Review: Doom 3

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: M - Mature Audiences
My Rating: Adults - 18+
Genre: First Person Shooter / Horror
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2004
Review Published On: April 14, 2017
Played on: Martha & Thaddeus

Available from:

Gamer's Gate, Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

Your progress is automatically saved between chapters, but you can also manually save at any time using the pause menu. To pause the game and view this menu, press ESC.

WARNING: viewing your inventory or PDA does NOT pause the game

Summary of
Major Issues:

As one might expect from this franchise, there's a lot of graphic violence and demonic imagery in this game -- more than the original two games even, as Doom 3 depicts things more realistically.


[view screenshot]
Just like old times

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Bring the bug spray

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Clean up on isle 4

Game Overview

Although the graphics are no longer sprites and the world is filled with lore and more elaborate sets than the original two games, Doom 3 is something of a black sheep in the Doom franchise. Part of this is because the game attempts to come off as scary, and this just doesn't work when your character is more heavily armed than your average tank. The other reason this game fails to impress is the sheer number of rather braindead design ideas that can suck the fun out of the game faster than a broken airlock.

Doom 3 doesn't continue the story from the earlier titles either. Instead, it's a franchise reboot, attempting to retell the original story using modern gameplay mechanics. I've heard rumors that this game was partially designed to fit in with the Doom movie, and if true, that's just another point against this game. Even though it starred Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the player's character, the movie failed spectacularly, and it's better to pretend it never happened.
There are some good points about the game: there's a lot more lore and story about the events that unfold, and the Mars Colony looks and feels more like a pseudo-military research station. Even Hell can be considered beautiful, with its rich details and gothic architecture. But, most of this is lost in darkness. In an attempt to make things scarier, the game's world is dark and covered in shadows. In another example of this title's flaws, you do have a flashlight, but you can't wield it and a weapon at the same time.

Further problems include the need to listen to lengthy audio logs or browse through people's emails to find the security clearances you need to open doors or otherwise progress in the game. There's no way to pause or stop a playing audio log, nor is there an option for subtitles. This means the player must listen very closely to the mumbled voice overs to continue their game. And just to make things more fun, viewing your PDA or listening to a log doesn't pause the game. So enjoy being mauled by demons while you listen to some lackey drone on about what they had for lunch last week.

Thankfully, players on Steam have produced complete lists of every passcode so you can ignore the audio logs and just look things up quickly. Players have also produced mods to allow you to keep your flashlight enabled while using other weapons. In fact, this mod proved so popular that it spawned a meme that states "there's no duct-tape on Mars". After all, a little bit of the silver tape would've solved the Marine's equipment issue really, really easily.

Eventually, a new version of Doom 3 was released, known as Doom 3 BFG Edition. This new version makes a number of very welcome changes, but for several reasons (eg, this version is more popular among modders), I'm reviewing them separately. This review is only for the original, non-BFG edition of Doom 3.

Points of Interest

New and better monsters
Doom's monsters were quite famous by the time Doom 3 came around. To make things more interesting, all of them were upgraded in some fashion. Many received new attacks and abilities, while others simply gained a new appearance and more aggressive AI. Of course, there are also a large number of new demons for you to fight, including new bosses and some creatures that would be scary even if they weren't Hellspawn.

On a side note, the AI in general is worth commenting on, as it's really rather impressive. Monsters have been known to seek shelter, dodge attacks and even circle around the entire level to track down the player. The level design certainly exploits this, as you'll often discover monsters spawning in unexpected places.
Story-driven gameplay
Unlike the original two games, this time things are very goal driven. Go here, do that. You don't just wander through a complex until you reach the exit door. Some objectives are spread through multiple levels as well.
Retells the story of Doom in a modern way
In the original Doom, a teleporter malfunction results in opening a door to Hell, and by the time you get there, the Mars Colony is already lost. Here, you arrive before the fateful test is performed and witness the breach yourself.

Additionally, it's quickly made apparent that it was no malfunction that caused the disaster: one of the scientists is actively dealing with the devil in a bid for power. Thus, the Marine is now dealing with an enemy that has a face and motive, rather than the generic "here are monsters, go shoot them" plot of the original games.
Poking through PDAs isn't entirely fun
Many games have the player learn about the game's lore via old logs or transcripts found in the levels. In most cases, these are there for the player's amusement or to flesh out the story, and so they are an optional aspect of the game. Here though, it's an annoying requirement, as you can't progress without the passcodes recorded in these logs. Making this more fun is that you can't always tell which log has the information you need. As mentioned above, the Steam community is extremely helpful in this regard, as there are guides that list every passcode.
People are divided over the flashlight
For some, fighting monsters in the dark makes the game scarier. Others, including myself, feel that this franchise was never about the scare factor. Instead, it's about the action and "saving the day". If you fall into the latter group, the lack of lighting in the game is more annoying than fun.

