Game: Doom 3 BFG Edition
Developer: id Software
Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
2013 will see Doom turn twenty years of age. And while John Romero hasn’t exactly made the gaming industry his bitch in the ensuing years, he certainly changed its landscape forever when he designed the seminal 1993 shooter, which would help to popularise the FPS genre, and make terms like “Deathmatch” a familiar part of the video game lexicon. Building upon the success of their clunky Nazi killing First Person Shooter Wolfenstein 3D, Romero and id Software transplanted the action to Mars, added some unsettling Satanic monstrosities, and pioneered not only networked multiplayer, but also the kind of meat-headed space marine style aesthetics that are seen so often in today’s games like Gears of War or even Halo.
The sense of immersion that the viewpoint and the creepy enemies created was also a big influence on the Sci-Fi horror genre that has been taken to wild, underpant filling frightening extremes in titles like Dead Space and Bioshock. Without Doom, you wonder what direction the games industry would have taken. It was that important a release, and one which changed the way we play and think about games forever.
As well as the numerous clones, mods and rip-offs that ensued, and of course the similarly influential Quake series that Romero and id went on to create, Doom received its own sequels, continuing the story of protagonist Doom Guy – as he was affectionately known – kicking some Satan-spawn ass all up in Phobos and other space locales, and even on a nightmarish, demon-seed infested Earth. The plot running through all of the Doom games which (like horror classic The Fly) teaches us that messing around with teleportation never seems to end well, tells the tale of how an attempt to create a teleport link between Phobos and Deimos ends up going horribly wrong, unleashing the nightmarish denizens of Hell, possessing humans into the bargain, turning them into bloodthirsty demonic space zombies.
To celebrate two decades of blasting Cyberdemons to smithereens, id Software have teamed up with new buddies Bethseda to present something of an ultimate package for connoisseurs of the series. For a budget price, you get a disc containing the first two Doom games, as previously released on Xbox LIVEArcade, as well as a new version of Doom 3, which has been made over in HD with support for stereoscopic 3D, and includes the 2005 Resurrection of Evil expansion, yet even adds a brand new mission and variety of multiplayer modes into the bargain. The early Doom games were already included with the Doom 3 expansion back in 2005, and have been available for a long time on XBLA, so a lot hangs on how much you value the overhauled graphics, multiplayer and all-new mission that BFG Edition serves up for Doom 3 fans.
The first two Doom games are extremely primitive run and gun shooters, which serve more as a fun piece of gaming history, a nostalgic look at how things have evolved in the ensuing years. Both games are shockingly difficult when played on the higher settings, and the included Achievements will take even the most hardened gamer a while to unlock. There are multiplayer maps to play with, as well as support for on and offline co-op, but these are not games that lend themselves well to this kind of thing, in this day and age. I must also point out that it is amazing to think that the levels of violence and Satanic imagery in these titles shocked parents, moral crusaders and even politicians to such a degree back in the early 1990s, as now it almost seems cartoon-like and tongue in cheek when placed up against the horrors gamers can readily interact with.
Doom 3 on the other hand, was a terrific game when it originally came out, and stands up extremely well today. A first-rate horror shooter which featured state of the art PC graphics at the time (the Xbox port was understandably inferior). This HD remake is the best console version of the game you could possibly wish for, and while it does have a few little issues, it serves as a fine way to hold you over until a new Doom title finally emerges.
Playing the part of an unnamed space marine, the game features a number of lengthy FPS missions that pit you up against swathes of zombie-like possessed humans and terrifyingly realised monsters in a variety of dark, atmospheric settings. Opening with a tried and tested narrative in which you slowly find out that things have gone hugely awry during a routine search and rescue-style mission, the game features some memorable set pieces, boss battles and enjoyable weaponry, as well as the minor puzzle elements that are part and parcel for the genre, based around the use of your hero’s PDA device, which is used to read emails, listen to voice dispatches and get briefings, which often reveal clues about how to open doors and lockers, and which way to go next. There are save checkpoints, but you can also save the game any time you like,
The control scheme is one area of the game that has always suffered slightly with a control pad. Doom 3 was designed with mouse-clutching PC gamers in mind, and therefore the aiming system, and particularly the way you have to use the way you are facing to aim a reticule at things like computers, consoles, door opening systems and even to input codes on a keypad – can sometimes seem a bit awkward, despite the tweaks to the game for this new release. Elsewhere you move with the left stick, look around with the right and peel off rounds with the right trigger. There is no floating crosshair here, but there is an infra-red-style beam that shows which direction you are shooting in. The weapon system is taken care of with the bumpers; left and right buttons scrolling through your available arsenal, including your melee weapons, for which there is no dedicated button. A new tweak to this version of the game is the fact that you can now use your flashlight at the same time as shooting. As most of the game is set in very dark environments, which require almost constant use of the torch, this is a great addition that makes perfect sense.
Apart from the human character models (which look rather dated) the game looks excellent, the HD makeover adding a real sparkly sheen to proceedings. id have used the same graphics engine that they employed when creating RAGE, and while it is still not up to the level of a Gears or any other current gen title, it is a stand up job of re-imagining a game from the best part of ten years ago. The stereoscopic 3D is also some of the best I have seen on the Xbox 360. I tested it using the passive 3D my TV allows, and was impressed at how much it added to the experience, even if the game is noticeably quicker when played without it.
The Dolby Digital support is less impressive, however. I was using a tasty gaming headset when initially playing the game, so there were no outside distractions. While some of the sonic trickery is pretty cool – such as the way the sounds become louder on things like televisions when you face them or move closer to them, the way the sound is mixed can serve up situations where the incidental music drowns out the sound of someone talking through your PDA, or the overly enthusiastic screams of an approaching Daemon will be way too high in the mix. Perhaps most disappointingly of all, the guns are a sorry, damp squib. Initially I put it down to the calibre of gun I was holding – the basic pistol has no right to go off like Dirty Harry’s .44 – but upgrading to a shotgun or even the mythical BFG makes no difference, the gun sound effects are weak. When I am emptying a shotgun into a Hellbeast, I expect it to resonate in my ears, as well as in the vibration of the controller, to really let me know I am killing something, and killing it good. Instead some of the ballistic sounds are less powerful than a farting baby. Take that from someone who knows.
Doom 3 is a meaty old game, and the Resurrection of Evil expansion pack, which follows the story from the original game, is more of the same satisfying FPS horror action. Capping things off is the inclusion of The Lost Mission; a new seven-stage affair which features a kind of remixed set of levels from the original game, with a heavy emphasis on action rather than exploration and storytelling. The multiplayer maps are fun, but the original was never really intended to be about online play, the same way as fans were missing the point when moaning about the original Bioshock not shipping with a ton of deathmatches and whatnot. This is a game that needs to be enjoyed as a single player experience, first and foremost.
VERDICT: BFG Edition is a strong package, which for a low price (£24.99/$39.96) gives you a highly impressive HD remake of a classic game, with a pleasant dose of nostalgia thrown in along the way. It also reminds you of how cool the Doom universe is, the Satanism in Space premise is fun and at times genuinely scary, even if it took them a while to get there from the cartoon-y face at the bottom of your original Doom screen, to the bloodthirsty Lovecraftian terrors that inhabit Doom 3. Well worth revisiting.