Hands-on with Doom 3: BFG Edition

It’s comforting to know that some things will just always work. Some things like mousepads, paperclips, and Volvo 240s all have an incredible propensity to just keep doing what they do: work. You go back to them time and time again because they never break down and can do exactly what it is you want and expect them to do every time.

Which is why, I guess, circle strafing works so well. It never fails you when you need it most, and in this case, I needed it pretty badly. I’m sitting in the press room at QuakeCon 2012, 3D glasses and headphones adorning my head, playing Doom 3: BFG Edition. It’s one of the Lost Mission levels and there are four Arch-viles looking to get fresh with me.

While the premise of the Lost Missions is fairly straightforward (it’s eight levels that run parallel to the main story somewhere else among the Martian rocks), I’m dropped in a familiar but confusing area. Atop what seems to be a floating or precariously perched isle of land, the area in which I dispense pain and hot lead is surrounded by emptiness, fire, and twenty-feet-tall portals that zap in Imps, Cherubs, and Cacodemons. I’m also practically overflowing with munitions as I have every weapon and an ammo stockpile at my disposal, including one weapon that I don’t recall existing prior nor how to use it.

There’s a small bit of a story here as someone comes on over your radio to tell you to meet them somewhere something who cares I’m here to shoot things. I mean, from what I can tell in this limited, non-contextualized preview, the story of this Lost Mission section has the potential to tie in with the main narrative, but as I said, it lacks context, so a shootin’ through the woods I go.

And aside from the added flashlight to the armor, the game plays pretty much exactly the same as Doom 3. The graphics are updated, sure, but the core components that make the foundation of the game are still intact and (mostly) in full force. The engine is actually what id designer Tim Willits called “id Tech 4.5,” making the updates significant but rendering old mods useless. There’s (largely ineffectual) stereoscopic 3D, too, but for what matters, this is still Doom 3.

Hence the circle strafing. These Arch-viles are ugly, scary, and legion. But by being in constantly motion with careful and deliberate feathering of the right analog stick, they go down without much trouble. Sure, the judicious use of the BFG9000 and the chaingun probably helped, but I’d say the majority of my success that day can be directly attributed to me and my finely tuned thumbs.

Thumb tunes.

But this particular section of the Lost Missions was at least interestingly designed. In the same room, there is a tower. If you ascend the nearby staircase and enter the top roost, Cacodemons will begin to attack. The top of the tower, however, is built basically like a platform with four big pillars on the corners, all of which is surrounded by a small ledge. It was pretty fun going in and out of the structure and chasing and leading the demons until I could put them down with my weapons.

The rest of the level, however, was pretty much in wide open hellfire pastures, which is a good thing. The original Doom 3 was often criticized for being too cramped for the type of gameplay people wanted from a Doom title. In this Lost Mission, I went from cavernous, hellacious acreage to fire-spitting pit arenas to, well, you get the idea. This particular level, if indicative of the other seven Lost Missions, might be an acknowledgement of those criticisms.

The enemy count is still uncomfortably low, though. In the beginning, it seemed as though BFG’s extra content might return to the hectic days of yore, but no such luck. After blasting through a few simultaneous Cherubs, I never faced more than two or three enemies at a time again. And hot damn, that double-barreled shotgun is still pretty useless.

But hell, they put a flashlight on your armor. I doubt id has any problems with admitting mistakes (as evidenced by the opening of Carmack’s keynote this year where he apologized for the PC issues with Rage). Here’s hoping they also don’t have any problems fixing those mistakes with Doom 3: BFG Edition. Look for it on October 16, 2012 for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.

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