(Activision for the PC)
by Eric Johnson
Doom 3 is finally here, having titillated the video game press since 1999. The next great visual leap forward has arrived, putting PC owners on notice that some of their most beloved rigs reside on the endangered species list. It was developed by Id, corporate matriarch of the first-person shooter, and a reliable studio with an impressive resume. While Doom 3's hyper-realistic lighting effects, unprecedented detail, noirish shadows, and undeniably mind-blowing graphics should come as a shock to no one, the fact that the game is good enough to evade the ominous tech demo cliché just might be.
Subsequent press releases featuring images of zombies and cyborg demon bulls generated suspicions of a short and unimpressive game in very pretty wrapping. The fact that Doom 3 is an engrossing, terrifying, viscerally pleasing, and rather long game is a welcome realization. Repelling the demonic invasion of a Martian outpost should take a normal human being more than twenty hours to finish. Unapologetically classic first-person gameplay emphasizes exploration, atmosphere, and tension punctuated by intense and genuinely frightening violent encounters with unsettling flesh-colored demons of several unholy configurations. Inky pools of darkness abound, hiding paths, dangers, and treats, and since you can't use both at once, a tenuous juggling act between weapons and flashlight makes you feel really exposed.
However frightening these monsters are, they're never as tough as they look, since a good shotgun blast can put down even the most unearthly skittering blasphemy. An underdeveloped multi-player component leaves the burden of turning Doom 3 into an online juggernaut to its massive and active mod community. I thought this game was a blast to play and must have screamed "holy shit" every ten minutes for the first few hours I played it. Particularly impressive is the suspension of disbelief generated by the graphics, and some particularly solid and lengthy level design.
This doesn't mean I'd recommend blindly dropping $50 without doing your homework. Unless you own a great computer, look at the technical requirements first, and then take a calculated risk. For those of us with more humble computers, a few hours of futzing around with settings should result in a satisfying experience. My own rig, with its 64 meg GeForce 4 video card gets a chunky but acceptable frame rate with the graphics set on medium quality. Yeah, I need a new card to see this baby sizzle as it was meant to. It's a sobering reminder that PC gamers always walk a fine line between the cutting edge, the affordable, and the antique. Those who can't take the pressure usually resort to console systems, and for the hardware challenged, wait three months for the X-Box version.