Published on October 24th, 2012 | by Aidan Fundamenski3
DOOM 3 BFG Edition Review
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: id Software
Prefer moving pictures and sound? Then watch our video review here.
Back In DOOM’s Day
When DOOM 3 came out, the long-awaited second sequel to the first-person shooter that popularised the genre and revolutionised game design, I was an early teenager entering high-school without the slightest intent of entering the field of video game journalism. Now, as the BFG Edition promises to deliver the greatest DOOM experience yet, I’ve been through university, have re-evaluated my life umpteen times, and have matured from a mild-mannered adolescent to a man.
Eight years is a long time, and the release of DOOM 3, a jaw-dropping title that served up some of the slickest visuals across any platform, now seems like a lifetime ago. If a lengthy absence for this franchise has only been rewarded with a repackaging of a game almost a decade old, then there had best be a world’s worth of new content and fresh gameplay to enjoy. Has id Software complied with that charge?
Blast From The Past
For those who haven’t played through the 2004 FPS, Doom 3’s story stays traditionally simple. Just as in the original PC games, you take control of a nameless – and voiceless – space marine who gets sent into the Union Aerospace Corporation’s installation on Mars. The private company’s military-backed research into teleportation and advanced weaponry are headed by the unnerving, half-blind scientist Dr. Betruger, and as you touch down, it quickly becomes obvious that the situation is awry. The UAC board is investigating reports of civilian casualties and unrest, scientists and soldiers alike freaked at increasing numbers of foibles at otherwise routine days at the orbital office.
Then, all hell literally breaks loose. As you attempt to recover another missing researcher who’s desperately trying to send warning of an imminent apocalyptic threat, a portal connected to a demonic realm opens, and the forces of Hell invade. It then becomes your objective to escape the facility, to prevent the fire-friendly fiends from getting to Earth, and of course, to survive. It’s a straightforward plot, and rightly so. A title like DOOM does not claim to be complicated and DOOM 3 honours that lack of panache with a frank horror tale and a formulaic fighter in its leading role. It’s unassuming, but it’s enough.
The BFG Edition also includes the original DOOM, DOOM II, the Resurrection of Evil expansion to DOOM 3, and The Lost Mission: an ‘all-new’ series of levels that were cut from the game. The former two are unchanged from their most recent downloadable counterparts, available on Xbox Live. If you’ve already forked up the Microsoft Points, you’ll get nothing here but frame-for-frame clones. And considering they were already included in Resurrection of Evil seven years ago, these are obvious bullet points that do nothing to impress. The 2005 expansion pack is included here and is also pretty much how you remember it.
The Lost Mission is really the only new content you’re getting here, but ‘new’ is used loosely. You take command of one of the marines in Bravo Team, instead of the controllable hero in the core game, and advance through the Hell-infested halls of the UAC base from a different perspective, much like Half-Life’s Blue Shift, or Halo 3’s ODST. The problem is that many of the areas are simply copy-and-pasted from DOOM 3. You’re just retreading familiar topography. Even the new areas provided, given the monotony of the corridored terrain, don’t give you much of a different playing ground. Ultimately, this is an all-together sloppy package that will disappoint fans longing for loads of new, original content.
Welcome To The Gun Show
DOOM is the shooter of shooters, and DOOM 3 – core game and expansions – features some of the most solid gunplay you can find. A pistol, shotgun, repeating rifle, chainsaw, and a charging cube that obliterates an enemy instantly are a few of the weapons afforded. A slight deviation from the originals of the ‘90s, the gameplay is more survival-horror than run-and-gun. Advancing through the UAC’s blood-spattered vestibules, you’ll routinely enter a room, hear a forewarning noise, and have to contend with a number of demons. Scares are pretty much dependent on possessed engineers emerging from some darkened corner of the room that suddenly opens up when your back is turned.
