Doom 3 BFG: As Fun As You Recall, Regardless of the Flashlight
Rushing through Hell for the first time in many years was exhilerating in all the ways I’d remembered. Monsters teleported in all around me in waves, and though the level didn’t really amount to being much more than a series of rooms and arenas with a bunch of huge guys in them, it was still a consistently tight experience. The classic model of Doom 3 and the brand of shooters it represents are fun, even if the enemy AI generally does little more than drive straight for you, firing rockets. Staying clear of imminent death is still quite a bit of fun.
The Hell level had me working through four major areas. The first was a wide-open arena-type area in which enemies zapped in through a series of portals in waves. Things started small and ramped up significantly, and I found it significant that each section of the level is balanced in such a way that it throws a different challenge at you, and then ramps that challenge over time until you’ve cleared the room or area. By the end, I was fighting the big Cthulhu-like squid demons with rocket launcher hands and a half-mechanical arachnid that I only vaguely remembered dismembering me a decade ago.
A number of alterations have been made for BFG, Willits said during an interview with Game Front, and at face value they sound as if they would make the game easier. When we asked Willits if that was the case, however, he opted for the phrase “less frustrating.” That’s probably a more accurate depiction, all told — Willits said that the whole game has been brightened somewhat, that each map has been tweaked slightly to remove certain moments that were less than fun.
“Like John [Carmack] said [during the QuakeCon 2012 keynote], we went through every single map, all 46 maps, and made sure there wasn’t anything stupid in them,” said Willits. “And there was some stupid s–t that we had in Doom 3, which we fixed. In one of the maps we had the staircase fall out behind you and we spawned in two imps. And we thought, “Wait, this is dumb.” So we said, “Let’s not drop the staircase.” There were a couple missions that had like 10 lost souls that came flying at you. We thought, “This is not fun.” We got rid of some monster closets, but we kept most of them in. The health stations. Not every health station was 100 percent. Some were like 23. And we were like, “Why’d we do this? This is dumb.”
Checkpoint saving has been added as well, and minor design decisions have been altered with the benefit of hindsight. The result is a more taut, action-oriented horror experience, especially when the removal of the choice between gun and flashlight is pitched in to the mix. But during my time with the Lost Mission, I never felt like id had pulled punches for the reworking of the game. Ammo is more plentiful, for example, but that’s really a relative statement. Ammo is more plentiful, yes; is it plentiful, though? No. And in fact, I found myself nearing empty with all my weapons by the end of the level. Hopefully, such considerations remain in the actual release and the level wasn’t too badly tweaked for the sake of journalists. We know that checkpoints will be added to the game even though there were none in the press demo, for example.
There are a lot of other improvements to Doom 3 in the package, as well. Apart from generally being less mean to players, the game looks pretty great with its graphical retouching, despite its age. Also remarkable is how great-looking the 3-D conversion is in the BFG Edition. I’m not one for 3-D in the vast majority of cases, but I’ll be damned (get it?) if I wasn’t impressed — and if a rocket smacking “me” in the face didn’t make actual me jump a little.
Despite being notified that Doom 3 would be moving away somewhat from its more horror-like underpinnings (or at least my nostalgic memories of such from back in college), my time with the new version left me very optimistic about what id has done to update the game. It looks good, it plays well, and most importantly, it reminds us of a time when shooters were simpler, but perhaps less homogeneous. Sometimes, it’s okay for players to wind up in Hell for a bit, where there are no chest-high walls.