My first exposure to id Software’s classic DOOM was December of 1993. My friend and I were exchanging gifts, and I tore the wrapping off of my present in the moments before French class began to reveal the cardboard box that housed the DOOM shareware, its painted façade of a bloodied marine fighting off hordes of demons containing the ominous rattling of a single 3.5” floppy disk. I practically sprinted off of the bus to install it on the family PC, and was immediately transported to a brutal, violent dimension where I was baptized in blood and bullets as I fought off the ravenous legions of Hell itself.
Fast forward to 2005, and DOOM was reinvented once again (not counting the safe sequel DOOM II), promising bleeding-edge technology to match with its first-person firefights. It was proudly displayed on store shelves next to the high-end graphics cards that you needed to install in your PC to get the true experience, another example of the mid-2000’s cultural phenomenon of PC tweaking and games that demanded hardware upgrades to experience them to their fullest. DOOM 3 used their technology to fantastic effect, using processing buzzwords like normal mapping and stencil shadows to make its take on Mars and Hell even more immersive and horrific than its predecessors. Its lighting in particular made the horror slant even more effective, masking its environments in choking black shadows that obscured enough to induce paranoia and fear, punctuated by the brilliant flare of a muzzle flash or an imp’s arcing plasma ball.
Now, one year prior to the 20th anniversary of the first DOOM, id Software and their new owners at Bethesda Software have re-released DOOM 3 with some minor nips, tucks, and additions called the BFG Edition (named after the series’ iconic Big Fucking Gun), giving Xbox 360 and PS3 owners a new opportunity to check out the 2005 classic.
When I say minor nips and tucks were made to DOOM 3, I wasn’t kidding. Aside from widescreen support and some minimal improvements to the lighting engine, this is the same DOOM 3 from 7 years ago, and it shows. Some of the game’s texture’s still hold up to today’s standards—especially the interactive displays that offer some unique respite from the game’s action—but other areas are murky clouds of chunky pixels that are uglier than a mud fence. That, coupled with some very low-poly models that add sharp angles to human characters’ heads, remind you that this was a game released in 2005.
The sound design, however, holds up remarkably well. There’s full 5.1 surround support, and using a proper surround sound system or a good quality headset prove to make the game just as intense as its contemporaries. The ever-present industrial thrum of the facilities on Mars make the games quieter moments seem almost pregnant with horrific possibility, and the shrieks of the game’s enemies surrounding you is positively nerve shattering. Despite the graphical roughness, the sound design is so spot-on that playing this game in a dark room with a headset is just as visceral as a triple-A horror title released today.
Finally, there’s the matter of additional content. The game includes the original DOOM 3, the Resurrection of Evil add-on pack (from the days of long ago, before they called such things ”DLC”), as well as a set of new levels that comprise The Lost Mission. This additional mission is a short, but intense pack of levels that lack the surprisingly rich story of the main title, but pack in plenty of vicious firefights and harrowing moments. Finally, there’s the additional inclusion of DOOM and DOOM II, making this the most complete package available for diehard fans.