With a May 13 release date the new Doom has been in development for some time now, and gameplay footage has been released sporadically since Bethesda unveiled that nostalgia triggering teaser in mid 2014. On Thursday, Bethesda released a new ‘Campaign Trailer’ and for the first time since that teaser I see signs of promise.
Much of the footage released thus far, particularly that of the alpha, has been focused on multiplayer, from which we can see that this component of Doom will be in the style of an arena-shooter, hearkening to the likes of Quake 3 and the Unreal Tournament series. There are some modern elements implemented such as parkour-like wall climbing, creature power ups etc, but otherwise the gameplay looks very familiar for that style of shooter. What has been for me a cause for concern is that the footage previously released has shown very little resemblance to the aesthetic and design of the original games. From the 18 minutes of footage shown at E3 2015 the level design appeared unremarkable, the weapon design looked very uninspired, with the machine gun and regular shotgun in particular looking very generic, in stark contrast to the likes of the chaingun from the original games. The creature design too seemed to continue with the change of aesthetic from Doom 3, which to many (myself included) felt significantly diluted the strength of the original designs.
The new ‘Campaign Trailer’ I am delighted to see has alleviated some of those concerns. The trailer features some very familiar creature designs that fans will recognise from the original games which do not appear to have been overly altered. The Baron of Hell at the trailers conclusion in particular looks pretty damn awesome. This is definitely good news to me as the aesthetic and atmosphere of the original games were one of their strongest assets. The environments shown also look to have an appropriately hellish quality, maintaining a familiar tone. Good news aside there are a few lingering issues which remain unaddressed.
One of the new elements this Doom looks to bring to the franchise are the melee executions that are featured frequently in all the single player footage released so far. This is obviously inspired by the popular over the top Brutal Doom mod, and looks to up the ante in terms of pure carnage. Whilst pulling the eye out of a Cacodemon undoubtedly looks cool, it also make the playable character look overpowered, conceivably removing any sense of fear and threat the game could hope to generate. If in the originals you had the misfortune of running out of ammo, you were left with two choices: to run or to use your knuckle duster adorned fist to slowly beat your enemies to death, at great risk to your own health. I think the games executions would work very well if the ability was tied to obtaining the ‘berserk’ powerup, which would provide context within the game. Whether this breaks tension or not can only be known after playing it, so judgement should probably be reserved.
What remains to be seen is how the game’s ‘campaign’ will play out. Will it be a series of levels like the originals with no real depth of story, but instead a series of monster filled mazes, or will it have voiced dialogue sequences and cutscenes more atypical of a modern shooter? Personally in the case of a Doom game I would hope for the former, as I feel that the simplicity would work in its favour, focusing the attention on the game’s aesthetic and shooting mechanics, which is what Doom is all about. Of course, ID Software’s other classic shooter series Wolfenstein recently found success with a narrative and character driven campaign, but the two games are worlds apart in tone and ultimately in what makes them successful.
The new ‘Campaign Trailer’ has given me a little more hope that Doom will have something to offer for fans like myself, who still revere the originals. Although HUD elements weren’t on display in this trailer it would have been great to see the Doom guy’s face at the bottom, although from previously released footage this iconic element doesn’t seem likely to make a comeback (PC mod perhaps?).
On a side note, whilst the new gameplay footage is arguably pretty impressive the newly unveiled official cover art is not. It is a generic, uninspired and lazy effort, featuring an armoured space marine facing forward whilst holding a gun. As several other publications have pointed out you could replace the Doom logo with that of anything from Halo to Crysis and no one would be the wiser. In contrast to the awesome hand drawn cover art of the original Doom and Doom II on PC the new effort looks, as Jim Sterling has put it, like a “boring a load of wank”.