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Doom 3 (Xbox) artwork

Doom 3 (Xbox) review


"It's pointless cosmetics-first-gameplay-last software at its worst."



In my mind, thereís a very clear line dividing the world.

On one side stand the people who label the Doom franchise as mindless shooters. Itís about tuning out, cramming a huge arsenal of overpowered firearms in your pockets and blowing up hellspawns and demons. Maybe you stand on this side of this line.

On the other side are those that prefer to look deeper. Those who delve behind the pixelated army of spirits and the best-before-1993 expiration date and see the sheer amount of work that went into every tiny detail of the game. From the genius positioning of enemies to the sadistic traps to the intricate windings of the levels which can do anything from drop you in a room packed wall-to-wall with goat-footed, plasma-throwing immortals to seeing you search for hours for a key card that, when you really examine your path to the exit, youíll see you never really needed. On this side, Doom is an intricately-designed labour of love where if even the smallest element isn't challenging and pushing the gamer onwards, twin rocket launchers are grafted to its shoulders. Itís as sadistic as it is clever.

Itís obvious upon which side of the line the guys behind Doom 3 stand.

Because Doom 3 does not start out clever.

Welcome to Mars where, despite the gameís frantic insistence that the red planet is besieged by the very armies of Hell, nothing really happens. You arrive on a space station; it's dark and people are jumpy. You follow a predetermined route that has you travel to various checkpoints by ensuring only one of the numerous doors youíll always be constantly surrounded by will open. Along your linear trot, youíll meetÖ I wonít lie, I donít remember. I replayed the game again only hours ago to prepare myself for this review, and, already, Iíve forgotten. This doesnít strike me as a clever way to open your game.

I do remember that, after some twenty minutes of walking around lots of dark corridors, the only signs of life I find are two workmen hiding behind a giant industrial pipe, complaining about having to fix it. Nothing says horror like manual labour.

More endless, empty corridors await. They are dark. Finally, you come to a room where flaming skulls burst from the walls and swoop around in a crazed mob. Donít get too excited, though; itís only a cinematic. You canít actually fight them -- but they do look ever so pretty.

No, your first real enemy is the after results of the invasion of the Lost Souls: zombies. Remember them? In early Doom, the footsoldiers of Hell were the reanimated corpses of your fellow marines, still clinging to their firearms in cold, dead hands. In Doom 3, the most common foe are the lab-coat clad former scientists that come in a whopping three distinctive character models. You kill these by smashing them in the face with a flashlight because the bloodthirsty minions of Hell harbour a secret weakness to the rubbery grip of £1.99 torches.

You have a torch instead of a firearm because those canny bastards at iD decided it was time to reinvent the genre again. But instead of placing their faith in intelligent level design and challenging set pieces, they decided to kill all the lights, hide behind the couch and yell ďBOO!Ē at you, whether youíre close enough to hear them or not.

Killing the lights means draping their game in unforgiving darkness, forcing the player to navigate around the linear pathways sans weapon because, if your Marine-trained avatar has to hold a flashlight in one hand, the other is to hang limp and useless by his side. So, you spend a good deal of time going back the way you came with all the lights turned off while zombies that inspire about as much fear as an after school special on solvent abuse try to scare you in the brief moments of their life before theyíre effortlessly bludgeoned with a prod of a household appliance.

Thereís nothing scary about a foe so easily dispatched, but Doom 3 thinks otherwise. It would have been fine to take out a few of these pests as a device to ease players in, but even when you get the odd smattering of hellfire-hurling imps, itís only after youíve killed enough scientists to find yourself on the ban list of every college and university in the Western hemisphere.

It would be nice had, when the imps do show up, they're used for more than childish scare tactics. Instead, these foes are placed in points to, literally, jump out at you from behind closed doors like the possessed Mars station is instead a lame High School house of horrors. More baffling still, iD continue to screw over the huge cast of beasts the previous games have championed. Bull Demons in all titles are huge pink gorillas that sprint on stocky legs and tear chunks out of your life with vicious charges and fang-filled chomps. But one strain of these beasts hunt in packs, making their arrival a desperate back-pedal of rapidly-flung pellets and plasma directed right into their faces while they flood you en masse. In today's version the scariest action they partake in is when a solitary demon smashes through some glass before going down easier than a cliff-bound lemming.