One thing is for sure: this is not as terrifying a game in 2012 as it was in 2004. Yes, we’ve grown up since then. But another reason is more evident. Just like the Resident Evil series, the gameplay has become more convenient, and thus not as pulse-pounding. The most striking adjustment in the BFG Edition is that you are now equipped with an armour-mounted flashlight, meaning that you can use your torch while torching up the place.
The inability to use your light and your weapon concurrently was definitely frustrating. See or shoot, you couldn’t do both. Let alone the fact that it made no logical sense at all – that a trained soldier in the 22nd Century cannot even hold the flashlight with his other hand while using his sidearm is still laughable – it was just a pain in the ass. But just like struggling with awkward controls and camera angles as you found yourself surrounded by zombies, relying on the flash of bullets for light in the pitch black was a careful design decision by id that heightened the game’s horror. Now able to see and shoot, you progress through the game’s quarters more confidently – no longer inching along half scared to death – and therefore it should also be noted that this is an artificially shorter game than before as a result.
id Software have always been defined by technology, setting the benchmark for production values and graphical clout. John Carmack’s design genius powered the company’s early titles, and DOOM 3 was simply one of the greatest looking games of 2004, alongside Far Cry, Ninja Gaiden, Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, and Half-Life 2, among other graphical greats released around the same time. The disparity of the sci-fi sanctum’s sterility turned bloody battlefield was perpetually disturbing and gruesomely comprehensive.
That said, BFG is a sad low-note for the company. In eight years, the visuals are virtually identical. Texture resolution has slightly improved, and the framerate never dips – ironically, this also lessens the horror atmosphere – but heads are still hexagonal, and standing too close to any object is painful to the eyes. As a comparison, last year’s Halo Anniversary attentively updated its precursor’s skin to give the appearance of an Xbox 360 title; id’s job, by contrast, is pathetically poor.
The sound design never needed any improvements. The blast of shredding imps with a shotty has never been more nourishing to the ears, emaciated only by the haunting grumble of an unseen Former Human or the roar of the extremely unsettling ‘Pinky’. PDA’s – pfff, so early 2000’s – are all over the base, their audio files establishing the current carnage’s context – a staple of other horror games like F.E.A.R. – and leaving codes to security lockers usually within the vicinity. The overall ambiance is terrifying, and does its part in keeping you on the edge.
There have been a few other tweaks here and there. A checkpoint system was to be expected, and now ensures that forgetting to save is not punished with thirty-minute retreads. The easy difficulty has also been made easier for those who found the original to be too unforgiving, and there have been a few extra areas thrown in every now and again, particularly one room at the beginning of a game that features ‘Super Turbo Turkey Puncher 3’, an arcade parody of classic DOOM gratuity and a spin on Capcom’s Street Fighter Alpha 3. It’s hilarious, and strangely, it’s the highlight of this package.
Probably the most sloppy of BFG’s misgivings is its main menu. You choose to play DOOM, DOOM II, or DOOM 3 BFG (which includes the core game and its expansions in another sub-menu). Okay, simple enough. The problem is that there’s no way to come back to this menu while in a game. So, if you want to play the original DOOM, and then you suddenly want to play DOOM 3, quitting does not take you to this main menu… it takes you to the Xbox Live Dashboard. Why, exactly? On top of this, at the time this review has been written, installing the game on your hard drive prevents you from playing the first DOOM. For a game that aims to do so much to convenience the player at the expense of its own form, these are serious flies in the ointment.
Die-hards will most likely be satisfied with what they get in this collection, but that id Software could have done so much more to truly provide the greatest combined experience of one of the greatest and most important franchises of all time, and didn’t, is inexcusable.
Summary: A wretched job at updating the game’s graphics, a disappointing expansion in The Lost Mission, and the concession to user feedback via the armour-mounted flashlight, thereby removing the game’s signature scare, leave you with a watered-down DOOM chest that Carmack should be a little embarrassed of. I'd recommend the original on the PC and Xbox if you have yet to play it. Big F*cking Gamers, welcome to an inferior Mars.