DOOM 3 is still a fantastic demonic engine of chills and thrills

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Like a perfectly timed jump scare cat in a horror movie, a new port of DOOM 3 came out of nowhere when Bethesda revealed that the classic trilogy would soon be on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. While the pairing of DOOM uno and deux may be a mixed bag that is in need of some technical support beneath its surface, DOOM 3, on the other hand, is still a superb slice of Martian horror some fifteen years after release especially now that I’m finally brave enough to tackle it.

For me, it’s a game of firsts. It’s a sequel that may have been my first taste of hype from way back in the day, flicking through the pages of ye olde New Age Gaming and reading through features detailing how id Software was going to drag my face down to hell with a revolutionary new engine that would deliver all manner of thrills and chills.

For a 2003 game, DOOM 3 was a smorgasbord of graphical accomplishments. The lighting was spooky, the demons were unrelenting and Mars was the best homage to Aliens 2 that you could ask for. The months would roll on by, DOOM 3 would eventually release and I’d be met with the harsh reality that my third-party Nvidia graphics card that was slotted into a barely functional motherboard that was choking on dust was probably not going to be able to run the next chapter in the classic shooter franchise.

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Maybe…maybe the real horror was inside me all along. That, and at roughly 13 frames per second at 640 x 480 resolution on a CRT monitor that could snap your spine in half if you tried to lift it without using your legs, I was pretty much never going to play DOOM 3 in its best form. A decade and a half later, and DOOM 3 is finally running on a machine that isn’t powered by my yet to be dashed hopes and dreams.

It looks pretty stunning, or as amazing as you’d expect a 2003 game that has gone under the digital knife a couple of times to look in 2019. Everyone’s head is still shaped like they’d been attacked by a madman with a chisel, you can literally see the seam lines on some facial textures and everyone has the kind of hair that you’d need an industrial vat of gel with which to keep the style so smooth.

Quirks of a bygone era aside, this port of the BFG version that allows me to narrowly miss out on having a heart attack thanks to the flashlight now being chest-mounted instead of a use it or lose your life tool, is still a visual stunner. With Panic Button at the helm, DOOM 3 still offers all of those deliciously spooky lighting effects within dimly lit corridors and dynamic illumination that sells the idea of a Martian base under attack from demonic forces.

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Compared to 2016’s merciless run ‘n gun action rebirth, DOOM 3 still stands apart as a sequel that genuinely wanted to explore new ground in a new age. Gone was the speed and momentum of the earlier games, replaced instead with a somewhat more methodical and scarier take on the source material that had you plotting a path through each room and checking your pulse in case the next jump scare managed to stop your heart for good.

Call me a coward, but stuff like this works on my fragile facade of bravado. Being constantly ambushed by demons, desperately firing away at the hordes of even vanilla grunts with a gun that’s about as effective as trying to knock down a wall with a puppy catapult…it takes a toll on the ol’ cowardly mind, you dig?

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And yet, DOOM 3 is an enjoyable kind of horror. You think of all the great takes on sci-fi genre, and DOOM 3 is the Event Horizon of its time. Cheesy and not really that scary but dripping with atmosphere and memorable encounters as you work your way through id Software’s intriguing detour. This vast maze of corridors that hide demons within its walls, still handles like a dream and has a pacing that deserves to stand tall and proud next to its brethren.

Good game design is something that can stand the test of time, but great game design? That’s just transcendent and after a run through DOOM 3 that saw me finally scratch its name off of a bucket list that includes the General RAAM fight in the first Gears of War and Horizon: Zero Dawn, I’m feeling proud of myself. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take the most important lesson learnt from DOOM 3 and apply it to real life.

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Which is an automatic crapping of my pants when my imagination runs wild as I imagine what ancient horror awaits me in the shadows of my own home.

Last Updated: August 12, 2019

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