Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Doom 3 wowed me when it released in 2004. After our favourite nameless marine was thrown back into a Martian research base gone to hell, id Software delivered an old-school masterclass in terrifying demons, big guns and non-recharging health, brought to life by one of the most impressive engines of the age. Not content to rest on their laurels, however, Carmack and the team threw players a curveball by introducing genuine horror to the proceedings - crafting a dynamically lit haunted house teeming with well-crafted scares and amplified by crushing, oppressive loneliness. It wasn't the Doom many of us wanted, but it was just short of a masterpiece nonetheless.
Now that the franchise is nearing its 20th anniversary (measured from the start of development), Doom 3 is back with a vengeance.
The appropriately-named BFG Edition certainly ships with an impressive amount of content. You'll get the original Doom 3 campaign, the Resurrection Of Evil expansion pack, eight new missions, the original Doom and Doom 2 for a budget price, along with a graphical update. id Software took on the job of remastering in-house rather than outsourcing it to another production company, promising to give id Tech 4 a new lease of life.
Whether they delivered on that promise is another matter entirely.
I've still got my original Xbox copy of Doom 3, which is backwards-compatible with the Xbox 360, and the difference is initially obvious. The BFG Edition's widescreen resolution and some remastered textures have made Doom 3 stack up favourably with early Xbox 360 and PS3 games, though lacking the graphical grunt that we've come to expect over the last three years. All computer screens have notably been sharpened up to exquisite levels, which heightens immersion since you can directly interact with them via your crosshair. PC owners running id Tech 4 mods will laugh long and hard, but console owners will be pleasantly surprised and frequently impressed - not least because the dynamic lighting is still incredibly atmospheric.
However, it's clear that many textures received used more attention than others, featuring some muddy floors, walls and fuzzy fonts that jar with the pin-sharp in-game screens. The difference between a lusciously detailed information panel and its hilariously pixelated "information" sign texture is embarrassing to say the least. Character models also look exceptionally dated, to the extent where you can count the polygons in Councillor Swan's head on one hand (perhaps I'm exaggerating slightly, but frankly you'll find a more natural-looking human in Red Dwarf's Kryten). Basically, the BFG Edition gives Doom 3 a new lick of paint rather than a complete overhaul.
Frame rate is a key concern on consoles. When Doom 3 hits 60 FPS, which is most of the time, it looks incredibly fluid. Detailed enemy animations and the aforementioned dynamic lighting help to lift the slightly mediocre texture work and conspire to create an oppressive atmosphere of preternatural wrongness. Sadly, at least as far as the Xbox 360 version is concerned, the frame rate sometimes slips to less than one per second. Though this is a rare occurrence, usually in conjunction with the appearance of fireball-hurling Imps, it's difficult not to feel a little cheated after forking out for a slideshow.
So, the decent-if-unspectacular graphical update notwithstanding, how well has the gameplay held up?
As a horror game, Doom 3 has held up very well indeed. id Software painted their hellish industrial canvas with stark light and deep shadow, creating a truly tense and perfectly-choreographed haunted house full of monster closets and horrifying demonic imagery. The best scripted jump scares are sadly dealt with in third person cutscenes, which was an immersion killing mistake that feels even more idiotic in 2012, but id really knew how to hit players below the belt. Enemies frequently spawn behind you, in previous rooms that you'll often retreat through, sometimes leading to painful moments of exquisite panic. Oftentimes, there'll be no enemies at all - just dark corridors pregnant with potential threat.
The perfect balance of claustrophobia, isolation, loneliness and cheap panic scare tactics still feels relevant today - so if you have a decent sound system, ensure that you crank the volume up and turn the lights way down. It's a case of old tech, evergreen terror.
However, time has not been kind to Doom 3's core FPS action. It's still as fun and engaging as ever, but the little details start to show their age. Even the biggest guns lack weight and power behind each shot, making your arsenal feel weak and limp. Gunplay and challenge feels similarly flat and linear in parts, rarely picking up in intensity until the final act. The decision to remove the handheld torch in favour of a suit-mounted rechargeable lamp proved to be a double-edged sword, in that it takes up the important (non-rebindable) left trigger and defuses the disempowering terror of having to sacrifice guns for a light source. Long load times and unbelievably long autosaves frequently annoy, and bizarrely, there's also no option to rebind controls, activate subtitles or skip cutscenes.
In the interests of saving time, the multiplayer is still as pointless, clunky and crap as you remember. Moving on.
Personally, I feel that id Software should have used the opportunity to tune the gameplay as well as the graphics, since even the thickest rose-tinted spectacles will crack before too long. Doom 3 is still a worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable romp with some hatefully scary moments. But it's very much a product of its time; a worthwhile history lesson rather than a return to glory.
The BFG Edition also includes the Resurrection Of Evil expansion pack, Doom 1 and Doom 2, all of which are well worth playing (so long as you don't install it to your Xbox 360 hard drive, at which point the original games refuse to load). In terms of new content, it also offers The Lost Missions: eight new levels that run parallel to the original campaign. They're tight and well-paced, providing a few hours of frantic fun despite featuring a fair few recycled environments. Considering that the UAC Mars facility was probably pre-fabricated, I'm not too worried about the occasional bit of familiar geometry.
Is this enough, though? I'm not convinced. At the risk of sounding incredibly ungrateful, this is supposed to be a 20th anniversary celebration of the franchise, yet the BFG Edition packages its content in the most brusque and unimaginative way possible. Doom 1 and 2 have been squashed into unsightly resolutions, with less features than the XBLA versions, and the menus are basic to the extreme. It doesn't feel like a special edition, lacking a bestiary, documentaries or extra content for fans to enjoy (contrasting sharply with the extras-laden special edition on the original Xbox).
All in all, The BFG Edition is still a worthwhile package and purchase, but perhaps not a fitting anniversary present for such a classic series.
- Incredibly atmospheric, evergreen scares
- Loads of content
- Widescreen graphical is frequently impressive...
- ... if very inconsistent
- Core gunplay feels very dated, some wasted scares
- Performance and frame rate issues on consoles
The Short Version: Doom 3 manages to as be tense, intense as visceral as you remember despite plenty of annoying anachronisms.
The BFG Edition comes packed with an impressive and worthwhile amount of content for a modest price, but its inconsistent graphical update, coupled with questionable console performance and a lack of fan service extras, make us wonder whether the series' 20th anniversary deserved slightly better.