quakecon 2014

A Lengthy Look At id Software's New Doom

by Andrew Reiner on Jul 17, 2014 at 04:14 PM

The lights dropped in the main ballroom at Quakecon, leaving a lone spotlight on center stage, and cheering erupted. Moments earlier, Tim Willits bid farewell to the 50,000+ livestream viewers so that the eager attendees could get their first, exclusive look at id Software's re-imagining of the classic first person shooter - Doom. Marty Stratton, the executive producer at id, bounded on stage and described the studio's vision for Doom's long-overdue return, slated for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

This new chapter in the series is a reboot of sorts that gets back to the classic roots of fast-paced action. "Doom is not about taking cover," Stratton said. "It's not about finding a place to hide to let your health regenerate. It's about fast, fluid combat, dodging projectiles, finding that next target and charging forward with nothing in your way of slaughtering that next demon."

The view screens in the ballroom came to life with images of Doom's history, showing pixelated versions from yesteryear, and the latest beasts to step into our flashlight beams.

Stratton detailed exactly what we could expect from the next chapter. "You'll see crazy demons. Unbelievable mechanical demons built through secret and corrupt UAC experiments. Demons like hell knights, the cyber demon, revenant, and many more. Whether these demons are something familiar or something totally new, each of them is designed to create a unique combat experience, regardless of whether you are fighting against it, killing it, or being killed by it."

After several more minutes of talking about the creative vision behind the new Doom - fast movement, lots of guns, and a sense of relentless assault - Stratton brought Steven Serafin onstage to demonstrate a playable build of the game. The lights dimmed again, leaving the room in almost complete darkness.

Laughter greeted the sight of a mouse cursor on a black screen, but quickly turned to hushed silence when a power armored protagonist slid a futuristic helmet on, bringing up the familiar HUD of health in the lower left and ammo in the lower right. Ominous music swelled, and an assault shotgun appeared in highly rendered gloves. In this silent airlock, our first look at id Tech 6 (jokingly called id Tech 666) was already an impressive showcase of lighting and atmospheric effects.

Leaving the safety zone, the marine entered a gigantic mining complex that is teeming with activity. Flying mining vehicles whizzed by to the backdrop of glowing magma falls. The atmosphere was more vibrant and brightly lit than expected, and had more of a traditional science fiction vibe to it. The shotgun the protagonist wielded holds these qualities as well, appearing more like something you would see from a Mass Effect game than Doom, but don't worry - the traditional double barreled shotgun makes an appearance as well. As the marine worked his way across high-bound walkways that hovered above the golden magma, signs of trouble became apparent, first with a splattering of blood on the ground, and then with what appeared to be an armless zombie trying to smash its way through a window nearby. And then we saw our first demons. They teleported onto the steel walkway in front of the marine. The effect of the teleport was visually stunning, almost looking like a dusty storm cloud before a demon crawled from its midst.

Then the chaos began. The first blast from the shotgun rumbled throughout the ballroom, drawing cheers from the crowd. The demons didn't stand a chance against its concussive force, and they tumbled and bounced off objects in the environment like pinballs. The impressive AI and staggering technology from id's Rage was on display here, and it looks damn good. But the guns weren't the star of this demo. The marines hands and feet stole the show. Injured demons were eliminated quickly with melee finishers that would fit right in with any Mortal Kombat game.

The demo quickly turned into a slaughter with demons getting shot up and then torn to shreds. Skulls were crushed, jaws were ripped in half, heads stomped from above, arms completely torn off, necks snapped, bodies kicked over railings, and in one memorable case, a heart ripped out of a giant demon's chest and punched down its own throat, where it then exploded.

Even the environment puzzles embrace gore. To open a locked door, the marine stumbles upon a palm recognition security device, but obviously can't use it. A quick scan around the room reveals a dead scientist leaning against a wall. Rather than carry the corpse to the scanner, the marine rips off one of the scientist's arms and places it on the scanner. The hand does the trick, and then slowly (and hilariously) slides off of the scanner.

After mutilating dozens more demons in ridiculous ways, the marine's progress was halted when a massive demon with a grinning skull face and a flaming jetpack flew through the window, kicked the marine to the ground, and beat him to death with his own arm.

Normally, this is where most demos would end, and the lights did come back up, but it was only so Stratton could ask the crowd if they wanted to see more. The answer was a collective roar of approval, and the lights dimmed once again.

Where the first presentation focused heavily on Doom's new vision for run-and-gun combat, the second slowed things down for a bit. We had a look at some of the new maneuverability in an area that appeared to be the outer portions of the UAC facility, with dirty clouds scudding through the dark, airless Martian atmosphere. Here we learn that the marine can double jump to reach higher ledges. Using this move, which appeared to be powered by a thruster of some sort, he quickly navigated a series of broken staircases. The functionality looked fluid, and a slightly mistimed jump was forgiven by the marine grabbing the staircase ledge and pulling himself up. There's certainly potential here for exploration, but both areas we saw were linear and there didn't appear to be much room for veering off of the beaten path.

After a few jumps, the marine reached a ravine. Serafin stopped dead in his tracks and switched over to the weapon wheel (slowing down game time to a crawl), to equip the chainsaw.

The crowd went berserk just seeing the chainsaw icon.

Needless to say, the chainsaw was not a clean way to go out for the demons meeting the business end of the weapon. Bodies were sliced in two every which way, giving all watching plenty of time to study the anatomy of demons. One demon even cowered in fear, holding his arms up over his head to try and block the attack, but his efforts proved fruitless. The chainsaw cut through his arms and then through his skull and body.

More frenetic fights followed, ending with a face to face encounter with a gigantic Hell Knight that faded the screen to black, but the overwhelming sense from the crowd was that this was a game about speed, heart pounding combat, and buckets of gore exploding from every possible method of demon slaying possible. Stratton said it earlier, but it wasn't until the lights came back up that people truly understood he meant the words.

"We're creating Doom to make you feel like a fast, improvisational, brutal killing machine."

The demo was impressive, delivering the feeling of Doom through and through while not being afraid to embrace the latest in technology and gameplay from the generations of games the original inspired.

No release dates or multiplayer details were given, but Stratton did say that multiplayer will be a big part of the game and that they already have it up and running in their office.