E3 2015: ‘Doom’ is a Modern Old-School Shooter

By | 1 year ago 

Is it possible to remake a classic without losing everything that makes it special? Bethesda sure thinks so.

In a discussion between Matt Grandstaff, DOOM executive producer Marty Stratton, and art director Hugo Morton, one thing was quite clear: id Software’s new game might be a reboot, but it’s not reinventing the franchise. Like Stratton says, DOOM has always been about “Badass demons, big f’n guns, and moving really, really fast.” Morton adds, “Demons are bad, but you’re worse.” Rest assured, those things aren’t going to change.

Every decision that the development team makes is dedicated to keeping that core DOOM experience intact. Fans will recognize classic monsters like Pinkie, the Mancubus, and the Spectre. Old weapons will return. Even the innovative new Swap Map mode, which allows players to quickly create their own levels, was inspired by the original game’s dedicated modding community.

That devotion to tradition isn’t just aesthetic; the id Software team really wants to make a game that feels like the original. According to Stratton, the game is hard; if it looks easy, that’s only because the developers who conducted the demos have spent a ton of time with the game. As in the original game, DOOM’s hero will carry all of his weapons with him; no need to pick and choose. In most modern shooters, health refills automatically. In DOOM, players need to collect health boosts from downed enemies, which adds an extra layer of strategy: if a player is low on health, his or her best bet is to “find the weakest guy, and take him out.”

Stratton’s talked a lot about speed, and he reiterated that during the interview. DOOM is like a shark: “You stop and you’re dead.” For many observers, DOOM’s initial reveal trailer didn’t look quite as fast as players had hoped. Don’t worry. Additional videos played during the presentation proved that the game really is a quick, brutal experience.

Id’s developers are intentionally slowing the pace when making demo videos, too, so that it’s easier to see things like weapon-switching; in reality, actions like that can be nearly instantaneous, if the player’s skilled enough.

That’s not to say that things won’t change, of course. While DOOM looked great when it came out, that was 1993. Technology’s gotten better since then. The id art team aims to take the original game’s over-the-top B-horror-flick style (Morton calls out Evil Dead 2 as a specific touchstone), and bring it up to modern standards.

Doom Cyberdemon Revenant

That’s where Morton’s work really shines. Before working with id on titles like DOOM 3 (not to mention concept art for films like Pacific Rim), Morton studied industrial design, and he brings a both strong sense of character and a grounded realism to the game’s horrific demons.

Morton and the art team’s work informs the gameplay, too. For example, Stratton and Morton discussed the process of designing the Mancubus, one of DOOM’s returning villains. In its newest iteration, the Mancubus has a gaping hole in its abdomen, and shoots weird, hellish energy. Morton and the other designers decided that the gland in the Mancubus’ chest secretes an explosive toxin that, when combined with fluids from the glands in its arms, results in its energy attacks.

The game design team loved that, and took things one step further. If the Mancubus’ abdominal gland was essentially a bomb already, maybe the player could use it as a weapon. That line of thought led to one of DOOM’s most hilariously gruesome execution moves, which are called Glory Kills: the player character reaches into the Mancubus’ chest, rips out its innards, and shoves them right back down the monster’s throat. A few beats later, the Mancubus explodes.

DOOM is full of modern, crazy animations like that one – and that level of detail is harder to pull off than it might seem. Visually, special attacks are contextual: if the player is looking at an enemy’s leg when he or she attacks, it’s the leg that’s going to get blown to bits. According to Stratton, this makes players a little bit like fight choreographers; Morton agrees, comparing DOOM’s hero to “Bruce Lee with a shotgun on a skateboard.”

DOOM’s multiplayer is getting an overhaul, too; the original game was a pioneer in terms of player versus player competition, but only including the classic deathmatch mode wouldn’t cut it in a modern game.

The team shared the multiplayer demo that aired during Bethesda’s press conference, before detailing one of the game’s newest additions. The first player to collect a pentagram power-up turns into a powerful demon who is hard – although not impossible – to kill. The other players will have to team up Evolvestyle to take him or her out, but there’s a catch: the player who delivers the killing blow will take over as the demon.

There’s more coming, too, and Stratton and Morton hope to have more information at the next QuakeCon. For now, long-time DOOM fans can rest easy; their franchise is in good hands. Stratton says, “Everyone has their own personal experience with DOOM,” and id is trying to respect those memories. They get it. After all, they’re fans too.

DOOM is in development for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It should arrive Spring, 2016.

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