Cacodemons then were bulbous, rotting spheres of angry red flesh that belched flame and could take a pummelling. Cacodemons now look like that last dodgy bit of undercooked meat you find in the middle of you kebab on a night out and are never drunk enough to eat anyway. They die if you so much as sneeze on them. It's very noticeable the kind of fear Doom 3 wants to induce. Itís not the fear of trying to survive the onslaught of an army on a sliver of health and an empty pistol; youíll swim in ammo and health boosts. Itís not the fear that the next monster lurking around the corner could be the last thing youĎll ever see; the cast of nasties all but put your gun to their own temple and patiently explain how to take the safety catch off. Itís not the fear that the very stage you traverse is a living, breathing monstrosity designed to be as much -- if not more -- of a threat than the minions of Hell that stalk it; Mars is a series of interlinking corridors that go from A to B yet sidestep interesting. iD wanted to break the habit. They didnít want sadistic level design; they just wanted it dark.

Doom 3 doesn't want you to fear for you life: they want you to fear that tile falling off the ceiling for the umpteenth time, or jump at the same clip of scary ambient noise being rehashed over and over. It desires your fear, but is only willing to obtain it cheaply. It doesn't wish to work for it.

In my mind, thereís a very clear line dividing the world. On one side stands the people who point to Doom 3ís commercial success and laud it as a triumph. People who donít mind the lack of challenge, the general dumbing down of the gameplay and the dialling up of the graphics. Itís just another mindless shooter, they say.

The people on the other side agree. Doom 3 is nothing more than another mindless shooter, but itís clear it wanted to be so much more. And itís not.

It's pointless cosmetics-first-gameplay-last software at its worst.

Rating: 2/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (October 01, 2008)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Feedback

If you enjoyed this Doom 3 review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Lewis posted October 02, 2008:

I just think Doom 3 is so clearly more than a 2. I think it's rather average, certainly - as I've said before, I'd probably go with a 6 - but there are far worse games I've given 3s and 4s to... it seems a little harsh for the sake of it, to me.

Just my opinion, though.
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dagoss posted October 02, 2008:

I agree. A score that low should be reserved for games that are literally unplayable due to bugs and broken design (e.g. Over the Road Racing, Super Man 64, etc). Doom 3, while not perfect, isn't even close to such titles. Granted, everyone has their biases, but it probably isn't seemly for a staff review to wear them so openly.
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EmP posted October 02, 2008:

We already have a Doom 3 bash review up that scores this game a whopping one point more than mine. I see how it is; attack the EmP.

I hate the game; I think it's pointless cosmetics-first-gameplay-last software at its worst and, yes, there's bias there because the word Doom is in the title, but I write for a site with Honest in the name, so it would be a crime to hide this. Hell, I go to great lengths to point out my bias in the body of the review.

Whether I'm on staff or not, it's my opinion on what I think of the games first and foremost that I'm going to write about.

Don't pretend it's not the reason why you love me.
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dagoss posted October 02, 2008:

I think it's pointless cosmetics-first-gameplay-last software at its worst

I think the review would really benefit from a few lines like this. It would give the context and justification to differentiate it from those types of reviews that give a very low score with the "it's my opinion" defense.
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bluberry posted October 02, 2008:

I agree, the score is the most important part of the review and EmP's score is stupid, Doom 3 deserves a 3.01 or possibly a (2 - 7i).
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Lewis posted October 02, 2008:

Oh it's not the "importance of scores" debate again, it really isn't.

It really is a matter of opinion, too, and I respect whatever opinion (and it's why this site is brilliant for posting multiple staff reviews of the same game). Personally, I think Doom 3 is a lot better than - I dunno - the new Turok. But others clearly think otherwise.
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Suskie posted October 02, 2008:

We already have a Doom 3 bash review up that scores this game a whopping one point more than mine.

I see how it is; attack the Suskie.
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Halon posted October 02, 2008:

I agreed with most of that review except for the score. I was thinking 4 or 5 until I remembered it was an EmP Doom 3 review and then looked at the score.

I also think the game is a 5 or 6. It was an average shooter. Definitely not unplayable but 10 years after Doom II this is all they could come up with?
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dragoon_of_infinity posted October 02, 2008:

Doom 3 is worthy of a 2 or a 3 simply because IDDQD and IDKFA aren't the cheats anymore. I actually had to look the codes up online when I wanted to become invincible and level skip passed all the drivel at the beginning. What a sham.

The last three levels were actually pretty fun, though. They made up about 80% of my play time with Doom 3, another 15 or so percent was Super Turbo Turkey Puncher 3. That last five was spent humping walls in dark corridors, because I couldn't be arsed to use the flashlight.

