With Doom Eternal recently announced at this year’s E3, Guest author James Brod takes a look a 2016’s Doom, and examines how it has impacted action games over the last couple years as well as how it fits within the ecosystem of modern shooters.
When the Doom reboot came out in 2016, the first-person shooter market hadn’t seen a real shift in a while. While games like Call of Duty and Halo had, in recent years, changed up some of the basic parts of their formula in order to reinvigorate their franchises, the core mechanics of these games had not changed. Then, id Software announced Doom, a reboot of their popular series, which had made big promises of bringing the franchise back to its roots: frantic, fast-paced action, with satisfying guns, big arenas, and even bigger demons. There was a bit of worry from some people, including myself. Some thought it would fall in line with the many other first person shooters out there and be a by-the-books, overly-cinematic romp through a series of grey corridors. After all, it had been 12 years since Doom 3 came out, and while it was a fine game, it took a 180-degree turn when it came to gameplay, going from the fast-paced action of the first two games in the series to a survival-horror vibe, and the game was slow and very poorly lit. This wasn’t helped by some of the pre-launch trailers, the multiplayer beta which was released a month or so before the game launched (and was met with mixed reviews) and the fairly-generic cover art used for the game’s physical release.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, at least when it came to expectations for the single player portion of the game. Doom’s single player is the perfect blend of old-school arena shooter mechanics and more recent additions to shooters like character and weapon upgrades, as well as a multitude of collectibles. There are all the things you love about older arena-style shooters like Doom and Quake – no sprinting, the ability to always move at full speed in all directions, double-jumps, the ability to hold every weapon at the same time, and of course, no reloading. This is combined with a simple yet robust upgrade and customization system that lets you equip up to three Runes which grant different abilities or enhance the ones you currently have, as well as Weapon Mods which allow you alter how your weapon works on the fly–like the ability to turn your pump-action shotgun into a grenade launcher–all by just holding the left trigger on your controller (or right mouse button, if you’re on PC). You also have a series of more passive upgrades, which let you switch weapons faster, or be less vulnerable to damage from your own weapons (I’m looking at you, rocket launcher). All these things come together with a story that you can get really into or completely ignore. This is because it’s told through collectibles that you can read, as well as occasional holograms you can activate to get a better sense of what happened before the game began, or which you can completely ignore and get right back to slaughtering demons.
Now of course, no game is perfect, which is where Doom’s multiplayer component comes in. I praised Doom’s single player for being this perfect blend of old and new, and while the multiplayer also very much blends old and new, it does it in all the wrong ways. Instead of everyone starting out with the same weapon and picking up different weapons and power-ups as they play, you now have load outs–a trend standardized by the popular modern shooters Doom’s single player eschewed to great effect. Also, unlike being a walking arsenal like you are in the single player, you can only carry two weapons at a time, and you are stuck with those weapons. Even if you kill someone, you can’t grab their gun.
To id Software’s credit, they did release a very large update for the multiplayer about a year ago–called appropriately Update 6.66–a much needed breath of life into a multiplayer mode whose player count had, at least in my experience playing, already taken a steep dive. Update 6.66 made all post-launch downloadable content (maps, weapons, playable demons, and additional cosmetic items like armor sets and emotes) free for all players. It also scrapped a consumable “hack module” system of passive multiplayer buffs in favor of a new rune system, making the new system similar to the single player, and removing the limitations of them being single-use. This allows you to freely change which one is being used throughout the match. While I think this was a great start towards fixing Doom’s multiplayer, it didn’t fix Doom’s inherent flaws, which I mentioned previously.
After the success of Doom, it would be surprising if other developers and publishers didn’t take notice of this and take some cues from its reimagined classic gameplay. While the entire gaming industry hasn’t suddenly started exclusively making fasted-paced shooters, you can see Doom’s impact and influence. Rage 2, the sequel to 2011’s Rage, which was also developed by id Software has seemingly taken its lead from Doom. Co-developed by Avalanche Studios, best known for the Just Cause series and 2015’s Mad Max, Rage 2 has quite the pedigree. While the first Rage was a lackluster open world first person shooter with car combat thrown in, the gameplay that has been shown from Rage 2 seems to indicate that the formula has been shaken up significantly. It looks to feature faster movement and a move-set that emphasizes mobility and speed, with the player character easily circle-strafing around enemies in the E3 reveal. All of this makes me much more excited for Rage 2 than I was for its predecessor.
As for what lies ahead for the Doom franchise, the teaser for Doom Eternal, which was recently revealed at this year’s E3, gave us the faintest glimpse of what we can expect from the game. It opens with a view of Earth in ruins, with demonic tentacles throttling skyscrapers, and huge masses of rock floating in the sky. The landscape is littered with corpses, both human and demon, and at the end we’re greeted with the Doom Slayer’s foot crushing the skull of an unknown type of demon, as several other demons emerge from over a hill to face him. While this teaser doesn’t give us a lot of information to go on, it seem to confirm that Doom Eternal will be set on Earth (just like the classic Doom 2: Hell on Earth) as well as confirming the return of three classic Doom monsters: the Arch-Vile, the Pain Elemental, and what appears to be an updated version of the Arachnotron.
I embrace this return of fast-paced first person shooters. Doom has lead the charge. With the upcoming release of games like Quake Champions, Unreal Tournament, and Rage 2, it seems fast-paced first person shooters are making a comeback, and that’s something I look forward to.