Returning to the game's description of itself from 2004, the phrase that particularly grabbed my attention, over and above any of the technical stuff was "Dramatic Storyline". Not because the storyline is rubbish, even though it is. But because one of the things I enjoyed most about returning to the game was listening to the individual tales of the employees stationed at the Martian base.
Like Bioshock, Doom 3 scatters recorded "Audio Logs" of the station's inhabitants throughout the levels. These recordings are well written and superbly acted, providing a great deal of insight into the strange goings on around the facility and the lead-up to the current catastrophe. There's absolutely no need for this level of detail, of course. In many ways its further indicative of Doom 3's problematic priorities, all about including the best stuff, the most bits, and forgetting that an entertaining game is always more than the sum of its parts. That being said, I enjoyed the variety and personality id imbue into these logs, the cast of different races and genders it employs.
Moreover, as I already stated, they keep you interested in the game's first couple of levels, where Doom 3 is at its weakest. It's a strange situation. Everything has gone to hell, or to be more literal, hell has come to everything. Your voice-communicator delivers a constant stream of gunfire, screaming, explosions. And what's happening to you? Erm, some zombies walk slowly towards you and you shoot them with your pistol. The dissonance between what you hear and what you experience is striking.
You could argue the problem is Doom 3's slavish adherence to introducing weapons and enemies in the same sequence as the original. But the zombies aren't the problem. it's the game's sole reliance on them, failing to support them with any environmental hazards or personal experience of that immediate chaos which afflicts the base elsewhere in the game's first couple of hours. You're kept away from all that, which I guess makes sense in terms of survival. But it isn't very interesting.
In contrast, the mid-game is much more entertaining. The monster introductions fade into the background and it starts throwing opponents at you with considerably greater frequency. The constant attempts to make you jump using monster closets and having imps jump at you from behind doors become a little grating. But it gets into a rhythm, a steady beat of action that keeps you engaged. It also helps if, as I did, you push through as quickly as you can, ignoring the game's constant attempts to startle you, and treating it as good old-fashioned action rather than survival horror,
Despite getting further than I usually do, and enjoying it more than I anticipated, I still didn't manage to finish Doom 3. I reached the bit where you're teleported to hell itself, and I'd forgotten that id's concept of hell is "Exactly the same as what you've already experienced, but with some bricks and lava." Oh and your guns get taken away from you. For about five seconds. It felt like enough. I'd been pleasantly distracted for a few hours, but this sudden reminder of the game's lack of variety, even when it changes location completely, made me realise that at no point had the game brought me to any ecstatic high, any raw thrill that I've experienced in so many other FPS', such as Half Life 2.
It's interesting to compare Doom 3 to Half Life 2, which was released only three months after
Doom 3. They're a world apart. Half Life 2 is constantly inventive, fluid, evolving. It's an example of perfect pacing and meticulous craftmanship, bringing in new locations, new ideas at precisely the right moments. Doom 3 has one idea and repeats it over and over, occasionally reaching an acceptable level of buzz, but at best it smoulders and never sparks. Calling Doom 3 a mistake may be harsh, but its definitely a misstep on id Software's part, if that isn't merely splitting hairs. And sadly, it's one from which the company has yet to recover.