Doom 3: zombies, hell knights, and imps, oh my!

You can barely see. The throbbing background noise fills your head. Suddenly, a screeching, ripping noise snaps you to a state of hyper-alertness and instant action. No, it isn?t the latest edition of Silent Hill or Resident Evil, but one of the most salivated-over games of the year: Doom 3.

In contrast to the third-person action of those other games, Doom 3 follows the series? hallowed tradition of delivering as demonic an experience as possible in first-person shooter format. The game is a retelling of the original story rather than any sort of sequel. Once again, you are a marine (names really aren?t that important) who finds himself one of the few who survive a demonic invasion of the massive United Aerospace Corporation?s Mars research complex. Once again, you must battle your way through hordes of monsters and save the universe from the forces of Hell.

What sets this Doom apart is not just the orgasmic new graphics engine or the reinstatement of a classic assortment of weapons, but the in-depth single-player experience. Everything is just right, from the voice acting to the environmental mood lighting to the constant taunting from the game?s main antagonist. The background story is rich and presented in a very slick manner. The tale is fed to you in bits and pieces through PDAs,
e-mails, voice recordings, and videos. It keeps you wanting more and gives you enough motivation to get you through the next throng of demons. Another enjoyable aspect to the single-player experience is the series of weapons videos you encounter throughout. Their cheery, public-relations-style messages tell you exactly how powerful and lethal these instruments of destruction can be.

Doom 3 really sucks you into the game, with an addictive quality present in all great games. Characters tug on your heartstrings, or lack thereof, when you need them, but quickly tell you to move on without them or else find themselves the victims of some sort of horrible fate. Non-player characters provide much-needed security clearances and weapons locker codes, and fill in the background story.

One can?t help but compare Doom?s gameplay to the Half-Life experience. There are enough similarities for me to be disappointed in the unoriginality of the writers. At several points, you are a helpless observer of a semi-mysterious company executive who always seems to be one step ahead of you.

Doom 3 is not without its flaws. The game simply requires too much from the hardware. Forget about running it with anything below a 2.0 GHz P4 with a Radeon 8500 or equivalent GeForce. Even with that setup, you?ll still barely scrape along at a playable pace. Also, the damage model for enemies and their corpses are on the level of the original Doom, although there?s something eerily satisfying in beating a bloated zombie?s body into skeletal oblivion with a flashlight. Multiplayer is another black eye on an otherwise stellar product. An intimate affair, don?t expect to troll the servers for fast-paced action.

In the end, this is one scary-ass shooter that will capture your attention and your scarce gaming dollars. For added benefit, turn all the room?s lights off and find a place to be alone while playing; you?ll be soiling your Depends before you know it. Use it to bide your time until Half-Life 2. I give Doom 3 a score of 8 out of 10 bloody chainsaws.