Doom Eter­nal

ID SOFT­WARE IS UN­LEASH­ING HELL ON EARTH WITH THE FASTEST, DEAD­LI­EST AND BLOOD­I­EST DOOM GAME IT HAS EVER CRE­ATED. WE SIT DOWN WITH THE STU­DIO TO DIS­COVER WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE DOOM ETER­NAL

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By id Soft­ware’s own ad­mis­sion, there are three sim­ple rules that must be ad­hered to for any Doom game to func­tion in all of its gory glory. First, you need to face off against an army of re­ally bad-ass demons. Sec­ond, it needs to let you wield big fuck­ing guns. Thirdly, and per­haps most im­por­tantly, you need to be mov­ing re­ally, re­ally quickly. It has al­ways been this way, and it al­ways will be.

Doom Eter­nal fol­lows th­ese rules to the let­ter. To the unas­sum­ing ob­server, it might even look like Eter­nal is lit­tle more than busi­ness as usual, although that as­sess­ment would do id a huge dis­ser­vice. The stu­dio has put together one hell of an im­pres­sive pack­age here; Doom has al­ways been an un­com­pro­mised cel­e­bra­tion of videogames, of the medium’s in­her­ent fun and ca­pac­ity to act as a shin­ing bea­con of pure en­ter­tain­ment. While the wider world may see Doom as a se­ries de­fined by its vi­o­lence, we in­stead see it for what it is: a cre­ative en­deav­our that un­der­stands the rhythm and flow of the FPS genre per­haps bet­ter than any other. That’s some­thing we have found great com­fort in over the last 25 years.

The se­ries’ rit­u­al­is­tic ap­proach to de­mon slay­ing is one of the few con­stants to be found in this in­dus­try. We al­ways know where we stand with Doom: up to our knees in de­monic vis­cera, wait­ing for the adren­a­line surge to sub­side, hav­ing the time of our god­damned lives. It has been that way ever since Doom first plas­tered the foun­da­tions of the first-per­son shooter across a pixelated ap­prox­i­ma­tion of Hell, and it was also true of the stu­dio’s wild rein­ven­tion of the for­mula in 2016.

The ques­tion of how id would pos­si­bly take the se­ries to the next level – how it would be­gin to iter­ate upon one of the purest ac­tion ex­pe­ri­ences to ar­rive in the last decade – has been ever present on our minds. As it should hap­pen, it was a fairly sim­ple ques­tion for the stu­dio to an­swer. With Eter­nal, id wants you to rip and tear through just about ev­ery­thing that you come into con­tact with. “That’s lit­er­ally where it all starts for us,” laughs game di­rec­tor Marty Strat­ton, who as­serts that the next chap­ter of id’s flag­ship shooter is once again cen­tred whole­heart­edly on “killing bad-ass demons with big guns in un­be­liev­able places.”

The re­sults of this think­ing should be clear for all to see. Eter­nal has upped the ante in just about ev­ery re­spect, although that’s largely be­cause of the fan­tas­tic foun­da­tion it has had to build on. id has pri­ori­tised an over­haul of the core move­ment and tra­ver­sal me­chan­ics, a re­fine­ment of the control sys­tems and stepped up the bru­tal­ity to fur­ther em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of the Glory Kills to com­bat flow – all of this in an ef­fort to fur­ther fuel and dis­til what it is that makes Doom so ir­re­sistible.

Eter­nal is faster than any Doom that has come be­fore it. The guns are larger and more pow­er­ful, and the Doom Slayer has also found him­self in com­mand of a suite of new abil­i­ties to help es­tab­lish him as the strong­est hero id has ever cre­ated. To com­pen­sate for your new­found strength, id is pump­ing twice as many en­e­mies into its ex­panded com­bat are­nas for you to at­tempt to evis­cer­ate. That tee­ter­ing line be­tween power and fragility was an im­por­tant bal­ance for the stu­dio to strike. “A hero is only as strong as the en­emy that they de­feat and

if you want to feel like a badass you’ve got to wreck some amaz­ing bad guys along the way,” says cre­ative di­rec­tor Hugo Martin. “And Doom Eter­nal has some in­cred­i­ble en­e­mies. We want you to feel un­leashed, like noth­ing is hold­ing you back. This is a pure, un­fil­tered, ac­tion

FPS ex­pe­ri­ence.”

