Doom 3 E3 2004 Preshow Impressions

Activision shows off Doom 3 for the Xbox publicly for the first time, and we have a full report.

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Activision showed Doom 3 running on the Xbox for the first time publicly at its pre-E3 event in Santa Monica, California, earlier this month. And for those of us who didn't think it was possible, it appears that id and Vicarious Visions have managed to bring the game to the Xbox with no compromises from the visually impressive PC version.

Despite its name, Doom 3 is not a sequel but rather a retelling of the original Doom. You once again play as a space marine, tasked to guard the Union Aerospace Corporation's facility on Mars, when something goes wrong and demonic creatures take over the base. You'll have to survive and try to rally any survivors as you attempt to seal the dimensional rift at the heart of the infestation, and the deeper you delve into the base, the more hellish the environment becomes.

Activision demonstrated an early level in the game; you have to fight your way to the base's Alpha Labs in order to get a warning signal to a nearby fleet of warships. From the get-go, the graphical immersion is superb. Doom 3 is, without a doubt, one of the best-looking console games we've seen. There are a lot of curved surfaces and bump-mapping to give the base's interior a very realistic and amazing look, but at the heart of the graphic's engine is the powerful lighting and shadowing system. As we watched, the marine entered a large room, when the lights sudden went out. In the pitch dark, the only way to detect attacking zombies is by sound, and perhaps by catching the silhouette of one against a distant light. But the tension and creepiness are definitely there.

The marine has access to a flashlight that can cut through the darkness, but the caveat is that you have to lower your weapon to switch to the flashlight, so you can't shoot and use the flashlight at the same time. This is bound to cause plenty of frantic moments when you encounter something terrifying in the darkness and have to switch back to your weapon in a hurry.

Like the PC version, the Xbox version incorporates a powerful physics engine, and it's quite impressive to hit an overhead light, causing it to swing, and then watch as the shadows in the room react to the swinging light. Doom 3 also incorporates a powerful physics engine that will ensure that objects behave realistically when in motion; we were shown boxes tumbling down a corridor into the face of the enemy. In addition, the elaborate skeletal animation system in combination with the physics engine means that creatures move in a very lifelike manner.

Hollenshead said that their goal is to make your living room the scariest room of your house, and to help accomplish that, Doom 3 for the Xbox will support surround sound. Like everything else in the game, the sound effects are top-notch, from the deep rumbling of the base's machinery to the sound of zombies shambling about. Demons also have a nasty habit of leaping out at you, and the sudden shriek can pierce the relative calm and cause you to jump out of your seat.

During the demonstration, the marine used several weapons, including the shotgun, machine gun, chaingun, pistol, hand grenades, and fists (yes, you can try punching zombies). Monsters encountered included the fat zombies, who are zombified security guards, demonlike imps that hurl energy balls at you, and dual-headed demon maggots that crawl on walls and the ceiling like spiders. The marine also entered portions of the base where the demonic infestation was literally taking the environment, and the walls were covered with an organic, pulsating tumor.

The Xbox version will be the only version of the game to support cooperative play, and the game will support up to two players over Xbox Live or a system link. There will be no split-screen multiplayer, because Hollenshead says that the Xbox is already being pushed to its limits to render a single screen. The game will support up to four players in multiplay over Xbox Live and system link, and the game will ship with five multiplayer maps. Hollenshead says they're not trying to break any new ground, but he did promise something fun and uniquely Doom.

The PC and Xbox versions will share the same story and gameplay, though the Xbox's smaller memory footprint will affect level size; as a result, some levels on the Xbox will be modified to flow better. Hollenshead said that the Xbox is the only console capable of running Doom 3 as programmer John Carmack envisioned it, and they're not going to port the game to the PlayStation 2 or GameCube.

The Xbox version is being developed by Vicarious Visions, contemporaneously with the PC version under development at id. However, Hollenshead said that the Xbox version will ship after the PC version, and the PC version will ship when it's done. He wouldn't commit to a date; however, he did say that id will not show the PC version at E3 because the team is locked in "completion phase" at the company's Mesquite, Texas, offices. Activision will show the Xbox version at the show, and from what we saw, it's a safe bet that Doom 3 for the Xbox is going to be one of the major games of E3.

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