In Space, No One Can See You Scream; or Do Anything, Really

Because my brother is fortunate enough to have a system that doesn’t completely gag on heapin’ helpin’s of data dished out by high-end games, I got a chance to play some of Doom 3 on his laptop* for the first time. My first impression is that it’s an intense game that amps up the fear and adrenaline, not by demanding a twitchy finger, but by keeping you in a constant state of fear. However, the rush of combat and breaking tension is dampened by the fact that fighting ghouls on Mars is like firing ammunition into an unlit closet.

*In the interests of honesty, I’ll add that his laptop could only play with medium-to-low settings, but with Doom 3, this still means great graphics.

I know why they chose not to allow you to have a flashlight on when wielding a weapon (tension) and I know why they made the whole thing dark and inconsistenly lit (scares), but these decisions also seem motivated by A) an effort to make up for a fairly simple scheme and B) some fairly simple A.I.

My experience would’ve benefitted from a bigger monitor and some good speakers, but ultimately, I’m a soft sell when it comes to first person shooters (FPSs). I don’t need an excuse, and I’ll even play a terrible FPS for a few hours before giving up. But one of the satisfying parts about an FPS is being able to watch the result of your actions and wield your weapons with skill. But how can I do that if every time I see an enemy, I turn out the lights and start shooting blindly at the dark? Not only can I not see the bullets hit or miss the target, but I can’t even see the incredible graphics and great animations. I find it hard to care about a stunning graphics engine when all I really get from it is endless techno-hallways.

That being said, I plan to (in the future) buy the game when we have a system that can handle it well. I think a dark room with the blinds drawn, and the speakers cranked up a bit will add immensely. Even on a laptop in the middle of the day, with my brother next to me, it was a crazy, unsettling experience. The production design is top-quality, the sound design is beyond compare in many ways, and the sense of totality and integrity of the world are very strong. I’m sure I’ll get into the groove of the game a bit more and I’ll enjoy it, but I may be forced to download the mod that allows you to strap a flashlight to your weapons to enjoy replaying it, the way I do with Half-Life, Halo, and Call of Duty.

I salute id Games for doing what they did. They really took it all the way when they went for survival horror. They used their heavyweight status and guaranteed sales to experiment publicly, which isn’t an easy thing to do. However, I hope the next Doom game, or whatever they do, takes a friendlier view to having a view at all. I look forward to playing the rest, and hope that the rest of the game mitigates some of my initial disappointments.