He isn’t kid­ding, ei­ther. id has been able to put together some­thing that feels so un­com­pro­mis­ing by ac­com­plish­ing some­thing that is, frankly, a lit­tle ridicu­lous: it has made Doom (2016) feel slow and pon­der­ous by com­par­i­son. Yes, you read that right. And no, we can hardly be­lieve it ei­ther. Our stom­achs have only just about set­tled from the sense of in­er­tia that the game so hap­pily gen­er­ated. Eter­nal, much like its pre­de­ces­sor, is an

FPS with a flip­pant dis­re­gard for mod­ern genre con­ven­tion; the re­sult­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is im­me­di­ately in­tim­i­dat­ing, not to men­tion a lit­tle dizzy­ing.

Martin in­sists that one of the big­gest ques­tions the team wres­tled with when con­sid­er­ing a se­quel to Doom (2016) was “How do we make the player more ag­gres­sive? All of our an­swers have to speak back to that phi­los­o­phy.” When id cites in­creas­ing player ag­gres­sion as a pro­duc­tion value, it isn’t merely to mit­i­gate the in­crease in en­emy vol­ume or the im­proved au­thor­ity that AI has over its spa­ces. In­stead, it’s born out of a de­sire to keep play­ers mov­ing. The faster that you can close the gap be­tween your po­si­tion and that of an en­emy, the faster ten­sion and drama will nat­u­rally arise in play.

Eter­nal en­cour­ages the gen­er­a­tion of this drama in a num­ber of sub­tle ways. For starters, the Doom Slayer now comes equipped with a slew of new move­ment and tra­ver­sal abil­i­ties de­signed to com­ple­ment the stan­dard eightweapon load­out. Some of th­ese ad­di­tions are small and sit­u­a­tional, such as the ca­pac­ity to per­form a mon­key bar swing off of ob­jects in the en­vi­ron­ment and the abil­ity to con­tex­tu­ally climb walls to help gain a new per­spec­tive on the are­nas. Other ad­di­tions are de­signed to be cy­cled into the nat­u­ral flow of play, such as the re­turn­ing dou­ble jump and the ad­di­tion of an om­ni­di­rec­tional dash ma­noeu­vre that grants you a small burst of speed at a but­ton press.

The dash is an in­ter­est­ing ad­di­tion for a num­ber of rea­sons. While Doom’s ac­tion might feel to­tally un­re­strained, if you were to peer be­hind the poly­gons you’ll find that its de­sign is ac­tu­ally full of it. The stu­dio has been care­ful to en­sure that ev­ery ad­di­tion or change only serves to com­ple­ment ei­ther the ba­sic util­ity of weapons or to en­hance your speed on the ground, all of this in an ef­fort to get you util­is­ing the space each of the multi-tiered com­bat are­nas now grant you.

If there was ever any con­cern that the ar­rival of th­ese new me­chan­ics or sys­tems might di­lute the core ap­peal of Doom’s unique rhythm, id is way ahead of you on that front. “[Eter­nal] will still feel like Doom, even after we have added in th­ese new abil­i­ties,” Martin as­sures us. “Be­ing able to close the dis­tance be­tween en­e­mies faster will make you feel more ag­gres­sive… and we are al­ways en­cour­ag­ing the player to play more ag­gres­sively. When that’s the un­der­ly­ing theme of a new me­chanic or abil­ity we know that it’s go­ing to work.”

