Doom 3 is the Cher of the first person shooter world. Sure both might look good with their shiny new face, but underneath the surface they're so very, very old school.
When Doom 3 was released on PCs last year, there was universal acclaim for its outstanding graphics and downright creepy atmospherics. At the same time, there was some criticism about how its gameplay, sadly, hadn't made a similar leap forward as its presentation did. For better or for worse, the Xbox port of Doom 3 is a faithful representation of the PC version, both in looks and gameplay. Old-school shooter aficionados will lap it up - others weaned on 'smarter' Xbox shooters like Halo 2 and Brothers In Arms may be left wondering what the fuss is all about.
Let's start with the graphics, which have successfully made the jump from the PC to your Xbox console. Doom 3 was a 'wow' game last year, and it's still a 'wow' game now in its console incarnation. Everything in Doom 3 has an eerie realism - from the structures you're traversing through, to the few humans you come across, and of course the many hellspawn that will dog your every step. Not only do the creatures you come across look good, but they move fluidly and realistically as well. Trust me, the first time you see the half machine devil dog Pinky come lumbering at you you'll want to run screaming to mummy - they're that convincing.
When it comes to story, there's little difference between the PC and Xbox versions. You still play the silent and stoic unnamed Marine who has to battle solo the forces of Hell let loose on a remote Martian moon. And while some of the PC version's extraneous conversation and exposition have been cut to make for a more action-orientated experience, the Xbox Doom 3 retains the same fluid presentation as the original. Load screens are few and far between (apart from between levels), and most of the game's cutscenes are done using the in-game engine, meaning there's never a break in mood.
The controls have obviously been tweaked to suit a controller instead of a mouse and keypad, and will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played a first person shooter on a console. The controls are generally responsive (perhaps not as smooth as Halo's), but will surely irk anyone who's used to playing the PC version as targeting is not as precise.
Gameplay is where Doom 3 will divide player opinions, with the Xbox version's solo mission practically identical to the PC's. Doom 3 is unabashedly old school in its attitude, which could be seen as charming or frustrating in equal parts.
Here's a typical scenario that's repeated throughout the game: you sneak into a room, either one you've never been in before or one you recently cleared a few minutes ago. You try to be careful, hugging the walls, shining your flashlight in any dark corners to check there's no nasties waiting. Everything seems clear, so that's when you decide to step out into the middle. And then suddenly the lights go out, and imps start materialising from nowhere bearing fireball death.
Now while that may be fun for some, for those now used to 'smarter' shooters that challenge you through intelligent enemies or innovative level design, it may become frustrating quickly. In pure gameplay terms, Doom 3 isn't much of a change from the first Doom. Turn off any expectations or comparisons with games like Half-Life or Halo you have in your mind and you'll have a great time, however.
Perhaps the best addition to the Xbox Doom 3 is the inclusion of a two-player co-operative mode, which allows you and a friend to take on all of Hell's forces together. The game has even been altered slightly to accommodate the different style of gameplay, even to the level of some non-player characters in the game acknowledging there are two of you instead of one. While playing co-op is great fun, it can make the game quite easy to beat as you'll automatically respawn to join the action any time you die.
Doom 3's Limited Collectors Edition set for the Xbox also gives you some great extras. Not only do you get the full Doom 3 with its co-op and Xbox Live capabilities, the special edition includes full versions of the original Ultimate Doom and Doom II - playable in single player or 2-4 player split-screen. It also includes a special concept art gallery and a -Behind the Scenes" feature on the making of Doom 3 containing interviews with the team at id Software.
If you haven't played Doom 3 on a PC, then the Xbox version is an excellent port, particularly with the addition of the two-player co-operative mode. To avoid disappointment, however, bear in mind that despite the graphical upgrade, Doom 3 is still the original Doom at heart.
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