Doom 3 was a strange experience, even back when it was first released. It was graphically revolutionary for its time, especially in how it handled lighting, and it had some of the most realistic shadows ever seen.
From a gameplay perspective it had little in common with its predecessors. Sure, there were still demons to shoot with your shotgun, and both story and enemy design felt part of the universe. But where Doom and Doom II where brutal action romps, with large areas and lots of monsters, Doom 3 was very different. It was claustrophobic, slow, and you rarely fought more than one or two enemies at a time.
Instead Doom 3 was positioned as terrifying and frightening, which wasn't a terrible premise. Unfortunately, it achieved its scares in rather simple fashion, and most of the time it was limited to a door popping up behind you and an imp starting to throw fire balls your way.
Okay, maybe that's not the whole truth. At times it wasn't an imp, but some other monster. But Doom 3 took pride in spawning monsters out of your field of vision, and it was a mechanic that quickly grew dull.
For some reason Id Software and Bethesda thought this a good time to re-release Doom 3 in a package called the BFG Edition that also contains the expansion Resurrection of Evil, a new mini-expansion, the two first games, and a number of small gameplay tweaks to top it off.
The most important tweak, without a doubt, is that you can use your flashlight while carrying a gun - whereas in the original you had decide whether you wanted to see your surroundings or kill whatever it was that was trying to kill you. Thankfully, Id have since decided that while adding tension, it mainly served to frustrate players.
The speed at which you move has been turned up, and there is more ammunition lying around. Two factors that up the pace of the game. It's still a slow experience compared to its predecessor, but it's a definite improvement.
The years haven't been kind on Doom 3. The lighting and the industrial sci-fi surroundings are still visually appealing, but the human characters just don't cut it, while the animations of the monsters come across as stiff and jerky. The sound is decidedly weak, and almost all effects lack the kind of weight and power you've come to expect. Fire balls sound like weird static noise, and exploding barrels sound like paper bags being smashed. It probably has something to do with the fact that Trent Reznor had to pull out of the development, which in turn meant that the entire soundscape had to be replaced at the last minute.
The flaws in the actual gameplay also stand out more 8 years on, and it doesn't take long before it starts to feel repetitive, both when it comes to mechanics, level design and fire fights.
One example is that many of the monsters have the bad habit of running all the way up to you and crouching down so you have to aim the barrel of your gun downwards in order to hit them. Another frustrating detail is how inconsistent the shotgun is. I don't recall having a gun this inconsistent in any other game, and an imp requires anything from one to four shots depending on distance and luck. You basically have to stick your shotgun to the gut of your enemy to be able to get a good estimate of how much damage it is likely to do.
Things get a bit better in the expansion Resurrection of Evil and the new addition - The Lost Mission, as both offer more variation and better pacing. Resurrection of Evil adds some new ideas and puzzles thanks to a stripped down copy of the Gravity Gun from Half-Life 2 and a demonic artefact that, among other things, slows down time in its vicinity. The Lost Mission offers game design on the whole.
On the disc you're also getting Doom and Doom II, and on Xbox 360 these are identical to the Xbox Live Arcade versions - and they even make use of the same save files (I was able to continue a save game from 2006). It's a nice little inclusion, as both of these games are timeless masterpieces that remain well worth spending your time on.
All in all, Doom 3 BFG Edition remains an underwhelming package. The game has many flaws, that have only grown more apparent with time, the small tweaks made to the mechanics can't hide that fact. Today Doom 3 comes across as a watered down and less polished clone of Dead Space, which is something of an uncanny paradox.
In the end we have a compilation that will only appeal to the most hardcore Doom fans out there. If you've never played Doom 3, or if you didn't feel it was all that interesting the first time around - then you're better off staying well clear.
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