Doom 3 – Rip & Tear in Isolation

It’s time to RIP AND TEAR! AW YE!

Oh, this is awkward. Why’s everyone just standing around? Right, there’s no enemies, of course. Don’t mind me, I’ve just been playing a lot of Doom 1 and 2. Doom 3 however has a very different feel.

Unlike the first Doom game where you can kill someone in the first 2 seconds, this game starts off with no combat at all. You’re a rookie coming to Mars for the first time, and nobody takes you seriously. You are filling in for someone who disappeared, but they say everything’s gonna be fine. Once you forget this is meant to be a Doom game, it becomes fun again. The movement and controls are very nice, running at 60fps with nice image quality. This game is almost 2 decades old but you can still read text on the small screens.

Hey mate whatcha typing? Can I see? Is it about me? Did you know I can jump really high? Pretty cool huh. I’m gonna be the best rookie ever. Yeah… if you look closely he’s typing about my actions, this happens in realtime in the game. It’s a small thing but I’ve never seen anything like that before. What a dick.

Okay I’m sorry, just itching for some rip and / or tear. Give me my first mission!

I was sent to check on something or other, nothing important. You talk to more people, they’re acting normal but you get a sense that this isn’t a great place to be. Lots of machines failing, unexplained events, people going missing. Suddenly shit hits the fan and an alien race from hell invades the station. I’m skipping a lot of details there but I’m here to review the feel of the game, not spoil the story.

Hey mate, are you ok? You’re attacking me, right? I should probably shoot you? Alright, that’s why I’m here. It’s time to play Doom!

The ripping and tearing begins but not quite in the same way as other Doom games, this game has more of a survival horror feel. It’s very dark for the vast majority of the campaign, almost to the point where it becomes a gameplay element. You have a flashlight that drains in about 10 seconds, but refills just as quick. It’s quite generous but you have to be careful not to forget about it while fighting an enemy. Trying to aim in complete darkness is probably not much worse than my regular aim, but it’s twice as scary.

Enemies can come from weird places, and sometimes follow you around for a bit. That “safe” feeling when you backtrack is taken advantage of in this game, when suddenly an enemy crawls out of a vent you’ve walked by before. I got surprised a lot by unconventional enemy positions playing this, with a few jump-scares. This game has some very good scenario design and “scripted” scares when you wouldn’t expect them.

Doom 3 is packed with lore, found in the form of audio logs, videos and emails that you pick up from dead people’s PDAs. There’s a LOT of them, more than a hundred, with a vast range of purposes from interesting backstory to useful gameplay info like codes. The writing is quite expressive and brings the situation home a bit with personal stories.

One dead worker you come across has emails in his PDA, saying that he can’t wait to go home in a week to see his family. It’s really sad, hopefully someone told them. Wait, that’s what I’m here to do! I’m gonna slay the aliens that did this and report back to Earth. Rest in peace buddy.

Another interesting design choice in Doom 3 is the lack of map. Every other Doom game, as far as I know, not only has a map but a very comprehensive one. Having no map at all makes it feel very different. It increases the survival horror feeling drastically, when you’re in this confusing and scary station on Mars. You have to read signs and look at everything carefully, especially since a large majority of the game looks the same.

That’s one of the downsides of Doom 3, most of this game is in dark corridors with erratic lighting and machines everywhere. It’s claustrophobic and ugly, but totally intentional. While I personally prefer the more colourful environments in other Doom games, this was essential in making this game feel different. Very occasionally you get to peer out a window and take in the full scope of Mars, and it has a lot more impact when you spend most of your time sheltered. It brings about a sense of longing. Such a huge, natural, alien planet, and you’re stuck in here.

Oh well, back to ripping and tearing. The core combat is still a big part of this game and it’s pretty solid. I’d say it’s a good mix between classic Doom and the new Doom games. You need to aggressively take enemies down while strafing around their own shots and staying on the move. The hardest and scariest battles come when you’re stuck in a corridor with no movement options. It feels a little more strategic in this way, in contrast to running around the open mashing the jump button. A change of pace, for sure, but enemies themselves are the same, from the standard imps to the flying cacodemons and skulls. There’s some weird supernatural stuff too that is exclusive to this game, but I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

Doom 3 is a fantastic game overall, but very different to the regular Doom. It’s looked back on as the black sheep in the Doom series, despite having the highest metascore of any game in the series. The lighting must have really impressed people in 2004, as it still looks incredible today. It shows how much of a sway graphics have on a game’s initial reception, when it doesn’t quite hold the same grip now in terms of ratings.

Something interesting to consider when labeling this game as “not a true Doom game”, is that the first Doom game was originally meant to be an Aliens game. They couldn’t compromise the design so strictly so they made their own thing, much to the benefit of the gaming industry. It makes you wonder though, if perhaps Doom 3 is the Aliens homage they always wanted to do. It certainly feels like it. That makes this and Metroid, two of my favourite series, both heavily influenced by Aliens. I finally got a chance to watch it on a plane ride last year and it’s a damn good movie.

Oops, I got distracted. Lucky I have my shotgun out!

Even though I enjoyed Doom 3, it’s hard to recommend to Doom fans unless you love survival horror, and don’t mind the fact that all the environments look the same. It honestly gets a bit depressing being locked in a space station that uses all the same colours in every area. Even if I was just working there, it’d depress the hell out of me. It wouldn’t kill them to hang some art or put some plants around the place, would it? Aesthetics can help productivity, maybe so many things in the station wouldn’t break then.

While the environments are very repetitive, it makes up for it with great gameplay, thrilling set-pieces and a very unique feeling of isolation that compels you to explore your way out of it. Also I should add, this is one of the only games I’ve played where you should take the epilepsy warning very seriously. A large portion of the game has flashing lights from broken computers and that can be your only source of light, while you’re effectively sealed inside this station. Your constant flashlight conservation also adds to the light show. I’m not prone to fits, but it did make my eyes feel a bit uncomfortable. Recommended in isolated doses in the middle of the night.

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