Bethesda and Id announced a re-release of Doom 3 on Wednesday that will include versions of all three games in the franchise. Available materials, though, seem willfully ambiguous over whether the first two installments will be updated as well, or simply repackaged – and, by extension, whether Id intends to break a decade-plus innovative dry spell.
Updated versions of classic titles are not uncommon, even in the attention-deficit gaming world. A heavily updated version of Bungie’s Halo: Combat Evolved, for example, was critically lauded last year for a feature that lets players toggle between 2001 and 2011 graphics engines. The question is whether Id and Bethesda will simply re-release the first two Doom games – a trick that’s been done before, and in any case is unnecessary due to the game’s many quality source ports – or whether they’ll get a creative overhaul of some kind.
A terse Bethesda announcement (“All DOOM 3 content has been re-mastered”) seems to suggest, by omission, that the first two titles will remain untouched. The somnambulant Id has made no comment.
The compendium will be titled Doom 3 BFG Edition, after an iconic weapon in the franchise originally called the “Big Fucking Gun,” and later sanitized to “Bio Force Gun.”
The first installment of Doom, released to critical and commercial success in 1993, was technologically groundbreaking, with a minimal plot (Demons? Mars? Demons on Mars?) effaced by fast-paced gameplay and unprecedented attempts to render complex environments. Doom 2: Hell On Earth, released in 1995, added little content or engine refinement, but was well-received for providing similar entertainment.
The Texas-based Id Software, though, has struggled for the past decade, giving up the cartoonish violence of their 90’s titles for the plodding, orthodox gameplay of Quake 4 and Rage – and embracing long, puzzling periods of downtime while company mastermind John Carmack creates novel game engines.
Even the claustrophobic Doom 3, which represented a breakthrough in virtual lighting technology in 2003, was criticized for gimmicky scares (notoriously, you could hold either a weapon or a flashlight, but not the two at once, even with a free hand, which maximized dimly-lit tension but called into question the resourcefulness of the protagonist – and perhaps the developers) that contrasted with the original installments’ relentless carnage.
It’s been suggested that the re-release could be a precursor to a Doom 4, which has been in quiet development since 2008.
Bethesda did not respond to a request for comment by press time.