Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release: November 22, 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Building on the success of the fantastic 2016 Doom reboot, Doom Eternal has a lot riding on its shoulders. The shooter that put the genre on the map has restored its sterling reputation, and fans have lofty expectations for where the series can go next.
At E3 we played an extended combat sequence that confirmed Doom Eternal is shaping up quite well. Afterward, we sat down with creative director Hugo Martin and executive producer Marty Stratton to talk about the changes we noticed in the demo.
Demons Are Your One-Stop Resource Shop
Doom Eternal still has ammo, health, and other power-ups littered around the battle arenas, but these supplies won’t be enough to mow through the entire pack of bloodthirsty demons barreling down on your position. To make it through the fight, you need to take resupplies directly from enemies by killing them in various ways similar to the way you received a generous drop of ammo after using the chainsaw to slice apart an enemy.
“We felt like ultimately, [using the chainsaw] was so much more satisfying than just overfilling the levels with resources everywhere so you’re tripping over them,” says creative director Hugo Martin. “We decided to steer into it with this one and say, “That felt really good. What else can we do to kind of allow you to take what you need when you need it from the bad guys that you’re killing?”
Chainsawing enemies still procures a healthy ammo resupply, but now you have three other techniques for collecting specific drops. Glory kills reward health, using the flame belch shoulder attachment to burn enemies yields armor, and stringing together glory kills powers up your Blood Punch super, a new rune-activated skill that lets you take down an enemy with one brutal punch.
The Corruption Meter Tracks Your Level Progress
Doom Eternal’s levels are packed with collectibles, secrets, power-ups, and demons. To give players a clearer sense of if they’ve seen everything they need to see, and shot every demon that needs to be shot, id added a new corruption meter in the upper righthand portion of the screen.
“We think of the player like an exterminator – you’re cleaning out this facility full of cockroaches,” Martin says. “There are still some tucked in closets but you want to kill everything that was in that level before you leave to get all your combat points. Your current demonic corruption meter is an indicator at a quick glance.”
Explaining The Neon U.I. Overhaul
One of the more controversial new elements to Doom Eternal is the bright neon user interface, which pops off the screen much more so than the one used in Doom. When I asked Martin about it, he said they are still iterating to get it right, but they felt it was essential to make these elements more visible when you’re flying around the arena in the middle of a dozen demons.
“Doom is not trying to be an immersive game; it’s not trying to be a cinematic game,” Martin says. “It’s a video game with the capital V that’s dripping with demon blood. Because it’s really fast, we’re putting a lot of pressure on the player. It’s speed chess. You’ve got to make decisions really fast. If I’m driving around a race car 200 miles an hour, I need all the signage and the game to be big and bold. Otherwise, I’m going to get killed. We want death to be a result of the player making a mistake and not the game screwing them. If stuff is subtle, it’s the game screwing me… It’s like in this game, I’m in a race car. Dude, if you have something to tell me, tell me loud and tell me fast. That’s really why we do everything with the glowing one-ups, the floating question marks, and the huge health packs.”
Martin encourages players to experience the game before knocking the U.I. too hard because it is a functional decision, not an aesthetic one.
Slayer Gates Replace Rune Trials
The Doom reboot featured 12 unique trials players had to complete to receive equippable upgrades to the Doomslayer. These aren’t returning in Doom Eternal. Instead, id introduces Slayer Gates, secret, giant arena encounters. “They are really f–king hard, but they give you a lot of resources,” Martin says.
To open a Slayer Gate, you first need to find a key somewhere in the level.
Doom Eternal Rewards Exploration
Doom 2016 featured several collectibles like trophy figurines, data logs that fleshed out the backstory, Argent Shards for upgrading your base stats, and even hidden places themed like classic Doom maps. The studio doubles down on this concept in Doom Eternal.
“We are busting our ass to make sure that every aspect of the game has real meaning for the player,” Martin says. If you see like a ledge down there, leading to a little tunnel, you’re like, ‘I bet you there’s something down there.’ When you go in there, it’s going to be worth your time.”
