capsule review

Doom 3

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As a marine sent to the Union Aerospace Corporation’s Martian facility, you’re prepared for another routine security detail. But almost the second you step onto the base, it’s clear that things aren’t right. People are going crazy. People are dying. The next thing you know, all hell is breaking loose—quite literally.

Welcome to Doom 3, a terrifying first-person shooter that taps into a primal fear: being trapped in the dark with something menacing. I previewed an early release of the game in the February 2005 issue. It’s now out and worth a look—as long as your system can handle it.

Doom 3 is essentially a retelling of the first game in the Doom series. But while the basic plot may be familiar, the game is all new—powered by a game engine the likes of which we’ve never seen on the Mac before.

Doom 3 uses every Hollywood trick in the book to evoke a nearly constant sense of dread: You spend much of your time in the dark, searching with a flashlight or listening for the next hideous creature. The game is chock-full of the vilest, most disturbing menagerie of beasts, monstrosities, and reanimated corpses you’ve ever seen in a game—and they all move with shocking fluidity and realism.

The game’s creepy atmosphere has one big downside: all this running around in the dark will eventually infuriate you. Apparently there’s no duct tape on Mars, because our intrepid marine never figures out how to keep his flashlight fixed to whatever weapon he has handy. As a result, you can either see the thing trying to kill you or shoot at it. But you can’t do both.

The game keeps you busy by requiring that you unlock doors, acquire access codes, and find alternate routes. Your PDA lets you access audio logs, video discs, and e-mail from station personnel, providing you with security clearances and the backstory. But while none of the game play is particularly innovative, all these plot devices—as well as occasional interstitial sequences and hallucinations—give some much needed depth to the story and keep the action interesting.

The most impressive aspect of Doom 3 is its graphics engine. The lighting and shading capabilities in Doom 3 provide a greater sense of realism than we’ve seen in the past. When paired with a video card that’s up to the task, the game rewards you with a visual feast. (We have a full report of Doom 3’s performance on the Mac.) Doom 3’s technical merits do come at a price, however. The game requires at least a 1.5GHz G4 and a video card with 64MB or more of VRAM.

Doom 3 lets you compete with other players, regardless of platform. A built-in game-finding engine will even help you locate and sort online games by type, number of players, latency, and other criteria—so you can find the perfect match.

The Bottom Line

Doom 3 is a technical marvel that’s challenging, fun, and truly scary. But you might just feel left in the dark once too often.

In Doom 3, you’re alone, in the dark, and fighting for your life against all manner of hellish creatures.
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