Doom 3: BFG Edition – PC
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date (NA): October 16, 2012
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Originally, I was stuck for a while thinking of my next review. I was really looking forward to something full of action, but then I had to focus on something that had a “3” in it for the site’s birthday. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? I had just reviewed Doom II last month, surely Doom 3 would be an easy candidate for this? Except the more I actually thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn’t sure if it really counted as a full-blooded action game, at least not in the way that we expect from a Doom game. So, here we are with a review of the Doom 3: BFG Edition, a remastered version of the original with the expansions packed in, graphics retooled, a couple of mechanics changed, and a few extra surprises for the hardcore Doom fanatic thrown in. Doom 3 used to be the next step in Doom evolution, but after DOOM (4) took its style of play and stomped it into bloody chunks on the cold hard ground, it’s closer to a Neanderthal in the days of Cro-Magnons and true Homo sapiens. It’s a strange transitionary game that does little to resemble what came before or since. Let’s pick up the fossilized pieces and see if we can’t figure out why Doom 3 came out the way it did.
In the nineties, Doom never needed a very serious story. You’re a bad motherfucker out to shoot up some demons what took over the base, that good enough for you, squirt? Stop worrying about where they came from and start worrying about dropping them all with your plasma gun! However, things had changed by 2004, when Doom 3 was originally released. You had to have some kind of story to keep on the curve, and id invested a lot of time in showing what happened at the Mars base before and after the demonic invasion. Maybe too much, actually. With an entire level at the start of the game dedicated to walking around and talking to scientists on your way to the
test chamber decommissioned communications facility, eating Black Mesa Union Aerospace Corporation advertisements on your way to the inevitable moment where shit goes bad and Xen aliens demons start teleporting in everywhere, the whole game really reeks of a Half-Life mimic done too little, too late. And considering that Half-Life 2 came out later that same year and changed everything, only to have Resurrection of Evil straight up “borrow” Half-Life 2‘s most recognizable gun and rename it “The Grabber”, I really feel like id Software was trying to make Doom 3 into something it wasn’t to keep on the cutting edge of gaming.
Now, you may not agree with me, and I respect that. It’s quite a big thing to say that Doom 3: BFG Edition and all of the games packed into it are basically leeching good ideas from all of the games from the decade past and throwing them into one box. But the more I look at it, the less I can deny it. The game’s entire opening level, the many times where you run across living humans, multiple rail shooter sections, every time you have to cross through an explicitly dangerous and overly elaborate scientific deathtrap zone, and especially the BFG Edition‘s choice to give you a mounted flashlight all reek of a game trying to be a modern Half-Life. And then there are points taken from survival horror games like the Resident Evil series, mainly the game’s PDAs, which for the most part replace keys since you upgrade your security clearance by picking certain ones up. Each one shows a little bit more story from other characters’ points of view via apocalyptic logs in audio and text format. I’ll admit that the logs are one of Doom 3‘s better business decisions, it gets pretty hard not to want to pick all of them up and read every email you can, which leads to hilarious results in the starting no-combat level where you can straight up murder two innocent people just to feed your PDA fixation. Guess it was a good thing this mute ponytailed space marine got caught up in a demonic invasion, huh? He might be in a bit of legal trouble otherwise. (Also, why does he look like that guy from Daikatana? Are you trying to make us your bitch again, John Romero?)
But enough about the many ways that Doom 3 was trying to cut itself a slice of the post-Half-Life pie just a little too late, let’s take a look at the ways that Doom 3: BFG Edition tried to improve the formula. Naturally, they packed in the Resurrection of Evil expansion pack, which lets you play with the series favorite Super Shotgun again (yessss), and gives you a couple new toys to play with besides. They also introduce the Lost Mission expansion, which helps it reek even more of the original Half-Life since both of Doom 3‘s expansions kinda remind me of Half-Life‘s standalone expansions Blue Shift and Opposing Force to some degree. The graphics are greatly improved and the HUD is cleaned up. However, the game’s still too dark to really appreciate at times, and I mean that in the literal sense, I can’t see much of anything without the flashlight on half the time.
