Introduction

Doom 3 is hands down the most intense, nerve-racking, and frightening experience ever created. The basic premise and story of the original Doom series has been developed and polished. The immersive environment created by id Software catapults the fear factor beyond rival forms of entertainment (including fellow "portal to Hell" work Event Horizon). The ability of the game to pull players deep under the Martian surface is due in no small part to John Carmack's latest graphics engine. The amazing use of light and shadow works wonders on the senses, and wreaks havoc on the nerves.

But along with the amazing depth of the visuals comes a down side. One of the most frustrating features of the game is the ease with which evil can creep up and start smashing one's brains in with a wrench while the player is left spinning in circles trying to divine from whence the threat is coming. The shadows (while visually stunning) make it easy for zombies, and Hell spawn alike to hide away and wait for the unsuspecting gamer to turn his or her back before attacking and intensely frustrating the game play. Armed only with an underpowered flashlight to combat the encroaching darkness, it can be disappointing to die before a shot can be fired in defense.

In real life, a crow bar to the back, or a gunshot wound to the right arm would probably be sufficient for getting the attention of an unsuspecting space marine. Of course, we currently lack this tactile feedback in games (thank goodness). But Carmack and company didn't leave us empty handed in our fight against spinning in circles and firing like crazy.

Doom 3 has built in support for 5.1 surround sound, and if ever there was a game that could benefit from surround living up to its potential, this would be the one. In the following pages of this review, we explore the impact of different audio setups and how they impact the world of Doom 3.

Sound Experience Tests
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  • DerekWilson - Sunday, August 08, 2004 - link

    ViRGE ... I suppose almost partially glad is alright ;-) And I agree that it should be a user's choice ... But I don't think using audio solution specific enhancements are the way to go. And I'm gonna have to disagree with any acceptance of software patent strong arming.

    Definitely an opinion, and, obviously, id Software's thoughts were on par with your own.
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    Considering the lackluster headphone performance, this is why I'm almost partially glad that Creative is strong-arming id in to working in EAX; while good 3D sound with a 2.1 system is still too difficult to be very useful, there's no good reason why such a feature shouldn't be included for headphones. Even EAX2 can do good positioning of 3D sound for headphones, and if it's an issue of lacking reverb or whatever, that should be a choice the user can make. Reply
  • Concillian - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    Did you guys do any performance comparisons?

    I would have liked to also see a SoundStorm included, as well as performance comparisons of no sound vs. software 3D onboard vs. Audigy2 vs. SoundStorm APU.

    With the obvious CPU dependency seen in the CPU article, I imagine performance differences may be more with Doom3 than your average game.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    I should have mentioned that we also tested with headphones.

    While much more immersive than a simple 2 or 3 speaker setup, headphones (unless the headphones support "5.1" -- which we didn't test) just cannot represent sound the same way as a surround system.

    If you absolutely can't get your hands on a front/back channel setup, go with headphones over 2 or 3 speakers.

    And, Poser, if you set you speakers to headphones in the control panel you will not be able to enable surround in Doom 3.
    Reply
  • SilverBack - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    The graphics are really great, the sound is great, unfortunatly the game is after a very small time boring.
    Go into room A be attacked by a spawned in fire thrower. Kill it, find health and ammo. Follow the linear game movement to the right door and go through it.
    Go into Room B. Kill things that walk at out you from the dark. Kill them all. Find health and ammo. Follow the linear game movement to the right door and go through it.

    Repeat as often as necessary to follow the linear game movement. Figure out some simple puzzles and follow the linear game movement.

    Game of the year, so far, FarCry..
    Reply
  • Poser - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    I've got much the same question as SKiller. If I understand how hearing works correctly, you can only tell that a sound is behind you or off to one side because of how the sound waves get distorted by your outer ear and by when the sound arrives at each ear. I was under the impression that a important piece of what a good gaming sound card could do is reproduce those distortions and timing shifts to accurately immitate surround sound with just a pair of headphones.

    I'm fairly sure I'm right about the hearing part. I'm not near so sure I'm right about a good gaming sound card being able to really trick the ear.

    Anyone who can test it firsthand -- how good is the surround sound immitation when you use headphones + an audigy2 (set to headphones in the control panel) + Doom3?
    Reply
  • Anemone - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    Surround is really great when its done well. There is nothing like being real enough to hear a critter coming from back and to your left, spinning and dealing with the situation based on what you 'heard'. TONS o fun and wish more dev houses had the means to do it this well. Let's hope this engine gets used in other places yes?

    As for your 2gb system, I'm assuming that's on an AMD64 system? Your graphics article used both sides and its not clear to me which this was testing on.

    Thank you :)
    Reply
  • SKiller - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    What about headphones? A good implementation can get you close to an actual surround system and has always been prefferable to a 2 speaker setup for me. Anyone try it with a good pair of cans? How does it compare? Reply
  • skiboysteve - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    my cambridge THX 550s were the best piece of hardware i had for this game Reply
  • gibhunter - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    I have to agree with the reviewer. I've been playing the game at home on a laptop with headphones, then tried it today at a friend's house on his desktop with 4 channel expensive Cambridge Soundworks setup hooked up to Nvidia's Soundstorm. The sound from behind and the sides was amazing. Makes you forget where you are and immerses you totally into the game. Yes, it's definitely a more intense eperience. Reply

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