too much lag over the internet with this game (as the developers will attest), but the four player restriction holds for LAN play, too.

Doom 3

I'm guessing, though, that people aren't buying this for the multiplayer component. This is all about the single player game, as it should be. Doom 3 never provides the emotional involvement of the Medal of Honor or Call of Duty series, and it doesn't offer any intrigue as did Deus Ex or XIII. But it does offer a hard hitting, exceptionally creepy game that also happens to have the best graphics I've ever seen (best, but not most interesting). Doom fans will be thrilled, and fans of first-person shooters in generally will likely be entertained enough to justify the purchase.

Now, if we could only get the Union Aerospace Corporation to justify the purchase of some lights...

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