Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Rated: M for Mature
Completed: 11 October 2015
There's no denying that the original DOOM was a groundbreaking title. It built upon the foundations of id Software's earlier Wolfenstein 3D and turned everything up to 11. It featured more complex levels, weapons, monsters, lighting - everything. For its time, it was a frightening and intense experience. DOOM was a milestone in gaming. It was even the reason I stopped trick or treating. I figured it was easier to stay home with a bag of fun-sized Butterfingers and play DOOM than to walk around outside and beg.
The sequel, appropriately title DOOM II, was more of the same. The levels were larger and there were a few new enemies added, as well as the iconic super shotgun, but ultimately I always thought it was kind of a lazy sequel. Most of the challenge was derived from throwing as many monsters at the player as the game's engine could handle, and there weren't enough appreciable upgrades to make it feel like a true sequel.
It would be ten years before fans got another sequel. I still remember watching the DOOM 3 promo footage in awe, which gave most of us our first look at the game's stunning lighting and the newly redesigned Pinky demon. When DOOM 3 finally came out it was so high tech that my old PC couldn't even run it. I was forced to wait until the original Xbox port, which was mostly faithful apart from eliminating some of the outdoor environments at the beginning.
DOOM 3 was polarizing upon release. Fans complained that it too different from the originals. It was slower paced and filled with jump scares instead of copious amounts of demons to blow apart. Critics mostly enjoyed it, but just about everyone complained that your marine could only hold his weapon or his flashlight - not both at the same time. It's obvious this was a design choice designed to intensify the horror - you can either see where you're going, or you can stumble around in the dark prepared to shoot whatever jumps out at you - but you didn't even need the benefit of hindsight to see it was kind of silly.
Which brings us to DOOM 3: BFG Edition, so named for the series' famous weapon (colloquially called the "Big Fucking Gun"). BFG Edition fixes the flashlight conundrum by finally offering an armor-mounted light that you can turn on and off without having to holster your weapon. It also improves upon the original version's graphics, and most importantly, packs a tremendous amount of content onto a single disc.
The BFG Edition features the upgraded DOOM 3 and its original expansion, Resurrection of Evil. It also includes a new eight level expansion called the Lost Mission, as well as ports of the classic Ultimate DOOM and DOOM II, the latter even including the Xbox Live exclusive new episode. That is a lot of bang for your buck.
DOOM 3 starts out on Mars where your nameless, mute marine has been relocated to a UAC research facility to investigate strange happenings. Employees have been hearing voices and seeing creepy things in the shadows (which begs the question: why didn't they properly light this facility?), but the on-site head of research, Dr. Malcolm Betruger, seems to think there's nothing wrong. As you arrive, so does Elliott Swann, whose job is to audit Betruger's work and shut it down if necessary.
As you can probably guess, it's well past time to put a stop to Betruger's research. Shortly after you arrive, things go to pot and only you can fix them. It seems Betruger's teleportation experiments have opened a portal to Hell itself and demons begin invading the facility. The employees are slowly turned into mindless zombies, and your only recourse is to shoot everything that moves.
This is where DOOM 3 lost some people. While it holds true to the series roots in many ways, it lacks the frenetic pace of the originals. You'll still be dodging Imp fireballs, but instead of large open areas with dozens of monsters, you're in tight corridors with one or two at a time. It's a trade-off, and frankly, I think it works well. I still found strafing and shooting to be exciting, even without the hordes of monsters. DOOM 3 is not without its problems, but the least of them is that it's too dissimilar from its older brothers.
Besides the flashlight, the other most memorable thing about DOOM 3 were the monster closets. If there are any children reading, you can rest assured that there are no monsters in your closet because they have all taken up residence in this game. Every time you complete an objective you can expect a false wall to drop and zombies to shamble out or demons to spawn. It's scary at first when you're trapped in a small area and suddenly surrounded by a handful of enemies who weren't there before, but by the 1,000th time it happens you've grown accustomed to it. So much of the game's horror relies on jump scares that it stops being scary pretty early on when you're able to predict with 100% certainty when and where enemies will spawn.
That said, blasting them to bits is still a lot of fun. Some of the designs are questionable, however. Imps look great, but both Pinky and the Cacodemons bear only a passing resemblance to their classic, iconic designs. Where are the cacos giant cyclopean eyes? Where are Pinky's horns? Now he looks more like a hippopotamus with cyborg legs. Come on, guys!
You have a variety of weapons with which to make monster soup, including the old standards like the (useless) pistol, a shotgun (but curiously, no super shotgun in vanilla DOOM 3), machine gun, chaingun, the so-good-it's-almost-game-breaking plasma rifle, rocket launcher, and of course, the BFG-9000. Even the beloved chainsaw returns, and it's as deadly as ever if you can get close enough to use it. Certain enemies seem to have weaknesses to certain weapons, but I found that the plasma rifle was easily the best weapon for the stock enemies, while the chaingun was devastating to the gigantic, impressive bosses. Switching between weapons is accomplished by taps of the shoulder buttons, and this can be problematic in a hectic fight. DOOM 3 was released before the days of radial menus, so you have to learn how many taps it takes to get from the weapon you're using to the one you want. It's also worth mentioning that you cannot switch in the middle of reloading like in most games, but you have to wait for the reload animation to finish. This can leave you helpless if you're not careful.
For all the grievances fans had, DOOM 3 still plays very much like the originals - just in tighter quarters. There are still suits of armor and health kits lying around, and you don't do much other than shoot monsters. Occasionally you'll have to go on a short fetch quest, and id smartly designed the levels to keep backtracking to a minimum. Most times, you'll take a different path back to the starting point, though in the instances where you must traverse familiar territory you can always expect a sudden influx of demons to keep things interesting. The story is still barely there, but it's surprisingly interesting enough to make the various audio logs and e-mails you'll find on PDAs worth checking out. I did wonder why the PDAs are the size of an iPad and required two hands to use. More than 100 years into the future, you'd think they could have made them smaller by then - but then again, they apparently didn't have duct tape technology either because you couldn't tape your flashlight to your gun in the original version.
