Everybody's Free (to play Doom)

Written by Chris Caines

August 30, 2004 | 01:00

Tags: #doom #doom3 #graphics-card #upgrade

Don’t buy a new graphics card for Doom3.

Sometimes when you’re thinking, every conclusion you come to seems to be an echo of someone else. You often feel that the moment you think of something you’re the first to ever come up with that idea and yet when you come to announce your findings to the world, ten, twenty, a hundred people are already there asking you, “Duh, we knew that like, ages ago!”

You may think that I have had some revolutionary inspiration or fantastic new concept for something or other. No, I just wish to talk to you today about Doom3. Yes, you heard me right. On a day when you’ve already had all the all the imps, zombies, fat guys, mood lighting and chainsaw death you can stomach, I want to talk about it some more. The worst part is that I can’t promise you anything you haven’t heard before, nor hopefully, a conclusion you’ve not already come to yourself. Not only am I going to talk about Doom3, but I’m going to tell you how deflated I am with it.

Before I go on, I knew what to expect. Before I bought Doom3 I had read the reviews, I had seen people playing it and I had read all the hype (Boy, did I read the hype). I had played so many one-dimensional FPS’ (First Person Shooter) before that I steadfast refused to let Doom3 be crap. I loved Doom, I loved Doom2… hell, I even quite liked Heretic. Point being, if I can play Daikatana and even remotely tolerate it, Doom3 should be a doddle, surely?

"I had played so many one-dimensional FPS’ before that I steadfast refused to let Doom3 be crap."

I began to install D3 with the usual anticipation. Whilst the progress bars progressed I pondered if I had the best graphics drivers for the game. I mean, this is the key part of the atmosphere right, the graphics? Normally with my (now ancient) FX5700, I would just load up the game and get playing. Problem is that I knew D3 was using the metaphorical Mr Creosote of graphics engines and no matter how much hardware I threw at it, it’d just yum it up and pop that ‘wafer thin mint’ without so much as a gurgle.

Agonising over it for a while, I just thought that I would just see how we went. Why get too concerned with the graphics? The gameplay is what matters and so long as I can get the thrills and chills of hell on earth (the same effect can be achieved by forgetting to tape Buffy for my wife), then it’s not a problem if my graphics are not as efficient as I can get them, although I can hear the 3DMark fanatics spinning in their graves as if 10,000 washing machines just went into their spin cycles.

Once the game finally installed, I settled down for the ride of my life. We can mess about here whilst I recount the story to you and all that jazz, however I could also assume that you’re not one of the four people left on the planet who have yet to play it. Suffice to say, that I spent what would be deemed ‘the induction’ gaping in awe at the lovely graphics. I used my PDA, I interacted with people (all of whom told me to get bent) and I clicked on doors I couldn’t open.

Firstly; pinballing. I hate being pinballed in games... in case you’re not aware of this great new phrase I just invented, it basically implies the fact that where you go or what you do, you always get led into one hole, no matter how hard you try not to. If I’ve just arrived on site, I find it incredible I can’t converse with someone about what’s going on. Sure, they’re quick to tell me they’re busy or I should go see the boss man, but with such a plethora of bizarre goings on, you don’t think at least one of them would stop to talk to me about it?

I trekked through the induction and essentially sat there with the ‘I want a gun’ attitude in my head. Once I got one, I was a lean, mean death delivering machine and I could have happily taken out Satan himself armed only with a paperclip at the point where I got jumped for the first time.


We’ve all jumped in films. Point being, you know that it’s down to the protagonist to take care of whatever nasty thing it was which made you drop your popcorn. The trouble with D3 is that not only do you discover what underpants are for, but it’s down to you to actually stop whatever it is which is causing you to re-live that moment in The Ring when she gets out of the TV. Unfortunately, whilst adrenaline can cope with most things, finding out I was armed with a pea-shooter against Beelzebub and his seventeen legions of doom was not a pleasant surprise.

In most games, if you’re attacked, the dynamics make it a face-to-face fight so aiming is relatively straightforward; however were I actually to be mercilessly hacked to death by a product of the underworld on my way home tomorrow, whether I had a minigun or not is largely academic. The physics are based on this and this is why I died a lot. Alas, in making the game realistic both visually and physically, they have also made it frustrating as you cartwheel about the screen looking for your enemy.

I put much of this aside, because there must be gameplay, surely. However the largest argument I have found, and agree with is that you just know what’s coming. Weapons cache round the corner? I bet there’s a zombie hidden just in the shadow. Big empty room with a terminal at the back, let’s just wait for that door to slam behind me and an Imp to teleport in. It’s only a surprise if you’re not expecting it and thirty minutes into the fighting, nothing surprised me.

"However in a world where people are demanding more and more from games, the old concepts just do not work with a whizzy graphics engine bolted on the front."

I actually did something I never, ever do with FPS games. I stopped playing it. I put down my mouse a couple of days ago and have not loaded it up since and have no desire to. Why? Because, I know what’s coming and the desire to find out what’s at the end does not overwhelm the mediocrity of getting there. It’s a shame, it really is.

I knew Doom intimately and loved it, and I know that this is a remaking of the original classic. However in a world where people are demanding more and more from games, the old concepts just do not work with a whizzy graphics engine bolted on the front (Daggerfall vs Morrowind anyone?). Doom3 is the living proof that eye-candy alone cannot make a game. For those of you who spend hundreds of pounds on a new graphics card for this… I only hope it lasts you until Half-Life 2.

I know I'm in a divided camp here and and it's clear not everyone will agree with my sentiments. So, in conclusion, I would like to use the words of Mary Schmich and Baz Luhrmann’s song Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen) to finalise.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the Graphics Card.

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