A few weeks ago I finished reading Masters of DOOM, and while I question the validity of what is presented as fact, I was surprised that this account of the "two Johns" brought up a real nostalgia hit for my connection to id Software. Thinking back, Wolfenstein 3D was one of my first gaming experiences, right alongside Mario and Castlevania. This studio has been a part of my gaming life for as long as I can remember, and now they are moving forward without two of their founding key figures, rebooting a franchise that at one point, was the coolest game I had ever seen.
DOOM 3 is the only DOOM game I have never finished. Back when it was released, my PC wasn't able to run this monster of a game. At the time I was hardcore down a Day of Defeat rabbit hole, so the janky frame rate thanks to my budget GPU meant that I only spent a handful of hours with the game.
Fast forward to today, I decided that I'd begin streaming a run through of DOOM 3: BFG Edition, so I picked it up on Steam and waited for it download. Thinking back on the game, I distinctly remembered two things - never having enough ammo, and the damn flashlight. I remember my friends who did play a lot of the game, constantly complaining about them having to put away their precious weapon to use the flashlight to see down the darkened corridors of hell. I remember the scathing comments on weird message boards I used to frequent. I remember thinking "why the hell would they do this in a fast-paced shooter like DOOM?" scoffing at the thought, and returning back to the front lines in DoD.
So I set up the stream, booted up the game, and started the campaign on Veteran difficulty. The first thing I noticed was the obligatory post-Half Life interactive walking tour section, which is painfully slow in this day and age. Then the gameplay started, and I realised that DOOM 3 can seriously kick my arse. While I used to have the reactions of a fierce keyboard warrior, the grunts and Imps were taking me by surprise and smashing my face into oblivion. For a game that is quite old (yes, I know BFG edition is updated), the action holds up remarkably well. Running, shooting, dodging and killing has never felt so satisfying. Pulling off a quick dodge of flying fireballs from a rogue Imp always feels amazing.
What I did notice was the nuance and care that DOOM 3 put into its surroundings. Despite the chaotic combat and the constant run and gun action, the sound design of the various machines, the artificial air, the growls and grumbles of the isolated station is terrifying. The flickering lights, the labyrinthine corridors, the abandoned nature of Mars - all of this builds to create a sense of foreboding that is uneasy during the best of times.
Yet the BFG Edition of DOOM 3 addresses the need to switch from weapon to flashlight by replacing it with a shoulder-mounted light that can be flicked on or off. It makes sense in one aspect - the gun play is fast and furious, unrelenting, and makes it feel more like a classic DOOM title. However, I can't help that it's inclusion is a major flaw in the overall design of DOOM 3.
Yes, the need to switch the flashlight in and out was a burden to those seeking a balls-to-the-wall thrill ride of shooting excellence, but now I can't help but feel that the terrifying ambiance of the game is less so, because I can always see and defend myself at the same time.
Hiding in a corner, swinging your flashlight as a weapon to survive, scrounging for ammo may not have been very DOOM, but it sure did make for one hell of a game. Now it's gone, part of me wishes that id stuck to their guns.