Checking For A Pulse: Doom 3 Mods

By Alec Meer on May 18th, 2009 at 4:46 pm.

Everyone loves an underdog – but Doom 3 is in the curious position of being an underdog whilst simultaneously being big enough to be widely loathed. Arguably, only Bioshock has stolen its crown as king of the PC FPS whipping boys – both being heavily-trumpeted games that didn’t live up to their own enormous hype, and suffered a disproportionately vicious backlash as a result.

Doom 3 -which I found bland and repetitive but often fun and certainly atmospheric, its major crime being stretching its few ideas over too many hours – however, has managed to enjoy a huge and enthusiastic modding scene nonetheless. There’s everything from extensive co-op versions to an infinite array of flashlight tweaks and assorted mini-campaigns, maps and graphical upgrades. It may not enjoy the profile of the big Half-Life 2 mods, but its scene remains alive. Hoping to throw this underdog a bone (I have no idea why – these cursed whims of mine), I’ve spent today wading through a few of them.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been terribly impressed by what I’ve found. Granted, any game with a large mod community is absolutely knee-deep in dead-end ideas or pointlessly samey drek, but it seemed especially hard to find true highlights amongst D3’s hundreds of modifications. Is it something about the nature of the game – a very specific look, bound to very specific geometry and geography – or about the nature of the game’s fans? An ‘orrible sweeping generalisation would be that a game solely about shooting monsters from hell in the dark to the accompaniement of a heavy rawk soundtrack might not attract quite as, ah, diverse a range of fans as Half-Life 2’s intermittently more thoughtful content (relatively speaking, of course). In other words, they’re probably going to make mods about shooting monsters from hell in the dark to the accompaniment of a heavy rawk soundtrack. This is not something I can back up in any way, and saying it makes me afraid I’m one step away from becoming a Daily Mail reader. Perhaps I’ve taken too much from Jim’s fearful tales of the crowd at the Quakecon he attended a few years back.

Elements I have seen repeated throughout a worrying number of the mods I tried include:
– a heavy rawk soundtrack on permanent loop
– Mumbly German men intoning a largely incoherent and over-long voiceover in broken English.
– Incredibly ugly menus, containing a surfeit of silly webnames in an I_will_kill_joo vein
– Level design that consists of traipsing down maze-like, oddly featureless corridors until I had to reach for Alt-F4 before I threw up or passed out.
– More positively, a clear emphasis on trying to make a faster, more adrenalised game than Doom 3 Vanilla’s often ponderous wandering around.

The clear stand-out was the long-running Classic Doom 3 mod, which has diligently recreated Doom 1’s maps and general crazy-ass feel in the gloomy D3 engine. The metallic murkiness doesn’t look quite right, but the increased player movement speed, decreased beastie hit points, omni-present health and armour pickups and that music is a proper ear-to-ear-grin-time carnival of carnage. It’s Doom, and all the speed and fun and violence and silliness that entails. Even in the new engine, the maps feel as comfortingly familiar as a hug from your mother. In some ways it looks a little worse due to lose of bright colours, but in others genuinely better – in particular, there’s a meatily visceral feel to shotgunning an imp in the face that their semi-intangible 2D predecessors have always lacked. The fan-acted intro sequence is rather less impressive, but hey: I defy anyone not to enjoy this.

Visual mods seem a little hit and miss. There’s a bunch to improve the muzzle flare and suchlike, but the one I ended up using for a while was multi-mod collection Dentonmod3. It sparkles stuff up quite a bit, especially the otherwise block-headed character models, and generally makes for a game that looks a couple of years younger than it really is. Usefully, it also corrects some of the annoyances id have never bothered to patch, such as the inability to select widescreen modes without editing configuration files, and automatically restarting the video renderer upon a settings change rather than unhelpfully demanding you exit and reload the game manually. Unfortunately, it required a patch made by someone else entirely to save the screen from being largely black on my system, and even then the picture was distractingly washed-out. Definitely work a look if you’re considering tackling D3’s singleplayer again, though.

