The small glimpse of Doom Eternal that we saw at E3 in June was just a tease, with a thorough demonstration promised for QuakeCon in August. Well, we got the real deal this weekend – and true enough, the sequel to 2016’s Doom looks fantastic.
Doom Eternal builds upon the frenetic combat of its predecessor, while introducing new worlds, fresh weapons, speedier movement systems and a ‘meathook’. The latter is a kind of grappling hook you can fire into demons to use them as anchors. Yes, really. That might not sound like classic Doom, but when you see it all in action, Doom Eternal absolutely echoes the gleefully speedy shooting of the early FPS glory days. Online players will also have the ability to take the role of demons and ‘invade’ another player’s campaign.
Following the big QuakeCon demos, we had a chance to speak with game director Marty Stratton and creative director Hugo Martin about the myriad additions and evolutions, the ‘invasion’ multiplayer system, why they see Doom as a cartoon, and how Doom Eternal is this team’s Evil Dead II.
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Trusted Reviews: Following 2016’s Doom, what did you want to do to take Doom Eternal even more over the top?
Marty Stratton: Making the Slayer an even bigger badass is probably first and foremost. There are always a lot of things that you want to address. Just take the experience to the next level and reinforce the power fantasy, certainly. Bring people a bit more into the lore, make it a little bit more accessible. Let them know that when we’re creating a Doom universe, there is a lot behind everything that you do.
Another big thing was to take the Doom ‘dance’ that people love to play and make it a social one, which is where we’re diving into the invasion stuff and the way we’re approaching PvP as well. Those were some of the high-level guiding principles coming out of 2016.
Trusted Reviews: Were there some ideas that you had for the 2016 game that you couldn’t realise then that we’re now seeing come to life here?
Hugo Martin: Oh yeah. In general, there was so much going on at the studio at the time. It’s well-documented, with reboots, and we restaffed a large amount of the team. Now we’re just in a position where the team, having shipped a game together, is firing on all cylinders. Everybody’s working together in a really fantastic way.
What that adds up to is that we’re able to do better work faster, so we can just put more into the game on a day-to-day basis, and pack it with as much cool stuff as we can. That’s been the most exciting part about everything – being able to do it this time fully powered.
Trusted Reviews: Can you talk about the ‘meathook’ and the added movement options, and how that impacts the experience?
Stratton: Those types of things like the meathook and the dash are a way that you can make the Slayer more aggressive. When we’re enhancing the power fantasy or enhancing the game, how do we make him more powerful and a more lethal killer of demons? [With] something like the dash or the meathook – people have called it the grappling hook, but it is just a grapple to demons.
If you’re going to use that capability, we want you to use it to get closer to a demon. We put it on the Super Shotgun because you’re pulling yourself close in to use a close-range weapon in most cases (although you can switch away). And it’s to enhance the acrobatic nature of the game as a whole.
All of these components, whether it’s the meathook, the dash, the wall climb or the monkey bars, as we call them, they’re all tools you can combine to choreograph your own fight scene. They’re all very complimentary and trying to work together to make him even more of a badass.
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Trusted Reviews: Doom Eternal goes to some new places that we haven’t seen before, and you talked about expanding the lore. What’s that process of expanding upon the core Doom experience and finding new places to take it?
Martin: We started in 2016, and all of it is just meant to enhance the gameplay. We don’t want Doom to become a story-driven game, certainly. Our core mantra is to kill amazing bad guys in super-cool places with really awesome weapons. We’re trying to build a fantastic universe to be able to pull that off.
It’s a continuation of what started in Doom 2016. A lot of fans who dug into the lore are very excited to get some answers to their questions. Doom 2016 introduced a lot of concepts to fans about the Doom Slayer, the hero of the game. It also opened up a lot of questions and hinted at things. We really want to provide those answers to players in Doom Eternal – and maybe pose a few more [questions]. But we’re very excited for what the fans are going to see there, and you got a little taste of it in the concept art and the locations that we saw [at QuakeCon].
For us, it just means: “Play it, don’t say it.” We’ll certainly have plenty of lore in the game with codex entries, and that will be enhanced too. “But I read about these epic adventures or heard about them in the Slayer’s Testament. Can I go to that place? Can I fight that guy?” Yes, you can.
Stratton: I think it’s important for players to understand, we get so excited about things that are in the game, whether it’s the design of a weapon or the design of the Crucible, because we know the story behind them. It’s almost like trying to transfer some of that excitement and that history – or the excitement of the history – to the fans.
We very much look at [developing] the Slayer as us trying to create a superhero. When you look at other superheroes, whether it’s Batman or Iron Man, they have this really cool, unique, compelling backstory of Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, that really enhances who they are as a superhero.
