Have You Played… Doom 3?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Much of last year’s FPS love may have gone to capslocked DOOM but spare a thought for the try-hard, cliché-fueled darkness binge that was Doom 3. In 2016 the franchise had become self-aware enough to indulge its overblown past, yet back in 2004 the bad penny still hadn’t dropped. There were experiments gone wrong, there were zombies, there were messages on the walls written in blood. I have mixed feelings about it all.

It had one interesting thing: the torch. You could use this to light up gloomy corridors but at the expense of holding a gun. At the time, I despised this move. It seemed so implausible even within the lunacy of the setting. Here you are, a space marine trapped in a future-installation on Mars and you are still unable to duct tape a flash light to the barrel of your shotgun. But to understand all is to forgive all – id Software wanted to keep you feeling vulnerable right up until the last moment when you whipped out your rifle and hosed down the corridor with bullets. It worked, sort of.

But it was also stupidly long. Just as it seemed to be ending, another ridiculous twist would occur and you’d have to go scrambling to another section of the base, another shrugging objective to complete before you clocked it. On the one hand, this seemed to be good value for money. On the other hand, you couldn’t help but whimper onward. “I really thought this narrative climax would be the last one.” I can’t remember what happens at the end-end (I can’t even remember what happens at the beginning) but I do remember feeling relieved when I finally saw the credits, which is what a good sci-fi horror game ought to do, I guess?

49 Comments

  1. Kefren says:

    The problem with duct tape is that you had multiple weapons and often had to switch between them mid-combat. You’d need a torch for every gun if you were going to strap them on securely.

    Maybe he could have strapped it to his head though.

    • wisnoskij says:

      I believe a mod was released which strapped it to the pistol. The point of the torch being an indepandant “weapon”, being stupid, is not that the game should simple of given up are darkness and shadows, but that their was a place in-between that might of worked better.

      • unacom says:

        Don´t get me wrong. But I loved beating an enemy to death with that shiny thingy.

    • fadetonoir says:

      He has it strapped to his chest in the BFG edition.

  2. CartonofMilk says:

    Doom 3 was fine. It wasnt great but it was good enough, i had a good time with it but it had a lot to live up to and it kinda didn’t. The game i had expected it would be based on the previews was not the game we got too. I mean… the previews had made it seem to me like enemies would kinda be few and far between but would be a real threat when you encountered them and that the sparse enemies would make the game a tense and scary affair. Turns out that was only the beginning of the game. But there was also never that many enemies at once to face. Engine limitation i assume. Also, i hated that the enemies vanished to cinders when you killed them instead of just rag dolling all over the place. When i blast something at close range with a shotgun i expect it to fly across the room. Another thing, the levels were pretty claustrophobic, just mostly small rooms and narrow corridors whereas original doom had some really spacious environment. I chalked it up again to engine limitation.

    the one thing it DID live up to was that, as top of the line as the Doom engine was in the early 90s, so was Doom 3 to the early 00’s. Those graphics were top notch at the time. I remember being amazed by the faces of the character models.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Doom 3 was the first time that I thought to myself: “My player character has hands that actually look like real human hands”. The graphics were really good and the character models looked great. The metal and meatiness of the environments were great, but I got tired of them all looking the same combined with the key card hunting.

      I like Doom 3 and would recommend it, but it’s also one of those games that I’ll get tired of playing after an hour or two, for the above reasons.

  3. Dritz says:

    For the headset-havers, there’s a great VR mod for it, too! From what I hear, the devs were toying with virtual reality while making the game, and they open sourced the code a while back, so it was relatively easy for someone to get a proper VR version going (not to disparage how much work they’ve done, of course – it’s never that easy – but most mod attempts don’t have such favorable conditions going for them).

  4. studabakerhawk says:

    I remember feeling much the same way about Doom 3 when I originally played it. Recently though I’ve been loving the Vive mod. It fixes so much of what didn’t work on screen. The flashlight is always available in one hand while you hold the gun in the other. Monster closets are terrifying and fun when you can spin around and shoot under your arm. The huge enemies near the end of the game are cool instead of exasperating. It’s just plain fun instead of tedious.

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      Frog says:

      Nice, I have not heard of that mod, I’ll have to give that a try.

      • Songbearer says:

        Absolutely do. It’s really presented the game in a brand new light for me and I’ve never had so much fun with it.

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    Frog says:

    Despite the silliness of the monster closets and the flashlight, I got attached to the game and have played it through a few times over the years. On the plus side, I liked the atmosphere, the weapons were satisfying, the graphics and sound really pretty good. I played the F.E.A.R games more than once too, other than the last one that I just didn’t like. Maybe I just like the style of game with poor lighting, lots of shadows, stuff jumps out at you. I still have not finished the current Doom although it seems to be a generally better game.

