Rarely does PCQuest carry articles on computer games. However, with Doom 3, we take a break from this tradition and look at some of the technologies behind it and its gameplay. The Doom legacy has always been instrumental in bringing about revolutionary changes to graphics and gaming. The original Doom and Doom II brought numerous forms of playing: multiple textures, pseudo-3D placement (where monsters could be moved to the left, right, front, back, above or below you), networked death matches and more. Doom 3 takes all this to a new level.
Doom 3 lets you play in the shoes of a nameless marine just assigned to a scientific experimental base on Mars, sometime in the future. There are some strange experiments going on there that result in horde of monsters being unleashed from another dimension. Most of the staff in the base is also mutated into monsters. You are, of course, alone and need to traverse different parts of the base to reach the conclusion. On your way,
you'll need to battle numerous horrific monsters, aided by your sergeant over your intercom and your weapons and wits.
One of the things that make Doom 3 so special is the graphics. In fact, throughout the game we kept an eye out for defects, such as clipping, running colors/textures and mis-aligned pixels. But to the credit of the team, we couldn't find even one.
Doom 3 lets you play with four settings of graphics: Low, Medium, High and Ultra-high. The game automatically detects the system and sets the appropriate level.
Doom 3 uses texture compression to allow the game to run on low-end video cards as well - albeit with reduced graphic capabilities. Using this technique, Doom 3 can run on 64 MB video cards also, which is the lowest it supports. Depending upon the amount of video RAM you have, the textures are less compressed and more detailed. Therefore, on a 256 MB card, the game keeps most textures uncompressed. In fact the technology of the game is ready for video cards with 512 MB of video memory (which is what is required to run the game in the Ultra-high level). Unfortunately, there is no video hardware currently available that has this! In this mode, all textures are uncompressed and kept in the video memory for use, which lets the quality and the performance of the game's graphics go up even higher.
Another major innovation in the graphics is the accurate use of light. John Carmack spent close to 2 years studying about light and its behavior and then used this knowledge to create the lighting engine for this game. In most other games, light is used as a secondary element where certain static lamps are placed by the developer in the different levels to provide lighting. The actual sources of light - say a tube light, flowing lava stream and explosion, and torchlight do not really cast the light on the objects they fall on. But, in Doom 3, light sources fall on different objects and interact with them dynamically as well. For instance, you can often know a Zombie is coming to get you, by seeing its shadow creeping up on the wall in front of you.
Another case is where you shine a torch into a mirror and the light in the room doubles.
The third new graphics technology introduced in Doom 3 is Heat Haze-the slight shimmer in the air that you observe near a source of heat. For the first time, this shimmer is shown, around warm to hot objects, in a game. And this effect is applied to any object that the developers give a high temperature to - lava, steam pipes, explosions and fire. This effect is so lifelike that it is worth playing the game just to see this.
And the final, major, improvement in technology is the inclusion of extremely accurate body anatomy. The id Software team has rendered each enemy in the game with extremely accurate 'bodies' by creating a skeleton, musculature, organs and skin. Not just that, all of these interact with the environment as they would in real life. For instance, when a Fat Zombie lumbers toward you slowly, you can watch his fat belly jiggle as it would in real life. When you shoot a Marine Zombie in the head, you can see his skull explode and his brain falling out! (For obvious reasons, this game is not meant for
kids at all.)
If the graphics in the game are impressive, so are the sounds. Each level and monster has a distinctive sound. The absence of blaring music makes for a welcome change from other games.
Major improvement here is the usage of highly positional 3D surround, without which, the game loses half its charm. So make sure you have a good 5.1 speaker system connected up. Sound positioning has been exacted to the extent that when there is an enemy stalking you just around the corner, you will be able to hear the tiny slithers or footsteps, as if coming in your room itself.
Doom 3 is a 'horror-shooter' and it stands up to this name extremely well. The level of creepiness and moments of absolute downright terror that one faces in this game are unexplainable. The graphics and sound add to the effect of unimaginable horrors waiting.
The AI is one department that Doom 3 does not focus on - nor does it need to. The monsters simply attack you when they spot you without worrying about their own health or safety. However, instead of looking clumsy, this just adds to the terror of knowing that your enemies' only objective is to rip you apart.
Overall, Doom3 is a game you cannot miss if you are any sort of PC gamer. It will be interesting to watch how upcoming shooters such as Call of Duty: United Offensive, Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault and especially Half-Life 2 will fare against this supreme of computer gaming.
The Bottom Line: Most of you, who wish to play Doom 3 on your system, would probably need an upgrade, unless you already have a bleeding edge video card in your system. However, those with any of the cards of the GeForce 4 level and above with 64 MB of video RAM will be able to play it. On our ATI Radeon 9800 with 256 MB of video RAM, we were able to play it at High quality mode (all graphics settings at High) at a resolution of 1024x768, at a very decent FPS. You will also need 512 MB of system RAM, a 17" monitor and 5.1 surround speakers to really appreciate this game. So for those of you, who have such a setup, go get a copy of Doom3 and meet you all in HELL....