Why Doom 3, Well, Sucks
Doom 3 is a very bad game. Possibly one of the worst I’ve played in a long time.
I’ve been playing it for several days now, an hour or so at a time, and I’m about halfway through. I wondered if it was going to get any better, but McGregor, who played through, says No. So I’m comfortable saying what I’m about to say.
Playing this game strikes me that the folks at id software spent all their time and effort into making it look good, and then hired Cousin Jimmy to come up with the gameplay. And cousin Jimmy did it all while Mom and Dad were at the parent-teacher conference.
Let me explain why it’s so bad, and give the evidence.
Doom 3 is a first-person shooter; you run around and see things as if you’re looking out of the character’s eyes; you’re weapon sticks out in front as if you’re holding it.
The problem is, there have been other first-person shooters and Doom 3 adds nothing — zilch — to the genre. In fact, earlier games have had more.
Doom 3 looks good, yep. But that’s it. The graphics and sound are excellent. But the gameplay is pathetic: Enter room, monsters attack you, kill them. Repeat.
Period. That’s it. Play it for fifteen minutes and you’ve played it for six hours.
Sure, the id folks added a basic storyline (you’re on Mars, demons have invaded the base through a portal, blah blah blah). But like a porn movie, the “plot” is just tacked on to have something there. It doesn’t add anything. Enter room, kill everything, repeat.
If that was the worst of it, Doom 3 would simply be boring. But it’s not. It’s actively annoying.
First of all, you have to spend the first 15 or 20 minutes not just viewing the backstory, but actively participating — walking where you’re told, standing where you’re told, etc. — all so you can listen to these characters yammer on. It adds nothing to the game, but there’s no way to skip it.
(I got so sick of it I looked up the cheat codes online so I could get myself a weapon, then I shot everyone I encountered, including my superior officers. No one seemed to notice the trail of bodies.)
The designers decided to add an occasional puzzle, if you could call it that. Here’s what they came up with: As you go around the Mars base, you pick up PDAs (personal digital assistants) that have been left lying around. You can then read the “e-mail” and listen to the “voice mail” of others.
Why? Because occasionally there are locked lockers, and you have to pore through these messages to get to something dopey like, “I’ve changed the combination of locker 43 to 4-4-5.”
Sometimes you have to sit through several minutes of inane and useless “voice mail” to get to this stuff; you can’t fast-forward.
If there was one important locker that you needed the combination for, this would be an OK puzzle. But none of the lockers are critical, and the puzzle gets old after the first two. Then it’s just an annoyance — the “a-ha” moment of puzzle solving isn’t there; it’s just a chore.
You have to stop the game just to view a Web page for a locker combination. What a waste.
In a couple of cases you need to go to a Web page to get the combination. And that means shutting the game, going to the page (www.martianbuddy.com) to get the number 0508, and restarting the game. No puzzles or anything — just go to the site and the answer is right there. A waste of time.
So you travel through the game, ostensibly being given instructions via radio (e.g., “Meet up with Bravo Team!!!”), but those instructions are meaningless: You don’t have a choice. The pathway is, for all intents and purposes, two-dimensional. You go forward not to meet Bravo Team, but because you can only go one way.
And that’s perhaps the biggest of Doom 3’s downfalls: You don’t have choices. You have to go this way, you have to push this button, you have to climb here or jump there. (At one point you do get a choice — go one way or the other — but that’s over and done with quickly.)
You have a gun that can blow apart some walls but not others; again, you can only perform the specific actions the designers have decided to allow. In contrast, a game like Half-Life (another first-person shooter) has weapons that do other things, like pull things towards you, or let you climb up a wall.
Half-Life 2 also lets you pick up objects, so you can throw bottles at monsters, or drop 55-gallon drums on them from above. Not a lot, but way more than Doom 3.
Another annoyance of Doom 3’s is the seemingly ever-spawning monsters. Some of them just appear from nowhere, so you can’t clear a room out. It’s a case of demon ex machina — no matter what you do, the designers have decreed that this creature will appear in this place, period.
For example, you have grenades — useful for tossing into a room before you enter… you would think. But in Doom 3, it often doesn’t matter. The rule seems to be, if you don’t see the monster you can’t kill it, even if you throw a grenade two feet from where it’s hiding.
This lack of logic — monsters that spawn where they want to, and others that can’t be killed because, I suppose, the gamemakers didn’t want them killed till they got a shot at you — just adds to the general low quality of the whole experience.
There are other things. The room abound with stuff — computer terminals and the like. But they’re almost always just decorations. You can’t interact with anything except the few items you have to use. For example, let’s say you have to use a computer to extend a walkway. The computer will have a single button: “Extend Walkway.” There’s no challenge, no choice, no nothing. You push the button and that’s it.
Even when I found a way to interact (using the cheat codes to get a weapon during the exposition and killing all my comrades), the game doesn’t care.
If id ever wants to create Doom 4, it needs to hire a puzzle person or a game person. Someone who will add choices to the game, allow you to follow different paths, and most importantly, allow you to deal with things in different ways.
Maybe you have a rope you can use to cross a chasm if you can’t find the “Extend Walkway” button. Maybe you can lay a trap. Maybe you can approach a space different ways — climb the outside or go through the roof.
But if all they can come up with is “Enter room, kill everything, repeat,” maybe they should try their hands at something else.
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Follow-Up: I took a look at some other reviews of the game. They all say pretty much what I did: Great looking, but boring gameplay. But you know what’s amazing? Despite that, these review sites still gave it scores of 8 or 9 out of 10. Incredible. “It’s a boring game, but since it looks good we’ll give it a high score.”