Were you to take an el­e­ment such as the Dash, you’ll find that there’s more nu­ance to its use than the game­play footage might ini­tially sug­gest. While it does in­deed pro­vide ex­cel­lent of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive op­por­tu­ni­ties – let­ting you swiftly dodge out of in­com­ing at­tacks or rush within chain­saw range – it can’t be used in­fin­itely. Therein lies the minu­tiae; sure, you can dash twice in quick suc­ces­sion, but it will then need to re­gen­er­ate – some­thing that it will not do while you’re in the air. Do you risk wait­ing on the ground for the dash to re­gen as en­e­mies close in from all an­gles, or do you take to the air us­ing tra­ver­sal com­bos to re­po­si­tion your­self and claim a moment of respite from the shower of bul­lets head­ing in your di­rec­tion?

Eter­nal is full of th­ese lit­tle de­ci­sions, and they are based purely on re­ac­tion – in the split-sec­ond be­tween rip­ping the eye out of a Ca­code­mon and pump­ing plasma rounds into Man­cubus. Dash – much like the re­fined weapons, mod­i­fi­ca­tions and the new Preda­torstyle shoul­der mounted launcher – is merely an­other part of your ar­se­nal, an­other me­chanic de­signed to help you main­tain an un­ruly amount of mo­men­tum in an ef­fort to un­lock the true power and po­ten­tial of Doom’s com­bat loop.

“It all comes down to us try­ing to de­fine the things that we felt were miss­ing or are the next evo­lu­tion of. That’s where some­thing like the dash comes in,” Strat­ton tells us. “In this par­tic­u­lar case, it’s like… well, where has this been all my life? It’s such a nat­u­ral com­po­nent of Doom’s move­ment now.”

Why is this all so im­por­tant? While you may be­lieve that weapon han­dling and bul­let bal­lis­tics are among the most im­por­tant el­e­ments of any given Doom game, that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the case. We know that id Soft­ware de­signs with­out ques­tion the best-feel­ing shot­guns in the videogame in­dus­try, but that isn’t why its games are so ex­cel­lent. Its games are so ex­cel­lent be­cause of the way that you move. It’s be­cause of the mo­men­tum that you are able to gen­er­ate in an in­stant, and of the control that you are granted over your weapons, even as you are mov­ing at what feels like 200 miles per hour.

Eter­nal builds off of Doom (2016) in this re­spect, fur­ther ex­pand­ing on the ex­cel­lent level de­sign and rhythm to com­bat cul­ti­vated within those spa­ces. Doom (2016) pre­sented its com­bat are­nas as tightly con­structed three­d­i­men­sional puz­zles, each of them of­fer­ing

just one vi­able so­lu­tion: lo­cate the most vi­o­lent path­way through un­re­lent­ing waves of en­e­mies and push through them as ag­gres­sively as you can pos­si­bly man­age. The quicker you move, the faster the game will re­ward you with health, am­mu­ni­tion and per­haps even a rare moment of respite. Stay static for a sec­ond too long, and death will quickly de­scend upon you. It’s en­thralling; the ab­so­lute mod­erni­sa­tion of the orig­i­nal Doom model, and it’s a de­sign that Eter­nal is only im­prov­ing upon.

Ev­ery sys­tem and me­chanic at play in Eter­nal works to em­pha­sise your lo­co­mo­tion, lever­ag­ing it for scenes of mon­strously chaotic ac­tion across com­bat spa­ces that dwarf those found in its pre­de­ces­sor. Pro­gres­sion through th­ese twist­ing maze-like are­nas is a patch­work of un­flinch­ing vi­o­lence. The hy­per-vi­o­lent Glory Kills aren’t just there to let you revel in blood and guts ren­dered out in the stu­dio’s hugely im­pres­sive id Tech 7 en­gine; it’s once again a clever me­chanic that the game’s lev­els were de­signed to ex­ploit.