Wraithchild sounded interesting on paper, as it was an attempt to create a vaguely Deus Exy game, with interactable objects and NPCs and whatnot, all within a custom-created Blade Runner-esque world. Unfortunately, one of those aforementioned German chaps droning and typoing away made it a little difficult to get into, and on top of that I lost interest after 15 minutes of frustrated failing to work out how to leave the first room. There may be stuff of interest later for more patient chaps than I, and the use of some of Vampire: Bloodline’s soundtrack lends it an agreeably maudlin/psychotic atmosphere.

Hell Island certainly got the first word right. Its key crimes are the single worst example of voice acting I have ever heard, and yet another case of bad and bewildering level design causing me to Alt-F4 out due to a miserable, aimless lack of progress. Fuggin’ locked doors.

Event Horizon XV is a curious project, as it’s an attempt to recreate the divisive sci-fi horror film inside Doom 3. In practice, this means an inadvertently comical frequency of spoooooky visions that appear and disappear within seconds, including a distressingly diligently-modelled naked lady. Well done, you. The first few minutes are like The Shining: The Theme Park Ride – but with a little more pacing it could be a genuinely unsettling, what-the-hell’s-going-on experience. Then it’s more of those maze-like identical corridors, a few zombies, confusion and tedium, and quit.

I’m sure there are many better examples of the scene out there, but I’d lost patience by this point (with a few apparently broken ones also nosed at) and had burned too many hours in this search for diamonds in the corridor-bound rough. Once my motivation’s restored, I wouldn’t mind a gander at the Co-Op mod Last Man Standing at some point, which I hear very good things about, and of course there’s the Thief remake/tribute The Dark Mod. From what I’ve seen so far, however, it seems as though Doom 3’s essential structure and aesthetic may be a little too limiting to achieve many truly surprising things. So what I’d hoped would be a woo! lookit this! post has ended up being a bit of a downer. Hopefully someone out there knows of a D3 mod that’ll cheer me right up, as I’ll fully admit to being overcome by the sheer amount of chaff I need to separate from the oh-so-rare wheat I’m positive does exist. Other than Doom 3 Classic, of course – that one’s certainly as fun as a campsite full of monkeys.

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76 Comments »

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  1. magos says:

    No mention of the Dark Mod then?

    Looks pretty interesting to me.

  2. Scott Kevill says:

    absolutely knee-deep in dead-end ideas

    Haha, awesome, Alec.

  3. Lorc says:

    I cannot say enough good things about classic doom 3.

  4. Severian says:

    i have never and will never play Doom3 (no philosophical reason, mind you, just saying i’ve got other legs to hump) but i REALLY appreciate and value posts like this one. i rarely have the patience to sift through the infinite miasma of mediocre mods that are generated for the likes of Fallout3, Morrowind, Civ, etc. to discover the jewels in the crown. user-ratings can be useful but not always so. i’d rather trust the opinion of some benevolent philosopher-king who samples for me and dictates my whims.

  5. Dreamhacker says:

    Let me clarify on the subject of PC FPS whipping boys.

    Bioshock: Surprisingly good.
    Doom 3: Quite amazingly crappy.

  6. Alec Meer says:

    Backlash: disproportionately vicious.

  7. The_B says:

    Needs more Hello Kittty flashlight.

    Well, to be fair ALL games need more Hello Kitty flashlight.

  8. Pantsman says:

    Alec, have you heard of Conscientious Objector? I haven’t played it myself, but it’s a Doom 3 Mod by the same fellows wot made Dear Esther, and looks similar in that it’s rather experimental, though in a very different way.

    http://thechineseroom.co.uk/cob.htm

  9. Meat Circus says:

    Colons: over represented in this thread.

  10. Pace says:

    Here’s one that was quite good: Pathways Redux. It’s by the same guy that made Gravity Bone. (The framerate may be awful at the very beginning, but gets better.) Doom meets Indiana Jones. Sorta.

    edit: (my colon was just following the crowd.)
    edit again: (damn that was another one. and… aargh.)

  11. SirKicksalot says:

    Is there any Quake mod?

    I’m talking about the original Quake. The Hell felt like a level from that game.

  12. Serondal says:

    Erum , I actaully loved Doom 3 and got scared out of my pants several times. Only game that ever made me throw my mouse

  13. Vincent Avatar says:

    Not gonna lie, I threw my mouse as well the first few times monsters from Hell came out of the ductwork to chew/burn/carve off my flesh, but after the tenth or so time… I got used to it. Until the fucking spider-babies, which I still say look fucking ridiculous in screenshot but are terrifying in motion.

