Bethesda got E3 2015 off to a pretty tremendous start, as evidenced by our appreciation of the Fallout 4 hype. Yet to some observers it wasn't the developer's much-anticipated open-world adventure that most appealed; rather, it was the trailer and gameplay footage of the resurrected DOOM.
This is NOT Doom 4, its makers are keen to stress, but quite specifically DOOM (all caps a must), like a digit would put off a slew of new customers. Anyway, the new DOOM has had a bit of a rough ride to get to this point. A year or so ago, a bunch of screenshots and information leaked about a Doom-related project that was unceremoniously scrapped. Reports abounded of a Call of Duty-like cinematic shooter, set in a ruined city and featuring a rebel faction facing off against the forces of hell, making it sound more like Killzone than "Kill 'em all". It was binned for – to paraphrase Bethesda themselves – not being "Doom enough".
Then, at Quakecon 2014, they actually showed some early footage of the game to select punters, and then did the impossible of keeping something secret in this age when almost everything is online mere seconds after it's shown in a room with the worst Wi-Fi in the Western World. It has been a long wait for this new DOOM.
We got the E3 (preview) trailer a whole month ago, such is this ridiculous world of teasers, hype and pre-orders we live in. There was about two seconds of total gameplay footage in it – a super shotgun being reloaded at close range, and what appeared to be a revenant from Doom II firing off a bunch of missiles. Two things, two seconds, two important bits of information. Firstly, the enemies are skeletal forces of hell, and that is cool. Secondly, there's a shotgun in it, and that's A BIG DEAL. Any decent Doom should basically be Shotgun: The Game. Sure, there's plenty of other iconic weapons in the mix, but none still feel so bloody satisfying to use to this day than the shotgun from the original Doom.
Post-Bethesda's conference, we've seen a fuller trailer and a several minutes of actual gameplay. It initially looks like a really pretty version of Doom 3, the much-maligned black sheep of the Doom series with its greater focus on survival-horror scare tactics than out-and-out blasting enemies. However, once things start moving it is clear that this new DOOM is extremely fast-paced, with an emphasis on constantly moving during combat to avoid enemy attacks while dishing out your own. In the gameplay footage, the opening shot shows what appears to be a huge blast furnace, a bit like where Arnie gave his final thumbs up in Terminator 2, carved into the Martian surface – a wide and open area full of places to explore and to fight in. Your marine can now double jump and pull himself up onto higher ledges, which is hardly Mirror's Edge-style parkour, but it looks like inspiration's been drawn from Quake III's smooth, silky movement, with a few extra bits bolted on.
The E3 gameplay trailer for 'DOOM'
Then there's the violence, something the Doom series has quite the history with. The original games were released at a time where splashing copious amounts of blood into proceedings was a certain way to shift a shipload of copies, and it was arguably the most graphic franchise of the lot. The first-person perspective, the arsenal of firearms and numerous different death animations stood out from almost everything else available at the time, and the name "Doom" was consistently tied to discussions surrounding the controversy of violence in video games.
How things have changed. Death is everywhere in games today. We're totally desensitised. Hundreds of people are offed in E3 game trailers every year, and hardly anyone cares. DOOM really goes for it in terms of gore, almost brazenly so, making the bone-cracking and bollock-busting of the recent Mortal Kombat X look tame in comparison. Bullets tear pieces off enemies; a close-range shotgun blast will send pieces of meat flying everywhere; and the chainsaw now carves monsters into bloody chunks. The new DOOM also introduces finishing moves, useable against weakened enemies indicated by a blue outline. These are anything from "simply" reaching into a hole in their chest and tearing out their heart to the ultraviolent act of tearing off one of their legs and using it to stave their head in. One concern, though, is how quickly these kills will begin to repeat themselves, as once you've torn an enemy's jaw off, leaving their tongue flapping uselessly, you've done it a thousand times.
Anyone who has played the 2010 PC Doom mod "Brutal Doom" will recognise a load of these features. Clearly, someone at Bethesda has been taking notes, as the footage shown contains plenty of stuff that "Brutal" has been doing for years. Enemies are more active and will leap around the area to get at you. Explosions cause huge amounts of carnage, blowing hellspawn apart and causing huge chain reactions if they catch another explosive object. Opponents can be dismembered by weapon fire, blasted up the wall with a shotgun only to slide lifelessly back down, and torn in half by a minigun, leaving a legless torso pulling itself along, still trying to get at you. There's much more in the way of melee combat, including the ability to dish out a big old kick that launches the recipient so they can be shot out of the air, Bulletstorm style, and, of course, the finishing moves are there, allowing you to rip and tear your way through the levels. "Brutal" is more than just a gore mod; it fundamentally changes the way that you approach a lot of the combat situations in "Classic" Doom.
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Plenty of players have assumed that "Brutal" was bringing the essence of the 1993 original up to date, but several interviews with creators John Romero and John Carmack indicate that Doom was actually meant to be a horror game, with Doom 3 likely much closer to the initial design document. "Brutal Doom" is a bastardisation of what you remember Doom to be like. The original is a game that's still really playable to this day, that doesn't suffer from the ravages of time like so many others, but "Brutal Doom" is the game you talked about in the playground made real – when you hadn't actually played it, but you had seen screenshots in magazines and heard that your mate's dad had it on his work 386. The first Doom was a fast-moving action game that dropped you into the eyes of a space marine tasked with fighting his way through a very literal hell, with acts of violence only spoken about in hushed tones taking place. And DOOM looks like the sequel to that game.
With four-player co-op and the classic death-match mode confirmed, as well as a few reports coming out of E3 suggesting an easy to use level editor being included, DOOM is shaping up to be a game worthy of its series' lofty reputation. After battling through its own developmental hell, this respawned version of a classic shooter is looking hella good indeed.
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