VIDEO GAME REVIEW 'Doom 3' sets a new standard for scary
The three-dimensional graphics and sound effects create the scene.
By MATT SLAGLE
Think of "Doom 3" as an extended version of that moment in a haunted house when the monster jumps out from behind a corner. Like some sort of gag reflex, you can't help but instinctively scream in terror.
This new video game certainly has excellent graphics, but it's what you can't see that makes this sequel from id Software Corp. one of the scariest video games ever made.
Darkness hangs like a thick fog in this first-person shooter, shrouding your vision and adding a nearly unbearable sense of dread to a grim mission pitting you against a cast of hell's minions.
You're a nameless marine stationed on a Martian base owned by the Union Aerospace Corp. Somehow, hell's denizens have teleported onto the base and transformed just about everyone else into lumbering zombies. It's up to you to wipe them out before they spread evil to Earth.
What you see in this M-rated game is definitely NOT for children or the squeamish. The vivid three-dimensional graphics, a true step forward for computer games, allow for some extremely gross death scenes involving large quantities of blood and various human and monster guts.
You start out on the base, worming through one narrow, dim corridor after another. Just as it starts getting repetitious, you enter a portal to hell and fight the demons on their own turf.
"Doom 3" doles out monsters in small batches. While they aren't particularly intelligent, there's a steady supply of flying demon heads, oversized spiders, flame-throwing demons and other more sinister foes lunging, leaping and dive-bombing you from all directions.
I only wish there had been another tactic besides shooting first and thinking ... never. By the end, my fear had been a bit numbed by a familiar pattern: Enter darkened room, wait for monsters to spawn all around you, kill them all, go to next chamber, repeat.
I enjoyed the game's rich, layered sound effects. The low-frequency hums and high-pitched whirs of giant high tech machinery, when mixed with the grunts and groans of nearby, unseen demons, really added a convincing sense of atmosphere.
The game has a few shortcomings compared to other recent titles in the same genre. You can jump, run and crouch, but you can't lean around corners or crawl. And the only real innovative weapon in your arsenal is the "soul cube," an alien device which automatically devours the most powerful enemy on screen and transfers its life force to you.
One nice touch adds a great deal of tension: You have a flashlight that never runs out of power, but you can't use it at the same time as your weapons.
"Doom 3" is best enjoyed as a solitary experience, with the lights off and sound cranked.
The included multiplayer modes, meanwhile, were quite limited compared to the sprawling, team-focused online battles in games such as "Unreal Tournament: 2004."
The game supports just four players at a time per game (though some gamers have somehow managed to work around that limit and support a dozen or so people).
You can choose from only a few basic multiplayer modes, such as death match, team death match and last man standing, in which you simply have to kill more opponents than anyone else in order to win.
On my broadband connection, games frequently suffered from an effect called lag, turning matches into slideshows that were hard to play.
Despite the technical sophistication, "Doom 3" generally performed well on my high-end home computer with a zippy AMD 64 bit processor and a gigabyte of memory.
The basic requirements are pretty steep: You'll need at least a 1.5 gigahertz computer with 384 megabytes of memory, 2.2 gigabytes of free hard drive space and a 3D video card with 64 megabytes. And the $55 price is higher than most games.
"Doom 3" doesn't revolutionize computer games as we know them. Rather, it polishes the horror-themed, first-person shooter genre to a high gloss.
It's not going to provoke any deep thoughts or philosophical debate, but anyone looking for a good scare will enjoy this gorgeous nail-biter.