Article by Nathan Ditum
Apparently refusing to avail itself of the teleportation technology that kickstarted its earliest predecessor, Doom 4 has been creeping towards us slowly from the shadows since it was announced in May 2008. Since then it’s been teased, mentioned, and even glimpsed in a leaked selection of artwork that suggested anyone looking for finely detailed neo-classical balconies was in for one serious thrill ride when the game finally arrived.
We’re less focused on the neo-classical balconies, though, and more on the shooting and the hellspawn. Here are a few ideas we’d like to see propping up the big first-person shooter’s return.
This is a call for barrels in an emblematic sense, which is exciting as it’s something that might never have happened before. The thinking behind it is that the barrels in the original Doom and Doom II weren’t necessarily a sublime piece of game design, but did and do effectively recall the /style/ of play. They’re placed apparently at random, but also in places where an early shotgun blast will set off the exaggerated “ker-TUSH”explosion followed by the slick sound of entirely inside-out enemies capitulating to gravity. There is a cartoon kineticism to the original games, epitomised in the barrels, and in dodgeable fireballs, and the ability to strafe so quickly you can see the side of the rocket you’ve just fired. Translating this directly would be disastrous, obviously, but a sense of it is what was missing from the hollow horror of Doom 3, and will be crucial to Doom 4 (and if that leaked art is anything to go buy, it looks like we’re covered).
It’s very important that the game take us to Hell in a literal, lakes of fire, citadel of Pandemonium, walls of the agonised damned way. This is what gave the brash original its exploitation punch - you’re not popping your way through a familiarly demonic arcade metropolis, you’re in /actual/ Hell, a Roger Corman stakes raising that contributes significantly to Doom’s shotgun abandon. The leaked art shows New York torn apart by some kind of pan-dimensional event, the poor Public Library getting a very similar going over to the one it received in Ghostbusters II. It looks like an up-to-date-ing of Doom II’s Hell On Earth scenario, and Id Software has talked about gameplay involving post-civilisation survival. We’re fine with all of that, as long as the upshot is that we get to go back to Hell and shoot it in its face.
An unshakeable faith in the power of the shotgun...
...except when there’s a plasma weapon handy. Doom more or less defined the 1-2-3-4, fist-pistol-shotgun-chaingun notion of armoury escalation in first-person shooters. It is the standard from which Halo deviated with its potent handgun and two weapon limit, which many others have followed. How Doom 4 returns to and passes comment upon this is unclear, but by virtue of its lineage simply including guns in the style of any other shooter is not an option. It needs to either knowingly defy or satisfyingly play upon expectations - make the shotgun a death-packing standout maybe, or offer a chainsaw attachment to all weapons - and it must remember the direct feedback and deadly simplicity which made scaling Doom’s firearm pyramid such a thumping rush.
A hero generic to the point of invisibility
This sounds counter-intuitive if not deliberately askew. But! If ever there was a series to free us from the tyranny of shooters that bleed feelings and force character into action then it is surely Doom 4. Stop leaking emotion all over our loading screens. Stop sending us impassioned grunts recorded in downtown LA soundbooths that are intended to somehow make shooting demons more meaningful, as if there could be any meaning more powerful than them being demons and us having a gun. Doom is about purity of purpose and big expositional screens filled with small red text that tell all the story you need apart from a small angry face raising its eyebrows and occasionally becoming a bruise with a orifice in the middle. It would be excellent if it could stay this way - and happily, from the looks of the leaked art the character designs couldn’t get more generic without having their virtual features sanded down to a raw nub.
An engine that works
Rage was designed to show what id Tech 5 could really do. For months, marketing materials and developer diaries crooned about the new engine's "mega textures" that would give artists complete mastery over the surface detail of Rage's rust-coloured canyons. But come launch day, it just didn't work. The textures took long moments to load in every time you turned your head, offering smeary geometry where there should have been fine detail. Whether id decide to pursue the claustrophobic survival horror trappings of Doom 3 or joyously embrace the lurid slaughter of Doom 1 and 2, the engine needs to show us the treasures promised by Carmack and co. in the run up to Rage.
What would you like to see from Doom 4? Do you want to mow down the hordes of hell, or cower in the dark with a flashlight?