If you’re in the mood for Doom, but all you know of the franchise is Doom 2016 onward, you’d best use caution before backpedalling into Doom 3. While I certainly wouldn’t put the old girl down, it has to be said that it’s a very different beast.
You see, your modern Doom is a series of arena fight power-fantasies. They’re also set to hyperactive soundtracks that can turn even a passing fan of Metal into a full-blown air-conditioner. Being a nail-biting corridor creeper, Doom 3 is the tonal black sheep of the series. Fortunately, that slower-paced, pants-filling approach makes it a more or less perfect fit for VR.
First thing’s first, Marine, let’s get you up to speed with what passes for a plot. It’s the same old sitch, really: a bunch of corpos who are moronic make Mars demonic. As a grunt (and full-time mime who physically can’t say no to anything) you get saddled with clean up on aisle 3 duty.
As your janitorial duties progress, you’ll need to pore over collectible PDAs and rat for resources in lockers with passcodes that are devilishly hard to crack. Pro tip: try 123, it’ll work more times than you’d think. As this situation gets more FUBAR, you’ll be asked to sweep away chunkier messes. Likewise, your disembodied janitor hands shall be filled with increasingly larger…broomsticks.
DOOM 3 VR Review
You can expect to rinse and repeat like this for 9 hours until end credits. Plus, like the recent Doom 3 remastering, the expansion pack content is included – roughly 4 hours of Resurrection of Evil, plus 1 and a bit hours of The Lost Mission. The former dials back the dank in the level design and folds in twelve levels, six new enemies and ol’ painless — the Super Shotty. The latter expansion holds only 8 levels that are drawn heavily from the cut content of Doom 3. It’s nothing to get on the UAC vidphone and broadcast home about.
When it comes to dispatching the spawn of hell with bullets and shells, Doom 3 VR feels nothing like 2017’s Doom VFR. That VR experiment felt every bit like a Doom 2016 spin-off – you got that faster pace and OP guns that had to be mixed and matched against enemy hordes coming at you like spider monkeys. Furthermore, it (badly) supported two Move controllers and a teleportation system that could whisk you out of trouble, or be used as a means to glory kill. None of those things applies here.
Doom 3 has only seen some slight modernisation by comparison. First off, it doesn’t support 2 Moves. You either roll in with a DualShock 4 or the vastly superior and niche to own Aim Controller (which is what I ended up sticking with). I found zero issues with the tracking of either option, and you have VR comfort options like snap turn, turn increment settings and either full or partial vignette.
Disappointingly, Panic Button has gone with a floating hands approach (which is disappointing if you’re coming straight from something like Iron Man VR). They’ve also shifted your HUD — as in armour, health and pathetically regenerating flashlight battery — to your left wrist. Oh, and you need to squint up the butt of every gun to discern your ammo count. All of those UI decisions sound insignificant, but the reality is they add some extra tension that wasn’t there before.
And it’s not as though Doom 3 was lacking in intensity in the first place. If you played it in 2004, as I did, you would have experienced a much freakier game — id’s original vision was a “you can hold a flashlight, or you can hold a gun, but not both” affair. Doom 3 VR uses the modern rethink, where every gat comes with a night light to make you feel safe.
All that being said, VR lends a new and impressive “there-ness” to the Stygian gloom that the non-VR editions cannot hope to replicate. I know this because I made a point of replaying the remaster a day or so before clocking this PSVR edition. The atmospheric difference is night and day.
That more or less direct comparison highlighted a few other changes to me. I found both the sound design and effectiveness of the guns in the Doom 3 remaster to be disappointing, downright anemic. The pistol was a peashooter. The shotgun was a nerf blaster. The machine guns sounded like typewriters. I’m very happy to report that this all been tweaked in VR. All weapons have more grunt, and I’m almost certain they’ve upped the range and DPS of them as well. They’re tons more fun to use.
One thing I will say, though, is that corner leaning with these guns is OP. Basically, it befuddles the enemy’s line of sight AI to some degree – you can spy demons coming in, but it’s like you’re invisible behind cover to them. A nefarious opportunist might simply camp on a corner and snipe unsuspecting hellspawn into gazpacho as they approach. Bit of a difficulty killer, that one.
Also, Panic Button has given us all better protection against id’s favourite trick in this game — spawning horrors behind you. Now when an imp teleports in to give you the spooning of a lifetime, you can tap R3 to 180 and guard your backdoor. That occurs instantaneously, mind you — completely without animation. You’ll need an iron VR stomach to use it all the time. Anything less, and you’ll probably empty your guts quicker than those defenceless UAC scientists on-screen.
Doom 3 was a pleasure to revisit in VR, but some rough edges gave me a tiny bit of hell along the way. For starters, there’s still some iffy collision detection on the odd box or object that may snag you in place. That’ll get your arse some new speed holes for no good reason.
I also still hate how the idtech 4 engine save hitches you, mid-level. Basically, you’ll be grabbed by the proverbials as the next chunk of level data is loaded in. That happens in really odd sections, like, middle of a hallway as your CO’s barking at you to “pick up the pace” for the 6th or 7th time. I’d like to, Sarge. I really would.
On the other end of the conversation spectrum, it’s a real pity that our Doomguy is such an empty uniform. He doesn’t ooze any sort of attitude or even basic humanity — not like the Doomslayer can convey through cool-ass animations. So prepare yourself there, young bloods. You’re enlisting as just a blank slate FNG, fetch questing from one bullcrap detail to the next.
My gripes with Doom 3 VR are minor and few. To be perfectly honest, I went into this not expecting much and was kinda blindsided by how much “VR presence” and a bit of gun tampering could enhance an experience I thought I knew like the back of my hand. If the PSVR didn’t have the low resolution and fps limitations it does, I’d probably call this the absolute definitive version of Doom 3, on the spot.
Admittedly, what’s here isn’t quite the spookiest thing I’ve played on PSVR — Resident Evil 7 retains that crown — but I was still put on the edge of my seat, even though I’d replayed this recently. You’re going to have quite the time if you’re a Doom 3 virgin who doesn’t know where the jack-in-the-box spawns are. (They’re freakin’ e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.)
Is Doom 3 VR Edition worth going through Hell and back all over again? I mean I wouldn’t call it a PSVR system seller, especially as the life-cycle of this device is clearly winding down. That said, if you’re an existing owner with the requisite sea-legs for intense VR movement, I reckon this is priced low enough to be essential. Even more so if you early adopted that woefully under-supported Aim Controller and your trigger finger’s been itchier than asbestos undies.
I truly do hope that Doom 3 VR Edition becomes one of the titles that’ll no doubt get ported and enhanced to work with the mysterious PSVR 2. I had an absolute double-barrel blast with this, You should all make like Doug Quaid and get your ass to Mars
DOOM 3 VR was reviewed on PSVR using digital code provided by the publisher.