You are pro­pelled to rip across th­ese lev­els at speed, tasked with shoot­ing and smash­ing any en­e­mies in your path be­fore tak­ing the time to tear stag­gered foes in two to re­gain a small boost to your re­serves. Re­peat this un­til the cor­rect coloured key card emerges from a bul­let-rid­den car­cass. It’s in­cred­i­bly cathar­tic, even more so thanks to the im­proved vis­ual fidelity and ar­ray of new weapons placed at your dis­posal.

In Eter­nal, id is ea­ger to ramp up the en­ergy of this core loop. The pres­ence of tra­ver­sal com­bos is only there to re­duce the clos­ing speed be­tween your po­si­tion and the lo­ca­tion of your next target. While many of the core weapons are re­ceiv­ing an over­haul, none are as ex­cit­ing as the ad­di­tions to the iconic Su­per Shot­gun. The sig­na­ture weapon now has a ‘Meat Hook’ at­tached to the front of it, a grap­pling de­vice that latches onto en­e­mies and reels you in to­wards them. The amount of ground that you can now cover in an in­stant is gra­tu­itous.

This is wel­come, given the ver­ti­cal­ity and the spa­cious­ness of the lev­els that we’ve seen thus far. Whether it’s as Hell de­scends upon the Earth (a won­der­ful call-back to

Doom II) or back in the Moon or­bit­ing fa­cil­ity on Pho­bos (the BFG 10,000 is call­ing to us), it’s clear that ev­ery one of the tra­ver­sal tools avail­able to us will be needed should we hold any hope of com­plet­ing laps of th­ese spa­ces with­out stut­ter­ing. That’s where Eter­nal is sep­a­rat­ing it­self from the Doom games of the past: by find­ing a way to in­crease the scope of its en­vi­ron­ments with­out ever di­lut­ing that al­limpor­tant cor­ri­dor shooter feel.

“There’s a rea­son that the spa­ces are larger,” says Martin. “If you make a faster race car, you’re go­ing to need a big­ger race track. Your clos­ing speed is out­ra­geous. It’s ac­tu­ally one of the most thrilling things in Eter­nal.

“How many games can you see some­one from across a gi­ant sci-fi space and then, like on a skate­board, just rocket to­wards them and just smash them in the face? It’s the best feel­ing in the world,” Martin con­tin­ues, adding, “Es­pe­cially now, with all of the dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties that we’ve in­tro­duced. It’s all about clos­ing those dis­tances, and now you can do it in sec­onds.”

Eter­nal is a car­ni­val of vi­o­lence. It’s mon­strously fast and epi­cally vi­o­lent, and again that’s all be­cause of the re­straint in de­sign be­hind the scenes. The Meat Hook is a killer ex­am­ple of this; you can’t latch onto any piece of the en­vi­ron­ment, it can only be used to bring you within shot­gun evis­cer­a­tion dis­tance of an en­emy. It’s a tool de­signed for tra­ver­sal, but its only ap­pli­ca­tion is for melt­ing holes in any en­emy you are reel­ing to­wards. “The meat hook is a good ex­am­ple of what Hugo said be­fore. It’s about be­ing more ag­gres­sive and get­ting you to push for­ward,” reaf­firms Strat­ton. “We just want to get you closer to the com­bat; in the case of the Meat Hook, it doesn’t grap­ple any point in the world, it only hooks demons. That use of it is al­ways pulling you face to face with a de­mon.”

“Doom Eter­nal is, as Doom (2016) was, an epic ac­tion game,” con­tin­ues Martin, bounc­ing off of his old cre­ative part­ner with ease. “It’s like this big Nineties ac­tion movie; you want to feel like you are do­ing fan­tas­tic things, and th­ese tools will al­low you to do even greater things this time around.”

