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Published on August 2, 2004 By Zoomba In PC Gaming

Doom 3 (PC)

id Software, Official Release Aug. 3rd, 2004



id Software is the grandfather of the First Person Shooter genre. They're also the pioneers of PC 3D graphics, always pushing the envelope of what the home computer is capable of in terms of increasingly realistic computer graphics. The Doom games hold a very special place in the hearts of gamers around the world who were around for the early days of PC gaming, when you had to know how to tweak the memory usage of DOS to squeeze out that extra 5K needed to load a game. These games transported us into a new world, one filled with evil demons that needed to be introduced to the business end of a double barrel shotgun. We were seeing graphics and exploring worlds that had previously been left to geeks in large machine rooms with access to really sophisticated simulation software and very powerful computers. Doom spawned Quake 1,2 and 3, the games whose engines launched a thousand other titles... and whose violence launched a thousand angry protests and attempts to make laws controlling video games. There's no doubt regarding the influence Doom and id have had over computer gaming. Now, after four years of development we have the next game from id, Doom 3, a retelling of the original Doom story (well, there never was really a story to begin with aside from "Demons are invading Mars, you are the ONLY one who can stop them... here's a pistol and a armor vest, have fun") and a brand new 3D engine for developers to drool over and purchase licenses for to develop new games with. (I'm sorry, while the Quake 3 engine was great, I'm tired of seeing games using it, I want newer visuals). But the question is, is the game a stinker or a winner?

First Impressions

Doubtless by now you've seen the flood of screenshots, previews, first impressions and wild speculation pieces that have been appearing all over the 'net in the past few weeks, at least since the release date was officially announced. And now that the official release is but a day away (with many stores accidentally selling copies a few days ahead of schedule we're seeing a flood of screenshots and forum posts about the game. Doom 3 is being hailed as the savior of the PC games market by some, ridiculed by others for just being another uninspired shooter, but one thing everyone agrees on is the fact that this is the most advanced graphics tech we've seen in a game yet. Every screenshot and demo movie released has blown viewers away. Even the early alpha build leaked to the net over a year ago looked damn good (despite the fact that it wasn't optimized and ran very slow on everything but the best of systems). So, after four long years of waiting, what has id given us? Have they delivered on their promises by giving us a scary, immersion singleplayer experience that is reminiscent of a good horror movie, or is this merely a tech demo for the new engine?

After playing the game until the wee hours of the morning, and then again when I woke up after a mere 3 hours of sleep, what I've seen so far definitely shows that what we have on our hands is an actual game from id, and not just a demo for their new engine like the previous Quake games seemed to be. What we have here is a fully modeled and intricately detailed Mars base with everything from mechanics working on broken pipes, to employees lounging in common areas, to video units showing everything from company PR pieces to full news broadcasts. Staff members go about their duties regardless of whether or not you're there to watch, and there's a good chance you won't see half of them in the introduction level as they may just keep moving a few rooms ahead of you. Add in emails, video discs and PDAs you pick information up from over the course of the game, and you find yourself in a very believable world... it's a damn shame that everything has to go to hell in a hand basket so quickly. I wanted to explore more of the complex in peace and quiet first.

Yes, the environments look that good, no image trickery here
Source: Official Doom 3 Website

This guy scared the CRAP out of me the first time I encountered him in game... I was so scared I forgot to shoot for a second or two... It almost chewed me to death
Source: Official Doom 3 Website

Word has it that id hired a professional Sci-Fi writer to craft the story and dialogue spread liberally throughout the game. It paid off in spades as we're given a narrative that is woven into the game environment itself, only forcing you out to watch pre scripted story moments on rare occasion, keeping you immersed in the experience as much as possible. Add to the high quality script the fact that the voice acting is also top-notch, with a bad guy who has perhaps the creepiest voice I've ever heard in a video game (he's the guy responsible for everything going to hell... literally.. he's just crazy that way and the glass eye definitely adds to the whole creepy factor). Combine this with the visually detailed world and you've got a compelling, engrossing environment that makes you want to just keep playing.

This brings me to scripted events. Normally, we look down on developers that statically script events, saying it's a weakness in good AI and creativity. We want games that react to us intelligently to our actions, changing as we change our tactics. Having an enemy come from the same direction at the same time every time you play through a particular part of a level tends to bore us now. So you would think the fact that EVERYTHING in Doom 3 is scripted and tightly directed from enemy attacks to when and where you can go in the game would be a major detractor. It's not. In the same way that HalfLife captured us with its cinematic experience from the opening tram ride into Black Mesa to the very end. The same holds true for Doom 3. This game is seriously like taking part in a good sci-fi horror film, where you're the lone hero running with gun in hand to save the world from the minions of hell itself. (Think Aliens meets Event Horizon). The events are well timed, and some of them will make you jump out of your chair. This is a game that needs to be played late at night with all the lights off for the full effect.


Graphics, sound, scripting, and writing come together to offer us a game experience like we haven't seen before. In terms of game mechanics, it's a FPS, no doubt about it and it doesn't do much to revolutionize the genre at its core, but then again id Software hasn't bothered with that for a while now, their talent comes in further refining the expertly crafted formula they developed over a decade ago. While it's a FPS, it's not a run and gun fight hordes of enemies game like others on the market. The experience is more tightly controlled and you rarely face off gainst more than a few monsters at a time. This works well though as I'm sure even the beefiest of machines would buckle under the load of a screen full of moving demons in addition to all the environmental effects present in every room of the game.

