In 1993 developer Id created the original legend of first-person shooters, Doom. This game, like many in the 90s, had a simple goal, reach the end of the level after shooting the living shit out of whatever stood in your way. The enemies swarmed in huge numbers and infested large open areas. The pace at which the player could manoeuvre, the fast tempo thrash metal music and the speed of the gunplay made for an unforgettable experience. It was so innovative that, up until the late 90s, first-person shooters were categorized as Doom clones but then games like Medal of Honor and Rainbow 6 brought realism and tactics to the genre, slowing down the pace by using cover instead of frantically dodging projectiles and removing the ability to carry a million guns. By the early noughties the first-person shooter genre had split into many sub-genres, horror was one of these and this is where Doom 3 set camp.
Comparing Id to a rock band, they seemed to be in the "experimental third album" stage. Doom 3 kept its fast gunplay and movement although it doesn't seem that way in memory because so many other things slowed it down. The fact the game was heavily story driven and themed around horror meant the action was claustrophobic and corridor based rather than the open environments of its predecessors which led to a path containing smaller number of enemies usng scare tactics and the action would be broken up with story sections. This was not bad for the game as it was, rightfully, a success but were Id playing to their strengths? With games like Serious Sam and Painkiller showing there was still a market for Doom clones, were we expecting Id to innovate it's own creation while sticking to the formula?
I think that''s what Doom 4 was trying to show at E3. A return to the quick moving, open environments formula but did they achieve this? I noticed the words "quick" and "fast" being used a lot during the talky talky part of the presentation but when I watched the gameplay demo I was left thinking, this is a bit slow.
When the combat starts you notice the environments are more open and the enemies are in greater numbers than in Doom 3, the shotgun looks fast, frantic and fun but then we started seeing melee executions. Now I'm not the first to say that some of these melee attacks seem to slow the flow and take you out of the action for a fraction too long. It made me think back to Halo and how it too had open environments infested with enemies, the tag line "combat evolved" really seemed to emphasize the mix of tactical first-person shooting with a Doom clone, elements of both were put together to create something new and fresh. The one thing that really stands out about Halo's fast combat, after watching the Doom 4 demo, was how quick the melee was, it never broke the flow. The chainsaw shown in the demo seemed to have the same problem as the melee and took you out of the action even longer but, on the other hand, Doom is a gory game and the animations of the melee and chainsaw work to that effect. The Halo melee would be visually weak in Doom and some of the executions did show a good pace/gore ratio so I'm not sure this is the problem.
Maybe the problem is how fast, frantic and fun the shotgun is. When the plasma rifle was picked up it seemed weak and lacked any punch, it also turned the enemies into bullet sponges which can slow things down, noticed the demo switched back to the shotgun very quickly. Before the footage was shown, during the talky talky, I picked up on something that was said by Id's executive producer Marty Stratton "... felling at times like we were part of something much larger than just that lone marine beating back the forces of hell with a shotgun". I found it odd how the shotgun comes across as Dooms main weapon in this quote. While researching I came across a video of Shadow Warrior (2013), a Doom clone made by some of the guys who worked on Painkiller. Now I have never played this game (I will soon as gameplay for the sequel is currently being shown) but the impression I get is, although they have good, fun gunplay that improves with upgrades and the option is there to use it all the time, it seems to be promoting use of the katana. Maybe that's what they are trying to do here with the shotgun but I don't think that is the case, I just think the shotgun is iconic and fun so is heavily featured, anyway this is not the meat of the matter.
One thing I enjoyed about the 90s Doom games was the music, they made videogame sounding thrash metal covers of bands like Slayer, Metallica and Pantera. The music nerd in me loved figuring out what songs were being used. The fast pace of this music fit perfectly well with Dooms action but this was one of the things missing from Doom 3 which was understandable considering the horror route they took. Painkiller was released the same year as Doom 3 and showed that the high tempo music with the action gave the game a faster feel. Music was another thing missing from the Doom 4 gameplay video. I can't help but think this game would benefit from the Painkillers audio approach of only playing the frantic fast music when engaged in combat then atmospheric silence while exploring.
I think it is a combination of these things that has led me to believe Doom 4 is not as quick as it could be but I don't think this is a bad thing when games like Shadow Warrior and Serious Sam are out there delivering that old school experience with new tech. As I mentioned before, Halo evolved combat by mixing tactical shooting with a Doom clone and now maybe Id are using what they learned from their experimental stage and adapting it to their new material, evolving their own franchise by mixing the horrific gory elements of Doom3 with a classic Doom clone potentially creating something new and fresh. I can't wait to play the shit out of this one. Let me know what you guys are expecting from Doom. Also I want to know your thoughts about the future of the genre, where will the next big step come from and what could that step possibly be?