Random Access   chris, kp & rob
Game Room
Doom 3
by rob
"I told you I'd be back."

Is ten years too long to wait for a game? Not when it's the highly anticipated follow-up to the Doom series, Doom 3. This is not a sequel to Doom II but a re-telling of the original marine-left-to-survive-on-Mars scenario. Most of the monsters and weapons are back from previous versions.

The Random Access Dream System (built throughout the last 10 issues of Random Access) is equipped with a 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 1 GB RAM and a Radeon 9600 Series 128MB AGP video card. The first time I ran Doom 3, it analyzed my system and defaulted to Medium Quality, but that wasn't good enough. After selecting High Quality video and restarting Doom 3, the graphics looked much better. The frames-per-second (FPS) topped out at about 40 when in motion or when under fire.

I even tempted fate by installing Doom on a Toshiba Satellite with a 2GHz Pentium 4-M processor, 384MB RAM and an nVidia GeForce4 460 Go 32MB AGP video card. Doom 3 requires 384MB and 64MB video card at the minimum. The FPS on this system got up to 20, but sometimes, it was in the single digits. The game ran good enough to kill bad guys, but I wouldn't use it in any deathmatches.

Say "Hello" to your friendly neighborhood Guardian.

Game play
As a new arrival on Mars, there's no time to get acclimated to your surroundings. Once you achieve one of your first objectives, Hell literally breaks loose, and you go from trying to find a scientist to fighting for your life. What they've done with lighting and sound really sets the mood. Good thing I was playing this in the well-lit environs of the Random Access Lab, or I might have soiled my pants.

It's the most intense game I've ever played. Once the action starts, the undead creatures don't even give you time to breathe. Creatures are sometimes waiting on the other side of unopened doors, but they also pop out of vents or underneath stairs... or corpses become re-animated. When you finally get a moment to pause, you need to listen to audio records and watch video clips that load into your PDA. They contain helpful clues to access extra health and ammo. When you die, and you will, your blood fills your field of vision, and everything goes dark, and the last thing you hear is your final breath. In some places, if you listen carefully, you can hear the sounds of other still-human marines making their undead counterparts eat hot death. As you go deeper into the military complex, it gets creepier, and just when you get used to one type of monster, a newer, nastier version comes jumping out at you.

Teasing him about his bad complexion will only make him angrier.

Of course, other denizens of the lab love to come up behind me to spook me while I'm playing. Or, maybe they just stand behind me to watch, and when I hear something sneaking up behind me in the game I turn around in my seat... and a hideous creature is standing there.

Most of the weapons from the previous version of Doom make up your arsenal. The pistol, shotgun, chaingun, rocket launcher, plasma gun, chainsaw, and the trusty BFG 9000 are back but very much improved. One new weapon is the Soulcube that you get near the end of the game. Its claim to fame is that once energized, by killing five monsters the old fashioned way (bullets, plasma, rockets, etc.), you use it against an enemy, and it will slice them up and give you their health. Quite snazzy.

Most of your &quotcuddly&quot friends are back from previous versions of Doom with upgrades. There are various types of zombies that get corrupted by the evil that is unleashed at the beginning - and they're not too happy about it. They shamble menacingly at you, equipped with their hands, or a gun — if they happened to be carrying a weapon when they went all evil and undead. When you kill zombies with the shotgun or other powerful weapon, they explode into various messy pieces. Sometimes, you'll even see their once-useful brain pop up out of their head. My favorite way to kill the lethargic zombies is to pull out my trusty chainsaw and let them walk into it. I've been told I chuckle evilly when I see one coming.

The Imp, Cacodemon, Mancubus, Revenant, Lost Soul, Hell Knight, Arch Vile, and Cyber Demon all make appearances once you've put down most of the zombies. These upgraded versions are more deadly, and they don't just wait for you to come to them, they'll track you down. I even saw one run away to get into a better position after I first shot him.

Creepy with a capital "C"

The creepiest creatures in the game are called Cherubs. First, you hear something that sounds like children giggling from around the corner or from the next room. When you get your first glimpse, you'll think someone left their rugrat in a research facility... then they fly at you with their insect wings and try to slice you up with their claws. The only thing to do is put them down with whatever weapon you have on hand. Putting a shotgun blast into a baby-headed-evil-insect-thing is just wrong.

Calling this game dark is an understatement. You need to constantly use your flashlight just to get an idea of how big a room is and where zombies might be hiding. Once you start playing, even before the action starts, you'll be walking through the UAC complex, and the lights will go out. That's the creepy way to introduce you to your flashlight. From then on, you have to make sure you have your flashlight handy. (One aggravation: when you have your flashlight out, you can't use another weapon and you'll have to use the flashlight to bash zombie heads in.) I wonder why they don't have duct tape somewhere around this high-tech facility so you can tape your flashlight to your pistol. What you are able see is gorgeously rendered with an amazing attention to detail.

Credit must go to the sound engineers for making this game the extraordinary creep-out experience that it is. When thing start going crazy, you'll hear the panicked voices of other Marines over your communications link, and you must navigate corridors and open doors with battles raging in your ears. After that calms down, you start hearing the creeks and rattles of the facility... or maybe that's a bad guy sneaking up behind you. Then, there's the whispering coming from nowhere saying, &quotHelp me.&quot Late at night in a dark room, that's the last thing you need to hear... trust me.

I've heard that the multiplayer functionality is just an afterthought, and id software left it up to modders to create better multiplayer game types. With only 4 players to a game and only Deathmatch style competitions, that seems to be the truth. Everyone I've talked to around here expected a cooperative game play opportunity, so you and a friend can team up and destroy Hell's minions. Alas, that was not to be.

Regardless, Chris and I set up a wireless 802.11b network to play on. We did experience lag, but only with the computer that wasn't hosting the game. Then, we used a crossover Ethernet cable to go head-to-head which turned out much smoother. I don't know what it is about competing in a Deathmatch with someone you know, especially when you're in the same room, but it's just better. Maybe it's because you can talk trash in person. I even got on the Internet and played a little. I expected to get smoked left and right like I do when I play Unreal Tournament online, but I pretty much held my own.

The bottom line is that you must get this game. Everyone loves to kill zombies - and what better way than in the dark, creepy world of Doom 3?

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