  6. GallonOfAlan says:

    Interesting to recall the criticisms of the time – the torch thing I can understand, sort of. The whinging about it being too dark though … go and play Doom II again if you want all the lights on. Overall it looked fantastic and played very well even if it did rely a bit too much on imps crashing out of cupboards and going ‘boo’.

    • int says:

      I remember one image which compared the graphics of games of the time; it was Farcry, Doom and some other games. Doom was represented by only an image of the color black.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      There are a few maps in Doom 2 that use pitch (or near pitch) darkness in places. Honestly they don’t do it very well, but they’re there.

      I feel like the “too dark” criticism with Doom 3 probably isn’t fair. It’s an old-ish school survival horror shooter, it actually does that very well, and it wouldn’t do it nearly so well if you could see where the hell you were going. But people wanted more classic doom, and that’s where the criticism about the poor lighting comes from. It’s hard to have a fast-paced doom 1 or 2 style shooter if you’re constantly bumping into walls you didn’t see until they were right infront of you.

  7. thedosbox says:

    Yes I did, and I don’t plan on doing so again. I didn’t mind the torch so much, but the monster closets were just laughable.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Of all the criticisms about Doom 3, that’s the one I’ll never understand. I wouldn’t WANT a doom without monster closets…

      (Having said that, I don’t think neu-doom has any, does it? I haven’t played it myself yet…)

      • Buggery says:

        There’s no monster closets per se – enemies just spawn on the map, right in front of you if not already present (and some enemies can summon more). Which mainly works because it’s clear when you’re in an area where this will happen because there’s an actual object in the middle of the map that early on is presented as “HERE BE ENEMIES” and the entire point of the game is trying to keep up pace of killing stuff so more enemies = more good.

  8. Gwynor says:

    If I recall correctly, the BFG edition sported a torchlight totally independent from the weapons.

  9. Zaxwerks says:

    I have never played Doom 1 & 2, and had only just got into the FPS genre (Half Life 2 being my first game) when I played Doom 3. I loved it. I thought the torch/flashlight mechanic was great at heightening the tension, and didn’t MIND the monster closets, although it was a bit of a cheap jump scare trick. At the time I used to work week long rolling shifts so I used it to keep me up through the adrenaline jump scares in order to reset my bodyclock after the last night shift.

  10. Songbearer says:

    When it was fresh and new and I was only a wee boyo, it was the scariest thing in the world. I revisited it a few years ago and found it to be a functional yet uninspiring shooter that didn’t pace itself in a way that made it very exciting.

    I’m amazed this article popped up because I’ve just started playing DOOM 3 BFG with the amazingly solid VR mod, and now I’m having a blast. Consdering how few full-length games there are for VR currently, Doom 3 gives you a lot of game for cheap, and actually feels pretty tense and exciting when you’re actually inside the world. Aiming the weapons by hand feels great. If you don’t get motion sick easily and don’t mind a few rough edges (it is a mod, after all), I highly reccomend it.

  11. Vandelay says:

    I remember finding the criticisms overblown when I originally played it (probably a year or two after release.) It may not have been great, but I had a very enjoyable time with it.

    I tried to replay it a year or so ago and it was very little like my memory. It was incredibly tedious outside of shooting and the shooting was mediocre at best. Graphics, which were supposedly ahead of its time have aged badly too. Everything looked so flat and dull to look at.

    As I say, my memories were positive, but it perhaps demonstrates how far we have come in the last few years with games. The original Dooms still feel great to play though.

  12. rabbit says:

    it’s funny … i remember the PCG UK reviews of Doom 3 & Half Life 2 and i remember one of the (very) slight criticisms of HL2 was that it wasn’t as pretty as Doom, but it looked nice enough. fast forward a decade or so and HL2 looks great and Doom 3 is fuglier than fugly.

    i think the animations have a lot to do with it, doom is really jerky looking. i don’t know.

  13. reggiep says:

    That the helmet of the space suit didn’t have a lamp on it was very silly. They could have achieved the effect they wanted by making the battery a limited resource you collected.

    • Kefren says:

      The problem with the battery mechanic is that it’s ridiculous in almost every game it appears in (though I’m keen to know if there are exceptions). Batteries that last a minute before needing replacing; or torches that have to be turned off after thirty seconds to slowly recharge. Even in sci-fi games with advanced tech …

      • KenTWOu says:

        Batteries that last a minute before needing replacing…

        The passage of time is not realistic in games anyway, like it might be compressed, so a full day takes only one or two hours, your wounds heal surprisingly quickly, etc… So the battery that lasts a couple of minutes is the best solution, in my opinion.

