When the original Doom dropped onto the scene in 1993, audiences were floored. Never before had they seen a game so graphically immersive, fast paced, and dark in subject matter. The title was not only commercially successful, but instrumental in laying the foundation for the first-person shooter genre. Naturally, a sequel would follow in the form of 1994’s Doom II, which was built on the same game engine, but with all the lessons learned while developing the original. Developer id Software was on a winning streak, but inner office turmoil led to the firing of co-founder John Romero in 1996, known for his creative level design and rock star-like persona. Eight years later in 2004, Doom 3 was released.
By 2004, video game development had evolved significantly, due largely to id’s post-Doom innovations used to create their Quake series. Real time 3D rendering was not only possible, it had become the industry standard, opening up a number of possibilities for the previously dormant franchise. Being the first Doom game in the post-John Romero era, it does seem to lack a certain depth to its level design seen in the first two entries. By this point, a large portion of the id staff had begun to tire of the organization’s culture, but development pressed on, and the eventual result is a highly playable first-person shooter that leans heavily into horror elements. Its story serves less as a follow-up to the previous entries and more as a reboot, retreading the familiar backstory of a space marine stationed on Mars when a gateway to hell opens way for a demonic invasion.
The first Doom game to utilize true 3D rendering, it was a significant upgrade in fidelity from Doom II. Enemies and environments stayed largely within the series’ wheelhouse, but with a higher level of detail and less restricted movement. Also by this time, a changing game industry had conditioned players to appreciate slower paced FPS games such as Half-Life, a trend that is very apparent in Doom 3. Rather than full-throttle shoot ’em up energy, the game takes a moment to present a robust backstory, explore its characters, and build a generous level of suspense. This unfortunately makes for a sluggish beginning, but the pace is picked up significantly about a quarter of the way in.
Although it was divisive upon its release and not held in the same esteem as the previous two, audiences have come around a bit to Doom 3. It was remastered in 2012 as Doom 3: BFG Edition, which includes enhanced graphics and audio, an added checkpoint system, and head-mounted display support. This version made it onto 2020’s Doom Slayers Collection along with the first two games, making one hell of a way for new players to enjoy early entries in the series.