Reviews

DOOM 3 BFG Edition

December 10, 2012, Author: Neil Hickton

You’ve played DOOM, I know you have. No self-respecting gamer could possibly hold their own, in a conversation about any other first person shooters, without having played at least the first level. Reasons are obvious I’m sure. How would you know how far shooters have come? It’s amazing to even imagine that you couldn’t even look up or down, jump even. Oh how we laugh about it and lightly slap our thighs in amusement.

So you’ve played it? Yes? …No? Really? Am I really that old now that there are gamers out there that haven’t played DOOM? Alright, I get it; it is really old-school. How about DOOM 2? Sure you did. No!? You’re messing with me, aren’t you?

So what you’re telling me is that you’ve been playing all of these triple-A shooters, your Call of Duties, your Battlefields, your Halos and your My Little Pony Battle Stars. I understand. I may have made that last one up, but they’re good aren’t they, perhaps great even. Yet don’t you feel the hankering, the awe of wonder and the lust for adventure into the unknown distant past, into a story set in corporate-owned future hell? Yes, yes, yes?

DOOM 3 BFG Edition: we’ve mused (albeit unoriginally) on the podcast a few times now that it’s the Roald Dahl-inspired and much-needed Big Friendly Giant version of DOOM 3. The version that you never thought you needed. Complete with snozzcumbers and terribly damaging whizzpoppers! Luckily it’s not that at all; it’s something much better.

Out of the box you get the original DOOMDOOM 2, a remastered DOOM 3 and some extra content, some old and some new. Let the gates of hell re-open (again), before I have to go shopping for some more milk…

Old imps for new money
Here lies a problem with many of the DOOM 3 BFG Edition reviews you may have already seen and read; they only appear to review DOOM 3. They forget that the evil love child of Wolfenstein and platformer Commander Keen, “DOOM“, and its little (bigger, better) brother “DOOM 2” are also included in the BFG Edition pack.

DOOM happens to be in its The Ultimate Doom version, and comes with the extra hard-as-nails episode called Thy Flesh Consumed. This means there are four large episodes of mayhem to keep you occupied. DOOM 2 comes with the additional episode No Rest For The Living. Meanwhile, the fancy DOOM 3 comes with two expansions: Resurrection of Evil (that famously introduced a Half-Life 2 style gravity gun); and the exclusive, only available to this edition, The Lost Mission.  That’s an awful lot of DOOM.

Seeing as I’ve mentioned DOOM and DOOM 2, I should state that playing them again after so many years away from them is great. Whilst they are old and their graphics are dated, it doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to play. In fact, they are arguably still more fun to play than a lot of more recent titles.

I’ve hinted there is a story, but I’m not really sure if it’s really worth spoiling it for you, given you’ve never played DOOM (pah!). Given all this content, you would think there would be a staggering amount of story to follow; there isn’t. Though to be fair, you are given enough reason to press fire, even if it’s just initially in self defense. DOOM 3′s story follows the fairly thin premise of “Evil Doctor plots to unleash hell and succeeds but you’re gonna show him, oooraah”, which I’m sure you’ve read, watched and played a few times before.

It’s a suitably dark tale that is drip fed to you in bite-size form, via short cut-scenes that you can’t skip and emails on PDAs you find on your way around a Mars-based space station. With Mars being so popular this year what with that-there Curiosity Rover (not the game), perhaps this is why id Software decided to release the DOOM collection again?

You play a nameless marine, who is brought to said space station on the same vessel as two of the story’s main characters, Elliot Swann and Jack Campbell. As to why you are there is seemingly coincidental, as you are only there to take on the menial security work that there doesn’t seem to be any real need for.

Swann is there to investigate what Dr Malcolm Betruger (the evil doctor) is spending all the UAC’s money on and why his archaeological digs, related research and increasingly crazy experiments, result in more and more accidents. Campbell is a space marine much like yourself; however, he’s there to protect Swann while he goes about his investigation and doesn’t seem to like you much.

The first big breakthrough of Dr Betruger’s work comes to fruition very early on in the game to ensure you’ve got something to shoot at. With that, the gates of Hell are cast wide open and out pops a little floating fiery skull, just for you to aim at.

