DOOM as a series has always held a small special place for me, tied to some truly great memories, and as something I always enjoyed in one form or another. The announcement for a third installment coming to the XBox was exciting at the time since my computer sucked, and overall I remember it being a positive experience, even though I didn’t finish the game. Now though, my computer is a bit beefier and there is a wonderful BFG Edition of the game that incorporates the two DLC’s, as well as DOOM 1&2 with extra bits for them also, which is possibly why this review took so long. I managed to stay focused briefly though and put down a lot of thoughts on the newest version of this game.
The original came out for PC in 2004, later on XBox in 2005, and the BFG Edition I am playing now was an early remaster released in 2012. The game acts as a reboot for the franchise and is the most divisive entry for fans, as it came out against titles like Far Cry, Halo 2, and Half-Life 2, while also trying to add more story, world building, and hit the horror elements harder. Critics found a lot they liked about the game, even with its flaws, while established fans and new players bought it, creating a commercial success and the best selling Id Software game at that time. So, what’s the problem?
“Welcome to Mars. All new arrivals need to check in at reception.”
The game looks really good, at least with the backgrounds and textures, while effects stand out a bit more but fit the setting well, especially in Hell, holding on to a nice presentation, even more so when it comes to the amazing lighting and use of shadow or complete darkness. The original was way darker, pretty hard to see, making the little bits of light very important, but the update changes that. I know some PC users weren’t happy with how much they actually put into making it HD and upping the look, but that is because there were some killer mods for the original. What dates the appearance are character models, where humans and zombified marines just didn’t translate well years later, looking awkward, but the demons avoid this with some solid designs for the most part.
I had forgotten that this version ‘fixed’ the issue with the flashlight after a large fan outcry. Originally, the player could not hold his weapon and flashlight at the same time, causing them to choose between being able to see or the ability to shoot, a mechanic that added to the intensity and horror, while encouraging some strategy until seasoned players learned the levels and enemy placements. The new built-in to the suit model changes this, allowing both to be used at the same time, but also recharges so fast that there isn’t just less of a scary experience, but changes most of the horror environment to action with scary noises. I hate most that there isn’t an option to keep the flashlight how it was in the original—a huge oversight in my opinion.
“Story in a game is like story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.”
The original development on this game tried to make the experience and world different. I loved the interactivity with the monitors, making it feel like the player was really affecting the world instead of simply pressing a button to activate something. This enhanced the world building of Mars City and character motivations for how humans could accidentally start the demonic apocalypse, but it adds most of this story by using not only cutscenes, but voice logs and e-mails as well that can be accessed through a poorly laid out PDA. There is so much to read, and the audio segments are neat, as long as combat doesn’t drown them out.
This adds to the odd pacing overall, where the game encourages the player to stop and take in the environment, surroundings, and information—to let themselves get scared—while breaking up the action that DOOM is known for with light platforming and easy movement puzzles like the crane and forklift parts. They may be few and far between but certainly stick out, and this pacing style certainly seeped into the combat, which feels more intense, but slower. Once someone got good with the original games it was about controlled bursts and moments of fury, where this iteration makes it easy to spray and pray at the darkness. The enemies are not smart and lack versatility, easy to maneuver into spots that incapacitate their attacks, but many of them get in cheap hits by being shrouded in complete darkness or quick attacks from opening doors—trust me, I learned to fear doors—and those spiders can be merciless, but enemies are not a long term threat or offer much that the series didn’t already have years earlier.
In the original version of DOOM 3, ammo management felt like a big deal, making bullets a precious commodity since demons don’t seem to drop them, but this new edition increased the amount of ammunition heavily. Health comes a bit easier as well and I always loved finding the wall units with it, feeling incredibly futuristic, but these new helpful aids took away from the fear. What did scare me, but for all the wrong reasons, was having to change through weapons when I realized I was holding the wrong tool for the job. Hurriedly cycling through my weapons got me killed a few times, as there are not quick swap buttons. This is partially on me though, as I was playing on PC, but insisted on using a controller; still an issue for anyone wanting to roll like me, or who are just on a console.
I would also kill for some iron sights or other form of aiming than just the reticle, as it lacks the desired control I want, but this is a standard in the franchise. This one at least has a reload button, which drives me nuts when there isn’t one. I know some like the near-bottomless clip from the earlier ones, but reloading feels like a safety blanket between battles and helps my OCD. The guns don’t feel quite as OP as with other entries, some enemies take more hits to kill than they feel like they should, and the new soul cube is a weak super weapon that turns the final boss into a bore. Fans have complained about how they sound, but only the machine gun stood out to me in that respect.
Speaking of sound though, the cacophony of screams and souls accompanying DOOM 3 is stupendous in environment, fear, isolation without much music, and its ambiance is often an industrial creep show. That opening theme is damn good, but the soundtrack was originally supposed to be done by Trent Reznor, and as a huge Nine Inch Nails fan, I do wonder what that would have sounded like had this gone through. The few scares that got me were well-executed, but owe a lot to darkness and clever audio direction.
DOOM 3: BFG Edition has a lot of changes that fans will love or hate, but both versions contain enough minor irritations, no matter which camp the player belongs to, that keeps the title from being more fondly remembered. The two expansions are shorter and more streamlined experiences with a lot of the original action and pacing, which will be favorable to certain players. I recommend the title honestly, except on PS3, where the load times are supposedly even worse, because the game isn’t hard and just has a lot of FPS goodness. Even with as enjoyable as a revisit this was, I still didn’t manage to beat the game, because after a while there wasn’t much keeping me going, especially after how good DOOM (2016) was, I simply kept wanting to go back and play that multiple times. For me, DOOM 3, BFG Edition or otherwise, remains a great game, but still the weakest in a great franchise.
Now I’m wondering if I should review the DOOM movie…