December 20, 2004 | Michael Yanovich
Now the downside of a high performance engine like this is that you need a mighty computer to run it. Iím hesitant to focus on FPS (frames per second, not first person shooter) figures here because the game is a beta, and there will definitely be lots of optimizing to come. That said, performance was mixed. Parts of the game played like a smooth ice-skating rink, while others dropped to single digit frames/second. Whatís strangest of all is that many of these moments were during non-events. Just walking down a hallway with minimal lighting effects and no combat. In other words, Iím fairly certain they are optimization bugs that will be worked out before the game goes gold. Most of the combat moments were very smooth, with only occasional slowdowns. Iím reserving judgement on this one until the final release, especially considering that I wasnít able to adjust the graphic quality to ensure smooth gameplay at this time.
And speaking of gameplay -- ooh, rough segue Ė this is totally old school shooting here. Youíll rarely face more than a couple of monsters at once, and each one will take several well placed hits to put it down. As opposed to many current FPS games which have you mowing down armies of opponents who drop dead from shaving nicks.
Doom III sticks to ambience and scare tactics and does a decent job in this regard. But it does fall short of spectacular.
Let me explain scary: one of the most terrifying scenes Iíve ever seen in a movie occurs in EXORCIST III. The scene takes place late at night in a hospital wing, and a nurse hears a strange sound. It takes her forever to finally track down the soundís source, and the audience is as sure as she is that it wonít be pleasant. Instead, itís just ice cracking in a glass of water. Tension tension tension tensionÖ. Relief. Ahhhhh.
The nurse turns and walks back to her desk.
And a cloaked figure with a raised dagger follows her down a hallway.
Itís a beautifully crafted sequence, and itís what is lacking in Doom III.
Doom IIIís approach is more like this: you enter a dark room. There are dark corners in it. Each corner has a monster.
Sure, the monstrosities are genuinely grotesque and scary, and the fact that itís hard to see where theyíre coming from is spooky, but these are the cheap BOO! thrills of a bad haunted house at the YMCA every Halloween. Eventually they are so expected they become mundane.
This doesnít make the game bad, it just makes it less scary and most shoot-first-ask-questions-later. In other words, it takes a great engine and makes the game a tad bit generic. But itís still an intense and often riveting shoot-em-up that will be setting the visual standard for many years to come.
And now, as an intentional afterthought, Iíll mention the multiplayer portion of the game. It exists. Better still, Mac players can go against PC players. But itís borderline worthless. Id didnít want to focus on the MP game, and it shows. But this just adds another title to my theory of FPS games: you can have a great single player campaign and weak multiplayer campaign, or vice versa. Itís extremely rare for a game to have both. The folks behind Unreal know that, which is why they broke the series into two distinct titles, one for single player and the other for multiplayer. And the developers at Id know that too, which is why Doom III is clearly a focused single player experience with a quick multiplayer option thrown in for the diehards.
If the schedule stays on track, look for Doom III to be released in the first quarter of 2005.