Over the past twenty-one years, the Doom franchise has built up quite a legacy. That will continue in a few weeks' time when the much-rumored Doom 4 is revealed at Quakecon 2014 in Dallas, Texas. However, given the criticism that Doom 3 received, combined with how many have become desensitized to video game horror, we can't help but ask... is this a franchise that can grow beyond being a mindless shooter?
The first two Doom games were PC classics, where thousands of players put hours into the hellish single player campaigns, and even more hours were lost with multiplayer along with the dozens upon dozens of mods. However, the series lost a bit of steam with Doom 3. Despite being graphically impressive for its time and featuring some really nasty creatures, it also strayed a bit due to its simplistic storyline and lackluster gameplay. The most common gripe was over how you couldn't hold a gun and a flashlight at the same time. That didn't stop id Software from releasing a specially modified version for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, complete with a faster frame rate and a extras like cooperative multiplayer.
Now, with a fourth game clearly confirmed between a new E3 trailer and a beta packed in with Wolfenstein: The New Order, the question still lurks. Is Doom a series that can truly change to fit with the evolution of the first-person shooters? Or, for that matter, is it a game that needs to change at all, considering the rabid fan-base it has managed to build?
We've been annihilating demons for over two decades, and it's probably a good guess to say that id Software has every intention of keeping that up. Now comes the big question. Are we staking out new territory in this next Doom game, or will we continue to drag around Mars as the gates of Hell swarm upon us?
Changing the location of the game is a double-edged sword. On the one side, sticking to "what works" from previous games in the series provides some familiarity. The feel of the game completely changes when you're not a lone soldier trapped inside a base with narrow corridors. So, if hell were to invade Earth, you'd expect more outdoor fights, civilians being eaten or transformed into zombies, and stuff like that. Although that might be fun, it's not really Doom.
But, by the same token, we've staked out this territory across a number of games now, and changing the locale could be something for the better. We're not saying going to Cleveland or anything like that, but maybe something that connects us closer to the demon source to begin with. Maybe the moon with reduced gravity areas. Or, better yet, go on the offensive and take the fight straight to hell.
Regardless, look for id Software to bring something familiar, yet something new, with this latest entry.
Big Freaking Gameplay
Although Doom 3 offered plenty of tense moments, something felt a bit off in terms of the tempo compared to previous games. The original Doom games were more about run-and-gun and solving puzzles, instead of juggling between a flashlight and a gun. It was a bit jarring, especially hardcore fans expecting a next level Doom performance, not a slower-moving shooter.
We have a certain expectations with Doom. We shouldn't be fumbling about in darkness, wondering about what's howling off at us in the distance. Instead, we should have a gun in hand and opening doors to reveal rooms full of killer Hellbeasts that crawled out of an interdimensional portal. Although Doom 3 had some a few tense moments, there was something lost between the classic games and the retelling.
With Doom 4, the team could easily introduce some scary new elements, now that it has more advanced hardware to work with. Enemies could pile on the screen using a new engine, and environments straight out of the book of Hell could easily be replicated with the right amount of work.
Imagine walking in a room with a heavily powered weapon (yes, like the BFG), and laying out a horde of beasts that come rushing at you at once. Doom 3 could've used far more moments like this, and with the PS4/Xbox One/PC tech as it exists now, id Software could easily be up to task.
Oh, and for good measure, the chainsaw needs more versatility. There's nothing more truly satisfying than hacking up an enemy to bits with one in hand, proving your true worth without needing to lock and load with a BFG. Granted, we'd still use it, but the sheer satisfaction of mowing down a barrage of enemies with a swoop of a chainsaw... well, nothing can really beat that, right?
Is Doom ready for change?
Updating Doom might not be a matter of change in the purest sense, but rather moving back towards the tone that made the original games operate so well: less survival horror-based moments and more about using an assault rifle to plow Helldemons into kingdom come, and saving "big boy" weapons like the BFG to do massive damage to bosses.
Judging by the trailer, you'll be packing some sort of protection suit with built-in weaponry to help you along, but, really, this is the sort of game where sticking with the basics would work best in its favor. That's because nothing beats the good ol' feeling of a chainsaw, as previously discussed.
That's not to say new stuff can't be added, it just has to be effective. A flame thrower, for instance, would do wonders, even with monsters that are born out of fire. Hey, if it can bring them into this world, it can take them out, yes? For that matter, it wouldn't hurt to see more powerful ones enter the fray, like a laser cannon that can cut through a monster like butter.
The important thing, again, is that the "feel" is right. This is Doom, after all, and not Wolfenstein. id Software needs to dial in on what made the games operate so well in the first place, contour the weapon performance on that level, and let the blood fly. Certainly, it can do that.
Kicking up multiplayer
The original Doom introduced us to the glory of Deathmatch, where you and your friends could take on each other in a winner-take-all scenario, shooting each other like crazy until someone emerged a clear winner of the match.
While Doom 3 had multiplayer, it was severely limited, with only four players in a match and a handful match types to choose from, all variations of Deathmatch. While it may have felt like exactly what was needed with a game like this, keep in mind that id Software led the charge in multiplayer, so there's no reason it couldn't have tried a few new ideas with the latest entry in the series.
Which is why multiplayer in Doom 4 will be absolutely vital. This is id's chance to once again show why it's king of the hill. It needs to step in and introduce the kind of modes that make the Doom series shine. Perhaps a survival/swarm mode, or something along those lines. It needs to bring back the ferocity that the series has become known for, instead of just sticking with the general modes that we've come to expect from other games.
New, but familiar
The key to redefining what Doom is supposed to be lies in what fans fell in love with in the first place. Over-expanding the story to ridiculous heights and changing the game to a more tense, less run-and-gun affair isn't what the general fanbase is looking for. These folks wants thrills, and they want them now. The trick is in keeping the game from almost becoming a parody of itself, since so many games have copied the Doom formula that it has become a cliche. With the right amount of determination, and maybe a look at what made Wolfenstein: The New Order click so well with its release earlier this year, the team could get on the right track.
Having updated levels from the original Doom games wouldn't hurt either. Those were beauts.
Doom 4 should release sometime in 2015, although there's no word on when the beta included with Wolfenstein will actually begin.