Bump in the dark
It’s dark in DOOM 3′s corridors, perhaps too dark at times. This does detract from the impact of the “what was that!?” feeling you should experience. Sure, they use most of the effects you would expect to scare and shock you. You know what I mean; open a door, “Argghhh!”.

You need a torch to see at times, else you don’t know which way to go. I’m not sure if the torch time limit really works; I think they should have considered toning down the brightness and perhaps vignette it further, but perhaps that would undo the “remastering” work. In this BFG Edition the torch has received an upgrade, perhaps downgraded in the eyes of some DOOM 3 fans: it can now be used at the same time as firing your weapon. Future tech indeed.

Did you know that in the future, torch batteries used by high-tech marines will only work in intervals of about fifteen seconds? It is a maddening condition, which makes no sense when considering real-world capabilities and the longevity of modern LED technology. At times the player could be forgiven for thinking why were there no candles brought to Mars. Of course it’s a game mechanic, a design used in a few shooters and horror genre games over the years, heightening the imposing sense of dread that the dark can generate in our tiny minds.

The dark is used to hide the spawn of new enemies, that suddenly appear and attack you instantly. Some enemies are cleverly hidden from view of course; these are more fun, as the short glimpse you get of them before they jump out for you is more effective than the immediacy of the nonsense spawning.

Of course things get a whole lot sillier on the spawning front in the new expansion The Lost Mission. These levels see you pitted against everything you played in the main game, only this time it spawns in front of you in a pretty orange and red portal. It’s a small nod to the original DOOM titles and it’s good fun to boot. The one downside I have with this new chapter is that the set pieces have been recycled. It’s unsurprising in a way, after all; why spend lots more time and money creating new stuff when it was made already and it can just be ripped off?

A few fairy lights and some tinsel and this place might look a bit more homely.

There seem to be less simultaneous monsters and things to shoot at in DOOM 3 than in previous titles. This hasn’t really been addressed in this edition either, unless you count The Lost Mission‘s silliness. There’s certainly no Serious Sam-like tendencies here, which keeps the tension higher.

Imps (DOOM‘s generic cannon fodder) seem stronger, but the sidestep-shoot tactic still works. The soldiers seem a bit too static when compared to recently released games, but they are suitably different from the in-your-face imps and varying zombies. There are other creatures too of course; some are small and can fly and others are big, menacing and tricky to take down. The monsters can get a bit samey, but then DOOM 3 is still able to dish out some variety when it needs it.

DOOM 3 was a triple A shooter at its original release, but I feel that more recently released titles eclipse the on-screen action available here. That said, it is still quite capable of making you jump, occasionally at least. Perhaps I’ve played it too much in the past to expect that the opening of a particular door at a particular time would really shock me. It’s still got what it takes though, even if sometimes it’s just too dark to see anything at all, let alone be scared by it.

PDAs lie around everywhere and come complete with key codes for lockers, and without them you wont be able to open doors. Not very secure perhaps, but they are essential to both plot and your progression through the game. Miss one and you will be wandering around the same corridors for while. Reading the emails that can be found on these can be quite amusing, though ultimately distracts you from the main reason you bought the game in the first place. As a reader of emails for work all day, every day, I find this method of story telling really rather boring.

Tasty zombie!
Graphically not much seems to have changed, and if you played the original release you won’t really notice a lot of difference. However, there have been some tweaks and I’m not sure if they are for good or bad. The first thing you will notice is the contrast used by the standard engine has been turned up a little, making things a lot brighter. This changes the aesthetic of the game somewhat, as suddenly you can see things. This clearly lead to a problem when they were working on the update; now that you can see most surfaces easily without being within a foot of it with a torch, they had to improve the textures.

This version is designed for your living room, particularly for that 50″ 3D TV that you never bought. That’s right; it supports 3D out of the box on PC, Xbox and PS3. On the PC version I was happily running at 1080p with 120 frames per second and all in glorious eye-crossing 3D. The 3D is ok, though on my passive 3D monitor the graphics can be a bit jagged at times; this might well be better on an active shutter display. One thing for sure is that when playing this in 3D, the gravity gun effect is horrible. I had to switch the 3D off while the gravity gun was in use, as the focal point is altered in such a way my eyes were never ready for it.

