Review: DOOM 3: BFG Edition
By Paul Hunter
DOOM 3 is one of those games that feels like nothing else on the market. Even in the crowded spaces of first-person shooters and horror, DOOM 3 stands apart as one of the most visceral, carnage-soaked experiences possible on any gaming platform. Eight years after its original release comes the brand new DOOM 3: BFG Edition, a compilation packing featuring fully re-mastered versions of DOOM 3 and the Resurrection of Evil add-on pack. Is it enough to warrant a revisit into Hell? The answer is yes, if you’re a console gamer.
It’s interesting that Bethesda decided to label this package with “DOOM 3” when in fact on the disc there are full copies of DOOM and DOOM 2: Hell on Earth, including most of the add-on packs such as Thy Flesh Consumed and No Rest For The Living. You’d think they’d position the game as an “ultimate collection”, which would be simultaneously more marketable and more accurate. Add in the fact that Bethesda threw in an all-new DOOM 3 chapter called “The Lost Mission” and you get a sense of just how much content is crammed onto the disc.
DOOM 3, as most of us already know, provides among the most intense, white-knuckle experiences ever in gaming. Set in 2145, you assume the role of an unnamed new space marine recruit who’s been deployed to Mars to assist the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) as they conduct questionable scientific research. Being outside the jurisdiction of Earth, the UAC freely conducts experiments with teleportation, extraterrestrial biology, and advanced weaponry, all without the typical ethical and legal boundaries corporations on Earth must adhere to. As you orient yourself to your new surroundings, a feeling that something isn’t quite right sets in, and that feeling builds to worry and soon dread. In fact, only the initial ten minutes or so on Mars is somewhat placid, the rest is wrought with jitters and scares worse than Dead Space and early Resident Evil games. This might be the scariest game ever created.
The build-up to the catastrophe that unleashes the forces of Hell onto Mars is gradual, methodical and deliberate. From the moment Hell’s unsettling sonic boom turns your former colleagues into blood-thirsty zombies and opens a gateway for its worst demonic creatures to come through, DOOM 3 is visually and aurally horrific. The levels are, for the most part, straight-forward and tight to the point of claustrophobia. As a radical departure from earlier DOOM games, usually only one or two enemies are ever attacking at once, usually emerging through pipes or come sprinting around corners. Though enemies are spaced apart, most attacks instill some level of panic since room lighting is practically non-existent in some areas and unlike modern FPS games, your health doesn’t regenerate (health packs are required).
Perhaps the only reprieve in DOOM 3: BFG Edition is ability to now use your flashlight while shooting. In the original version you had to make a choice, use your flashlight for sight or use a weapon to shoot, and given that some rooms are totally dark there were more than enough occasions of blindly firing into blackness. The ability to see and shoot simultaneously will likely polarize fans into ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ categories, for better or worse. For me, even with a shoulder-mounted flashlight, DOOM 3 still gives one helluva scare.
Adding to the relentless feeling of unease are frequent radio transmissions of fighting, screaming and dying, presumably from other inhabitants in the Mars facility, along with the frequent heavy-breathing, unexplained voices, and sudden wailing pitches that are often heard. The environment too adds even more terror as machinery suddenly bursts, grated floors collapse and doors frequently get stuck while opening. For good measure, rooms are routinely covered in dismembered limbs and enough blood to put the Saw franchise to shame.
DOOM 3 is certainly a radical departure from previous games, and the influence the Half-Life series had is easy to see. Story plays a much bigger role this time around, with non-playable characters frequently adding to plotlines, providing key advice, or passing your character new inventory items. There’s also a larger meta-story that plays out over your Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), a device that gains you security clearance to specific areas, and lets you view videos and emails that delve into the inner thoughts of the recently dead.
DOOM 3: BFG Edition clearly seems targeted at console fans that may not have experienced DOOM 3 on the PC some eight ago. I say this because PC gamers have already been treated to upgrades and mods for enhanced graphics and gameplay, including the “duct tape” mod that allowed use of the flashlight and gun concurrently. For Xbox 360 and PS3 owners however, this is the best version available and comes highly recommended if you’ve never experienced DOOM 3. The game controls have been nicely mapped onto the controllers and a new check point system adds to an overall smoother experience. Add the fact that this is the best-looking DOOM 3 ever on a console and value proposition is even more appealing.
Complimenting the story of DOOM 3 and the Resurrection of Evil is an all-new campaign called The Lost Mission, which follows the exploits of the ill-fated BRAVO team seen in the main story. It’s a roughly 3-4 hour experience, so not it’s not lengthy by any means, but still, it’s another campaign to sweeten the deal. If you’re a PC gamer, there’s not enough to The Lost Mission to justify another Doom 3 purchase, but console players will likely view it as a nice supplement to an overall excellent package.
Graphically, DOOM 3: BFG Edition is crisp, though you can’t help but feel some textures and lighting effects are a bit dated. The flashlight, bizarrely enough, no longer casts dynamic lighting, an effect that added significantly to the original experience. Still, DOOM 3 was ahead of its time graphically when it was released, and this re-mastered version still looks great. The game clocks at a smooth 60 frames-per-second, and never drops, so gameplay is fast and frantic.
The odd quality about DOOM 3 is that while the presentation is superb and thoroughly engrossing, the actual combat is about as drab as FPS games get. Enemy demons and zombies have atrocious AI, and more often than not simply charge at you with guns blazing or claws swinging. In an ironic twist, this incredibly dumbed-down AI serves to add even more fright as they come at you unrestrained and aggressive. Whether or not this was intentional is debatable. Combat is further dragged down the completely snoozer repertoire of weapons at your disposal, which all sound muted and lack punch, including the worst pea-shooting pistol I’ve ever seen in a shooter.
What makes DOOM 3 so special is despite all its drawbacks, the game is still undeniably engaging. Very few games drag you into their worlds better than DOOM 3, and if you enjoy the sensation of constant fear, this game is bar none a must-play.
DOOM 3: BFG Edition also features a number of enhancements such as Stereoscopic 3D and VR headset support, but given the popularity of these technologies I would say the appeal is rather limited. Of course, there is included multiplayer, which features your standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch gameplay types, however DOOM 3 fans will know that the franchise has never really been focused on multiplayer (Unreal Tournament was where the real multiplayer was at).
DOOM 3 is without a doubt a divisive game, with its macabre visual onslaught to its radically different gameplay from previous DOOM games this game is a love-it or hate-it affair. If you’re in the love it camp like me, then DOOM 3: BFG Edition represents a tremendous value with its three full games and abundance of add-on pack. This is especially true for console players that are receiving the best-looking and most content-rich DOOM package ever released. No matter what the detractors may say, DOOM 3 made its mark on gaming in a big way, and this package is testament to the game’s ongoing legacy.
Doom 3: BFG Edition is available now for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game is developed by id Software and published by Bethesda Softworks.
Doom 3: BFG Edition is rated M for Mature by the ESRB.
[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]