For us, [it was about] bringing the fans in on that conversation a little bit and bringing that a little more to the forefront – but certainly not making the game about it by any stretch. It’s still all about what he does – “Play it, don’t say it” – but playing it is the way that people are going to access our lore. And when they look around and they’re like: “Holy shit, now I understand,” it’s pretty exciting.
Martin: Especially in first-person shooters, that’s the thing that we’re most excited about. We want to embrace the medium of games, and not take the conventions of film and mash them into a video-game experience. We give you the lore, we take you to these places, we do some of the things, we read about others. And you just learn all of this context about yourself: “I’m this epic, legendary badass.” And in a first-person shooter? How great is it that I’m going to let you see it through his eyes?
When you walk through that hallway in Mars Core, and those guys’ reaction to you? That’s because you, the player – you spent a little time, you read a little lore, you went on the adventure of 2016, and you know all this stuff about yourself. That makes it so much more impactful, embracing what a first-person shooter can excel at when it comes to narrative. And that’s the thing that only video games can do, and only a shooter can do. You’re not going to just watch him from a third-person camera, you’re gonna be in his head. A ride-along, if you like.
And the best part is, it’s consistent with the way you want to play Doom. You play Doom because you want to play like a badass. That’s been there since 1993. The story supports that. There’s no disconnect between the lore, the universe, the things I’m doing, the places I’m going, and how I want to play the game.
It’s a joke to call it cinematic since it’s a walk down a hallway. But it’s not that in that cinematic, I behave in a way that’s different to the way I behave when I get to the bottom and I start destroying the world. No, who I was in the hallway is exactly who I am when I’m destroying the demons. That’s super, super important to us.
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Trusted Reviews: How did you revisit more of the classic enemies and modernise them for this new era?
Stratton: We did a lot of it for 2016. First of all, the Doom enemies are fantastic – going all the way back to those original designs, the characters and personalities of them. Just how over-the-top they are is inspiring for us. We get to walk around the halls at id and see the original statues that they had made to build around or to scan.
And it’s fun. We want to embrace that – but as you said – we always modernize it and find a new twist to it. It’s really about bringing that personality that was there, but with all of the modern animation techniques and technology and texturing and rendering, bringing them to life in a new way.
Then, of course, there’s the whole way we’re approaching gore and the whole feedback side of it. We want it to feel amazing when you shoot your gun and hit them with a bullet. The way we’ve brought glory kills into it – taking that personality that they have and infusing it into all of that. When you watch the glory kills back in slow motion and you see their eyes like [makes exaggerated eye-bulging motion], it’s cool because it’s that 1993-94 personality brought to life in using all-new techniques, all-new technology, and really, really creative minds.
Martin: This is our Evil Dead II. That’s how I think of it. When you look at [Sam Raimi’s 1981] Evil Dead, all of that stuff that he just said, you could apply to that game. Doom 2016: amazing, awesome game. Evil Dead: amazing, awesome movie. Didn’t have the resources maybe, or just wasn’t there yet to be able to truly pull off what he did in Evil Dead II, and that’s what we have now.
The team is humming, the tech is there, and we’re ready to go, firing on all cylinders. Characters look better, they perform better, and they feel better when you shoot them. I think the goal is that it looks like a AAA version of the 1993 Doom. That’s what I’m so proud of with that footage. If you were to modernise Doom in a AAA game from 1993, that’s what it would look like.
There are a lot of little things that we do to pull that off. I know some fans who love certain aspects of Doom 3, and totally, I do too. This is a cartoon. This is supposed to be fun. That’s what Doom was in 1993, so we take a lot of the dark shadows out of the world. We bring up the fill light. It kind of flattens the world a little bit, but it creates all of this visual detail and it does give it this cartoonish effect, which ultimately kind of balances out the ridiculous amount of violence in the game.
The gore is handled in a cartoonish way, which is totally consistent with the original Doom games. And if it wasn’t done that way, you’re blowing off all of this flesh on this guy’s arm and he’s coming at you. We’ve had internal devs comment: “How is this guy still standing? He just has a femur on his leg holding him up.” It’s just a cartoon…
Trusted Reviews: [laughs]
Stratton: You’re laughing! That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.
Martin: So the read of it all is, you know, it doesn’t go too far. It’s always striking that balance: insane violence and lighthearted visuals coming together. That’s Doom. And honestly, it’s the same as Evil Dead II, in my opinion. It’s not Saw. It’s like a cartoon. Even when he cuts off his own hand, and the way he does it, he’s coming down with the saw and he’s like: “Who’s laughing now?” It’s blood spraying in his face, and [Bruce Campbell] did such a great performance there. That’s totally Doom.
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Doom Eternal will release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch in 2019. You can find out more about it by reading our preview, which has the latest details about the game along with all current trailers.