The BFG Edition makes little sense as a PC game
As a console game, Doom 3: BFG Edition makes perfect sense. Not only does it come complete with the seminal Doom and Doom II, expansion pack Resurrection of Eviland the newly-released Lost Mission, but it updates Doom 3 in the process, providing console gamers with a release more akin to its PC brethren than that of the downgraded Xbox port. Look at it purely as a PC release, however, and it can only be described as superfluous at the very least. A misguided venture that will do little to help relieve a dwindling reputation for id Software and their original fanbase.
Doom 3 was divisive when it was first released eight years ago and little has changed in the time since. Some will appreciate the homage it pays to its influential predecessors, confining the action to narrow corridors, monster closets and jump scares, but others will take issue with id’s failure to progress the genre they popularised, opting instead to rest on their laurels with a dated concept. Its quantum leap in graphical fidelity was certainly an impressive facet of the overall package, offering visual quality no other game could yet match, but its gameplay was distinctly archaic.
Playing it now as part of the BFG Edition, it’s clear how palpable that still is.
You’ll move from corridor to corridor, room to room. The coherency of its art design funnelling you onwards through metallic hallways, brightened by effulgent touchscreens and impeded by malfunctioning sliding doors – the staples of a science fiction aesthetic. An enemy will lunge out of the pitch black darkness, another will appear in a haze of demonic orange light, while the rest will respawn three rooms away, ready to sneak up behind you when you least expect it.
Doom 3 lives on its jump scares. Ubiquitous monster closets litter each environment as though Hell’s minions want nothing better than to play peek-a-boo. It has moments where it manages to catch you off guard, but all too often its scares are disappointingly predictable. You’ll blast away well-designed Imps, Pinkie Demons and Cacodemons as they blatantly move towards you with their limited AI, ready to meet their demise at the end of the latest pea shooter. Weapons feel lightweight and unsubstantial; their sound design is lacking in oomph and the AI fails to react to anything other than a killing blow. The gunplay is unsatisfying and quickly descends to repetition as the formula fails to evolve and your arsenal lacks considerable improvement. These issues were apparent in 2004 and age has not been kind to Doom 3.
Its visuals do still hold up, however, the fantastic lighting engine helping to create a superbly macabre atmosphere. Graphical improvements over the original are minimal at best and options are limited to v-sync and anti-aliasing leaving no room for adjustments, but its mood remains intact. At least until you begin using your flashlight, that is.
One of the ways Doom 3 originally divided opinion was with its rather distinctive flashlight mechanic. The flashlight took up its own weapon slot meaning you couldn’t use it at the same time as any other firearms. This created an oppressive tension as you had to weigh up visibility over defence. You would come face to face with a pitch black room, use your flashlight to get a quick lay of the land before entering with your shotgun at the ready, relying on memory to proceed. From that point on your only source of light came from the faint ambient glow of computer screens and the muzzle flash of your weaponry briefly illuminating the room. It may have only appeared because of technical limitations but the flashlight juggling act was an effective and progressive tool that heightened apprehension, combining wonderfully with the game’s ominous atmosphere.
It was an alienating mechanic, though, and within a week of the game’s release the infamous “duct tape” mod appeared on the scene, allowing you to use both flashlight and weapon concurrently. Doom 3: BFG Edition has taken this same route, removing the original system entirely in favour of an easy flashlight toggle. It’s an understandable move but having no menu option to revert back to the previous mechanic is extremely disheartening, completely removing Doom 3’s defining feature. Being able to use a flashlight at any time severely dampens the tension, especially when the new light source fails to cast shadows off of the environment. Not only does it look bad but it destroys a lot of the game’s mood and frightful moments. When you’re trapped in a room and all the lights go out there is no panic, and it makes even less sense when an NPC offers to lead you through a dangerous, darkened area with his own lantern when you can just light the whole path yourself.
The BFG Edition makes fundamental changes to the original game’s design, losing its defining feature in the process, and its trivial technical adjustments do little to justify its existence. Graphical options are almost non-existent and mod support is completely absent. When you consider the fact there are mods that exponentially improve the original game’s visuals and even its sound design, it’s even more baffling.
The Lost Mission is the only piece of new content here, but its two-hour slog of generic action is not a reason to own the BFG Edition. You’ll move through constrained and brightly lit rooms, killing waves of spawning enemies before rinsing and repeating. It lacks the unique enemy entrances of Doom 3’s campaign, dumping enemies directly in front of you and asking that you clear each room before moving on. None of it is particularly entertaining but it mercifully ends before too long.
It may be dubbed the ultimate collection but even on consoles the BFG Edition is far from ideal. As a PC game its existence is highly questionable; any esoteric changes made on id’s part have already been done better by a dedicated modding community.Doom 3 may not be a groundbreaking title but there’s a certain reverence for many aspects of its experience, no matter how dated it has become. It was divisive, memorable and holds a particular place in history; the BFG Edition loses all of this. There’s no discerning reason for it.