This was the one I was dreading the most.
I’m not good with horror. Never have been. I’ve always been a really timid person and the idea of playing a horror game or seeing a monster always freaked me out. I bring this up because Doom 3’s box art absolutely terrified me. The image of the Hell Knight with his torn, disgusting mouth and eyeless head made me feel uneasy and I never wanted to play the game, but it certainly left an impression on me. That box art was what introduced me to Doom and it always stuck in the back of my mind. Now that I’ve moved from being a timid child to a timid man, I figured it was about time to finally conquer the Hell Knight and face my fears…..even though I technically did that already in Doom 2016. I forgot it was was in that game.
Okay, full disclosure. I messed up really bad when I first started playing this game. I picked Veteran (Hard Mode) by accident and I had an extremely tough time playing the game. I was two hours in before I realized my mistake and started over again. I bring this up because I want to make it perfectly clear that I REALLY hated this game until I made that change and my opinion will be strictly about the game on Marine difficulty. Okay? Okay.
Doom 3 is just Fine. It’s an average 3rd person shooter that plays almost nothing like the original Doom. Instead of high-octane, fast-paced action with metal music blasting out of your speaks, Doom 3 chooses to be a slower, more serious game. id Software wanted to try and move the franchise in a different direction and make something I guess more methodical and nerve-racking since a lot of their previous games were more about action rather than instilling fear into the player. I suppose Doom 3 could be classified as a horror game because of how much focus it puts into scarring the player and making them feel uneasy and while I commend them for trying something different, I think this focus makes the game suffer as a result.
Doom 3 still plays like Doom and keeps many of its staples such as the weapons, demon types, minor puzzle solving and all that but because of the slow, realistic movement it just feels…bad. Your character moves at a snail’s pace and guns have standard clip sizes and not only fire slower but taking forever to reload, which wasn’t even a thing you had to worry about in the first two games. This can make things really stressful during fights because you never feel like you have enough resources going into a battle and since id decided to KEEP the aggressive enemy patterns and AI from their previous games, that’s a real problem. This isn’t helped by worse feeling guns and iffy hitboxes and spreads your weapons have. The shotgun in Doom 3 is one of the worst weapons I have ever used in a video game, and I mean that. The bullet spread only hit things when it feels like it and they can all be blocked by simple level geometry no matter how far you are from it. Seriously you could shoot a zombie point-blank in the chest and it’s a gamble whether or not they’ll be killed by it. You can’t even fight many of these enemies effectively since the general level design is so cramped and claustrophobic you’re just going to end up getting swarmed by enemies. This is also ignoring the BIGGEST problem with Doom 3 which is also its defining gimmick, its lighting.
You can’t see a damn thing in this game.
Now don’t get it twisted (man I’ve been saying this a lot with Doom…), I think the lighting and detail in this game are stellar for a game released in this era. What id software was able to accomplish with their use of dynamic lighting and shadows is nothing short of amazing, it’s just when I play a game I would like to see what the fuck I am doing in it. The UAC research facility has very little natural lighting so the player is required to use a shoulder-mounted flashlight to see in the environment, which is fine in concept, the problem is its execution. The battery life on your flashlight is pathetic and since almost every area has an enemy or two in it, it makes combat more cumbersome. And you know what really sucks? This is the GOOD version of the game. In the original release of Doom 3, your flashlight was a SEPERATE ITEM in your inventory, meaning you were literally firing in the dark. I can’t imagine playing the game like that and am thankful Panic Button chose to use the BFG edition release as its choice when they ported the game over to Switch. This is probably the biggest criticism about the game by a mile and I can absolutely see why. This doesn’t instill fear. This instills annoyance.
I’ve been complaining a lot during this review and I’m sorry, it’s just Doom 3 does a lot of things wrong and it keeps me from fully enjoying it. I didn’t even mention the poor enemy placement, surprise ambushes, the laughable attempts at scaring the player, it’s just so much. That’s why, before we wrap up, I want to talk about some things I really did like about the game because it IS good, I swear.
Firstly, the art direction in Doom 3 is phenomenal. Replacing the rocky, dungeon-like areas of Doom 1 & 2 with cold, rusted looking machinery and industrial zones was a great choice. When the game wants to let you look around it really gets the chance to show off how detailed and environments look. I ESPECIALLY loved this game’s interpretation of Hell, easily the highlight of the game. I also really enjoyed the audio logs that provided extra lore and insights into the UAC and how they operate. And you know what? I thought the expansions were pretty alright. Restriction of Evil and Lost Mission, while not perfect, provides an experience much closer to the original Doom games. Areas are much more open, you get better weapons (especially in RoE), and it plays around with the lighting in a GOOD way by having areas, not in complete darkness. Also, I admit, the game got me a few times with its scares. I’m not into jump scares at all but when the game used its impeccable sound design and visuals to give off its intensity, NOT its gameplay, it’s wonderful stuff.
Like I said at the start: Doom 3 is just fine. It’s nothing like the first two games, it’s something completely different. I don’t think Doom 3 should be criticized for its departure from its source material, I think it should be criticized by how much it fumbled trying to separate itself. The level design is poor, enemies don’t match the slower gameplay, the foreboding darkness is more of a hindrance than a sense of dread. The gameplay is perfectly serviceable but it’s also nothing to write home about. It’s just fine. I think there are a lot of redeeming qualities about this game and if it sounds cool to you then, by all means, give it a shot. Doom 3 isn’t a bad game, it’s just frustrating.