The game was pretty bland overall, but I don't know that I'd give it a two. I'm going to bring up Chrono Cross now: Look at Chrono Cross. That game was critically acclaimed everywhere, but EmP gave it a low score (which it deserved) and I don't remember nearly this much discord over it. Maybe I just missed it. At any rate, when we start throwing out individual opinion (even for the staff) we lose something that makes us special.
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Masters posted October 02, 2008:

"...this is all they could come up with?"

Nobody fucks monkeys AND people, you idiot
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JANUS2 posted October 02, 2008:

I think a 2 makes sense in the context of the review. It seems to me that Emp is arguing that Doom 3 is fundamentally broken because of the way it's set up. The tedious darkness, the restrictive presence of the flashlight, and the lack of foes only allows for fear that is derived from cheap scare tactics. This makes it a shallow and mediocre experience. To say all this and then turn around and give it a 5 would undermine Emp's argument. Arguing whether it should be a 3 or a 4 is also irrelevant because both scores basically come to the same conclusion, that Doom 3 is heavily flawed.
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Masters posted October 02, 2008:

Janus to the rescue!

Emp actually messaged me and BEGGED me to help defend him from this topic's onslaught, but I was too lazy to lend a hand. Thank God for Janus.
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overdrive posted October 02, 2008:

I understood the score from the context of the review. There was total contempt at how Doom 3 handled classic monsters and how they went from a shoot-em-tha-fuck-up mindset to a "spooky" dark corridors one.

I also understand the score from a personal context in that I'm one of those CLASSIC Doom freaks that could spend hours BSing with people about iD-made and fan-made Doom levels. So, to me, a game with the Doom name that seems to utter bastardize everything that made MY Dooms special deserves a rating in the realm of 2.

I'd wager to say that if you never played the classic Dooms or if you did briefly, but looked at them as these archaic things not worth playing, EmP's review wouldn't be for you. But if you're like me, this is a very good review. Should have been proofed more diligently, but a very good review nonetheless, because it speaks to me and other old-school Doomies and tells us loud and clear that if we were looking for another all-guns-blazing Doom title, we'd be utterly disappointed.
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JANUS2 posted October 02, 2008:

haha, call it my national pride.
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wolfqueen001 posted October 02, 2008:

Yeah... I think Janus put it right. Honestly, I thought the review was fine when I read / skimmed through it last night. It made perfect sense the way it was argued, and I honestly don't see what all this pointless fussing about the freaking score is about. Seriously; if he'd given it between a 3 and a 5, this topic never would've even been made, probably. I find this kind of sad - that no one's focusing on the good elements of the review.

Jesus, though. Thank God it's not FFT!
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bloomer posted October 03, 2008:

I read the score in the context of the review, and when people are angry at a game and score low, I guess the lowness of score is often a gauge of their emotional piss-offedness. Like Janus was saying, down in the 2-4 region, it's all bad. I had no problem coming to a 2 at the end of emp's review.

That said, my outlook is kind of conservative when awarding scores like this. I always stick the shoe on the other foot (my creator foot). I can imagine working on Doom 3- and I genuinely think they worked hard, I confessed as much in the opening of my own Doom 3 review. And saying '2? Wtf??' But I think this kind of thing is more a danger on a bigger scale when some writer has a monopoly of sorts. Like when there's some film reviewer writing for a huge paper. They review one film each week and if they happen to go way off course, they can stupidly misrepresent the film or damage its reception.

So clearly this isn't that situation! I think I'm going off track now.
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Lewis posted October 05, 2008:

Sentence of the ever:

"It would be nice had, when the imps do show up, they're used for more than childish scare tactics."
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EmP posted October 05, 2008:

Some people dislike the review more than you:

http://www.n4g.com/NewsCom-209790.aspx?CT=1#Comments
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Halon posted October 05, 2008:

Technically you scored the game 1/5, NOT 2/5.

Don't tell them that!
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Genj posted October 05, 2008:

why are u even talking about a game that is almost five years old? its POINTLESS!!!! focus on gears of war 2
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georox posted October 05, 2008:

Geo's Doom 3 review -

It's the future and they haven't figured out how to tape a flashlight onto a pistol.

0/10, epic fail.