  14. haldolium says:

    I really liked Doom 3 and enjoyed it quite much. It was a bit long, yes but the actual level design was despite its similar shading and apparently no use beyond being a background for a horror game, pretty nice and diverse.

    It was one of the last FPS with just good shooting in it, no bullshit before everything became console QTE bs with low-fov, safe area interface and general awfulness if you were used to play FPS on the pc.

    The realtime lighting was very unique too, but character models especially were awfully lowpoly.

    Great shooter.

    I really didn’t mind all the forseeable jumpscares, it worked well for me and it was like I would expect it from a game like Doom. I think the mix of enemies was well done too and their placing good. It wasn’t boring for me at all.

  15. wisnoskij says:

    I cannot say I understand why Doom 3 was controversial. I had loads of fun with it, and it is as legendary for pushing technical capabilities (shadows and general graphical fidelity) as the original one was (real time 3D). It seems to be this fourth one that will go down as just one more first person shooter in a genre filled to the brim.

  16. gnalvl says:

    The first problem with Doom 3 was hell being a side mission. The game feels like its afraid to take you to hell because it doesn’t think the engine can handle it. You go into hell for 15 minutes to run an errand and tick the “hell” check box and then resume playing more of the same Mars levels you’re bored of. It’s just 2 steps away from taking the same “it’s not hell, it’s a virus” cop-out as the movie.

    The second problem is that the combat combines the worst aspects of arena shooters and realistic shooters, instead of the best.

    You have to reload your guns, but they don’t have recoil or believable damage. Possessed soldier and imps don’t drop from headshots, instead absorbing dozens of bullets to the face in a Q3-esque manner. The shotgun feels lifted from Halo 2, with pellets that practically disapear after 5 feet – a far cry from Doom 1’s tactical single barrel shottie or Doom 2’s hand cannon. Even after the minigun winds up, it it still put-puts along more slowly than your ordinary machinegun.

    Basically, until you get rocket and plasma, you feel like you’re shooting airsoft. They probably felt like they needed airsoft weapons to compensate for the lack of combat potential in the level design and AI, but that really just goes to show how deep the game’s combat problems go.

    Lastly, it’s not said nearly enough that Doom 3’s over-use of teleporting monsters into the middle of the room was even worst than its over-use of monster closets. Not only is it a super-lazy approach to encounters (now the devs don’t even have to build closets) but it nullifies the natural survival dynamic of the player scanning the level for places the enemy could attack them from.

    I’ll be the first to say that Doom 2016’s mindless fake hyperbole of arena combat was not the only valid direction for a Doom reboot to go in. I actually would love to see a more realistic, tactical take on Doom…but Doom 3’s airsoft war on teleporting imps was not it.

    The best thing I can say about Doom 3 is that Doom 2016’s overuse of teleport ambuses was just as bad, and that despite claims that Doom 3 is a “slow” game its inclusion of strafe-jumping allows much faster movement speeds (at least in multiplayer) than anything in Doom ’16.

    • fadetonoir says:

      You’re right about the weapons being terrible – in particular the shotgun. I can’t believe a Doom game got the shotgun wrong (although I doubt they ripped it from Halo 2, as that came out 3 months later). Also the environments – okay, so you took us from the Mars base to Hell and back again. Can’t we at least visit a different part of the base that looks different? There is no variation whatsoever. And it’s not just bad that the monsters spawn right in front of you – they spawn in just ones and twos, three at the most. In a game that’s all about the shooting, that’s pretty boring.

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      alison says:

      This is the most useful Doom 3 and 4 review I have read yet, thanks. I didn’t buy Doom 3 back in the day because my computer was too slow, and by the time I had a computer fast enough I had been scared off by the near-unanimous condemnation.

      My memories of the original Doom are all wrapped up in fear and monster closets. Of course we all can slam through the original episodes in half an half an hour these days with mouselook and 20+ years of experience, but when the original Doom came out it took (me) hours to make it through a level. I played original Doom (and Doom 2) the way I play stealth games today – slow, anxious, scared.

      Anywho. Since then I have fallen in love with Deus Ex, and Counter-Strike, and Far Cry 2, and a whole bunch of other slow-ass stealthy stalking games, not to mention walking sims. Doom 4 is most definitely not a game I will ever be interested in playing. Doom 3 still piqued my curiosity because I thought it might take the things I loved about new games and mix in the fabulous Event Horizon sci-fi/horror setting that Doom had. Your review makes me realize it won’t do either.

