Doom 3: BFG Edition Review
Developer: id Software / Publisher: Bethesda Softworks / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $39.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence]
For reasons I’ve never understood, the gaming community rejected Doom 3 when it first released in 2004. Near as I can figure, it was really similar to teenagers rebelling against their parents. One of those ‘Screw you Doom we’re totally grown up now and no I won’t turn my music down because Linkin Park GETS ME’ type of rebellions. With the release of Doom 3: BFG Edition, gamers have a chance to take a second look at a game that I’ve always loved. Doom 3 is a simple and extremely fun shooter, even if id Software missed some opportunities in remaking the game.
Doom 3 is a surprisingly faithful game, even though it may not seem like it in the first few hours. The gameplay is universally appealing in its simplicity — you run down dark corridors shooting demons, picking up ammo and health, and occasionally pecking around for keys (disguised as PDAs in Doom 3). As in previous Dooms, the core of the game’s fun is that it’s extremely tight, responsive, and immersive.
Shooting enemies in Doom 3 is just plain fun, and the gunplay mechanics scale incredibly well with higher difficulties. Normal difficulty won’t give you much pause, but harder difficulties will have you carefully rationing out your ammunition and make very consequential choices about which gun to use against which enemy, or which enemy to target down first in a combination of several types. This gameplay is timeless, and is as effective in Doom 3 as the original Doom.
There are some changes in Doom 3: BFG Edition that impact the gameplay, though. In the original Doom 3, you couldn’t have your flashlight and a gun out simultaneously. At the time, this frustrated many players who couldn’t understand why a futuristic space station didn’t have a roll of duct tape laying around. In BFG, your space marine comes equipped with a shoulder-mounted flashlight that can be turned on and off at whim. It is ostensibly limited by a flashlight meter that drains, but it refills so quickly when turned off it may as well be unlimited. Having unlimited access to light changes several portions of the game that are crafted around making the choice between visibility and weaponry, such as a portion where you must guard a scientist that walks through a pitch black area holding a lamp. I prefer the tension of the original, but I chalk that up to taste.
In addition to the original Doom 3, BFG also includes Doom 1, Doom 2, the Resurrection of Evil expansion for Doom 3, and an entirely new campaign called The Lost Mission. Resurrection of Evil is a fantastic expansion and spiritually harkens the monster-thick levels of Doom II. The Lost Mission, however, is a huge disappointment. I was hoping for new or interesting levels, but over half of the two-hour campaign is reconstituted from Doom 3 content. The new hell levels are fun, but that section of the new content can be finished in thirty minutes or less.
VISUALS AND SOUND
For a game that’s almost a decade old, Doom 3 has aged incredibly well. BFG slaps a fresh coat of paint on the game in the form of some new textures, but otherwise the visuals are mostly untouched. Everything about Doom 3 is a gooey love letter to horror sci-fi movies, particularly James Cameron’s Aliens. Strobing lights, klaxons, and mysterious bursts of steam litter hallways filled with nondescript machinery and, as the game progresses, amusingly brash satanic imagery. It’s a 14 year old kid’s hardcore wet dream, brought to life in incredible detail. The game runs at sixty frames per second too, which has a profound impact on the fluidity of the play.
BFG is visually different than Doom 3 in a few ways, however. First off, your shoulder light doesn’t cast any shadows. Perhaps I’m too used to the original Doom 3, but the game looks flat without the dynamic shadows from the light. Second, in BFG the muzzle flashes from the guns don’t cast light. In the original Doom 3, the light thrown by firing a gun turned several demonic firefights into these awesome strobing action set pieces. In BFG, those scenes aren’t present.
The game’s audio is much, much better however. BFG introduces a whole new soundscape for the game. I usually dislike using such haughty terms as ‘soundscape,’ but I can’t think of a better term. Similar to Dead Space, there’s a whole world of creepy environmental sounds playing in Doom 3 rather than a running soundtrack. BFG’s audio is much creepier than the original Doom 3 — you can hear screams in the distance, random baby cries, backwards talking, the whole gamut. Additionally, though I lament the new content’s brevity, the voice work in The Lost Mission is fantastic.
Control options in BFG Edition are disappointingly limited. The game itself is extremely responsive and snappy. In fact, BFG Edition joins id’s previous game Rage in being the most tactile shooters I’ve played on a console (sharing Rage’s engine helps, I’m sure). However, you have almost no liberty to customize those controls. You can swap the left and right sticks, swap the Y and A buttons, and tweak the sensitivity. That’s it. This is extremely frustrating because sprint is bound permanently to clicking the left stick. Sprint is extremely important in Doom 3, especially on higher difficulties, and clicking in the stick while moving it around is awkward and uncomfortable. Even to the end of the game, I’d pull the left trigger to sprint only to shine a monster in the face with my flashlight before I ate a rocket.
Additionally, switching guns is surprisingly cumbersome. The XBLA Doom games very intelligently map groups of guns to the D-pad: up for rocket launcher, right to switch between shotguns, etc. There are a few shortcuts on the d-pad in BFG, but they’re only for specialty weapons like grenades or the soul cube. Again, the ability to change those bindings is desperately missed.
BFG Edition does include multiplayer, but it’s just as basic as the original Doom 3’s. The list of modes is curt: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, and Tournament. The multiplayer is just as enjoyable as Doom or Quake have ever been, but I feel like the lack of modes, maps, and a persistent leveling system will turn most gamers off.
Doom 3 has aged fantastically well. Provided you haven’t already played the games in this collection, BFG Edition is also a solid value. However, if you already own the XBLA Doom games or have played Doom 3 on PC, recommending BFG Edition becomes less easy to do. As a fan of Doom 3, I feel like BFG Edition misses a good deal of its potential, especially if you compare it to last year’s Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. Doom 3 newbies should jump right in but veterans should weigh their options first.
+ Doom 3fun still holds up
- Lack of control customizations
- Disappointingly short new content
7 / 10