I can't believe no one has talked about Doom 3 here yet.
After all the hype, the leaked alpha way back when, the yummy screenshots, and "hands on" journalists getting a crack at the game to keep us interested, Doom 3 once again shows that John Carmack knows how to make really, really nice demos, but can't make a game to save his life.
I'm going to say it outright, Doom 3 is a one trick pony.
If it wasn't for the amazing lighting, the game would be so bland, you'd be hard pressed to sell it at $20 a pop in the bargain basement bin.
//Possible Spoiler warning, read on at your own risk!
Let's start with the story. Most games these days are light on background but heavy on the action. The year is well into the 22nd century (I forget exact date, it really don't matter), and Mars has been colonized to a degree. Well really, it's nothing more than an outpost for scientist geeks, guarded by some military faction, bent on discovering the next big weapon.
That's the important point really, it's the 22nd century, keep reminding yourself that.
Because in the 22nd century, indoor is poorly lit. Maybe by then the energy crisis is so huge, they couldn't afford to light up most of the base, which is fine really, because John Carmack has graced you with an awesome flashlight in the game.
Which is really a shame. Because the flashlight works too well. It brightens up the spot where you point to, so that dark corners/recess becomes lit.
Great you say, that's awesome, isn't it? Well no, because will all your brawn bulging biseps, hero marine can't hold more than one thing in his hands at one time.
That's right kids, it's either the 80 pound maglite or your sidearm. Take your pick. Apparently, you don't control someone who's ambidextrous. Flashlight and pistol could have been so ready to rock. But nopers. Well all is not lost, because your martial arts training has come in handy. You can use your flashlight to rodney king the mofos, except, it doesn't really work because you hit as hard as a nancypants. It usually takes a lot of clubbin' before they drop their lubbin'.
So you have a choice soldier, run around with the maglite brigtening up nooks and cranny looking for armor bits and health, or stumble around the room carrying the bitch, ready to pump some hot lead into the baddies.
Back to the fact this is the 22nd century. What about a light mount on the gun? Hell, I'd settle for duct tape. Come on, duct tape is god's gift to mankind, they must use something similar don't they? You mean to tell me that with all the technological advancements in the game, no one thought a roll of duct tape could be useful??
Of course, the obvious answer is that night vision goggles would make this game moot. It might not be as fun, I mean, being able to see in the dark, but it would be useful.... If someone had invented them things in the 20th century, couldn't it be refined after 200 yrs? Hell, I'd expect night vision contact lenses or something.
The WHOLE game is spent quickly toggling between gun and light. It gets old real quick. Check dark corner, see monster. Switch to gun, shoot in dark corner. Switch to flashlight to make sure it's dead, back to gun if not.
There aren't any real human baddies I've encountered yet. It's all "28 days later" / "Dawn of the Dead" type enemies. Damn zombies. As Bob Parker might say "Spade and neuter your pet zombies, to contain its population."
Then there are hell's minions. I've seen several types now, the fireball chucker ("Hadokan!"), camel spiders
with human heads, some wall crawling two-headed simese twins with glowing red eyes, and the flying skulls of flame - or is that flying flames of skull? All I know is that the deeper the maze, the harder it is to hit the monsters.
You'd expect to get some good weapons to deal with these bad boys, but I hate to dash your hopes too. One will be greeted by nothing more than weapons rehash. Look, I know the game is a remake of the original, but couldn't you sneak in an extra weapon or two? My buddy did the all weapons cheat, and you know what, it's the same bloody list as doom 1.
Useless pistol, check. Shotgun, machine gun, chain gun, plasma, BFG9000, check-check-check-check, and check. Oh yes, the chainsaw is back. (Wait, it's the 22nd century, don't they have some plasma/shockwave/bey blade cutter anywhere? Hell, you can even get your teeth cleaned sonically at your local dentist today, couldn't they do something for the 22nd century construction worker?)
And the weapons are SO unbalanced. How is it that it only takes 4 shots from your pistol (to the head, admittedly) to stop a zombie, but it takes 5-6 plasma shots to kill exact same zombie? I would think that 22nd century technology would bring something exciting to the table, but other than lighting up the dark patches of the room, the plasma isn't going to be more useful than a glorified fireworks launcher. So far the shotty is the best weapon. Dash in close, 1 or 2 shot, and it's toast.
Finally we come to the feel of the game. Playing in the dark with the lights off is the ONLY way to enjoy this game (and I use the word enjoy very loosely here). Play it with headphones, and I'm really guessing this is how they wanted everyone to do it. If you can get into it, there are some scary moments from the start.
Be sure though to play it on a powerful PC though. A P4 2GHz, 1 GB ram, 9700 Pro is NOT the way to go. Trust me.
Why? Because it chugs along at 20fps at the wrong times. Playing Doom 3 with the system spec above is like me finishing both Doom1 and 2 on a 386 25 DX machine. When you stand in front of a door and your graphics begin to crawl like a slideshow, expect many baddies once inside the room. Great, now it's dark, boring and predictable.
What I don't understand is how a game this dark can make yesterday's powerhouse system look like today's footstool? I mean, half of the screen at any given time is black, people. Black means blank. That means no geometry set up - no bumpmapped textures, no shaders, no rendering, nudda. It's frickin' pitch black, kids. If you only need to render half, shouldn't that means twice the performance?
You will say: Well, come on, the AI must be eating up clock cycles too, right? Um, maybe, but not from where I'm watching.
The zombi soldiers with guns do nothing more than shoot, strafe left or right 1 or 2 steps at a time, and fire again. Or at best, they will step out from a box, shoot, step back behind it, until you kill it. The only other "AI" tendencies is the Jack in the Box routine.
By that I mean, you're walking along a narrow passage, and all of a sudden, the wall beside you opens up and out pops a baddie, clawing you for damage. Or they will come from behind, even after you've cleared the room. Worse are the teleporting-in baddies. Out of nowhere a yellow flash of light, and poof, they've got you surrounded.
I'm done. I'm pretty far into the game, as I've already killed my first boss character. I've figured out how to beat the game. From here on end, it'll be an exercise of tedium more than anything else.
Oh yeah, it's worth mentioning that Doom 3 borrrowed a page from System Shock 2 in that a lot of backgound story is built around email messages. Doom 3 goes one better, they have audio files one can listen to glean parts of the back story. Great, except don't expect to explore while listening to the audio, because ambient noises drown it out.
And you WILL want to hear it, them bastards will record key information into their recordings. Okay, only 1 key info: lock combinations to certain cabinets to help you along the way. Hey, isn't recording passwords down a bad habit in security?? People in the 22nd century has learned to defeat social engineering, so it's okay to have it in your voicemail.
Overall, I give the game a solid 5 out of 10. buy it and play it just to say you have. Marvel at the technolgy and purty lighting effects and think about how good the coming games based off this engine will be. But whatever you do, don't be a chump like me and expect a great gaming experience, because you won't.
Now frag and gib away. Just watch for dark patches in the room or the boogeyman will get you.
Maybe multiplayer action will be fun?