    To compare to its younger, hipper, third-person cousin, one of the reasons I sold back and never finished Dead Space was because it never made me throw the controller in fear or startledness. For that matter, DS appears to owe much of its creature design (including creepy babies that have no place at all on a mining vessel, but I digress) to D3.

  14. muscrat says:

    I recomend that Dragons Lair style QTE and Decent like space ship flying Doom 3 mods.

    I forget the names, but im sure mentioning them, will result in someone remembering it :P

    Last Man Standing is also very awesome.

    edit*

    Actually!!!

    There is that fantastic looking Doom 3 mod that has the greyscaled art direction, with amazing architecture, and a buch of others i have seen on MODDB but forgotten.

  15. BHenderson says:

    Hi, I did the weapon balancing and the cinematic work for Classic Doom for Doom 3. A few of the CDoom team members got together and made a separate modification called Zombie Slayer. You can download the mod here: http://zslayer.moddb.com

    The mod utilizes quicktime sequences and is fully animated with a soundtrack. It also has a health/checkpoint system in place to balance difficulty.

  16. Mman says:

    “Is there any Quake mod?”

    You mean a sort of Quake remake in Doom 3? Because there is:
    http://www.monster-clip.com/maps/castle/castle.htm

    Shambler’s Castle is a map that attempts to remake a lot of Quake 1 elements in Doom 3 and does it very well, apparently there’s a bigger series on the way too.

  17. Skye Nathaniel says:

    I always liked the computer interfaces in Doom 3. Has anyone come across any mods that deepen them somehow, use them for story elaboration, or do otherwise unusual things?

    Claims that certain backlash has been disproportionate: Misplaced and over-defensive.

    Aforementioned statement by myself: Predictable.

    Number of trolls in this post: Zero.

    Age of this joke: Elderly; Ancient; Legendary.

  18. Anthony says:

    Fucking monster closets. This is all I have to say on the subject.

  19. SirKicksalot says:

    Thanks Mman. That looks great.

    Vincent Avatar – both games are heavily inspired by The Thing. The upside-down spider monsters are straight out of the movie.

  20. stormbringer951 says:

    Play The Dark Mod. Tears of St Lucia is quite a good mission, and the engine works great :)

  21. Robin says:

    The absurdly forgiving reception that Dead Space enjoyed suggests to me that not a lot of people played Doom 3 properly* (or at all) the first time around.

    *On a sufficiently-spec’d PC, without cheating.

  22. OldManTick says:

    I much preferred Quake4 to Doom3, but Doom3 was awesomely scary at first. I was down in my man cave with a my ghetto projector rig and surround headphones and my disintegrating recliner with the subs lashed to it and I was genuinly scared, at first.
    Quake4 was almost all good.

  23. Serondal says:

    I was just getting used to all the scary stuff when, towards the end, you see a bunch of tubes filled with dead monsters (or so they seem) and one of the imps presses against the glass, at that point I threw the mouse and kicked the keyboard holder OFF my desk. I always played with surround sound headset, lights off in the middle of the night to insure maximun fright value. Also I’m a scary cat ANY WAYS so it really get me ^_^

    The Thing FTW! Upside down spider head freaked me out quite a bit.

  24. drewski says:

    Doom 3’s biggest problem is repetion. A much tighter (and shorter) game so you don’t get used to the scares and monsters would have been better.

  25. Lorc says:

    Yeah, that second quarter really did drag a bit. But it’s so worth it for the fantastic hell levels.

  26. Cedge says:

    Wait. There was a “vicious backlash” against Bioshock?

    Damn. I must be reaalllllyyy out of the loop. I should probably take up human contact again.

  27. Serondal says:

    I never noticed any kind of repetion .I guess if you were a fan of the first 2 games and infact still played them at the time doom 3 came out repetion was less of a problem :P That is one benefit of being a fan boy, it allows you to ignore/not even remember the flaws of a game if it is about something you love. Then again it could also expose flaws and make you angry if you’re an angry internet fan boi ;P

  28. PC Monster says:

    Nice timing, I just bought this off eBay. :)

    While I found the game rather generally lacklustre, one moment did stand out for me and still makes me laugh in the telling of it. I came across a zombie-soldier boy feasting on a dead body – nothing unusual in that, I thought, as he noticed me and started lurching angrily in my direction. What I wasn’t ready for was the other body, the meal, to get up and start lurching after me too! A nice twist to a familiar scene.

