DOOM 3 was one of my favorite games when I first played it almost eight years ago. It was freaky, challenging, filled with thrills and chills, and was essentially a combination of first-person shooter and survival/horror themes and mechanics. It really worked beautifully and I remember being quite gratified with the whole experience. That’s why I was excited to dive back into that dark, foreboding world when DOOM 3 BFG Edition arrived. Sadly, while some older games age like a fine wine, others age like…milk.
The graphics are by far the biggest problem. I’m one of the first to give a pass to subpar visuals provided the gameplay rules the school, but when the full experience is heavily reliant upon the visual presentation for the overall fun factor, it can’t be glossed over. Unfortunately, DOOM 3 looks almost archaic; the textures are terrible, the narrow, confining corridors seem more repetitive, and there are really ugly hard-edged lines and malformed features everywhere. The enemy design remains great but this is a perfect example of just how far the genre has come.
The sound holds up a little better, but that’s only because the majority of what you hear is silence tinged with creepy ambient effects. The latter still do a good job of increasing the palpable tension, and those horrid foes emit appropriately terrible sounds when they attack. The soundtrack is okay; I remember it being a little better but then again, standards were lower back then. The music and effects are probably a high point for the production but because even these seem dated, they only turn our attention to how much time has passed since DOOM 3 originally released.
They just didn’t take any time or effort to update and upgrade, which definitely needed to happen. When you look at the gameplay, one finds a familiar concept and solid, reliable control. But at the same time, when faced with an obviously archaic technical presentation, which has a negative impact on every aspect of the game, you’re disappointed with every step. You’re saying to yourself— “Yeah, I remember this…it was pretty cool and it kinda still is. But man, time goes fast .” You’re trying to be nostalgically entertained, but it just isn’t working.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, shooters have made tremendous strides over the past generation and a half. I’m speaking mostly in a technical sense, although even the storylines and general artistry has gotten much better. For a game like DOOM , we require some super stellar graphics, an environment that is believable and effective, so we ultimately feel very alone and very vulnerable. The feeling of being hunted is paramount in such a game, which is part of the reason I say DOOM III utilizes distinct elements of the survival/horror category.
But when you can’t deliver that environment, when it’s paling in direct comparison to the competition, you’re simply not as emotionally invested in the action. Furthermore, the realism of shooters has really gone through the roof; the kickback of the weapons, the movement of the character, the tremendous audio, etc. This is found wanting in the BFG Edition of what once was a fantastic game. The weapons don’t feel or sound powerful (with a few cool exceptions) or the lack of general authenticity makes this feel more like a cartoon and less like a tension-filled quest for survival.
Then you’ve got the old-fashioned save system; the time between auto-saves is too long and if you screw up a certain difficult encounter, you might lose a lot of progress unless you manually saved along the way. There isn’t much health lying around, either, but I don’t mind this because it should be a challenge to emerge victorious; there should be this awful sense of urgency and desperation that accompanies your adventure. That’s still here to some extant and with games getting easier these days, it’s nice to see this focus on some stiff difficulty. Gotta plan ahead and gotta execute.
Perhaps the best that can be said for this new edition is that despite the obvious shortcomings, it’s still quite atmospheric. There’s really nothing like it today; shooters are either military or sci-fi, and they don’t normally go all freaky on you. F.E.A.R. is the closest but in all honesty, if you want a blend of FPS and survival/horror, I’d have to recommend F.E.A.R. 3 . At least that feels a bit more modern and there’s still a hefty challenge involved, too. It’s the only other shooter I can think of that provides the player with a truly frightening environment through which you creep, listening intently.
Plus, it’s nice to have the eight new levels (known as the Lost Mission) and the Resurrection of Evil expansion. And with the first two DOOM titles thrown in, how can you go wrong when revisiting the classics? After all, this is a well-known and respected name in the genre; DOOM is one of of the franchises that started it all. So we should definitely give it the proper respect. However, those new levels and extra content can’t change the fact that above all else, everything appears and feels dated. Rather than a frightened sensation, we feel a trifle bored…and a little empty.
The DOOM 3 BFG Edition still boasts some decent thrills here and there, it controls fine, and the atmosphere remains impressive. However, id Software didn’t do enough (if they did anything) to upgrade the presentation, so we’re left with glaringly old-fashioned technical elements that hinder the quest at every turn. You still have to appreciate the style just because you see it so rarely, but that isn’t quite enough. There are a ton of great games out there right now, and the new shooters clearly outstrip this game. Hence, it seems that nostalgia isn’t always all we need…
The Good: Freaky, creepy atmosphere. Good enemy design and effective ambient sound effects. Smooth, reliable control. Bonus content adds longevity.
The Bad: Outdated graphics lead to a lesser experience. Old-fashioned save system is a downer. Repetitive areas. Weapons don’t sound or feel powerful.
The Ugly: “Didn’t feel like touching up those chunky textures even a little, huh?”