When Doom 3 released on the PC in 2004 it was met with positive reviews lauding the title for its atmosphere and impressive graphics. Nevertheless, what is an enjoyable but highly flawed shooter now was once a technical behemoth that helped influence much of what we play today. If you liked shooting stuff, and lots of it, then you really couldn’t go wrong with ID Software’s flagship FPS. It’s been 8 years since its initial release, and despite the improvements the series has given to the genre, time has not been particularly generous.
Before delving into specifics, keep in mind that the Doom 3: BFG Edition retails for under $40 (on Steam) and comes packaged with an HD overhaul, 3D, two expansion packs (The Resurrection of Evil and newly released The Lost Mission), Doom 2 and the original Doom. The expansions add 5-10 hours to the single player game.
In Doom 3 you play a space marine recently transferred to a scientific research facility on Mars, just in time to witness the invasion of demons from hell. Backstory is presented through collecting video and audio logs and scrolling through emails. Kept to a minimum, the narrative works and provides a template for the bulk of the game, which is simply shooting, where its biggest strength lies. Expect to spend 70% of the 10-15 hour campaign spraying the game’s menacing creatures with weapons ranging stock standard FPS fair to room clearing and bone-crunching behemoths. To get through even the normal difficulty you’ll require quick reflexes and a talent for bringing the right weapons to each and every shoot-out. Unforgivable in nature, this game will try to rip your insides out ten times over, making the disintegration of your enemies all the more satisfying.
The atmosphere is well designed, leaving the impression that the space facility has actually been invaded by hell. Blood trails scatter the floors, evil laughs fill rooms only to disappear, and giant organic blood weeds cover the ceiling. Expect to face possessed ex-space marines, fireball throwing monsters and rocket launcher equipped skeletons. The addition of HD sharpens all these models (though there is some screen tearing) and the 3D support surprisingly has a lot of depth. Unfortunately these refinements aren’t enough to counter the many negatives in and out of combat.
One of the most frustrating features of Doom 3 is enemy respawning; it’s an absolute bitch. They spawn in front of you, behind, from the side, on top and occasionally from multiple locations at once. You might clear a room of 10 monsters, take a few steps and be instantly bombarded with two more waves. Where this starts to get truly frustrating is in clearing part of a room you back up against the wall for defense only to realize a monster has appeared from behind it, dealing massive damage to your cautiously protected HP. In this way the game punishes you even though you may not have made any mistakes.
Doom’s other major flaw is the incredibly repetitious gameplay. When the only escape from destroying huge scores of enemies is collecting PDA’s (personal data assistants) and the rare puzzle, shooting gets old very quickly. You could expect monsters to jump out in every single room from every possible angle and 90% of the time you would be right. There is never any tension because an ambush lies behind every corner.
It’s a shame Doom 3 hasn’t dated well. Behind the frustrating re-spawns and repetitious gameplay is an enjoyable shooter focused solely on just that. Many of these shortcomings lie in the nature of the FPS genre. It’s the genre of our generation peaking in game mechanics and critical reviews, in much the same way RPG’s helped dominate the 90’s.
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