2004 was a pretty amazing year for gaming.
It gave us influential titles such as Half-Life 2, World of Warcraft, Far Cry, and Fable – just to name a few. It also gave us Doom 3, a game that has a special place in my childhood memories and is probably the reason I’m still slightly (okay, very) scared of the dark to this day.
Without giving away too much about my age, I’ll admit that I was pretty damn young when I first booted up Doom 3 on my older brother’s newly-acquired PC when it was released. Until that point, my aging computer and the general limitations of technology at the time had me used to games such like Diablo 2, Age of Empires and the original Counter-Strike – not exactly the cream of the crop in terms of realism and graphics (though all of which were, and still are, bloody good games in their own right).
I remember it like it was yesterday. My parents had just gone to bed and my brothers weren’t at home. I was alone and bored and throwing on Doom 3 (which my older brother, an avid fan of anything horror-related, had bought and tried to hide from me) seemed like a good idea – after all, how scary could it be? I turned the lights off, plugged in some headphones (so that I didn’t wake my parents), got comfortable and started what would turn out to be the stuff of nightmares.
Doom 3 was ahead of all other games in terms of graphics back in the day, and I was genuinely in awe when I first started playing it. The dynamic lighting effects, shadows and realistic (for the time) character models had me convinced that we had hit the graphical limitations of technology and that nothing could possibly look any better (how naive was I, right?).
I managed to survive the introduction intact. The futuristic setting, fancy visuals and voice acting had me all giddy and as I started following that weird spider robot on my way to find the missing scientist I felt happy with my decision to start playing this game rather than play my ten thousandth round of de_dust2 on Counter Strike.
A few minutes and an unbelievable amount of loading screens later, I’d come across another marine.
“Welcome to the dungeon marine, the most unexciting place on Mars.”
I can’t remember exactly what I was thinking at the time, but knowing the young me it would have been something along the lines of “Whatever, give me a gun and let me shoot some *&%#cking people”. (I was around the age where throwing a swear word into every sentence was essential to being cool)
The marine then gave me access to a nifty-looking handgun and the iconic power armor that even I remembered from previous games. I ventured further on through the facility, grinning like an idiot as I walked through an airlock and onto the surface of Mars.
This is where things started getting a little iffy. When my brief surface walk was over and I entered back into the Mars facility, I found myself plunged into darkness, and the use of a flashlight became essential. Eerie sounds started playing and I remember getting really nervous, really fast. I hurried on in hope of reaching an area where the lights actually worked and the weird ominous sounds wouldn’t be doing their best to creep me out.
Eventually, I got to the part that probably any Doom 3 player remembers. I found Ishii, the scientist I was supposed to be looking for.
“You don’t know what I’ve seen… you can’t possibly comprehend. The devil is real, I know… I built his cage”, he said.
And then all Hell broke loose – literally.
Lights started flashing, flaming skulls flew around the room, the sounds of screams filled my ears and that damned scientist Ishii tried to eat my goddamn face off. I quickly dispatched Ishii and gave myself a bit of time to process what had just happened, heart pounding, my breath rasping in and out in giant panic breaths. Unfortunately, far from allowing me time to absorb what had just happened, I was almost instantly interrupted by a zombie marine wielding a handgun.
I was pretty startled, but not frightened enough to give up on the game completely. I ventured on, flashlight in hand, taking out the clearly visible shambling zombies along the way. The problem is, it wasn’t the clearly visible zombies that scared me.
I hit a dark hallway that seemed fairly safe. However, the further I walked, the more I started to hear the general racket of a creature that no doubt wanted to eat my face, just like Ishii. I slowly moved closer to the sound which got louder and louder. I could feel my heart beating faster and my small hand clutched the mouse tightly.
Without my knowledge, (because of the headphones) my brother had arrived home and had seen me playing the game he had tried to hide from me. Eager to exact revenge, he had positioned himself behind me and was waiting for the best moment to scare me.
I eventually got to the end of the hallway and right as the creature jumped at me. My brother grabbed me by the shoulders and shook the living hell out of me. I screamed a scream that would put any 4-year-old girl to shame and proceeded to piss myself. Honestly, I actually pissed myself in fear. My parents ran into the room with a look of absolute shock on their faces, and I sat there blubbing like an idiot as my brother explained everything that had just happened.
I haven’t been able to finish Doom 3 to this day. Like some Post-Traumatic Stress sufferer, the very memory of that incident causes me to break out in a cold sweat whenever I consider returning to those darkened corridors.
Fast-forward to the modern day, and a new Doom is deep into development. While no release date has been set and no gameplay has been revealed, I’m sure it’s going to be just as visually groundbreaking and terrifying as its predecessor. Whether I’ll play it or not is still under internal debate.
But if I do, I’ll be sure to keep a towel and clean underwear in arm’s reach.