Despite only being eight years old, Doom 3's decidedly brutal and unforgiving approach may well lead some newer gamers class it as a bit creaky these days. Having just played the new Gamescom demo of the new and upgraded BFG Edition though, we’re as impressed as we ever were. Moreso, in fact.
It’s smooth, it's slick, and – exacerbated by some excellent surround sound headphones – still damnably scary. In fact, particularly for console gamers, it's likely to be the best it's ever looked or played. While the original Xbox port was a nicely executed 'quart into a pint pot' conversion, the 360 version is every bit as accomplished as the original release, which obviously required the best of everything when it first appeared on the PC in 2005.
The demo allows 3D viewing, although we were playing it through a ‘passive’ 3D display (the polarised kind you get in the cinema, rather than the more expensive active shutter set-up) , which apparently requires a much greater effort to set up to secure the optimal viewing distance. After a bit of a faff, we did get it working and discovered it runs at a decent lick of speed, although not quite the wonderful 60fps of 2D mode. So we switched back.
In 2D mode, however, the game positively shines. Sure, it’s made up of about 80% shadows, but if shadows could shine then... Anyway, the relentless attack of zombies, hell hounds and floating demon heads is a startling reminder that games these days have made us weak from all that hand-holding. The demo has loads of weapons unlocked and ready to roll, from a meaty but slow-loading shotgun through to plasma rifle and frag grenades.
So confident are Bethesda that their console versions are up to scratch, they don't even have the PC version present at the show. The console version runs at a frightening pace. And there’s something about the always-powerful atmosphere that’s still evoked by the now slightly blocky rendering of hell that makes Doom 3 feel as fresh and new as it ever did.
We can take or leave the 3D. As is often the case, it doesn’t have much real effect on the overall experience. But seeing the game ported so expertly to the Xbox 360 suddenly makes us wonder whether pushing the envelope is really necessary any more. Old graphics with strong production and atmospheric design can still look sensational. And of course, after years of Halo-style regenerating health bars, getting down to your last 2 points of vitality without a free recovery in sight is a tautly compelling experience all over again.