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Doom 3 Preview for Xbox
Posted on Friday, March 19, 2004 @ 08:01:43 am E.S.T

The year is 2145. You’re a marine, patrolling the perimeters of the Union Aerospace Corporation’s scientific installation on Mars. Your duty’s nearing its end when you spot a large, red portal opening up near the facility. Unworldly creatures start pouring out from the portal: ghostly skulls with no bodies; large, ghastly insects sporting twisted, infant faces; and lumbering, eyeless beasts with armored skin and snapping jaws explode through the facility walls and start ripping through UAC personnel.

At a full sprint, you charge inside the facility, hoping to figure out what’s going on. After a few moment's investigation, you see that the workers haven't just been killed, they've been transformed. Sallow and disfigured though they may be, the installation’s personnel pick themselves up off the ground, stumbling and flesh-hungry. Your back meets a cold steel wall as you retreat into the shadows seconds before a zombified corpse ambles past your hiding place. You decide that if you’re going to make it out of the UAC facility alive, you can’t hide in the shadows the whole time; you have to fight for all you’re worth. If you don’t, you’re as good as doomed.

In development since fall of 2000, Doom 3 has been awaited, speculated, and anticipated for years. The PC version of the game is being developed by id Software, while its newly announced Xbox sibling is being handled by Vicarious Visions (Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War). The game looks amazing; freakish monsters, a haunting story, and some of the best graphics ever seen have all caused it to top many PC gamers’ “Most Anticipated Lists” for years. As of late, some new details have surfaced regarding the game, and I—your favorite stealthy game reviewer—am here to bring all of them right to you.

Though it’ll feature some of the same characters and weapons as the first Doom, Doom 3 will be much different than anything ever before seen in the series. Unlike its demon-cappin’, shotgun-fraggin’ predecessors, Doom 3 will be a more suspenseful shooter, content with playing with your mind instead of practicing your trigger finger. “The pacing is intentionally slow,” says Tim Willits, lead designer of the game. “After all, we put all this work into [the game] and we want to give people the opportunity to explore [it.] Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Doom 3 is full of interesting people.
Doom 3 is full of interesting characters.

One of the main innovations being made to Doom 3 is its per-polygon hit detection system. If, for example, an enemy shoots at you with a shotgun, you’ll only take damage for the lead that hits you, not the whole shot. Also, if you’re wearing body armor, there’s no guarantee that it’ll save you from all damage. Supposedly, the hit detection will be very precise, so if you’re shot in head or limbs, your body armor is useless. By the same token of thought, enemy attacks will not only damage players, they’ll be followed by subsequent ‘blows’ that knock players backward and obscure their vision with dizziness for a short period of time.

An addition being implemented only into the Xbox version of the game (for obvious reasons) is auto-adjusting analog sensitivity. Translated: depending on what a player is trying to do with the game, the controller’s thumbsticks will react accordingly. For example, if a player wants to subtly peek around a corner, the analog sticks will adjust to the sensitivity needed to do so. If a player is readying his weapon to fire at a zombie, the control sticks will help the player move in the direction of the enemy. “The game really changes and compensates if you’re really flicking the analog sticks versus if you’re doing it really subtly as you’re moving,” says Karthik Bala, CEO of Vicarious Visions. “We’re really watching for a lot of that behavior and adjusting for it. It’s working out well, and it should be invisible to the player. It’s just taken away that level of frustration that people normally face with thumbsticks.”

Just because this Doom has gotten more complex doesn’t mean it’s at any lack of monsters, though. The game's rife with baddies of every sort: bipedaled revenants sporting shoulder-mounted rocket launchers are making their eventual return, as are the ever-annoying imps and cacodemons. As they always do, zombies are making an appearance in the game, in the company of more horrifying creatures, like mortifying hell knights, skittering trites, and most notably hell cherubs, insect-like creatures topped with warped human faces and too many legs to count.

However, no one will have to fight these hellions unassisted; gamers will be packing some major firepower through the whole game. Utilizing an assortment of weapons, including a pistol, shotgun, machine gun, plasma rifle, and chainsaw, players will have multiple options of tackling enemies.

Unfortunately, you’ll be hard-pressed to find other details about the game (level designs, characters, game modes, etc…), as id and VV are reluctant to release many tidbits about the game’s fine points. One interesting point about the game has been revealed, though; the game’s back story, as well as characters, will be revealed through… PDAs? All staff personnel at the UAC facility are given Palm Pilots, and when players come across a body, they can read the information in the owner’s personal computer. Along with revealing characters and the game’s back story, the PDAs can help players through the game. Oftentimes they’ll offer strategies for killing certain monsters, maps of levels, shortcuts through certain areas, and security clearance for secure parts of the facility.

