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The control method is very simplistic, although to be fair, this is probably intentional to give it the feel of the original Doom. For instance, there is no secondary fire on any of the weapons. Now, I can live with that, but what I found really annoying was not having a dedicated button for grenades. Having played Halo on both the Xbox and the PC, not to mention Far Cry, I know how useful having your grenades constantly to hand can be. In Doom3 though, you have to select grenades as your primary weapon before you can throw one, meaning that you also have to put your gun away – hardly ideal. A nice touch is the sprint bar located below your health and armour readings. Basically, you can only sprint for a certain amount of time before you get tired, which is refreshingly realistic, but again nothing that we didn’t see in Tomb Raider 4 many years ago. What is interesting though, is that once you find yourself transported to Hell, you can run all day without ever getting tired.
Doom3 definitely lends itself to repeat playing, as the story can unfold differently depending on your decisions during the game. After the hordes of Hell attack the Mars base your commanding officer tells you to get to the communications centre and radio for reinforcements, but when you get there, you’re warned not to send the message because the creatures will use the ships to invade earth. So, what do you do, send the distress message or not? Well, I’ll leave that one up to you to decide.
Like most games, after every few levels you’ll find yourself up against some kind of boss creature, and it’s generally here that you get to admire just how amazing the 3D rendering is in this game, although don’t admire the graphics too long or you’ll get wasted pretty quick. The boss creatures are generally challenging, but not frustrating and you shouldn’t find yourself having to replay the same sections over and over again until you dive into the harder difficulty settings.
Tim Willits told me that Doom3 is a horror game and that id wants players to be truly scared when they’re playing. I’ll admit that there have been moments when I’ve jumped, usually when I’ve opened a door and been faced with a creature instantly attacking me, but the game never feels truly disturbing like, say, Silent Hill. I think it’s the first person shooter genre that takes the scary edge off it. When you’re playing an FPS game, you’re constantly waiting for something to jump out at you, whereas the Silent Hill/Resident Evil type games will lull you into a false sense of security by having you wander around doing nothing for 20 minutes before throwing something scary at you. But the imagery is definitely unsettling to say the least, and being scared of spiders like me really doesn’t help when you’re playing this game.
The physics engine is something very special, and the way that you can interact with the environment is most impressive. You can push boxes and barrels around, but most entertainment can be had from shooting dead bodies until they slide down stairs of over banisters. Even an empty drink can on a desk can be a source of fun as you shoot it all around the room with the pistol. And yet, even though all this thought has gone into real-world interaction, you can still shoot various bits of equipment and screens around the facility and cause no damage at all.
What is great to watch though is how the creatures and environment react to explosions. Shoot a flammable barrel next to a monster and it will blow the creature apart – use the barrels well, they are your friends. The way the monsters die is also superb – they disintegrate just like the vampires in Blade. Of course having every enemy disintegrate also helps keep the polygon count down and the frame rate up.