Doom 3: BFG Edition, New to GOG, is an Underwhelming Re-Release

Doom 3 is one of my guilty pleasures. When I first played the game back in the early days of ’05 – I had received it as a Christmas gift the year prior – I could discern it was not a great game. The story setup lacked the impact of Half-Life’s start, the attempts at horror were generic, and the atmospheric-narrative-driven flavor was compromised by the nonsensical corridor-shooter gameplay.

But, I had fun. Sometimes that’s all that matters with a game. For me, Doom 3 was a blast of a throwback shooter, with shadowy-creepy stuff as a nice little sideshow. It helped that it looked phenomenal. To this day I still think Doom 3 is one of the most impressive graphical showcases in the history of games.

So it’s stuck with me over the years as much as the original Doom titles have. I’ve played the heck out of it, especially the Hell section, which I’ve revisited on several Friday nights when I’ve needed a quick fix. Doom 3 also has worthwhile maps and mods for it, like “Perfected Doom 3,” that add several graphical improvements and tweak the gameplay.

Doom 3, while not great, is a fun, dark and shadowy throwback shooter.

I’ve resisted the BFG Edition of the game since its launch in late 2012. The negative reviews I read of it on Steam echoed what I was certain would be my response. I loved vanilla Doom 3 and its mods too much to waste time and money on this console-ized, ostensibly enhanced re-release.

But then it premiered on Good Old Games during the recent Halloween sale at a discounted price. Having eyed it occasionally since its release, the Doom 3 aficionado in me thought, “Why not?” You only live once, after all, and here was a new way for me to experience my ultimate gaming guilty pleasure. Maybe it could be some fun.

Soon after starting, the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the truth so many Steam reviewers had relayed. The menu UI was straight console – not near the clean, smooth, unquestionably PC interface of standard Doom 3. I even had to use my up and down arrow keys to navigate one of the menus because it wasn’t responding sufficiently to my mouse – the horror! Less options were present for tweaking, though there are added options for field of view and frames per second. You may bump the latter up to 120, one of the selling points of the game. Field of view you’ll crank up to 100 anyway, making you miss ye olde days of 2004 when field of view was fine as is in PC originals like Doom 3.

Starting the game deepened my disgust. One of my favorite moments of the original Doom 3 was the suspenseful intro, during which ominous ambiance played while a computerized voice briefly described the Union Aerospace Corporation. The latter remains, but the former is gone, leaving an empty silence behind the narration. Then after this intro there’s a loading screen. It’s quick, but abrupt, and I ask why something unneeded in 2004 was needed in 2012.

The game started, and with each moment the negative reviews rang true. It looked worse. The character models especially were ugly. Every texture looked downgraded, and the lights and shadows were not as rich as in the original.

I was pleased to see an autosave feature in the options menu, but I was not pleased when the first autosave occurred and the game froze with a little save screen popping up at the bottom. This same interruption happened when I performed a quick save. The original lacked autosaves beyond one at the start of each map — standard practice in those days — but when you did save it, there was a slight, hardly noticeable pause, and the text “Game Saved” appeared on screen. BFG Edition breaks the immersion with each save, especially jarring when it comes from an autosave.

In light of my dismay, I continued, curious how the gunplay would feel. It felt the same, no improvements. The machinegun has a slightly different sound, no better or worse, though I prefer the original. I did not progress enough to pick up anything beyond that weapon and the shotgun and pistol, so I do not offer a conclusion on this edition’s handling of Doom 3’s weapons, but so far it has made no real changes. For comparison, the “Absolute HD” mod revamps the arsenal.

Before I wrapped up my brief play session of around a couple hours, I continued to be disappointed by the look of the game. The term that finally came to my mind was canned. The game looked canned, like subpar PC ports do. I realized then the major problem with Doom 3: BFG Edition: it was an Xbox 360 and PS3 game. It was made for consoles and ported to PC. What a radical opposite to the original release BFG is, then, for Doom 3 had been made exclusively for the PC and later ported to the Xbox. It was the Xbox version of that game which was canned and downgraded. But circa 2012, it’s the PC version of this id FPS that’s canned. How things have changed.

I quit Doom 3: BFG Edition and launched the original Doom 3. Playing it again, I felt as if I was being healed by the sweetest nectar. Yes, this was Doom 3; I felt I had returned home.

Returning to the original Doom 3, with its richly dark shadows, was like reuniting with a friend.

Whether you care about Doom 3 or not, you may be interested in playing it as a chapter in id’s classic shooter franchise. So if you plan on going back, don’t get the BFG Edition, off Good Old Games or anywhere else. An exception is if you have a 360 or PS3, and no gaming PC, and purchase the console version of the game, but even this I discourage. Find a way to play the original Doom 3. Discover for yourself what that super-hyped, oddball little title, that looked so much like the future back in the day, was all about. Incidentally, you’ll also be experiencing part of the end of an era, one of the final major titles developed exclusively for PC and later ported to consoles, and the last id game to have been developed that way.

If you then want enhancements, you’d check out the mods for the game, which offer much more satisfying tweaks than the canned BFG Edition.

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