I may be wrong and it could have been just my graphics card and monitor at the time, but the original DOOM 3 release could only manage 1600 x 1200. Here, in the BFG Edition, the resolution is all about the 1080 progressive scan, and as this is now the standard until we get UHDTV, it’s an unsurprising limit.

At times the graphics look dated, but it’s hard to find fault with them other than how the skin tones are insipid and everyone has odd-looking eyes. While they’ve been tarted up, they are nowhere near as good as newer titles or indeed id’s more recent shooter Rage. You would really have to have both versions of the game running side by side at the same time to see the minor improvements. There are improvements, but they are not really enough to warrant your efforts again.

“I couldn’t find my hedge trimmer… will this do?”

Doom! Shake-shake-shake the room
Every game you play has a device in which to interact with, and obviously in an FPS it’s all about the guns. Guns are loud noisy things unless you silence them, and even then the silencers only work for so long. The sound in DOOM 3 can be somewhat odd at times in my opinion, almost lacking the definition and bass that you’d expect. Guns can seem weak because of this, especially my favourite DOOM weapon, the shotgun.

I remember this depressing me upon picking up the much fabled shotgun in the original DOOM 3 release; it sounded a bit damp and squishy, not solid and thumpy as I’d expected. It doesn’t worsen the game, but it certainly doesn’t help to make it better either. I would have liked them to review the sound effects a bit more, particularly the weapons.  They don’t always seem powerful enough either; I know we’re fighting the forces of Hell here, but still.

In addition to the blasts and gun fire, there are all sorts of background noises to contend with while you are fighting for your life. There’s tapping, scraping, moaning, screaming, yelling and people talking over static-filled radios. Much of the story and details of your current mission are fed to you in the background by way of these radio messages.

If you sit in the dark with headphones on and play this game with no other distractions, it will all serve to improve your immersion in the game’s universe. Other than the squishy guns (which perhaps allow you to play the game for longer in one sitting anyway) the sound is very well organised. It’s presented to your ears with enough care that you feel compelled to let yourself drift into this eerie shooter ever further.

Grab a friend and call them names
Perhaps the hardest thing to review is the multiplayer mode. As I reviewed the PC version of DOOM 3, the multiplayer may as well be called Billy-no-mate-solo-menu-player. You can’t set up a game unless you’ve a friend that owns the same version of the game too. You can’t even set up a local bot-only game either.

Though this seems to be a bit of foolish mistake in terms of the game’s longevity, it’s hard to believe that DOOM , DOOM 2 and DOOM 3 would really benefit from a multiplayer mode anyway. After all, the single-player campaigns of these games are so eminently playable now as they ever were that I can’t really believe multiplayer would add anything useful to their repertoire.

I would be interested to hear from anyone that has played DOOM 3′s multiplayer on Xbox 360 or PS3 to explain how it’s on par with the likes of COD or Battlefield‘s multiplayer. I just don’t see how it could compete.

Old spice
The first thing you will notice about this “new” version is that it’s a new level of expensive. New money for old rope as one might say, while rocking your head side to side like a bit of a bounder. The RRP is a staggering £24.99. I bought it via Steam for the PC no less, and it was an impulse purchase. I’ve hit myself since though, as it’s on sale cheaper everywhere now, but this only makes it better value for money.

I hurried my purchase because I wanted, no, I needed the DOOM series back in my life. I hear you ask: “Surely you had them before?”. I did once, in a swirly distant past, but I don’t have a 3.5inch floppy drive any more with which I could install DOOM or DOOM 2 on my future-proofed, forget-the-past PC.

I cant help but feel that DOOM 3 BFG Edition feels a bit old these days, but this box set brings with it a real sense of nostalgia of greater, less stressful times. It may be ageing, but it’s still fabulous to play even if the story is perhaps a little tenuous and the gameplay a little too repetitive. The story seems palpable at best and a Hollywood space action B-movie at worst, though it’s still enough to give you a sense of direction and cause.

Should you buy it? No, but you should try it if you’ve never played DOOM, DOOM 2 or DOOM 3; you might actually really enjoy it. If you’ve played them before, then I see little point in you buying it again. While it pains me to say, what’s on offer here just isn’t enough any more, not even with the fun-to-play exclusive The Lost Mission to tempt you.

tryit

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