Now, it's not all roses and puppies, the game has some hefty requirements and it can force even the best gaming rigs to choke at times. Initial level load times can be long and drawn-out if your hard drive is at all fragmented or if you're running on a slower speed drive. You have to be very careful with visual settings depending on your video card and system memory. While the game is built to run well on lower end systems, you lose a lot of the eye candy that makes this game stand out so much. I strongly suggest everyone looking to buy the game checks out [H]ardOCPs Doom 3 Hardware guide to get an idea of what thier PC will be able to handle. This is another one of those games that will send gamers scrambling to upgrade some of their aging hardware, and in this case you'll be well rewarded for your decision.

Doom 3 is a solid game in all respects, it offers a tight experience that is expertly crafted and shows immense production values. The engine does things we've never seen in real-time on a PC, and promises great things once other developers start to license the engine for their own games. Can you imagine a Jedi Knight game with Doom 3's visual splendor? It makes me weak in the knees just thinking about it...



For anyone who's wondering how it ran on my rig, here are my specs and my thoughts on how it ran. I don't have specific framerate numbers to share though..

Dell XPS Gen 2
Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz HT
AT Radeon 9800XT 256MB
SB Audigy 2

I ran at high quality, 1024x768 res. Full AF, no AA, all the other goodies turned on. On a few occassions I got a bit of stutter when I was in a room that had windows viewing the outside landscape, or if too much was moving on the screen at any given time. But those moments were few and far between. Otherwise the experience was largely smooth, I didn't notice any real performance problems, and even the lack of AA didn't impact me much. I have what is considered a mid-range setup for the game and I had a stellar experience and was only excluded from using AA and the ultra-high detailed textures. I may try upping the settings later to see how I fare.

Obviously they don't have the Atkins Diet in Hell... Maybe these demons are all misunderstood? Perhaps they're not here to invade, they just came for their weekly Weight Watchers meeting


on Aug 03, 2004
After clocking a few more hours on the game, picking up a new weapon and having the bajeezus scared out of me a few times (I'm sorry... whispering voices beckoning me down long, dark hallways while I hear things scamper behind the walls freaks me out) I've come to realize the single biggest bet peeve I have with this game. After reading the big batch of reviews on other gaming sites this morning, I realized I'm not alone on this one.

Everything in this game is so wonderfully detailed, so well animated, scripted and executed. But aside from the opening sequence before the action starts, you are never given a chance to actually appreciate it. Once the shit hits the fan you're too busy staying alive and trying to avoid possible ambush spots. I actually had to force myself to stop at several points, and just sit in rooms I had cleared to take a look at everything. However you're never given that opportunity with the monsters, you never get to really appreciate the detail in their textures and animation.

At the same time I guess that's a huge compliment to id, as they created an engine and a game experience so detailed and real, that you don't even notice it while you're playing. It's not like the original Doom where you were painfully aware of the graphics throughout the entire game.

Oh, I got some framerate numbers once I was told the console command to show the rate... At High Quality, 1024x768 res and 2x AA (I turned that on later) I averaged around 35-40FPS on my above listed configuration. I'm going to try pushing the settings a bit more tonight to see what I get.
on Aug 03, 2004
Is it com_drawftp 1 for the fps counter?
on Aug 03, 2004
on Aug 03, 2004
I am still waiting for my game to arrive in Canada; I don’t think I have ever been so excited about a game since I started PC gaming back in the 80’s.

Have you tried playing online? If so how is it?
on Aug 03, 2004
Well, from what we at Stardock have seen so far, the game's pretty intense! Wonderful graphic details but sadly, the fps are a little slow on even higher end systems. But then again, what can you expect from such an amazingly detailed game. Looks pretty freaky too!
on Aug 03, 2004
I haven't played any multiplayer yet (I got swamped with real life stuff shortly after getting the game), but I imagine it's a really adrenaline-pumping experience with the lighting (you can turn lights off and on in rooms too) and visuals... can't wait personally.
on Aug 04, 2004
Here's a Doom 3 config tweak ( that apparently works well when you have a lot of RAM in your PC.
on Aug 04, 2004
Additional Performance Tweaks:
-ATI has BETA drivers out to improve Doom 3 performance (read: they're finally fixing their OGL code!) Check out Team Radeon for info on the 4.9 beta drivers (no, they didn't skip 4.8, those will be out soon)
-Decompress the pak files in the base directory using WinRAR. This takes some of the load off of the CPU as it doesn't have to decompress game resources constantly. Now you're only limited by your hard drive speed.

Doing just these two I've eked out about 5-10fps more on average. My timedemo numbers jumped a full 15fps after doing this

on Aug 05, 2004
Okay. Am I the only 30-something (for a couple of years yet anyway) who not only has to wonder if their first person shooting skills will be enough, but will they have the stomach for the game as well. To be honest Far Cry initially scared me to death once the m**a*n* **nk*ys appeared. It was the trepidation I felt on realising that if I missed I would have my entrails served to me on a platter. I live alone so I had to make my way to bed wondering if I was going to get slaughtered every night, with noone to run for help. (almost forty avid gamer lives can see the bewildered headlines now...)(I HAD a long term girlfriend called Julie. I wanted things to progress but she was always pulling away. So I killed and ate her... call me a freak will she.....)

My nephew is 13 and doesn't understand why the game.... well.... scares me. I gave up watching horror films years ago, probably long before I started playing id Software games. I've extensively played every id game to date, except Q3 (a bizarre mixup at the games shop turned me into an Unreal Tournament fan for life)(FOR LIFE BABY!!!)

In the UK the game comes out next week (13th of August) and I've my copy reserved. Hell, worst case my nephew gets to use it for multiplayer, right?