Bethesda Softworks, designers and distributors of normally excellent titles, are bringing out a "new" version of Doom 3, Doom 3: BFG. The new package includes "remastered" graphics (more on that gem in a moment), the Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil add-on, seven new levels thrillingly titled "The Lost Mission" and support for 3D, 5.1 surround, a checkpoint save system, some improved lighting, and the first official implementation of the Duct Tape mod, which allowed you to simultaneously see the game and shoot things. You also get Doom and Doom 2.
Be still my heart.
If you're one of the six people who game in 3D, wanted to play Doom 3 on a PS3 but never got the chance, or need a 5.1 speaker surround system to find targets that invariably pop into the corridor you just cleared, this is your lucky day. For everyone else, meh.
Look at my blockies!
Let's start with the "remastered" graphics. The term itself is being inaccurately applied; remastering refers to the process of digitally improving an original analog source whose quality has degraded or that may have been flawed. You don't "remaster" a game.
With that said, the version of Doom 3 id Software built for the original Xbox was a far cry from the PC version; the GF3-era GPU inside Microsoft's first console couldn't handle the necessary levels of detail to make the two comparable. When Bethesda says this new version is remastered, however, what they really mean is "Looks great by 2004 standards."
I work out!
The problem here is simple. The GPUs embedded in both the Xbox 360 and PS3 aren't that much more powerful than the high-end GPUs that were available when D3 first shipped. Doom 3 was the Crysis of its day -- you needed a powerful PC to run it -- and as a result, there's just not much more you can do to make it look better on six year-old hardware. No amount of lighting tweaks can change the blurry textures or low creature geometry. It's not even clear if these new versions are even up to full PC detail levels.
Then there's the game. Doom 3 attempted to create a scary story by grafting parts of System Shock into a stealthier experience and instead turned the whole title into a turgid mess. You spend the vast majority of the game in tightly confined mazes and narrow corridors. Monsters constantly pop in from areas and approaches you just came through. Any squad mates or story sequences you encounter invariably take place behind glass walls or over view screens.
It was Doom 3 that cemented id Software's reputation for building great engines, but weak games. Rage, which launched nearly a year ago, singularly failed to address that problem.
The worst thing about this announcement is that it could've been awesome. A new Doom / Doom 2 would be a pair of games worth buying, provided they made only minimal alterations to allow for looking around and jumping. A real remastered Doom 3 with a significant overhaul attached could actually make the game fun. Instead, we get a mediocre title with barely updated graphics with "new levels"apparently so boring, the best title Bethesda could think of was "The Lost Mission."