The game’s story, which has already been told in a round about way above, is basically a retelling of the first Doom. Matthew Costello, writer of the 7th Guest and 11th Hour games, has been hired to write the game’s dialogue and revamp the story to modern standards of creepiness. Basically, some workers at the UAC facility have been doing some …er… private work on Mars. Eventually, their research leads them to open a gaping, red portal from on Mars, allowing atrocious denizens of Hell to charge onto the red planet. A space marine (who remains unnamed) is one of the few left living on the planet, and on his quest to find flight from the planet, he finds that a larger evil is at work here, and he’ll stop at nothing to destroy it.

Many gamers, though, couldn’t care less about Doom 3’s story, its monsters, or even its inventive control scheme; they’re instead entranced by the game’s spectacular visuals. It’s totally possible that when Doom 3 is released to the public--whenever that may be--it’ll feature some of the most detailed and realistic graphics ever seen. Characters will look particularly good, as two full days of motion-capture filming have made them look as humanly (or in-humanly, it turns out) as possible. Also, gamers can say goodbye to the ‘painted’ look of old; everything in the game has been completely bump-mapped, allowing players to see characters’ individual pores and hairs.

The game’s graphical engine is impressive, too. It boasts never-before-seen lighting and shadow effects that’ll make your jaw drop and your mouth salivate. Also, all lighting works in real time, so if you turn on a lamp, it might just change an area’s lighting enough as to allow you to see enemies that would have been otherwise hidden. In addition to this, players will be limited to carrying one object at a time throughout the game. Do you pick the shotgun or the flashlight? We’ll let the hell knight standing back in the corner decide.

Lead animator Fred Nilsson is in charge of bringing everything in Doom 3 to life. He’s at no lack of experience, though; he’s been in on movies such as Antz and Shrek and knows a thing or two about animation. “Games are a lot more creative [than movies],” replies Nilsson after being questioned about whether he likes making movies or video games better, “you’ve got to do a lot more things, like creating models and setting up characters and skeletons.” Nilsson also sees to it that Doom 3’s artwork is very refined. For instance, zombified characters all illustrate the ways they died (There are quite a few, it turns out.). Some are missing stomachs, skulls, teeth, or legs, while another—Nilsson’s favorite—has flames eating away at parts of his body, allowing players to see the charred tissue and muscle underneath.

Definitely NOT Man's best friend.
Definitely NOT man's best friend.

However, all this graphical perfection doesn’t come without a cost. PC gamers are going to need to have high-end computers to even think about playing Doom 3, and the game pushes the Xbox to its very limit. As a matter of fact, the folks at Vicarious Visions didn’t even consider putting Doom 3 on the GameCube or PS2. When asked why these two consoles wouldn’t be getting the game, programmer John Carmack said, “…We just didn’t feel that it would be rue to what the experience… was really designed around. The GameCube and PS2 just don’t have the graphics horsepower to drive the lightning technology or what we’re trying to do with the bump maps and normal maps…”

With the recent announcement of Doom 3 on the Xbox, many people have been making the misconception that the Xbox version will be a port of id’s Doom PC. While both versions will be similar, Vicarious Visions is building Doom 3 from the ground up for the Xbox. Evidencing this are the aforementioned auto-adjusting analog sticks, accompanied by the fact that they’re also taking advantage of some backdoor hacks in the Xbox’s nVidia chip, along with doing a lot more technical stuff I don’t quite understand.

No Doom title would be complete without online play, and Doom 3 is no exception. The game will ship with six to eight multi-player deathmatch maps, and each one will be fully modifiable via a disc holding all the game’s tools, minus 3-D modeling and animation software. During multi-player games players will be able to manipulate almost every aspect of levels; they’ll be able to turn security cameras and light switches on and off, move objects like statues and tables, break windows and lock doors. Another cool aspect of Doom 3’s multi-player is the berserker helmet. When worn, the helmet makes players’ vision go red, and, using only a flashlight or his bare fists, the berserker gets to pummel the crap out of the other players.

The truth is, though, that gamers are tired of chewing on the meager details and exhausted screenshots that Activision—Doom 3’s publisher—has offered over the past four years. Unfortunately, the game still holds no solid release date. “It’ll be done when it’s done,” says Todd Hollenshead, CEO of id Software. We do know one thing, however: the PC version of the game will be released first, followed closely by its Xbox-based brother. Until the fateful day arrives that Doom 3 is finished and released to public, though, gamers will be doomed to crossing their fingers and hoping for the best, or, rather, the worst.

Preview By: Stealth52 - 1662 Reads

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