That’s a prom­ise that we don’t be­lieve the stu­dio will have any trou­ble keep­ing. We don’t think it’s un­fair to sug­gest that Doom (2016), in hind­sight, feels like a pro­to­type to what the team was push­ing to ac­com­plish – to what it is now achiev­ing with Eter­nal. The id Tech 6 en­gine – the first en­gine in the com­pany’s his­tory not to be fi­nalised by John Car­mack – al­ways felt as if it was labour­ing a lit­tle un­der the de­mands of Doom (2016) and Wolfen­stein II: The New Colos­sus. Fast for­ward just three years, and the new id Tech 7 en­gine seems to be more than up for the chal­lenge of sup­port­ing such high-speed and fran­tic game­play. It’s en­cour­ag­ing the team to fire on all cylin­ders and cre­ate some­thing that looks oth­er­worldly by com­par­i­son.

It’s great to see a tal­ented team handed the keys to pow­er­ful tech­nol­ogy; to see a stu­dio go­ing all out in an ef­fort to cre­ate some­thing pos­i­tively oth­er­worldly when held up against any­thing it has achieved in the past. That is, in all fair­ness, par for the course when it comes to id. “We are all pretty big tech heads at id and the new id Tech 7 en­gine will al­low us to dis­play ten times the geo­met­ric de­tail and greater tex­ture fidelity than we have ever put on screen,” Strat­ton teased. “And that’s all with­out sac­ri­fic­ing a crazy fast ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning at 60 frames per sec­ond.”

The team at id has been em­bold­ened to chal­lenge ex­pec­ta­tions, be that by the suc­cess of Doom (2016) or its own am­bi­tion to take the

per­son­al­ity of Doom (1993) and mod­ernise it in a fresh and un­ex­pected fash­ion. It’s won­der­ful, too, to see how id is tack­ling a num­ber of game­play chal­lenges that have arisen out of its de­sire to in­crease the size and ver­ti­cal­ity of its ar­eas – of the ways it is com­pen­sat­ing for the fact that the game now de­mands that ev­ery­thing run at such a break­neck pace to func­tion as it is in­tended to.

Mov­ing at ridicu­lous speeds would be worth­less if you didn’t still have pin­point control over your weapons, and that’s some­thing that id has only sought to fur­ther re­fine. We men­tioned be­fore that the Doom Slayer now has a shoul­der-mounted launcher – a de­sign el­e­ment that en­sures that you need never sac­ri­fice the abil­ity to fire your weapon while de­ploy­ing equip­ment. In Doom (2016), to throw a grenade you’d briefly put away your weapon. That is no longer the case, as it now de­ploys from the can­non, al­low­ing you to con­tinue fo­cus­ing your at­ten­tion and gun­fire else­where while still lit­ter­ing the bat­tle­fields in ex­plo­sive or­di­nance.

The id Tech 7 en­gine is also giv­ing the stu­dio the nec­es­sary tech­ni­cal back­ing to in­tro­duce a num­ber of weapon com­bos that are as vis­ually stun­ning as they are wholly de­struc­tive. The launcher can also func­tion as a flamethrower; set­ting demons alight doesn’t just in­crease the dam­age they re­ceive, it also lets you en­joy the spec­ta­cle of see­ing shards of their ar­mour ping away from their bod­ies as you con­tinue to fire upon them.

That’s ac­tu­ally part of a push on the part of id to in­crease your vis­ual aware­ness when rac­ing around the spa­ces. “The coolest en­e­mies de­serve the coolest deaths, so we’re spend­ing more time and en­ergy than ever be­fore mak­ing sure it feels ab­so­lutely amaz­ing ev­ery time you shoot, punch, kick, slash or oth­er­wise rip and tear one of the demons,” says Strat­ton, with Martin adding, “We’ve ac­tu­ally cre­ated a whole sys­tem for this now, and in­ter­nally we call it de­struc­tible demons.”

