Doom 3 Impressions

In case you were wondering how the Xbox version of Doom 3 was coming along, don't worry--it's coming along just fine.

LAS VEGAS--CES isn't really known as a place where new games are shown these days, but every year, the Consumer Electronics Show seems to turn up one or two surprises. One of those surprises is courtesy of Microsoft, which is showing off what appears to be a mostly complete version of Doom 3 for the Xbox behind closed doors. While we were forced to look, but not touch, watching the game being played on an Xbox was quite impressive.

While we weren't able to do any sort of frame-by-frame comparison between the Xbox and the PC versions of Doom 3, we can say that the Xbox version of the game looks just about as good as its PC counterpart at a glance. It's also running in widescreen, has support for 480p progressive-scan displays, and will have 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, which should help bump up the scare factor a little bit. By and large, this console take on Doom 3 definitely appears to stand up to the PC original, though obviously in a somewhat lower resolution than the PC version is capable of.

Portions of Doom 3 have been retooled for the Xbox, though Microsoft described these changes as very subtle. One example we were given is that the game's opening sequence--a long walk through a calm outer space base--has been shortened down to about two minutes or so, which should get players into the gunning action much quicker. The game's control also has a few good tricks up its sleeve. The left trigger is used as a run button, you'll have a dedicated flashlight button, and you'll be able to use the D pad to quickly select one of four weapons. This quick-select feature can be reconfigured as you proceed through the game, so you'll always be able to ensure that your four best weapons are readily available.

We didn't get to see too many load screens during our time with the game. Some past PC-to-console first-person-shooter ports have had to offset the graphical showcase by dropping in more frequent load times. Even though the loading in Doom 3 might not match up one to one with the PC version, it sounds like id Software and Vicarious Visions have avoided this potential pitfall.

Doom 3 on the Xbox will contain Xbox Live support, allowing up to four players to play deathmatch on the same maps that are available on the PC version of the game. It's unknown at this time if the game will feature any new multiplayer maps or the ability to download new content into the game via Xbox Live. The game will feature some sort of stat-tracking support to let you know how efficient you are at taking down the opposition.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Doom 3 is that it will contain a two-player cooperative mode, which wasn't present in the PC original. This mode will be playable over system link or Xbox Live and should allow for some new tactics, like having one player shine the light on an enemy while the other blows it away. Additionally, the game will include some new dialogue that will make the cooperative mode make a little more sense. For example, you'll see two space marines in the cutscenes and NPCs will refer to you as a team, rather than just reusing the same speech from the solo campaign. However, it also sounds like there are fewer stoppages and speech in the cooperative mode, overall. Considering that most players will probably take a tour through the single-player campaign before joining a friend against the forces of hell, the omission of some dialogue doesn't really seem like it will make a difference.

The bottom line is that Doom 3 on the Xbox looks just about as impressive as an Xbox game as it did on the PC. It appears to pack in all of the lighting and graphical prowess that we saw on the PC, plus it seems to run at a smooth, solid frame rate. While release dates have been seen sprouting up on various retail Web sites, and the version we were shown looked like it was just about ready to ship, it sounds like the Xbox version of Doom 3 is also inheriting the PC version's release date of..."when it's done."

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Jeff

Jeff Gerstmann

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.
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