Software is taking us to school. Doom School. The Dallas studio is accepted master of the FPS, of course, having given the world Wolfenstein and Quake, but even 27 years after the release of 1993’s iconic demon-slaying Doom, the team is still teaching us how to play shooters.
Doom Eternal is the latest game in the iconic franchise, but it’s much more than just a sequel to the reboot that blasted its way onto Xbox One in 2016. id has packed Eternal with a ton of new systems and ways of playing that are not merely iterative, they almost form their own language, one that you need to be fluent in, in order to play the game as its creators intend.
“When you look back at Doom 2016,” executive producer Marty Stratton says, “that was a great game and we were very proud of it, and there were people that were playing the right way – switching weapons and using movement as a defence and offense, and all of that kind of stuff – but we didn’t always require players to play that way. You could beat Doom 2016 with just the Super Shotgun. That’s not intended. That’s an exploit, that creates a frankly abhorrent experience, and a repetitive experience, that’s not what we want.”
What Stratton also definitely doesn’t want is people just shooting demons in a corridor. That’s so 1993. id’s shooter could potentially suffer from an image problem in 2020, with Doom still thought of as that gloriously gory guns’n’demons corridor shooter – but Stratton and game director Hugo Martin are determined that we should get all we can eat from Doom’s buffet of supercharged demon-splattering.
“Hugo has a funny but appropriate saying,” Stratton tells us, “that Doom is junk food, and we’re proud that it’s junk food, but it doesn’t mean it can’t have a ton of nutrition in it. And that’s what we want people to really experience – it’s super fun on the outside but it’s smart on the inside, and we’ve really refined the experience.”
Refining the experience goes beyond simply remaking 2016’s game bigger and better, which it is, of course, but involves giving players a raft of tools and techniques to master each arena and level. Each gun, it goes without saying, has a different effect and function which will make it more suited to certain encounters; every weapon has a couple of mods, or attachments, activated from the left trigger – and these mods are acquired as you progress through the game. As well as an assortment of BFGs, though, your Doom Slayer will get a shoulder-mounted flamethrower called the Flame Belch, useful for crowd control, a Blood Punch (a killer melee move), a dash ability and the Meat Hook, a grappling hook that you attach to demons rather than the environment, to pull yourself towards them. On top of this, you’re going to need to make use of the game’s other techniques for harvesting resources.
Doom 2016 first introduced the idea of push-forward combat, meaning that you needed to kill demons to replenish your health, thus requiring you to play aggressively and stay on the attack. This time, id has tripled down on this. Demons not only drop health but ammo and shields too. Set enemies on fire with the Flame Belch and they’ll drop armour. Run short of health and you’ll need to perform a Glory Kill. When a demon is stunned by your attacks it will stagger and glow, giving you the chance to depress that right stick and perform a gratuitously violent and bloody fatality on said demon. Need ammo? No problem, Doom Guy! Rev up that chainsaw and rip the nearest demon apart. Course that would be too easy were it not for the need to keep your chainsaw filled up with collectible fuel.
There’s a ton of systems to master and a bunch of HUD meters to keep your eye on, but once learned, these different elements soon become second nature and your approach becomes not so much a flow as a complex polyrhythm of movement, timing and gunplay.
Class is in session OXM
has travelled to a warehouse in London’s Docklands to get hands-on with the game at a behind-the-scenes event, during which we’re blasted with dry ice, strobe lighting and heavy metal. Is it meant to represent Hell? We’re not sure – we rather like it. id wants us to experience the game’s progression elements, and throw us in from the very beginning of the action, to work our way through the first, formative stages. Doom School is in session, boys and girls. Each time we pick up a new mod or unlock a new ability, neat tutorial segments teach us how to use them. Early unlocks include sticky bombs or continuous fire for the shotgun, and the Doom Slayer’s Flame Belch and Blood Punch abilities. Each ability and mod brings something new and core to the gameplay, and remembering to use everything at our disposal becomes OXM’s problem as later on we keep dying at the hands of an Arachnotron and a flying gargoyle with shoulder-mounted cannons. Oh yeah, we’ve got grenades! Forgot about that. Ahhh, yes, set fire to demons with the Flame Belch and get shield drops! Of course. Sorry, Sir. One hundred lines: “I must not forget to use my dash ability.”
On top of all this, and you will be tested later, are a bunch of passive abilities slotted to the Doom Slayer’s Praetor suit. These take the form of mystic runes, which Doomy finds as he travels across the worlds. You can collect ’em all, but slot just three at a time – they provide useful buffs such as increasing your aerial movement, lengthening the stagger time of enemies, faster Glory Kills, and one that slows time after you receive a potential deathblow, enabling you to get yourself out of trouble. Sentinel Crystals found in the world will permanently upgrade your health, armour and ammo capacities. There are also ‘1UP’s to be found in secret areas of the map, which will allow you to carry on fighting, essentially surviving death with an extra life.
Let’s face it, Doom was never going to get an open-world treatment, with Doom Guy wandering around Hell accepting fetch-quests from needy old demon-wizards. Still, the world of Eternal is evidently much, much bigger – in fact, it’s twice the size of Doom 2016, according to Stratton – with verticality and environmental challenges key to the experience.
“It’s deliberate how you’re pushed through the world,” says Stratton, accepting that Doom’s linearity is still there, “but the levels have a much larger, expanded scope and scale. I would say that our focus, rather than to go open world, is to engage the player in solving the puzzle of the level. So you’ve got wall climbs and monkey bars and a bunch of traversal mechanics that not only can you use in combat, but we use them to create level design puzzles that the player can work their way through, and that adds a lot of verticality to the space and even adds a sense of scale.”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Revved up and ready to go
EA hands the wheel of Need For Speed back over to Criterion Games
The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor
Return to Tamriel’s frigid North this summer Chris Burke
Remothered: Broken Porcelain
We’re going potty for this cult classic survival horror sequel
Yakuza 0 Yakuza Kiwami Yakuza Kiwami 2
Triple trouble: Sega’s crime drama trio brings glorious thug‑thumping action to Xbox
ALL AROUND ME ARE FAMILIAR OFFICE SPACES
Savouring the joys of flight with an indie that’s living on a (gigantic) wing and a prayer
10 Best Multiplayer Games
From shooters to kitchen chaos, these titles are best played with friends
THE PROMISED 'LANDS
With so many great games competing for our time, how do you keep gamers locking and loading? Gearbox’s looter-shooter, Borderlands 3, knows how…
RIP & TEAR
ID'S LATEST ENTRY IN THE ICONIC OLD-SCHOOL SHOOTER SERIES IS IN A DIFFERENT CLASS. OXM GETS HANDS-ON WITH THE GAME, TO LEARN SOME VALUABLE LESSONS FROM THE FPS MASTERS.
Untitled Goose Game
INDIE PRANKSTER EARNS ALL THE LAUGHS THROUGH WATERFOWL PLAY