  17. Mr Wonderstuff says:

    Just finished this in VR. Epic stuff considering how old it is.

  18. anon459 says:

    “the bad penny still hadn’t dropped.”
    This combination of two different phrases, both of which I can’t remember ever hearing before, sent me down an interesting google hole.

  19. CaptWaffle1 says:

    There are some REALLY REALLY good graphics-enhancing mods for Doom 3. Sikmod? Sickmod? The name escapes me but whatever mod I’m using makes it look oh so nice. At the time (and this was only a few months ago) it was easier to find good mods for the ORIGINAL Doom 3 rather than the BFG Edition. If you have not played Doom 3 in a while you might want to check out the graphics mods out…. some of them are truly amazing…. to the point where I kinda wonder how “some dude” can do something so amazing while we can get some graphically lackluster “remasters” from time to time made by an entire team of dedicated coders/designers. Not saying all remasters are half-arsed, but I can definately recall a few duds here and there. No names come to mind but that’s more on me than anything- I have the short-term memory of a goldfish. Or would it be long-term memory in question here…. too tired to clean up this comment.

  20. Shakes999 says:

    Oh my GOD are you right on being too long. The game just would not flipping end. I ended up deleting it after getting to hell cause I was just so beaten down by it at that point. It could have easily had a few hours trimmed and no one would notice.

  21. Faults says:

    There’s still parts of Doom 3 that I kind of love. The environment design and the lighting combined to make something that still feels wonderfully tangible, and it can really shine with the various HD mods available.

    That said, I don’t really have much desire to revisit it again, but I definitely enjoyed it at the time.

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    zigguratvertigo says:

    Why are both Dooms 3 and 4 set on Mars, when the original was set on Phobos and Deimos?

    • gnalvl says:

      Id has stated on a few occasions that it has to do with gravity.

      Mars 0.376g
      Phobos 0.0005814g
      Deimos 0.000306g

      Granted, if we accept that human technology in the world of Doom can manipulate interdimensional gates, then creating artificial gravity on the UAC installations doesn’t seem like much of a leap. But I think Id wanted to avoid either having different gravity in indoor vs. outdoor areas, and/or having to explain how artificial gravity is maintained outside the installation, etc.

      Also if these game’s art direction is any indication, they’re simply obsessed with the similarity between depictions of fiery landscapes in hell, and the exaggerated orange landscapes in popular depictions of Mars.

      If you want an updated vision of Doom on Phobos, check out Brutal Doom 64, where Mars is visible in the night sky.

      http://i.computer-bild.de/imgs/8/5/8/9/2/9/5/Brutal-Doom-64-1024×576-16ea2d896dab0a2f.jpg

      • fadetonoir says:

        Doom 64 isn’t an updated version of Doom, it’s a sequel to Doom II – the ‘real’ Doom 3, if you will.
        Doom 64 EX and Brutal Doom 64 both do excellent jobs of making the game playable on modern PCs.

        • RichUncleSkeleton says:

          Doom 64 is amazing. It’s a better game than its “real” Doom predecessors, and for that matter, the Quake games too. If it had been released as a proper PC game in its time, it would be remembered as the best and most accomplished example of the classic Doom experience. Obviously an N64 controller is a lousy way to play any FPS, but I can’t recommend Doom64EX enough. It’s glorious.

  23. whilesleepinghesaid says:

    I rate this as probably the second worst FPS game I’ve played, and I’ve played quite a few in my time. Number one worst for me was Bioshock. FPS games don’t have to have predictable gameplay and childish narratives – why can’t we have something better?

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      alison says:

      Ugh. Bioshock is hands down the worst FPS I have ever spent money on. It’s like they took some really cool Dieselpunk concept art, then added in all the dull predictability of the original Doom, and then made sure the mouse controls were all slippery, and then added some kind of wack storyline, and then added magical wizard powers, and then added some resource hunting nonsense to buy ammo, and wasn’t there some kind of slot machine too?!?! Hell, I didn’t even last long enough to figure that part out. Worst game ever. If Doom 3 is even half as bad it’s off my wishlist. For the second time this thread.