Now, the matter of the flashlight itself is curiously polarizing. The original Doom 3 had you switch between a powerful handheld flashlight and an actual weapon as a strategic decision, but the Doom 3: BFG Edition removes this “love it or leave it” element of choice by giving you a mounted shoulder light that you can activate and deactivate at will and runs on a battery, just like in Half-Life 2 and any game running on that engine. This was in response to a lot of complaints from fans saying things like “why not tape it to your gun or something?” Say what you will about the classic flashlight-or-gun dilemma, it was at least something Doom 3 came up with on its own and some people actually did like it. But in the BFG Edition, you can’t even switch back to the old ways, it’s shoulder or nothing. Also criticized is the removal of the player’s ability to hotkey their weapons, forcing them to scroll through each one to get the gun they wanted. To an old hat Doom player who understands the need for rapid weapon selection, the switch-out time can be a killer when you’re stuck in an ambush, and I don’t want to run down the wheel too quickly and end up missing the one I want and throwing a grenade at my feet to blow myself up when what I really need is a plasma gun to kill
headcrabs flesh spiders.
As for the rest of the details, there’s nothing that I can say about the Doom 3: BFG Edition that I can’t say in a more in-depth review of Doom 3 all by itself. The UAC is foolishly trusting an Anthony Hopkins lookalike with the teleportation technology that coincidentally goes through Hell, the game’s too hard to see for all of the graphics cards it made people upgrade to back in the day, the environments are way too military-industrial complex and not enough Hell bubbling to the surface, way too much focus is put on making it a survival horror game than just pouring that passion into what id Software’s really good at and making a balls-to-the-wall shooter where you smash enemies into grisly bits. We know all that now that DOOM (4) is out and getting great press all across the board. If I was able to play that game, I would be drooling with joy at the sight of smashing my gauntlets through an imp’s chest, but instead of that Brutal Doom experience that I crave, I have to settle for Doom 3: BFG Edition as my way of reaching the full 3D Doom experience. And when I play that, I don’t drool with joy, I just drool with sleep. I mean it, I’ve come close to nodding off a couple of times when playing this late at night, and that’s not a very good sign whatever you’re playing, but especially not for a game that’s trying to spook you or pump you with adrenaline.
Do I think that id Software could have done better with Doom 3: BFG Edition, or maybe just with Doom 3 in general? Absolutely. But when the game was made, it was made less as a serious Doom game and more as a way for id to float on the tides of change until they could stop following the rest of the industry and do their own thing again. At least, that’s the way I choose to see it. I’m sure many people in id Software felt that this was a good game or a step in the right direction, and maybe a couple of them still feel that way, but the way that DOOM (4) seems to go out of its way to cut from an entirely different cloth from this game and avoid every temptation to do anything this game did, well… As I said, it was a game from a different era. Id’s not like that now, they’re back to the rip and tear that we all hoped to see, and making the Doom game that we’ve been wanting for a long time. So Doom 3 and the Doom 3: BFG Edition seem like just embarrassing and unfortunately necessary chapters in the life of a company waiting patiently to change the face of the industry again (possibly with liberal amounts of rip and/or tear).
Still doesn’t mean I enjoy playing it that much, though. Doom 3: BFG Edition is probably worth one playthrough if you like the strange mix of first-person shooter and survival horror action that this game offers, and just to see the curious story that id Software weaved through the entire thing. But once you’ve gone through it one time, you’ve pretty much tore into all this game has to offer. You’ll get more replay value out of the attached copies of the original Ultimate Doom and Doom II, to tell the truth. Unless, of course, you really enjoy going back to old games with B-movie plot delivery and that early 2000s motion capture goodness in the cutscenes to spice up the moments between constant eye strain and weapon reloading. And if that’s the case, then it’s available on Steam for $19.99. Dig in and remember, you could easily be playing something better…
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