DOOM 3 It caused a huge controversy at the time, it is hardly necessary to remember it. Your uncheck of the first two installments of the doomsaga It was complete, and that did not sit well with the user base of the previous ones. The frenzy and the fast and deliciously brainless action were changed for a proposal much slowerin which each step and each cartridge had to be measured and which had an approach focused on terror, darkness and anguish.
As terrifying as a shooter: DOOM 3
But that’s not what I want to talk about, don’t worry, that topic had to be introduced but it’s more than covered by now. What I do want to write about today is about what it is like to return to Mars, to the specific Mars of the third installment, today: 18 years after its release, and contrast my feelings with those I experienced when I finished it for the first time at the time. Totally different, I’ll tell you in advance.
And it is that the game of idSoftware it was originally born with a very different intent than it exhibits when tested now. When it was released it was a test for our nerves, and it activates many tricks that have since become customary in other video games, and it did so in those scientific facilities so far from our planet that we had to free from hordes of demons. Now it has lost a lot of strength in that area.
For example, the game, at the time of its release, showed enormous courage in its approach. Not only for turning the franchise to which it belonged upside down, but also with a much slower pace than usual and with very curious decisions such as its approach to darkness.
We couldn’t carry a flashlight and a weapon together: we had to choose.
This has been modified in later versions such as the BFG Edition of DOOM 3, but at its start the title forced us to choose if we wanted to illuminate our surroundings or if we wanted to wield a weapon. We couldn’t use both things at the same time.. This spawned a stream of jokes, of course, with many fans suggesting to the DOOM Guy a piece of adhesive tape to attach the flashlight to the rifle. The thing is, the game is unusually dark, with each room only having one or two points of light, and these often flicker to make it more difficult to see. Illuminating yourself with your flashlight and quickly switching to your shotgun when you see an enemy was part of the feeling and was truly terrifying until it was “corrected”, before the moment you switched to any piece of your arsenal you were left completely in the dark and you could only see briefly with the flashes of the gunshots. With the change, the experience became much more accessible and simple. By unifying the two things, of course… Not turning the game into a walk, but almost.
The “false scare” in horror video games
The “fake scare” trick is no longer as impactful today as it was almost 20 years ago
On the other hand, the “fake scare” that had often been used in the cinema was also very present here, with bursts of sound that presaged the presence of a creature but that in reality were due to a fluorescent lamp that fell down with a bang, or a pipe that suddenly exploded, releasing steam with violence All of them are tricks that are now widely seen, we have suffered them a thousand times in a subjective perspective, however at that time the horror genre had not lavished as much on the first person as it has in recent times thanks to the phenomenon of Amnesia Come on, that thing was quite new for FPS users, yes, but we were also more innocent.
It also happens with history, of course. The Dr Betruger, who repeats as an antagonist in DOOM 3: Resurrection of Evil appears almost always to cut the pace of the action, and his presence seems more like the need to have a flesh and blood villain who puts a face and eyes on enemies who, perhaps in id Software, considered that it could not be just a wave of demons… Although all the installments of the series, including DOOM and DOOM Eternal after the fact, showed that this could be managed without any problem; at that time hardly anyone saw it as a handicap. Played to this day, he does squeak.
What I still like is how the program uses the stage to tell us everything that happens in a very cinematographic sense: something in which we cannot say that it was a pioneer, because the first Half-Life had already done it a few years before, but which was still surprising in 2004. Our first and necessary walk through the facilities to get down to business shows us the day-to-day life of the scientific and military teams that explore the red planet normally before the creatures break in, both in our eyes and in those of the protagonist: since the study uses the always Useful storytelling trick of making him arrive at the place at the same time we do and everything is just as new to him. The campaign, of course, play with contrast to make us return to them a couple of hours later when the chaos has already broken loose and see the effects of the demons.
All this constitutes a internal narrative. From the graffiti on the walls and the remains of satanic cults, in the purest style in both cases of what Dead Space would later explore further, to the classic PDAs with complete information for anyone who wants to go one step further and discover more in depth indications of everything that was brewing out there. We have seen this way of telling us something without always resorting to cinematics or conversations ad nauseam, of course, so playing in the middle of the year 2022 is not surprising at all, but at that time I used these resources that were either completely new or had only been seen occasionally in works like System Shock or some others, and it was tremendously striking and fascinating.
DOOM 3 is still a great game, and a Rare avis within the DOOM franchise, of course. Graphically no one would say that he is almost 20 years old, keeps the guy in a fantastic way thanks to his clever use of lighting. On the other hand, its action is light years away from the dizzying pace and the type of handling of the new episodes, but it maintains the interest and, above all, the pressure on the player. However, I played it just a few months ago on the Steam Deck, and while playing it in portable mode in the dark and with headphones is wonderful, almost all of the feelings that surround those feelings have changed… And for the worse .
Some of them have to do with mutilation of the original work that the aforementioned BFG Edition did by combining the flashlight with the weapons, but not only that, of course. There is a part there, in that change of the sensory, that is put by the player. The expression “how badly the video game or movie has aged” is often used. But what ages is not the video game since it remains the same, what ages is us. If the style of scares and anguish that DOOM 3 proposes no longer has the same impact on us, and therefore loses some force, it is not so much because the title has aged; it is rather because we have changed. The resources that were new here we have seen since then a thousand times, and time has made us more disbelieving and cynical with these types of resources.