Like everybody else in 2004, I was eagerly awaiting Half-Life 2. But I wouldn’t be a massive Doom geek if I wasn’t looking forward to Doom 3 more.
I was 16 when Doom 3 came out in the summer of 2004. I’d been back into the Doom scene for a solid two years, probably more, and that’s on top of Doom having been one of the biggest games in my house for most of the ’90s. I was making my first maps at this point, awful as they might have been. Doom was in my blood, and I was ready for the third installment. I was ready to see the Doom I knew and loved running on bleeding edge technology.
That’s… not what I got.
Doom 3 is the first game I can really remember waiting for. The first game I can recall the feeling of obsessing over before it was out, and counting down the days until it was. I wanted Doom 3 harder than I’d wanted anything else, and my expectations… well, they left a lot of room for me to be disappointed.
My journey with Doom 3 is an odd one, beginning with love, flipping over into hate, and then running round the spectrum back to love. I loved it at first for superficial reasons: this was Doom, or so it said on the tin. It was an id Software game about a marine fighting against the forces of Hell. There was a shotgun; there were zombies, demons, giant skeletons with rocket launchers on their shoulders. This was Doom, and so I had to love it.
Except it wasn’t; not really. Not the Doom I had known, at least. id made a conscious effort with Doom 3 to do something different, and it showed. It was darker, slower, more unsettling — a shooter with distinct horror aspirations. Levels were more linear and monsters came at you one at a time or in small groups. The chaotic run and gun was gone, and when I began to realize that, to say I hated Doom 3 would be an understatement.
But why? What’s wrong with taking the familiar and going in a new direction with it? Doom 3 is a reboot — a fresh start for a fresh series. I have my issues with remakes, when someone decides they can do a game better than it was originally, and in the process erase the old one from canon. And I have issues with sequels that undermine or misunderstand what came before. Doom 3 is neither of those things. It is, simply, what it is; and what it is is a great game.
What I wanted all the way back in 2004 was more of the same old Doom. We have Doom already, though. In fact, we have The Ultimate Doom, Doom II, Final Doom, Doom 64, and The Master Levels — and that’s just the stuff released by id. There’s also countless commercial Doom content from third-party developers, and more fan mods than you could ever play in a lifetime.
My point is that who cares if Doom 3 tried for a different kind of atmosphere, that it added a silly story and a mustache-twirling villain, that it forced you to switch between your gun and a flashlight? There is a way to try new things with a series without disrespecting what has come before, and this is how you do it.
Doom 3 was the game that taught me how to… adjust my expectations. To love something just as much — or more — even though it wasn’t what I was expecting or what I really wanted.