Apparently most players fall into the second group, as the BFG Edition gives you a shoulder mounted light so that you can see what you're doing.

Concerns and Issues

You can kill people
It's probably a bad idea to do this in most situations, but you can kill non-hostile characters if you really wanted to do so. This is the only way of getting your hands on some optional PDAs, though considering how annoying these can be, I'm not sure why you'd want to do this.

One particularly graphic moment comes later in the game when you encounter a scientist that has been trapped in a processing chamber. He begs for you to let him free, and if you do so, he'll unlock a door that leads to some useful loot. However, while you can activate the chamber if you're just feeling cruel, the panel that controls it is designed so that you can easily activate the chamber by accident. Either way, if the chamber is activated, the most you can do is turn away so you don't have to watch as he is killed by the processing equipment. You're still forced to wait for the chamber to finish operating, so you can't avoid listening to his grisly death.

On the plus side, his screams alert nearby zombie soldiers, and they come rushing in. You also can't unlock the door leading to more supplies without this man's help, so karma is right there to greet you.
Lots of blood, some gore
This wouldn't be a game in the Doom franchise if it didn't contain a hearty dose of blood and gore. However, there's actually more of both than you could find in the earlier games in the series, and that's fairly disturbing. Most of the blood is part of the scenery, which makes it easier to ignore during the game, but that's still not a good thing. The later levels of the game feature a living "corruption" that spreads throughout the base, and there are sometimes skeletons found among the debris.

Unfortunately, quite a bit of the blood and gore is either on the enemies or caused by the player fighting them. Zombified humans are the biggest offenders, as they are often mutilated before the player gets to them. Examples of this pre-battle damage includes missing jaws, visible entrails, and partial decapitations.

During combat, most attacks cause the target's blood to stain nearby objects. In an extreme example, a powerful attack (such as close range shotgun fire) can blast a zombie's skin and muscles off, revealing their skeleton for a moment. Of course, Doom is famous for gibbing enemies, and Doom 3 continues the trend by allowing you to blow enemies apart with rockets.

One trend regarding the combat that's worth mentioning is that purely demonic beings, such as the ever present imps, leave no bodies behind when they are slain.
Demons and demonic imagery
When you're dealing with a story that revolves around a doorway into Hell itself, this is sort of expected. Pentagrams burn themselves into the ground wherever a demon spawns, and all of the enemies are either demons or humans that were twisted into demonic forms. Lastly, Hell itself is rife with horned skulls, lava, and other nightmarishly evil designs.
The Soul Cube presents some issues
The last weapon the player acquires is the Soul Cube, a supernatural weapon designed by an alien race during their fight against the forces of Hell. This artifact was created by a ritual sacrifice of their strongest warriors, and since it remains sentient, it's likely that their souls are bound within it.

Although this is a somewhat macabre device, it's not uncommon for fictional weapons to have a spirit or soul of their own and a desire to strike down great evil. The main difference between the Soul Cube and other traditional living weapons is that the Soul Cube needs to absorb energy from slain monsters before it's ready to unleash it's attack. However, once it's charged up, it's attack is the only thing in the universe that can strike down the final boss of the game.

While this does present some climatic drama and a more cinematic end to the game, it's basically repaying evil with evil; something that the Bible advises us not to do.
On top of everything else, there is also some swearing. Sargent Kelly is probably the character you'll hear profanity from the most, but considering the next and final point, it's also probable that a lot of the swearing will likely be coming from the player instead of the game.
Interruptions are NOT welcome
By far one of the most damning problems with Doom 3 is how badly the game requires your constant attention. As I've mentioned above in the Cons section, the audio logs are hard to understand and you must listen to them in order to progress in the game. This means that if anything distracts the player, they'll need to listen to the log again. Monsters also use audio cues so that the player knows a threat is present before it's been seen, making it even more important to listen closely.

In case having to listen closely wasn't enough, the game's camera shakes, blurs, and becomes obscured when the player is being attacked. This makes the combat more "real", but it also means that when the player is dealing with multiple attackers they can be disoriented easily. It doesn't take much to kill you, so losing your bearings in a fight is an easy way to lose the game.

In short, any distraction is liable to cause the player to lose their game. As I explained on the page discussing whether or not games cause violence, this is more than enough to encourage the player to vent every frustration on whatever the last distraction was. Watch yourselves when playing this game.