The Rune Lineup Includes Old Favorites And Powerful New Options
Just because Rune Trials are gone doesn’t mean runes are a thing of the past. The Praetor Suit still includes several slots that allow the Doom Slayer to equip runes that impart a variety of skill bonuses, and you can find runes by exploring the environment. Many popular options return for Doom Eternal, like the Blood Fueled rune that speeds up your movement after performing a glory kill. Id Software also designed some new ones it is excited about.
“There’s one called Target Strike. It’s awesome,” Stratton says. “When you use mods, it slows time. It’s really cool when you’re doing things like using the scope on the HAR. Using the meat hook with it is fantastic.”
This power is especially helpful when trying to do specific damage to a demon, like shooting the turret mounted on top of the Arachnotron or the guns on the Mancubus.
Traversal Plays A Bigger Role
The Doom Slayer has a lot more agility this time around thanks to some new tools that build on the double jump. The meat hook allows him to swing from enemies like a grappling hook, the new gloves let him scale particular walls, and the dash button helps him cross wide expanses. With all these new traversal mechanics at players’ disposal, id is making much more diverse and vertical environments that require some platforming skill to navigate.
“This time around, I think level design takes a big step up,” Martins says. “We got criticized that [Doom 2016] was just too many arenas and hallways.”
The E3 demo had a major focus on wall climbing, but Stratton says they have many different ways to mix up the traversal from level to level. One might require you to bust chains to open levels, where another has you punching moving blocks to give you access to new areas. It almost sounds like a Mario game with bloodshed mixed in between platforming sections, but Martin insists it will still feel like Doom.
“We can knock your socks off with a killer arena, But we can’t have like killer arena then another killer arena – there’s only so much you can take. We gauge it from a pacing perspective, kind of like a piece of music. The arena is like a guitar solo, yeah, so let’s do something else for a second. But it’s always combat. It’s always aggression.”
No RTX Ray Tracing Support At Launch
Ray tracing is the cutting edge visual tech on the PC scene right now. This new tool allows developers to make lighting systems where the light behaves as it does in real life, bouncing and reflecting accurately off many different types of surfaces. Graphics-intensive games like Battlefield V and Metro Exodus have already added support for the technology, and id Software plans to do the same for Doom Eternal – just not at launch.
We’ve spent some time with that, but it is not at the top of our priority list,” Stratton says. “Finishing the game, we want it to run flawlessly at 60 frames per second in 4k and we also have our streaming initiatives both with Google and the Orion stuff. Making it unbelievable with ray tracing is definitely up there [on the to-do list], but we’re getting the game done first and foremost.”
No Arcade At Launch, Either
The popular arcade mode, which id Software added to Doom via a free update last time around, added a lot of replayability to the campaign, so it would have made sense for id to include it in Doom Eternal. No such luck just yet.
“We’re not shipping with arcade mode, but there’ll be a lot of challenges,” Stratton says. “But you’ll have a whole track of things that you can do to earn XP. We’ll probably talk a lot more about that stuff at Quakecon.”
Though Arcade mode may not be in the plans right now, id has an aggressive plan for supporting the game post-launch. “When you look at Doom 2016 and look at the number of people that still play the game today, it’s mind-blowing,” Stratton says. “This time, we’re really going to support it, we’re going to give players new ways to play, fun ways to play, new challenges, new content, and keep them engaged. Engaged when they play the campaign right off the bat, and engaged long term as well. It’s a big focus for us.”
No Mod Support… Yet
Doom has always been associated with the mod scene, but last year’s attempt to appease creators with the rigid Snap Map system fell flat. Id is rightfully moving away from Snap Map with Doom Eternal, but the game isn’t quite ready to integrate mod support. However, that doesn’t mean id isn’t thinking about it.
“We’ve actually done things technically that are getting us closer to doing mod support, but it won’t be immediate,” Stratton says. “I think longer term. We made technical decisions years ago that we’re still moving away from, and they’re getting us closer to those kinds of things.”