Wednesday, August 11, 2004

About Doom 3 and System Shock 2

Mark Gabby sent me a very thoughtful e-mail about the similarities and differences between Doom 3 and System Shock 2, and he's been nice enough to allow me to use it here. He makes some excellent points and I agree with most of them. I still think that System Shock 2, at times, was very repetitive, with too much 'scavenger hunt' gameplay and backtracking, but like I said, I still consider it a classic. Here are Mark's own words (edited for length).

I don't think your statement "...[Doom 3's] gameplay mechanics are repetitive, but they copied most of those straight from System Shock 2" is perfectly accurate.

At the surface, Doom 3 seems like SS2, but I think that's at a pretty abstract level. Here are some comparisons.

1. Doom 3 has audio logs, SS2 has audio logs.
SS2 has many audio logs, often from the same characters, telling a coherent story of things getting progressively worse. You get to know the characters, you begin to understand the disaster and the key players.

Doom 3 has some really good voice actors who are many different characters, most who only talk once.

2. Doom 3 is an FPS, SS2 is an FPS.
Doom 3 is a pure twitch FPS with an emphasis on fast action and stunning graphics. SS2 is a shooter-RPG hybrid with an emphasis on the role-playing elements of character progression and world-immersion.

Can you pick up and examine objects that aren't plot-critical in Doom 3? Can you increase your skills and learn how to interact with computers? Is there a minature console with several simple 2D games that you can use? Can you modify your weapons?

3. Doom 3 is a sci-fi-horror story, SS2 is sci-fi-horror story.
Doom 3's story is all about demonic influences causing a takeover of a Mars colony. Hell is bad, it's scary, and it freaks people out.

SS2 is deep and subtle with its story, exploring many strange issues in a freaky way. Things like the cyborg midwives being the "mothers" of the many's eggs, and the ideas of a fusion of two species.

4. Doom 3 is repetitive and so is SS2
In the first stage of Doom, I'm introduced to the story and led through a few passageways. Then, something bad happens and the first thing I'm doing is using my pistol to destroy a demon.

In the first stage of SS2, I'm led through a bunch of interesting character choices that determine how I'll approach the first actual game level. When I actually get there, how I deal with the first challenges depends on what I chose. To get past security cameras which set off alarms, for instance, I could hack the security terminal, or I can just shoot all the cameras before they see me. Or maybe I have PSI skill- in which case if I do set off the alarm, I can reduce the time it's going off with a spell. When I actually do use a powerful weapon, I have to be careful to conserve my ammo, use the right type of ammo, and at the same time manage the condition of the weapon.

When I kill an enemy, I search their body. I might find some ammo, or an organ I can research in order to do more damage to similar enemies in the future. Also, I might learn that I've been using the wrong weapon- maybe this enemy is very weak to armor-piercing and I've been using energy.

In Doom 3, I'll just be shooting whatever comes my way.

Both of these games get boring, but I think SS2, with all it's depth, lasts longer, though personally, I think Doom 3 has enough new weapons, foes, and effects at frequent enough intervals that it doesn't get that boring.

Mostly I'm just trying to stand up for the unique and equaled gameplay experience that SS2 is. No game has yet matched it, and on comparison Doom 3 is a pale shadow of many of these features people claim it copied.

Again, not that I don't like Doom 3, but it's nothing like SS2.

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