Doom 3 is getting re-released: Do we need it?
High definition re-releases of older games have generally seemed like a pretty good idea. Older 3D games are plagued with graphical hitches and low-resolution visuals, and the newer consoles are capable of cleaning up these classics with a nice coat of paint. It's such a good idea that almost everyone is doing it, but it was only a matter of time before an HD re-release begged the question: Do we really need this?
That's the question I asked myself upon the news that Bethesda and id Software would be bringing a remastered version of Doom 3 to PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. Unlike, Doom 1 and 2, Doom 3 never ascended to classic status. In fact, it may be one of the least classic games to ever get the HD treatment.
At the time it came out, Doom 3 received many glowing reviews. It was an over-hyped technical powerhouse, and looking back, it's hard to imagine that initial wow-factor didn't get the best of critics. In the intervening years Doom 3 has practically been forgotten. Now announced as a re-release, it's only causing me to remember what Doom 3 truly was: a tech showcase brimming with bad ideas. Doom 3 forgot its legacy, instead following the blueprint for a generic, B-grade first-person shooter.
Even with an HD upgrade and slick framerate, Doom 3 isn't going to compare with today's technical showcases like Crysis 2 or Battlefield 3. This re-release may be called Doom 3: BFG Edition, but I think it will be more appropriate to call it Doom 3: 20/20 Hindsight Edition. Let's count the ways Doom 3 didn't succeed...
1) Lame combat
The original Doom games were all about simple and visceral shooting in maze-like environments. They were more fast-paced than creepy, but still managed to mix scare tactics into the run-and-gun moments. They featured chunky sound effects and a feel to the weapons that made monster killing super-satisfying. Doom 3, on the other hand, almost completely forgot the importance of visceral combat. You weren't shooting monsters in Doom 3 so much as you were highlighting them with a target until they died. Gun sounds were weak and tinny, enemies barely reacted to your shots, and the environments were too cramped for that classic run-and-gun feel. All these flaws added up to gunplay that felt detached — you weren't killing demons in Doom 3, you were simply clicking your way through id's glorified tech demo.
2) Monster Closets
Doom 3 is the reason for the term "monster closet." Even in glowing reviews, the game got flack for its predictable and cheap enemy placement. In order to create scares, the environments are brimming with illogical cubby holes that enemies can jump out from. It was a cheap tactic then, and it's even worse now. There are some effective scares here and there to go along with the creepy atmosphere, but for the most part the game felt like a gauntlet of tripwires into scripted terror. It was too easy to creep along and anticipate the next monster closet. Outsmarting the game design stripped Doom 3 of its horror element.
3) Emphasis on story
More modern sensibilities hurt Doom 3 in many ways, but id's attempt to make sense of the Doom universe was one of the game's weakest aspects. The world was littered with journal entries and little bits of lore. The beginning of the game was a long-winded, Half-Life-esque build-up to the hellspawn murdering action. This is all admirable, but in the face of games like the aforementioned Half-Life and more modern classics like BioShock, Doom 3's world-building attempts seem like wasted effort. Explaining everything only took away from the mystery and terror of the Doom universe.