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Giant Bomb Review


Doom 3 Review

  • PC

However you felt about Doom 3 when it came out, BFG Edition isn't the best way to play it today.

Still the market leader in creepy colored lighting.
Still the market leader in creepy colored lighting.

There are two kinds of people in this world: people who loved Doom 3, and people who...well, you know how that goes. Let it suffice that eight years after release, Doom 3 remains a divisive game. Whether you found the juggling of weapons and flashlight to be a taut tension-builder or a tedious chore, thought the monster closets were chilling or just cheesy, odds are Doom 3 left a deep impression on you. Me, I'm a staunch member of the pro-Doom 3 brigade, and while I haven't thought much about the game since I got done with its only expansion pack ages ago, I realized recently that I've been plenty ready for a good excuse to run back through those dimly lit Martian corridors again with all the hindsight the last several years have provided.

Whichever kind of person you are, the new BFG Edition is probably not the Doom 3 you should hold onto for posterity. Far from the loving tribute to an important milestone in modern games it could have been, BFG only adds a couple of esoteric technical features and a short, mediocre new campaign add-on to Doom 3, at the expense of some of the core graphics and gameplay features that defined the game's identity on its initial release. Even the inclusion of Doom and Doom II isn't handled as elegantly as it should be on either console. If you really want a version of Doom 3 to play on your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, BFG Edition works, but it's bafflingly far from ideal.

In this package you get regular Doom 3, the expansion Resurrection of Evil (which added some pretty tasty stuff to the original recipe), and that new eight-level campaign dubbed The Lost Mission. The Lost Mission is not the reason to own the BFG Edition. In addition to the ubiquitous monster closets and red-flash teleporter spawns, the two previous games featured just enough custom-designed action moments and unique enemy entrances to keep things entertaining. Hell, Doom 3 was pretty much the first game to have enemies tearing their way through level geometry in the first place. The Lost Mission has none of that. Its levels feel boxier, more generic, one room of enemy spawns after another stitched together in a fairly uninteresting way. There's a shred of boilerplate story with a few minutes of new voiceover and one character who appears briefly, but none of it is engaging. It's also well on the short side, as it took me only around three hours on the hardest difficulty to get through--though, as repetitive as even I found the enemy encounters toward the end, maybe that's a blessing.

No cacodads were harmed in the writing of this review.
No cacodads were harmed in the writing of this review.

Sadly, even the two original games don't arrive intact in BFG, and it's here where I find the changes made to this collection so perplexing and unfortunate. Like it or hate it, your inability to use a flashlight and weapon at the same time was the defining factor in Doom 3's gameplay cycle and it's largely what created the game's thick sense of tension. Sweeping a darkened room with your light would give you a basic sense of its layout, but if you wanted to defend yourself, you had to rely on your memory, the ambient glow of the facility's remaining computers and machinery, and the muzzle flash of your weapons to make out the shapes of the enemies and put your shots on target. BFG Edition throws all that right out the window, making the flashlight a simple toggle that you turn on and off instantly regardless of what weapon you're holding. The flashlight also bafflingly doesn't cast any shadows off the environment, enemies, or anything else, which may sound like an obscure technical thing but was also instrumental in establishing the visual mood of Doom 3. These changes don't destroy the tension--I still let out a couple of involuntary yelps here and there when a maggot snuck up behind me--but why there's not at least a menu option for classic flashlight mode, I have no idea. There are hardly options for anything, even basic functionality like subtitles, and on the PC, where you expect a healthy set of graphics options but will find none, that's especially damning.

You can add the first two Doom games to the list of BFG's features, but these aren't especially well implemented either. On the 360, you're just launching the Xbox Live Arcade releases from a menu, so if you already bought those, you're getting literally nothing new. (The inability to play these releases from the game's custom menu when the disc is installed is just inexcusable, especially when you can still circumvent the issue by playing them from the dashboard's games library.) Things are a bit rosier on the PS3, which has never seen either of these classics released on PSN, but the ports themselves aren't nearly as snappy as the ones on the Xbox, with slow, clunky menus and a lengthy save process every time you change a menu option.

No flashlight, no shadows, no sale.
No flashlight, no shadows, no sale.

So what are the BFG Edition's pros? Stereoscopic 3D support across the board is the one that's likely to be useful to the most people. Obviously, that largely comes down to your interest in playing games in 3D in the first place, but the 3D separation worked more or less fine on both consoles for me. I occasionally ran into enough crosstalk to make it hard to aim at enemies, but that may have been due to my TV setup and not the game. You can definitely lay the 3D frame rate issues at the game's feet though. Both versions run at a rock-solid 60 frames per second in normal mode, but the frame rate drops substantially in 3D (and noticeably worse so on the Xbox), enough that I preferred just playing it in 2D for a smoother experience. The PC version offers support for the forthcoming Oculus Rift VR headset, which is conceptually a great feature to have, but since even the developer-oriented version of that thing isn't shipping yet, it's not very helpful in practice right now. And the presence of a cool feature you can't actually use yet is especially depressing in light of the poor implementation of some of this collection's more basic features.

I had planned to end this review with a recommendation that, if you don't need 3D or Rift support, you just stick with the regular Doom 3, which is highly moddable and which any modern PC will run perfectly fine. But the original game is no longer available for sale on Steam outside of the hundred-dollar id collection, meaning the BFG Edition is the best you're going to do right now if you want to buy a new copy of a shooter that, for better or worse, ranks among the most hyped video game releases of all time.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+