  24. fadetonoir says:

    This post is very timely for me – I’ve been playing through all the previous Doom games prior to playing the new DOOM over the last couple of months and I just completed Doom 3 BFG Edition on Steam last night (and by completed I mean finished The Lost Mission and got a few outstanding achievements).
    My feelings about it are mixed – on the one hand, it’s a perfectly decent horror FPS; on the other hand, it just isn’t Doom – and that would be fine if that’s what the developers were going for, except they made a game called Doom 3 so that inevitably invites comparisons. What’s worse is that there are so many elements of Doom and Doom II that made them great games that could have been implemented into Doom 3 that could have worked alongside the new elements – things like more open and yet complex level design with lots of secret areas and onslaughts of enemies that were just dumb fun to blast your way through. Doom was never scary because it was never meant to be but Doom 3 went for scary and, in many ways, it just doesn’t work – you rarely fight more than one enemy at a time (you might get three if you’re lucky), you tend to get lots of warning that there’s one on the way (teleporter/spawning sounds) and it doesn’t make sense that any single one of these enemies would be a threat to a heavily armed marine (and they’re not).
    So blasting your way through one enemy at a time means it isn’t a shoot-em-up like the first two games but it’s also not a horror game. The scariest thing is the game’s soundtrack, made up of ambiguous sound effects that could be that machine that’s running next to you or an Imp hissing behind it. Apart from that, the only scares are jump scares, caused by enemies spawning out of nowhere when you cross a certain line, which is something the first two games did but in a far less frustrating way.
    The game is incredibly linear and, as the main post says, feels too long. The weapons are unsatisfying, without recoil or any sense of damage caused (I don’t understand how a Doom game could get the shotgun so wrong – the expansion, Resurrection of Evil, tries to make amends by adding a double-barrelled shotgun but even that seems to lack effect).
    I remember being unimpressed with the game when I first played it upon release, and I think that’s because it was very run-of-the-mill at the time, almost like Doom had become just another one of the games that it inspired. Certainly it paled in comparison to Half-Life 2, released just 3 months later. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it holds up very well (it still looks very nice) and I have more fun than I thought I would blasting through it in 2016/2017.

    • ianni says:

      I am doing the same thing, but haven’t finished Doom 3 yet. I originally played it when it came out with super nice surround sound and only at night to maintain the darkness. It unnerved me then and it does the same now. The sounds and the darkness really create a tense game, especially on the harder difficulties. I know the BFG edition has the flashlight always available and I really think that ruins the game and takes away that tension. Sure if you play the game with the lights on with crappy speakers and on easier settings with the flashlight always available it will be very boring.

    • Elric666 says:

      Id got a lot of negative press because Doom 2 was basically just a repackaging of Doom 1 with some new stuff added in. It seems for Doom 3 they decided to confront that criticism by doing something different, and then people started whining that it was not Doom.

      Fans are the worst. They want something new and different, but not too new and different, just the right amount of new and different.

  25. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    Doom 3 is a solid 8-hour game awkwardly crammed into a 15-hour shell. It has some really, really great environmental design, from a purely aesthetic perspective, that the new Doom can’t touch and doesn’t really even try. The opening section with the administrative offices (populated by actual NPC’s! that talk!), the monorail facility, the waste disposal facility, Delta Labs, and of course Hell itself are all outstanding examples of atmospheric level design. I’ll remember those much more vividly than anything from Doom 2016 (which I happily concede is the better game).

  26. malkav11 says:

    My favorite bit of Doom 3 was a section somewhere in the middle where you were just poking around dark, deserted hallways and offices and such, just -waiting- for the other shoe to drop and monsters to come pouring out. And for probably 15 or more minutes, nothing does. Easily the tensest point in the whole game.

  27. tehfish says:

    Aside from the whole flashlight thing, two things mainly come to mind about playing it:

    1. The game was absurdly predictable to the point it became dull. I remember showing a friend and pointing out what was going to happen – “when i reach here, a monster will spawn there, a bit further and one will spawn next to me, and at the end of a corridor one will spawn behind me” Then walking down said corridor and having my prediction play out exactly.

    2. As has been mentioned, the playtime was excessively stretched out, compounding the dullness of the combat above. I remember setting godmode around 1/3 in to power through the game to see the ending, but never managing because i got just too fed up of it. :(

  28. Grovester says:

    I ended up playing this by walking backwards down corridors, because the game was so happy to keep teleporting monsters behind you.

    Looked good, but very, very tedious. DOOM or whatever the new one is called is so much better.

  29. gebrps says:

    Yes and many times. I love it! I could write a lot about it, but for a few things that you can argue about the game, a lot of people misunderstand it.
    In fact I finished it recently in my Android cellphone! And that’s thanks to the “wad style” programming, and id Software liberating part of the code to be able to port it. Will that happen to the new Doom? I doubt it and it’s a pity.
    May be some day with emulation, but it’s a long time ahead because the way games are made now.