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- Doom Eternal
The surprise of 2016’s Doom is still surprising. Id Software managed to resurrect a classic series past its prime and craft one of the most thrilling first-person shooters ever put to ones and zeroes. But, according to Creative Director Hugo Martin, that was only id’s The Evil Dead whereas Doom Eternal, the upcoming sequel, is the studio’s Evil Dead 2. While an odd comparison to a series in a different medium and genre, it rings true after blazing through the first few hours of Doom Eternal’s campaign.
The Evil Dead was widely regarded as a great horror film near its release but didn’t quite come into its own until its bizarre sequels where the gloves were off and the chainsaw arm was on. While it’s hard to ignore that seminal debut feature, it’s not usually what most associate with the series. Martin said he thinks Doom Eternal will be where Doom truly comes into its own.
“The Evil Dead had the spark of what would eventually become the Evil Dead franchise,” said Martin. “But Evil Dead became Evil Dead in Evil Dead 2. That’s where they stripped away all the other stuff and where it really became what it was.”
2016’s Doom was fast as hell, rewarding players for getting in and aggressively ripping and tearing their way to more health, armor, and ammo. Doom Eternal is taking that as a starting point, significantly expanding that core toolset and as id “pushes the bar as far as it can.”
Doom Eternal Preview | Upgrading the demon-killing arsenal
Like Martin said, Doom Eternal has the guts — literally — of 2016’s best first-person shooter (sorry, Titanfall 2). The Glory Kills are still there as are many of the same weapons, movement options, upgrade systems, kick-ass tracks, and general gameplay mechanics. It’s remains an endlessly satisfying to chain together different weapons and rapidly move from demon to demon and quickly make dozens of micro decisions between each kill. There’s nothing else quite like it and that cannot be understated, especially how the new dash move speeds up the game even more.
But instead of stripping elements away like The Evil Dead franchise, Eternal seems to be adding more while still staying true to its identity. Players now have access to a super-powered melee attack called a Blood Punch and tiny flamethrower cannon on their shoulder lovingly referred to as the Flame Belch. The grenade is back too, but it’s more seamless this time and even comes with an icy variant that can help you freeze Hell over in a less metaphorical sense.
The Flame Belch is more strategic since it causes some damage but is primarily used for making armor spill out of burning enemies before you turn them into goo. The Blood Punch can help gooify Hell’s finest, too, as it charges as you perform Glory Kills and transforms your regular melee attack into an explosive one.
All of these glorious tools of demon destruction are on a timer or can be easily filled through the skillful kills you’ll be doing anyway. This approach not only encourages you to use them as much as possible but also requires it through its design. Doom’s combat works so well because there are multiple tools for every scenario that have different functions and these new gadgets seamlessly add to the chaos. Much like the Doom Slayer’s chiseled physique, there is no fat in his arsenal and adding more variations into your loadout gives players even more choices during gameplay.
Doom Eternal Preview | The tools of the trade
Choice equals gameplay variety since Doom is at its best when players are bouncing between their guns and abilities to create a ballet of blood. And since there are more ways to kill, the combat loop is noticeably more engaging than its predecessor especially as it throws you into the thick of it almost right off the bat.
The level design and demons themselves reflect this commitment to variety, too. Eternal takes the player out of Hell and off Mars and gives them locales with a wider color palette, yet the game still nails its hellish settings with some truly awe-inspiring vistas that are begging to be your next wallpaper or heavy metal album cover. These scenery changes aren’t just cosmetic either. No matter the location, each level still had a bevvy of arenas full of monkey bars, portals, hazards, mines, and more scattered around the make each battle a unique playspace. A greater selection of enemy types showed up as well, mixing and matching different hellspawns so it doesn’t devolve into a shooting gallery featuring the same predictable demons.
Having a variety of ever-growing weapons to shoot at an ever-growing variety of demons in an ever-changing bunch of arenas hones in on the best part of Doom: the shooting. All of these make the shooting better and different each time. While it remains to be seen if the full game can keep up this appropriately breakneck pace, constantly shuffling who, what, and how you’re shooting is one of Doom’s best weapons in its impressive armory.
Doom Eternal Preview | Filling in the cracks in the Praetor Suit
Everything about Eternal’s eternally changing bag of tricks is there to avoid stepping on the first game’s toes as well as its own. Doom, for all of its rabid supporters, didn’t strike everyone with same ferocity. Some argued that it was repetitive, claiming you could just use one or two tactics and get through the game. Martin, while happy that most first-person shooters fans played it the “right” way, saw how the game stagnated for those not willing or motivated to plumb its depths.
He explained how 2016’s Doom yielded too much Super Shotgun ammo and had an easily spammable rocket launcher, letting players meander through the game with those powerful tools without needing to change it up. This culminated in a viral clip from Polygon where the player missed nearly every shot and still fumbled out alive against all logic. This scenario helped illuminate one of the team’s blind spots.
“That’s like someone not playing basketball correctly at all and winning and whose fault is that?” he admitted. “We’re going to make sure everybody becomes a black belt but it was a problem that the game did not kill that person. It would be like if somebody succeeding in basketball without knowing how to dribble or winning in Fortnite without building.”
Doom Eternal, according to Martin, has been designed to have “bumpers” that are designed to force players to change up their playstyle and experience Doom at its best. For example, if they don’t want to use the chainsaw, they’ll eventually run out of ammo and die, which is where the bumpers gently nudge them in the direction of carving demons to get ammo. Martin said the team worked incredibly hard at “corralling the player to play in a way that is going to be fun and awesome to watch.”
Doom Eternal Preview | The difficulty with difficulty
That’s a moving target, too, as skill levels fluctuate from person to person. The Nightmare difficulty may be Doom at its peak but that’s not for everyone. Bumpers help with evoking the Nightmare spirit even on I’m Too Young To Die as the game requires that you use all the tools on every setting; it’s just the speed at which you have to use those tools. Martin was adamant that the game is fun if you stick to it and learn, hence wanting to turn players into black belts, and making players work is something more games should embrace.
“A little bit of frustration [in a good game] is honestly part of the experience so long as I know that when I died, I made a mistake,” said Martin. “It’s a funny point in development because people are like, ‘Oh, you’re frustrated. Oh my god. We have to change that.”
But, again, basketball analogies prevailed.
“It’s like if I lose a really close game of basketball because someone stole the ball from me and someone puts a mic in my face and asks me if I’m frustrated now, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I’m fucking furious right now!’ But it’s not like, ‘Can we make it so you can’t steal the ball anymore?’ No!”
Doom was a classic because of that approach and Doom Eternal could have easily just exactly copied the same structure and been more of it. More demons. More guns. More rippin’ and tearin’.
It may seem like that at a mere glance, but there’s more variety and care with how those systems are implemented and how they talk to each other. This is apparent for playing Doom Eternal for three hours but also when revisiting the old game, which holds up but is slightly less refined and quick in comparison. And any Doom sequel that can make that 2016 reboot even appear slow is incredibly promising.