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Doom 3 BFG Edition review: It’s not Doom 4, but it is the next best thing

Doom 3 BFG Edition reviewAccording to many, the end of western civilization began in 1993. Id Software’s Doom had just been released, and the gore mixed with the satanic imagery prompted cries of moral corruption. It could be used as a “mass murder simulator” they said. Don’t let your children play it, or they may go berserk and eat your face. The years have not been kind to those alarmists, and the object of their scorn has far outlived the cries that children would be forever warped by the original game.

It has been nearly 20 years since that first Doom dropped onto PCs, and soon found its name being echoed throughout the halls of Congress. As history so often does, looking back at the concerns raised by the game, we have to shake our heads at some of the reactions. It seems foolish to be concerned with a game like Doom, especially considering how far games have come and how much more graphic the violence in games has become. Shooting a pixilated brown figure with teeth and seeing red is nothing compared to the creative ways you can slaughter countless digital people these days. If you could bring one of the early Doom critics to our day and play a game like Dishonored, which is considered relatively tame by modern standards, their brain may shut down completely when they witness you casually stab someone in the neck.

Doom 3 BFG ChainsawTo commemorate 20 years of glorious violence, id Software and their new (to the franchise) publishing partner Bethesda have released a compilation featuring all the Doom you could ever hope for on one disc, including a remastered version of Doom 3 and an entirely new expansion as well.

Included on the Doom 3 BFG disc are the original Doom, Doom 2, and Doom 3, including the original expansion pack Resurrection of Evil and a new offering called The Lost Mission. Along with HD graphics, Doom 3 also features competitive multiplayer, co-op support, and has been optimized for 3D.

Whether or not this bundle will appeal to you is entirely a matter of whether or not you are already a fan of Doom. If you are not, there really isn’t anything here that will convince you otherwise, but id isn’t trying to win you over. This is a collection for longtime fans that have been with the franchise for decades, and who are hungrily awaiting the debut of Doom 4 — which could be as soon as next year, or could be released in a few years as a next-gen title. 

doom-bfgThe original Doom and Doom 2 are recreated in all their glory. The new bundle doesn’t mess with the formula, and those that have tried the XBL and PSN ports will have already played these offerings. The real attraction of this bundle – beyond just having all the Doom games in one place – is the HD version of Doom 3, as well as The Lost Mission.

The original campaign remains essentially the same, for better and worse. Those that didn’t play Doom 3, or played it on the PC, are going to need some time to adjust to the controls, which feel dated by today’s standards and were always a bit odd on consoles. They respond well enough, but little things like the lack of a dedicated melee and the need to put the icon exactly on the “download” button in order to retrieve the numerous pieces of scattered intel (which don’t autoplay, by the way) takes some getting used to. Those that played the game on the Xbox will no doubt remember many of these complaints from the first go round. The game was designed on and for PC, and that legacy affects the console versions to this day. 

One minor change is the inclusion of a flashlight that is mounted on your armor. Previously it was an either-or thing, where you could not illuminate and area and fire at the same time. This could be frustrating, but it also added to the tension. The good of this change far outweighs the bad though.

Doom 3 BFG review

The multiplayer maps and the co-op add a fair amount of novelty to the game, but heart of Doom has always been built around the single player joy of running at a demon and using a chainsaw on them. The multiplayer is fun, but it isn’t – and never was – what Doom was about.

As for the graphics, the improvements are notable, but you won’t confuse them with current gen games. It is the faces and their weird eyes and mouths that hurts it. The monsters actually look fairly good, but the people are off-putting   The general lack of overall detail is present as well, a typical trait for games remastered. That said, when Doom 3 originally debuted on PC in 2004, it was considered one of the best looking games of its time, and rightly so. Id was working with tools that by our standards are dated, of course, but they managed to squeeze the absolute most out of them and used clever tricks of lighting and shadow to push the hardware of the day to its absolute max. Unsurprisingly, the Xbox version wasn’t on par with the PC version, but it managed a respectable presentation as well. That emphasis on atmospheric design serves this HD remake well.

The extra missions are what should tip the scales in favor of people that are considering the bundle but haven’t decided yet. The Resurrection of Evil expansion has been floating around for a while now, and it remains much as it was when it was released in 2005, just with slightly better graphics. For those that missed it, the story continues that of Doom 3 a few years down the line. It is not nearly as compelling a story as the source material, but the combat remains the highlight and the inclusion is a great addition for those that missed it the first time around — and an excellent boon for those playing Doom 3 for the first time.

Doom 3The Lost Mission is what should get the attention of most Doom fans, as it is new for this game. Consisting of seven levels from Doom 3, this mission pack is more of a  set of deleted scenes than a true expansion, at least where the story is concerned, but it is a strong addition for fans that love the combat. Like the other Doom 3 content, it has been optimized for 3D. If you enjoy 3D gaming, the depth is good and the game moves well, but it was not designed as a 3D game, so it doesn’t really add much to the overall experience.

Conclusion

Although there are some issues with the game including the same flawed controls and PC-first design decisions, and while the HD graphics aren’t going to fool anyone into thinking Doom 3 was suddenly rebuilt with a modern GPU in mind, the package is strong. Very strong.

I spent a good portion of this review going over the things I didn’t like, but I have saved the most important fact for last: Doom 3 was, and remains a great game. The HD graphics may not blow you away, but the original design was so good, they don’t need much to be immersive. The additional content, including Doom and Doom II is great, but the reason to buy this bundle is Doom 3 and the two expansions.

The Doom 3 BFG Edition isn’t the long awaited sequel we have been hoping for, but it offers enough to tide you over until id finally announced Doom 4.