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E3 2002: Doom 3
Post by Gobo @ 07:16am 23/05/02 | Comments

Well, this is the one we have all been waiting for, so I figured it was best to get it out of the way ASAP.

You saw the Doom III booth in the previous post. This booth is more tightly guarded than Fort Knox. And the queue to get in is simply unbelieveable. Luckily, because Activision Australia is looking out for their own, I managed to queue jump a lot of rather annoyed VIPs (read US developers and disgruntled pommy journos) and sneak into the room at very short notice. This was followed by a brief Q&A with three members of id`s team, Jim Dose, Mal Blackwell and Jan Paul van Waveren. Dose, a programmer at id, did most of the talking.

id software's Jim Dose and Mal Blackwell lay down the law

Firstly the bad news: NO IMAGES AT THIS TIME. Activision have been very strict in this regard. No photos or video (one kiwi guy had a bit of a tantrum at hearing this, and stormed off in a huff) of the in-game demonstration that took place.

The good news: what I saw was NOT a video, but an actual gameplay demo, with everything being rendered in real time. And it looks sweet-as, which is what everyone expected. One of the first things you notice is just how high resolution the game appears, even on a projection screen. Textures are detailed and simply a level beyond any other FPS on the market. The much vaunted facial expression hype may be a little overstated however, the faces I saw looked next generation, but hardly so real you won`t know that it is CG. Similarly the motion of the bodies in cinematic cuts and in-game looks a trifle exaggerated. Swaying around all over the place just to demonstrate that the engine can make people move in a realistic and organic fashion is a bit ordinary.The lip syncing too is less than optimal at present, but this is a subjective issue for most gamers. Nonetheless the models FINALLY look in proportion. There`s been no other game in memory that has these babies look as realistic. Best of all id are hoping to have the target video spec remain at a Geforce 3 or ATI 8500. We'll see about that.

Lighting effects are naturally primo. Everything from railings, to walls, to floors, to glass and mirrored surfaces are stunning in their treatment of light. Approach a glass pane and you see a ghosted reflection, very cool. Shadows as well are extremely prevalent, and a lot of attention has been paid to making sure that the dynamics of light and shadow are all done in real time.

The action on display was mainly taking down some very gruesome mutated monsters. Dose freely admits that the team has taken cues from survival horror, particularly the likes of the Resident Evil series and especially Silent Hill 2. Thus despite the id guys getting their backs up at the suggestion that the game was quite "gory", there is a lot of blood and guts from what the demo showed. A cut scene shows a monster feeding off a corpse, including a part where it takes a mouthful of stomach and ribcage and chows down. Also throw in Silent Hill 2-esque half destroyed corpses rocking around leaking blood everywhere, and you have quite a visceral experience.

Funnily enough, for guys who bridled at the suggestion that gore was in plentiful supply, id certainly made no bones about the fact that the game heralds a strong return to demonic themes. And because demons and zombies aren't humans, id freely admit that they arent trying to create master-class AI for the game, preferring to focus on making the game an intimate combat experience over a tactical battle. They also confirmed that monster numbers would be way down from Doom, with the expectation that the experience is more one-on-one or a few rather than scores of enemies.

Also in the "bad news" department is the revelation from the id team that multiplayer is definitely taking a back seat to single player in this game. The team made repeated references to the "single player" experience and how much it is a priority. They predicted that multiplayer mode out of the box was likely to be bare bones deathmatch, with possible further support via add-on packs. They didn't mention whether these mooted add-on packs were going to be retail or free. Hardcore deathmathers will also be interested to hear that impact kick (ie depending on the impact you take from an enemy, you but get flung back or around) is in the game in a major way, and that the weapon switch time looks somewhere in the Q3-Q2 range. No projectile weapons were dispolayed in use - only the default pistol, a meaty shotgun, and a machine pistol that seemed to make short work of the bad guys compared to the pissweak pistol. All weapon models are works of art, however despite taking down a baddie wielding a chaingun and running over the body, it was interesting to note that the weapon wasn't picked up.

That said, id have taken pains to emphasise that this baby is about single player first, second and third, with multiplayer a distant last on the priority list. People can blast through the projected 25-30 levels quickly, but id are promising that painstaking play will be rewarded. A reduced emphasis on scripted events has also allowed the gameplay to open up a small amount, with players being required to use visual cues and common sense as opposed to running along walls looking for secret buttons.

To finish off on a good note, those worried that the engine only looks good indoors will be pleased to hear that id are working on outdoor areas as well, and that they still are tossing up whether to incpororate vehicles into the game, and if so, just how much. And as for those "Xbox exclusive" rumours? Maybe they weren't total bullshit after all - the id guys got very cagey at this point, but did say that they are purely focused on PC now, and that the best the Xbox could hope for was a simultaneous release with the PC version.

The image situation is being tracked down - Activision are expected to release four screenshot images sometime during E3, and rest assured we're doing our best to get hold of them ASAP. Movies? Forget it, with the exception of the "Making of" video that will be hitting the internet in the next day or so.

All up, the game is looking phenomenal. It will sell shitloads of copies just on the strength of the graphics. It's a shame to hear reinforced id's stance on multiplayer, but if you approach this from the pov that DoomIII is going to be "the" single player experience of 2003, you'll be better served.

Now, where's Raven and Quake 4?

- Doom 3 Screenshots
- Doom 3: Legacy E3 2002 Movie