E3 2015 – Doom 4 Thoughts
So, it’s been a pretty wild E3 this year. Martin “Yarn Man” Sahlin came onto EA’s stage and charmed the world; Ubisoft announced the most authentic-looking sword-fighting game I’ve seen to date; Bethesda will give you a dog that can’t die in the post-apocalypse, while Microsoft think that robot dogs that can die repeatedly are the way to go; Sony revealed three impossible things: The Last Guardian comes out next year, Final Fantasy 7 is actually getting a proper re-make, and Shenmue 3 is going into development; Nintendo did a muppet show; ROBOT DINOSAURS; Star Wars Battlefront got two demonstrations; and Square Enix somehow managed to be more boring than EA, even though they had better content.
So yeah, there’s been a lot to snark at, and a lot to be excited about. I did contemplate trying to do some sort of “here are some short thoughts on everything that happened” posts, but in the end realised I didn’t really have that many thoughts on a lot of this stuff beyond “eh, don’t care”, “that’s neat, but not for me”, “I’m interested to see more”, “I’m excited”, or “I want it NOW!!!”
Instead the only title I really have any nuanced thoughts on is Doom 4, or just Doom as they’re calling it, because screw causality and future historians. This is not really because I care about Doom in any special way. I’ve really only played the shareware version of the first one, and nothing else. It’s more that I saw a glimmer of potential in that Doom 4 presentation, but it’s going to require some work to make it shine. So I figured I’d offer some thoughts on what I feel they’re doing right, and what they could stand to work on.
First though, really quickly, I’ll just give a short rating of what I thought of the conferences from worst to best:
- EA: While precious Yarn Man is my favourite moment of E3 2015, the rest of the conference fell seriously flat with all the sports talk and “manufactured whimsy”.
- PC: Not an awful first effort, and I thought it was quite charming for the first hour or so, but it lasted 151 minutes, which is at least 60 minutes too long.
- Square Enix: A lot of neat games and announcements, but presented in the absolutely most boring way they could, killing nearly all excitement.
- Ubisoft: Not a bad showing, and Aisha Tyler is a good host, but there was some serious cringe there too.
- Microsoft: Pretty strong showing this year. Good focus on games, and good-looking games too.
- Nintendo: They did a bloody muppet show! Also Fire Emblem Fates. Gimme. Now. NOW!
- Bethesda: For their first ever conference they had clearly studied what others had done before them and learned from that. Dishonoured 2 was my personal highlight.
- Sony: They get top spot mostly for showing that the impossible is possible, three times. And ROBOT DINOSAURS!
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get into Doom 4.
It actually doesn’t look that bad. I quite enjoy the fast movement, the range of movement ( another game that lets you grab ledges, yes! ), the lack of need to reload, and the clear fanservice in some of the weapons. They claim they want to bring back the fast-paced shooter, and it looks like they’re well on their way to that. I think it’s probably also a good thing they go with fixed health and health packs rather than regenerating health. If you really want to evoke the feeling of the “good, old” shooters, you need an element of resource-management.
I have no particular feelings for or against the weapon wheel. They want it to work on console, so you kinda need that stuff, even if it breaks up the flow. Maybe you can choose to turn off the slow-down effect? I do wonder if the PC version will let you just use the number keys? I hope so. Wait, have they even confirmed a PC version? I can’t be bothered to check.
And it does seem like they’ve put some thought into level design and enemy design, which is nice. Of course, I highly doubt either of the levels they showed will actually be in the final game, at least not as they are. This was a scripted, rehearsed demonstration to try to show the game off in as good of a light as possible.
But I promised I had some complaints, or feedback if you will, so let’s get into that.
First off: While the weapons generally seemed like they felt good and had appropriate kick to them, the notable exception was the plasma rifle, which just behaved like a pea shooter. Enemies barely seemed to notice they were hit until they died, and it just seemed very weak. No impact or satisfying sounds. Very “piff piff piff” rather than “cha cha cha”, if that makes any sense? Maybe not. Anyways, this seems like an easy fix, and even if they don’t bother, there were plenty other weapons to choose from.
My next issue is one of flow. A good fast-paced, action-focused shooter tends to rely on getting the player into a good flow where they’re effortlessly switching weapons, juggling enemies, and staying on the move to avoid the vast majority of the damage coming their way. And Doom 4 definitely looks like it could be that, with only a few changes.
Most importantly: Ditch the executions. If you want to talk flow-breaking, then having to pause for short scripted animations every so often ranks pretty high up there. They can work, but I’m not sure the Doom 4 team have the ability to make it so in a first-person shooter. For whatever reason stuff like that seems to work better in third-person action games. Thankfully they don’t seem to be mandatory, so that’s at least something. I can see maybe keeping them for big boss encounters or something, to let players do some short of awesome finishing move on a really big creature as a sort of climax. But I’d reconsider putting them right in with fighting hordes of demon mooks. May I instead suggest you put in a kick button? I’d love the idea of being able to kick demons off of cliffs and the like, or into environmental hazards, or just to break their attack or defence.
You should probably also ditch the chainsaw, or change how it works. That scripted animation it triggers got old before the demonstration was even over. In-game I expect it’d be amusing for about a minute before you never used the chainsaw ever again. Let us swing it more freely, and rather have the bodies get chopped up procedurally in a similar fashion to how it’s done in Shadow Warrior. Your enemy models were already gibbing quite spectacularly, so I’m sure that’s well within the realm of possibility for you. Remember: the idea is to maintain the flow.
Now I’m not saying that the game looked bad graphically, because it certainly didn’t, but there is room for improvement in the colour palette. Look at the colour correction fans have already done to some screenshots. That’s what we need. Make it look less washed out. Remove the yellow filter. Give us clearer, starker colours. More contrast. Make it pop more. Make it stand out. Your designs are largely fine as far as I can tell, but don’t be afraid to use clear, contrasting colours. When it comes to games that need the “realistic” look, I wouldn’t say Doom is one of them.
I think that’s it. It’s not a long list, but it’s some things I feel should be addressed before the game is launched. I’m sure there are people who disagree strongly with me, but that’s fine. I just wanted to get this off my chest. I have opinions on what makes a proper fast-paced shooter, and Doom 4 looks like it could get there. Not that I really expect either Id or Bethesda to listen to me, but the point of being a critic is to get it said.