Happy now? Beat that, any one of you. Try it.
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bluberry posted October 25, 2008:

I read the introduction and immediately knew where the review was going. You know, if I expected every Doom game to be as good as Doom II, I'd hate the series. If your worship of Doom II is so rabid that you'll allow your disappointment in the Xbox game to convince you they're bad, fine, but don't act like this opinion is the norm. Your intro is laughable because it runs through the history of the Doom series as if it's universally accepted that all of the post-Doom II games sucked, which is a complete falsehood. If I'd begun my DMC4 review by saying, "Well, we all know that DMC3 was much worse than DMC1, but that's not a factor here," people would just shake their heads and chuckle.

I get the feeling you wrote this review with the idea that we'd all nod our heads in agreement during the opening lines. Instead, I just thought to myself, "Okay, so this one is as 'bad' as all those other 'disappointments'? Sounds awesome. I think I'll check it out." Your plan backfired, in other words.

Oh, and I was wondering why JANUS2 liked this review, and then I browsed through his ratings for the old Dooms and found the same fanboyish devotion to Doom II. So that answers that.
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EmP posted October 25, 2008:

You are right. Video game reviewing is no place for personal and unique opinions. After checking Gamerankings.com, I have seen that the correct score to give this title is between 7-9/10. I feel like I have let you, this website and the entire internet down by not simply rehashing the unconformed thoughts of the masses. But, most of all, I have let myself down.

I renounce the name EmP. From here on, I am simply #7630946. And Doom 3 is great.
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bluberry posted October 25, 2008:

When you write reviews like this, Gary, they don't contribute anything positive to the site. It's just an incredulous opinion, and we're just a site that is apparently only too happy to accept this sort of material out of the fear that one horrible review for a game is better than no review.
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Felix_Arabia posted October 25, 2008:

What great successes you two will become.
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bluberry posted October 25, 2008:

I'm banking on it. even us five year olds know how to keep a secret we've been told, and it's a handy skill.
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Felix_Arabia posted October 25, 2008:

You mean the secret where you're going to let a girl pee in your mouth?
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bluberry posted October 25, 2008:

such a secret that I told everybody, and haha no, that isn't panning out. I found a less strange lass.
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Felix_Arabia posted October 25, 2008:

Well that's good then.
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WilltheGreat posted October 25, 2008:

No guys, Boo's right. Here at honestgamers.com, we shouldn't express our honest opinions about the games we review. That's just silly, we should mimic all the big-name review sites and get down on our knees every time The Man unzips his pants.
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bluberry posted October 25, 2008:

every last one, every last one
every last one, every last one
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Felix_Arabia posted October 25, 2008:

For the final time, hopefully.

It's not about assimilating into what other sites/reviews opine. It's simply about being sure to not sound incredulous when giving an adverse opinion. If you want to give Doom 3 a 2/10 or Castlevania Order of Ecclesia a 3/10, that is fine. But it's not right to be unprofessional even if we're only writing reviews for a hobby, and not a profession.
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WilltheGreat posted October 25, 2008:

Why does nobody ever tell me these things?
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bluberry posted October 25, 2008:

someone hasn't listened to With Teeth.

I'm jealous.
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Genj posted October 25, 2008:

A WIT THA TEETHA
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WilltheGreat posted October 25, 2008:

That's what she said.
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bluberry posted October 25, 2008:

got my arms they flip flop flip flop flip
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Genj posted October 25, 2008:

I kinda enjoyed Doom 3.
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EmP posted October 25, 2008:

God bless you, Genj. I like to think you do it on purpose, you loveable little rogue, you.
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bluberry posted October 25, 2008:

yeah I irl loled, omg.
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EmP posted October 25, 2008:

We've gotten away from the point. That being the brilliance of this review.
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Genj posted October 25, 2008:

EmP, you're so brilliant <3
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wolfqueen001 posted October 25, 2008:

Yay... can we all just <3 each other, now? I <3 you all. Let's all just kiss and make up and be happy-go-fun-time-yay again! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 ^___^
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zippdementia posted October 25, 2008:

I hate this review.


No, actually, I haven't read it. Just thought I'd be an ass.
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WilltheGreat posted October 26, 2008:

Man, I can't believe I used to think Genj was serious.

I <3 you Genj.
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Lewis posted October 27, 2008:

How many hits has this review received, Gary?

I might score Fallout 3 1/10 just to see what happens.
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WilltheGreat posted October 27, 2008:

You're better off reviewing a game of questionable morality. Worked for Zig.
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EmP posted October 29, 2008:

It's doing okay for hits, but going against the grain doesn't always equate to high readership.
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Lewis posted October 29, 2008:

I'm pulling yer leg, sir!

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