DOOM 3 works best when it adheres to the original point and shoot concepts of the classics. To illustrate this point, I refer you to the expansion, Resurrection of Evil. Taking place a scant two years after the last invasion, the geniuses at UAC have decided to return to researching portals to Hell - because what could possibly go wrong a second time? This time you play as another nameless, mute marine and you still shoot monsters in the face. So what's so different about it?
Very little, honestly. It's mostly more of the same, with one exception - the Grabber, which is totally not Half-Life 2's Gravity Gun. You can tell because it has a different name, even though it is fundamentally identical. Yes, with the Grabber you can lift heavy objects and even catch enemy projectiles and throw them back at high velocity. It sounds fun, until you realize that the first half of the game is over-reliant on it. In an all too common abhorrent game design philosophy, the developers figured that if they're introducing a new mechanic, they might as well shove it down your throat. For half of the expansion, you're limited to the pistol, shotgun, machine gun, and the Grabber - yet you're faced with tougher enemies like Hell Knights and Revenants. Instead of mowing them down with your chaingun or plasma rifle, the expectation is that you'll use the Grabber to reflect their projectiles back at them. It's annoying, quite frankly.
Also new in the expansion is the Artifact, a pseudo-weapon that looks like a heart and grants the user brief buffs such as Hell Time (e.g. - slow motion), and later increased speed and damage, then finally invulnerability. This is far less intrusive, though there are a few times where it's nigh impossible to succeed without taking advantage of its powers.
Finally, the Lost Mission is content that was supposedly cut from the original DOOM 3 campaign. You play as the last surviving member of Bravo Team, the ineffectual squad of marines who are almost immediately wiped out by demons as soon as they arrive (yet your marine is a one-man wrecking crew). This eight level mission is fun, but lasts only about two hours, and the final boss is an absolute pushover to the point where I thought there must be something else after that.
All three of the DOOM 3 campaigns suffer from the same issues. The framerate is mostly solid, but when it dips, it dips hard. I also encountered frequent, albeit brief, freezes - notably whenever a certain enemy type appeared. Cheap damage is also a major problem in all three campaigns. Enemies will frequently spawn behind you and get in a free hit or two before you realize it. The sound design does a good job of pinpointing enemy locations, but in the middle of a fierce firefight you're often so focused on what's in front of you that you forget what may be behind you. Getting cornered by enemies is your worst nightmare as they chip away at your health while you frantically try to aim, and smaller enemies like Trites (spiders) and Cherubs (evil demon-babies with wings like flies) are often out of your field of view when they're that close.
The absolute worst thing, however, is the loading time. I understand DOOM 3 was already eight years old by the time the BFG Edition rolled around, but how in the world could they not optimize the loading time in a 2012 rerelease? I've played open-world sandbox games with shorter loading screens. Every time you die, you're faced with an atrociously long reload as you stew in your defeat. To attempt to make up for it, id added a new checkpoint save system that is woefully inadequate. You can still save anywhere, but there is no quicksave button, despite the fact that there are several unused buttons on the controller. The checkpoints are generally far between, so you need to get into the habit of going to the menu and manually saving unless you want to play large chunks of the game over should you bite it.
Speaking of the controls, they generally work well and there are three configurations, but the lack of completely customizable button layouts is absurd for a game released in 2012. Ducking, for example, is accomplished by clicking and holding the right analog stick. Why they didn't at least at an option for toggling between upright and crouching is beyond me. Nothing is game-breaking, but it's one of several nitpicky annoyances that crop up.
DOOM 3 and the Resurrection of Evil expansion also do that annoying thing where you suddenly have your entire arsenal taken away from you in the later stages. You get it back, of course, but it's a cheap, artificial way to make the game more difficult.
On the bright side, DOOM 3 still looks great. The game did receive some upgrades - mostly a bump in resolution - but the lighting is still stunning and lends to the overall terrifying atmosphere. The contrast has been slightly fiddled with so the game looks brighter overall, but it's nothing that can't be remedied by tweaking the in-game gamma settings or, if that fails, your television's. Levels rarely branch out beyond the metallic corridors of the UAC installation, but there are several short excursions to the Mars surface where you need to carefully manage your oxygen levels. Each of the three campaigns also features several levels in Hell, which were easily the highlights from a graphical standpoint.
The sound design is also superb. DOOM 3 is one of those games that makes a great case for having surround sound. The positional effects make it much easier to determine where your enemies are. Voice acting is remarkably capable, and there's a bevy of unique voices for each audio log or NPC. Weapon sound effects are all satisfying, and even the ambient sound effects such as steam leaking from ruptured pipes, distant clangs and thuds, or monsters growling somewhere in the darkness are universally fantastic.
There will always be those who view DOOM 3 through the lens of a diehard DOOM fan. It wasn't the game they were expecting, but it is still a solid, exciting, and occasionally scary twitch shooter. There are no moral choices, no complex mechanics - just aim, shoot, and strafe in dingy, dark, creepy environments. To me, it still feels very much like a DOOM game, even if the hordes of Hell have been laid off and their numbers are fewer. It still captures the breathless pace of the classics, and retains the elements that scared teenagers out of their wits in 1993. The inclusion of all the existing DOOM 3 content, the additional Lost Missions, upgraded graphics, and especially the original classics make the BFG Edition an easy recommendation for fans of fast-paced shooters.
DOOM 3: BFG Edition was completed on a Sony PlayStation 3 with no cheats.