De­struc­tible demons are the ul­ti­mate cel­e­bra­tion of the ul­tra-vi­o­lence of Doom. En­e­mies would, of course, ex­plode into a shower of gore as you pumped the fi­nal bul­let into them in Doom (2016), though you never had a firm in­di­ca­tion of how close an en­emy was to dy­ing ahead of that. That was prob­lem­atic for Eter­nal; with so many en­e­mies to track and kill in any given com­bat sit­u­a­tion, id needed the player to be able to quickly iden­tify how close an en­emy was to dy­ing, par­tic­u­larly the larger foes that dom­i­nate the field of view. This sys­tem doesn’t just look freak­ing ex­cel­lent – giv­ing you the op­por­tu­nity to see ar­mour shards tear away, chunks of flesh launch into the air, and bits of bone fall to the floor – it also pro­vides an easy and vis­ual way to bet­ter ac­count for where your at­ten­tion should be fo­cused.

This new­found sense of vis­ual in­di­ca­tion also ap­plies to the items and am­mu­ni­tion that lit­ter the spa­ces. Ev­ery one of the pick­ups has been re­designed, mod­elled on those found in Doom (1993). id has put time and re­sources into en­sur­ing that ev­ery sin­gle pickup is in­di­vid­u­ally lit – each has its own light­ing rig atop of it – so that you can eas­ily iden­tify what it is from a dis­tance, even as you are reach­ing ter­mi­nal ve­loc­ity. Do you des­per­ately need more am­mu­ni­tion for the Ballista, a brand new laser launcher that pumps ex­plod­ing rounds into en­e­mies? Then you should be able to quickly iden­tify it, and use the tra­ver­sal me­chan­ics and com­bos at your dis­posal – be it the Meat Hook, the Dash, the mon­key bar swing or the wall climbs – to quickly get over to it with­out miss­ing a beat.

This, all of this, is in­te­gral when you con­sider how Eter­nal is tilt­ing mul­ti­player on its head. While the game will fea­ture a tra­di­tional PVP ex­pe­ri­ence, built in-house this time around id was keen to con­firm, it will also in­clude com­bat­ive co-op­er­a­tive modes in the form of In­va­sions. If the le­gions of en­e­mies bear­ing down on you weren’t enough of a chal­lenge, id has just found an­other way to make your life a liv­ing hell. “We are now giv­ing play­ers the abil­ity to take control of a de­mon and in­vade an­other player’s cam­paign,” teases Martin. “This is just an­other way to add drama and un­pre­dictabil­ity to your cam­paign, and this is just one of the ways that we will al­low you to play Eter­nal with your friends.”

Strat­ton is ea­ger to note that this func­tion­al­ity can be switched off in the menu if you’d pre­fer to play it alone, but if you open it up you might even find that other play­ers can “team up as demons and form a Slayer-hunt­ing party,” should you want an ex­tra layer of chal­lenge and drama.

It’s funny, be­cause if you strip away the pen­ta­grams, the vi­o­lence and the guns, Eter­nal is oddly rem­i­nis­cent of a Nin­tendo game. Me­chan­ics are at the heart of the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence; the en­tire game is built around how to best ser­vice them. That is, of course, clas­sic Doom. It may of­ten feel like the FPS genre has come far in the last 25 years, but the truth is that Eter­nal’s clos­est touch­stone – the com­par­i­son that makes the most sense – is that of Doom ’93. id has taken the per­son­al­ity, speed and de­vo­tion to de­fined me­chan­i­cal ex­cel­lence that was so preva­lent in the orig­i­nal game and sought to mod­ernise it. The re­sults of this en­deav­our re­veal them­selves in ways that you might not ex­pect go­ing into it. That’s part of what makes Eter­nal one of the most ex­cit­ing prospects for 2019; on the sur­face, it may in­deed look like busi­ness as usual, but it’s clear that there’s far more to its ex­e­cu­tion than meets the eye.

Doom Eter­nal is ex­pected to launch late 2019 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. A Switch ver­sion (locked to30 frames per sec­ond) is on the way, although it is go­ing to be han­dled by Panic But­ton Games – the team re­spon­si­ble for port­ing Doom and Wolfen­stein II: The New Colos­sus.

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