    Cheers for the thread, Alec. Some of these Mods just might help raise the game above mediocre. And of course, I can’t wait for that first beta of the Dark Mod…!

  29. Scandalon says:

    Serondal – if you liked 3, then you’re doing it (being a fanboi) wrong. :P Like me, I love Doom 1/2, never really found 3 all that enticing.

    To make it more tolerable anyhow, I’ve been using the Perfected Doom 3 mod, which fixes/alters a lot of things that bugged me, about the single-player. Still haven’t finished it, let alone started the expansion pack, mind.

  30. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    I always liked the computer interfaces in Doom 3. Has anyone come across any mods that deepen them somehow, use them for story elaboration, or do otherwise unusual things?

    Yeah, I also thought that was an innovative approach to in-game computers that worked really well. Pity Doom3 barely used it for more than single-button screens though. But in an RPG or similar game the same technique could be used to great effect.

  31. Cagnazzo says:

    Surprised nobody mentioned In Hell. That mod was one of the most intense pieces of gameplay I’ve ever experienced. Having to kill several Hell Knights with no more than grenades and, if memory serves, a chainsaw, was tricky, to say the least. It’s good stuff if you like really really hard, fast paced combat, only made harder by the often nonsensical, dangerous arenas they take place in. The whole mod ignores Doom3’s techy setting, which is another nice switch. All in all, it felt much as if they had simply continued the Hell section of Doom 3 and drawn it out into a medium length campaign.

    I enjoyed it very much.

    I seem to have played a version of it called the director’s cut, but i don’t see any such tag on the file I looked for just now. Maybe another will know where to find it.

    The mod itself on Doom3 Downloads:
    http://doom3.filefront.com/file/In_Hell;55089

  32. Lorc says:

    The doom 3 expansion pack was a bit of a disappointment to me. It’s a terrible cheat to give you the double-barreled shotgun and then trade out all the imps (which required one perfect shotgun blast to instakill, or two glancing hits) for a new monster almost identical in attacks and behavious except that it requires one perfect super-shotgun blast (or two glancing shots) to kill.

    They could have taken advantage of the new variety, but no. They give you a weapon that does double normal damage and balance it out by giving you a new default enemy with double the expected health.

  33. Flappybat says:

    Last Man Standing is dragged down by poor custom levels. The basic campaign works mostly but Doom 3 doesn’t play well in co-op with the tight linear levels and lack of any real opportunity to co-operate.

  34. Serondal says:

    @Scandalon – that is more or less what I was hinting at. There are two kinds of fan bois, in my opinion. 1) Will take anything related to what they like even if it isn’t that good or as good as the origonal 2) will complain about anything new that comes out related to what they like unless it is exactly like the origonal and perfect technically.

    Good example is MOO3 , some fan bois support MOO3 heavily others say it was the worst game evar. I don’t “support” doom 3, but I really personally enjoyed it and I finished it which is rare for games. I almost never finish a game :P Prey , Doom 3, Half Life 2 are among the few games I’ve actaully finished. The list of games I’ve never finished is to long to mention.

  35. lumpi says:

    I never really checked for a pulse and rather trusted my prejudice. But this kinda confirms my impression that Doom 3 was the least moddable id game so far which is a shame.

    Still worth getting. Doom 3 is heavily underrated.

  36. Xhumar says:

    Alec: there are a lot I’d recommend. There’s DungeonDoom, Commander Doom (both made by one person), the Hexen TC for Doom, Ultimate Mod (really love this one) and more. Check out http://www.doom3world.org‘s forum for great mods.

    The problem with the Doom 3 modding scene wasn’t the fact that it was difficult to mod. Actually Doom 3 was what really got me into modding for other games. The problem was, there wasn’t a very large consumer base to play the mods.

  37. Jason Moyer says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Pathways Redux or Barista 3.

  38. David Gentle says:

    Quake 3 source code came out in 2004 and I guess a lot of people hoped that there would be a huge number of standalone games based on it. But there ain’t. Lets hope that when the Doom 3 source comes out (apparently later this year) there’s a bit more enthusiasm about making games with it.

