In 1993, id software released a game that pushed the boundaries of what a video game could actually be. A first person shooter in a fully 3D environment which gave many people a sense of the future, not to mention hours of fun. Some other folks however, decided that this was the root of all evil, a hellish murder simulator that would taint the youth forever. Doom was that game.
Doom was followed by a similar sequel, aptly named Doom 2. In 2004 Doom 3 was released for the PC and on the original Xbox 1 year later. I never actually played any of these games, and the 2012 Doom 3 BFG Edition for the Xbox 360 would be my first glimpse into this important and controversial part of gaming history. Can an 8-year-old game hold its own against modern competition with just a facelift and a HD upgrade?
The new edition features all 3 Doom games and although I tried the original first and was suprised how much fun an 18 year old murder simulator could be, I will stick with the not (quite) so old 3rd installment for this review.
The game focuses on a corporation with “unlimited funds” (thats what it says) called the United Aerospace Corporation (UAC). They have so much money that they can apparently work “outside of moral and legal obligations” and have a base on Mars. Staff on the base seem to be a bit paranoid, you know the symptoms; not sleeping, worrying about the power blackouts, attacking each other and cutting their own tongues in half. Beyond even the relaxing power of camomile tea I would imagine. This may have something to do with the secret research in the Delta sector but nobody knows much about that. The player arrives on a ship and docks at the Mars base. A marine with no name.
The natural place to start with a review of an HD re-release is the graphics. As a newcomer to Doom, I can give an untainted opinion of how they stack up today. “Marine” is immediately greeted by a bald guy upon alighting from the ship, then, subsequently, meets a couple more baldies. This being an older game, these poor characters have an extra reason to hate losing their hair, namely that their heads are a bit pointy in a polygon kind of way. I guess pointy heads were easier to code in 2004 than Bon Jovi locks. Facial detail and expressions look dated and give a slightly poor first impression.
The bulk of the game takes place inside of a base complex and graphically, it is realized wonderfully. There is plenty of color and the textures are detailed and bright. Even during the first few minutes I got a sense of the effort and hard work that went into making the world an interesting place to be. There is always something to look at, be it machinery working away, dodgy equipment malfunctioning or robotic drones going about their chores. The PDA and interactive screens that can be found around the base are easy to navigate, easy to read and look great.
A massive aspect of this game is the lighting. It is generally bright as a summers day or black as night with nothing in between, but the way shadows move around and create atmosphere is truly exceptional.The sense that this was a once functioning, living, breathing industrial space complex, now filled with horror and destruction, is delivered with flair.
You have a torch, and I believe that in the original version you could not shoot and shine at the same time. Now you can. There is a fierce debate as to whether this is is a good thing or not. There is always a right time to sit on the fence while they fight it out below and this, for me, is one of those times.
The Marine’s victims, aka “the monsters”, are also done very well. They either had a better makeover than the humans or were just blessed at birth. Either way, they look great. To be honest though, you don’t get a great deal of time to look at the buggers. They will turn you into jam if you dare look at their pixels for any length of time. Monsters have pixel related anger issues I guess. We all have our crosses to bear.
The game runs at 60 fps and it feels like it. Things often become frantic in Doom 3 and there is never an interruption in the sheer fluidity of the experience, bar the auto-saves. I really enjoyed the way this game looked. It was a welcome change to play a PC game that has been upgraded to fit the Xbox 360 rather than scaled down. It really feels like a game running at its best.
The sound is also something that could concern people who are thinking about buying an older game. There is plenty of atmosphere building stuff going on and audio set pieces that are designed to make you jump. You have a radio communication device which will allow you to receive instruction from the commander, cries for help and even the death wails of some poor souls. The game is equally intense in its approach to audio as it is to its gameplay and sound can sometimes be cluttered. It can often be difficult to hear speech due to the madness going on around you. Again, atmosphere and tension is ramped up considerably due to the no-holds barred approach to audio.
On the gameplay side, Doom 3 is a lot of fun to play. The shooting is broken up with light exploration as you hunt for health packs, ammo, armors and staff files to update your PDA, including emails, audio logs and video streams. Walking around while listening to audio files to get a clue to a locker code can go from being a patience exercise, to an all out fight for life in a split second. It is advisable to be aware of this at all times.
The enemies range from slow, lumbering zombies and armed marines to spiders, flying skulls and demons. There are plenty of new beasties revealed as you progress, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some will fire projectiles, others will charge at you directly and some will swarm you in numbers. Spiders do this effectively and I bloody hate them.
There are a few big bosses to deal with along the way too, though these are fairly standard fare. You also have a growing arsenal of weapons at your disposal as you progress, but you’ll start the game with only a weak pistol. There is a rifle, shotgun, plasma gun, chainsaw, grenades and the fabled weapon of mass destruction, the BFG. (It does not stand for “Big Friendly Giant” by the way). All the guns are fired without the need to look down the sights. This may be due to the age of the game but rarely would there be an opportunity to scope a weapon as when one enemy appers, many more follow. They hide in the shadows, teleport behind you, burst out of secret cupboards and give little time for thought or planning. It is a shooter that forces you to rely on twitch reflexes, a cool head and a fully loaded weapon. Entering a room with half a clip will be punished as will any complacency. Any small amount of tactical play comes with weapon selection and ammo preservation.
There is a challenge to be found here, even on the standard difficulty. I’m sure the hardest (2 levels up) is a nightmare and it can only be unlocked by completing the game on the second hardest setting.The disc has all the expansions for Doom 3 including some brand new material, a pretty standard multiplayer deathmatch component and the first two Doom games. Considering that this is a budget title, there is a lot of content.
Doom 3 is a pure survival horror game where the fear and tension comes in waves. Low health creates a real sense of unease as you try to sneak about, all the while knowing it will do you no good but still hoping that the noises you hear are in the next room and not in the dark corner nearby. You may try to backtrack in the hope of finding a health pack that you missed only to be jumped by an enemy that missed you. It is a really fast and intense experience that fully deserved to be brought to the Xbox 360 as the core game is solid and the upgraded game engine is a good fit. It shows its age sometimes, but mainly because it has a simple, effective approach. It has never heard the word “lag” and does not understand what “texture pop in” even means.
Some small areas could have been polished up a bit more graphically, I would have liked a toggle crouch option and multiplayer is pretty weak. Apart from that, this is a great game that stands on its own two feet against modern competition but with a cut down price. I really enjoyed reviewing this game and feel that I experienced a classic game at its best.