Let’s get this out of the way: I was a big fan of the original 2004 release of DOOM 3. I was a big apologist, too. I’ve mellowed out about how much vim and vigour I put into my ‘DOOM Defence’ and I’ve come to accept that, perhaps, it wasn’t quite the revolutionary title I once thought it was.
Gameplay-wise, DOOM 3 was very milquetoast, but in terms of the overall experience and visuals there are moments that still stick with me eight years later. The game’s re-release in the form of DOOM 3: BFG Edition here in 2012 brings a number of the game’s weaker elements into stark contrast, but combined with a generous collection of extra content and a glimmer of that ‘experience’ I enjoyed so much years ago, it’s a package that can hold its own in this modern world of heavyweights.
Something else we need to get out of the way? The story of DOOM 3 (and the history of the DOOM franchise in general) is but wafer thin, so here we go: The continued technological advances made by the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) in the 22nd century has lead to some ground-breaking progress in different research areas, but mysterious experiments have resulted in the almost literal opening of a gateway to Hell, allowing horrific demons and monstrous creatures to run wild across the various UAC facilities on Mars.
As the lead character across three chapters included in DOOM 3: BFG Edition, it’ll be up to you to get to the bottom of this hellish invasion as the metallic, clinical rooms and corridors of the Mars base are twisted and contorted with evil and absorbed by a demonic presence. Playing through the original DOOM 3 adventure, as well as 2005’s expansion pack Resurrection of Evil and a ‘new’ addition to the franchise, Lost Mission, these blood-stained futuristic environs will make way for rusted factory facilities, brief ventures onto the surface of Mars, trips to excavation sites uncovering ancient alien artefacts and eventually journeys to Hell itself.
id Software has done work to the visuals of DOOM 3 with higher resolution textures, but from what I can tell all of the models and geometry are straight from 2004 and make things look rather dated. It’s obviously expected that an eight year old game is going to look a little dull compared to modern-day graphical tour de forces like Uncharted and Heavy Rain, but it’s quite amazing how far along the industry has come in this regard.
The development team has also updated one or two of DOOM 3’s gameplay features, most notably the ability to wield a flashlight at the same time as a weapon, as opposed to the original game’s situation where you had to swap out between a flashlight and weapon while exploring the creepily lit (READ: Very dark) environments. I was always of the opinion that it was a clever decision on id Software’s part to force players to explore with the flashlight and whip out a gun when necessary – it made for an intense, frightening time – so it’s a little disappointing that some of the edge has been taken off by allowing players to light the way for most of the game.
Make no mistake, though, DOOM 3 is still a horrifying experience with moments of true dread and fear, mostly stirred up by the game’s excellent use of audio. There’s no real background music to speak of (which adversely affects the game in some ways and makes key moments rather empty), but the ambient sound effects, momentary stings, otherworldly groans and demonic whispering (and baby crying!) combine to create a terrifying sonic landscape.
I’m not going to fool myself and look back on the gameplay of DOOM 3 with rose tinted glasses – even when it was released, the game’s standard loop of running, gunning and cheap scares was rather tame compared to what Half-Life 2, Far Cry and Deus Ex: Invisible War were doing in the same year. In 2012, shooter fans have become accustomed to a much wider range of actions with deeper sets of choices than ‘aim and shoot,’ and despite the introduction of a gravity gun-like device and a demonic artefact (used to slow down time and other abilities) in Resurrection of Evil, the standard loop is in tact.
Basic things like a weapon melee attack would have been a great addition to DOOM 3, while a smarter weapon swap system would have ironed out the current clumsy cycle system – in a ferocious up-close and personal firefight with a fireball-throwing Imp, I would like to switch directly to my shotgun or rifle instead of cycling through my chaingun, pistol and plasma gun to get there. Likewise, when I’m engaged in an intense mid- or long-range battle with a towering Hell Knight, getting to my BFG or rocket launcher immediately would be very handy, thank-you-very-much.
And yes, all of the awesome DOOM guns are here, ready to help you in your fight against floating Cacodemons, grotesque Mancubuses (Mancubi?) and overpowering Pinky Demons. The usual assortment of stumbling zombies (of the obese, weapon-using and ‘on-fire’ varieties) as well as gigantic spiders, demonic babies and immense boss creatures are also on the ‘To Kill’ docket, each of which have their own methods of attacking.
The actual second-to-second shooting of DOOM 3 is still very solid and satisfying, again helped along by sharp, punchy audio as well as terrific visual feedback, but the level design and scenarios of the game are noticeably aged and it can become quite a chore to navigate through some of the maze-like connecting sections and to backtrack through similar looking rooms to find (what are essentially) keycards to progress through locked doors. Even more noticeable a second time around are the ‘monster closets’ I was given as a reward for picking up a new item or for simply walking down a corridor – just as it was in 2004, it’s a big design faux pas nowadays to open a door leading to a man-sized room only to let a demon escape into the warm embrace of hot lead.
The three separate singleplayer campaigns of DOOM 3: BFG Edition are accompanied by the game’s four-player deathmatch multiplayer which is still rather fun, despite the simplicity of it all. I didn’t ever have a problem finding another three players to shoot at online, but you’ll more likely than not run into some latency issues as the host enjoys a ‘ping’ of zero, with other players running into the hundreds.
Rounding out the DOOM 3: BFG Edition offering is the inclusion of both the original DOOM and DOOM II, complete with multiplayer and split-screen options, which some may even consider the crown jewel of the entire package. These two games are just as amazingly enjoyable as always and potentially provide many, many additional hours of shooting fun. I almost spent as much time replaying through the DOOM 3 collection as I did replaying these two classic titles, which is a testament to their incredible staying power and original addictive design. If you can find a few friends to play co-operatively through these games, you’re in for a special treat.
DOOM 3: BFG Edition is a mighty collection of content, with the original DOOM 3, the Resurrection of Evil expansion, the Lost Mission scenario and two classics in the form of DOOM and DOOM II, offering an enormous value for money proposition. A very real problem presents itself, however, when you consider whether or not you’ll be able to work through the games after you’ve become used to the gameplay, visuals, presentation and production values of more modern titles.
If you’re looking for horror action in a futuristic space setting, the Dead Space series is many times more impressive while the first-person shooting of DOOM has been improved upon by leaps and bounds by everything from Halo and Call of Duty, to Battlefield and Borderlands. Even the FEAR series is more slick.
The sheer amount of content in DOOM 3: BFG Edition can’t be denied, however, while the inclusion of the extremely addictive first entries to the franchise was a very smart choice on the part of Bethesda and id Software. As a package, this is about as definitive a DOOM collection as you’re going to get while the horror experience is just as gripping as it ever was. If military shooters aren’t your thing and you’ve been looking for a suffocatingly atmospheric title to tide you over until Dead Space 3 (or even the next DOOM game), this offering is tough to beat.