  39. Heliocentric says:

    When i first got it d3 didn’t run well. Never opened the box since. I really should.

  40. A:\Big.bat says:

    I think Doom 3 was excellent. So there.

  41. Nick says:

    I enjoyed Doom 3 too.

  42. Radiant says:

    The in game computer interfaces are just Flash so you can theoretically have a game of Plants vs Zombies with in the game.
    Or recreate Galaga.

  43. Radiant says:

    Here’s a quick test of how good Doom 3 was:
    “What happened at the end of Doom 3?”
    “Now what happened at the end of Quake 4?”
    “What happened at the end of CoD4?”

  44. qrter says:

    I thought it was garbage. So there there.

  45. Black Mamba says:

    I liked Doom 3 as well, the criticism of monster closets didn’t sit well with me I mean its Doom!. 1/2 were filled with monster closets but 3 had much more tighter/confined spaces which is probably what the real reason for complaints.

    Going to go off on a rant now – also Bioshock backlash to me was really rooted in PC gaming snobbery because of System Shock 2 which no one bought but was “best game evar” that every gamer knows about and years later along comes Bioshock big hit and instant backlash from PC gamers “but its just watered down System Shock”.

    Always happens with a big name game that’s a major success of another platform (e.g Halo its just slowed down Quake 3) however a bug ridden mess of an FPS like Stalker is given a free pass by many.

  46. CryingTheAnnualKingo says:

    Doom 3’s singleplayer was positively terrifying for me. I mostly played it alone in the dark. The moment you walk into the bathroom and see your reflection in the mirror is indelible. I will also always remember finding the chainsaw for the first time and then immediately being locked into a tiny metal box with two demons. Harrowing, to say the least.
    In retrospect, its easy to fault the game for its ancient scare tactics when games like Half-Life 2 pushed the genre in fantastic new directions, but at the time, Doom 3 was really good at scaring you.

  47. Serondal says:

    The whole looking in the mirror and then terror music and red flashing blood ect scared the @#$@#$@# out of me. I still can’t stand to look into mirrors because of that! I keep expecting it to happen in other games where I look in mirriors and am only disappointed/thankful ^_^

    At the end of doom you defeat the back guy and seal hell but you’re still like stuck on Mars (Which I guess is where the expansion pack I never played came in) You get that awesome weapon that lets you do crazy damage after destroying X-number of demons ect. You also got to fight some crazy huge boss that chases you around, always awesome

    I never played Quake 4, I hate Quake after quake 1, Quake 2 sucked compared to Quake 1 and made all the bad guys aliens all of a sudden :(

    COD 4 – I can’t tell you how it ends because it could be a spolier to everyone else who hasn’t beat it yet. Suffice to say I cried. Never played an FPS that hurt so bad in my heart box :( But at the same time gave me the feeling of satisfaction at killing 1 individual enemy in slow time.

  48. Larington says:

    Myself, the main problem I had is that I found the game extremely frustrating instead of fun, the idea of being surprised by a hidden door openning behind you got abused rather appropriately to hell and back, like, its better to walk through the game facing behind you rather than forward. Plus, the one time the game tried to not be linear I went around in a circle for a while and didn’t meet a single enemy for probably 10-20 minutes.

    That said, I thought the game was awesome up until just after all hell breaks loose, there was something wrong with the combat, I think partly related to the movement speed of the player.

  49. Fenchurch says:

    I got the biggest scare from the leaked Alpha back in 2003, when you jump down to the level end and the (at the time new and shiny) lighting effects cast this shadow of your puny man form across these giant bulkhead doors. Then, the lights flickered, and you heard some horrid noise, and your shadow was DWARFED by this titanic Hell Knight shadow. x-)

  50. Serondal says:

    Those are the kind of subtle by scary as hell things that made Doom 3 great. People griping over level design and combat problems ect are missing the entire point. But that is their right to do so ;)

    The room that is over run with some sort of biological hell skin and has pentagrams in it really scared me as well. The random chanting and losing control of your character while demonic images flash across the screen really messes with me. There were a few (maybe one) moment like that in system Shock 2 but it wasn’t nearly enough.