Doom 4: id Software’s Last Shot?
On the eve of QuakeCon 2013, I’m white-knuckle-gripping my defibrillator paddles, hoping to shock some life into one of the most storied developers in the biz, a studio that’s now barely registering a heartbeat. Sad but true: the guys and gals who created the first-person shooter genre with Wolfenstein, elevated it to new heights with Doom, and brought the FPS experience online for the first time with multiplayer death match in Quake, could be too far gone to save. For the sake of nostalgia, I’m going to hit ‘em with the juice anyway in the blind hope that id Software will somehow return to greatness with Doom 4.
You’re laughing, aren’t you? I get it. Id worked on its first new franchise in a decade, Rage, for five long years, and when it finally launched in 2011, we got a storyline pulled straight from Fallout, shooting mechanics from the 1990s, ho-hum vehicle combat, linear levels, and nothing truly innovative beyond the graphics – visuals tough to enjoy on PC due to unforgivable compatibility issues. Perhaps worst of all, for some reason, id shipped Rage without a real multiplayer mode (there was a vehicle combat multiplayer mode, but no FPS multiplayer). Yes, the studio that created death match decided not to include death match in its shooter. I compare that decision to baking a birthday cake for a loved one and giving it to them without any icing on it.
Rage serves as the most recent example of what id Software is now capable of achieving. While the end result was by no means terrible, it was a huge disappointment for gamers who understand what the id name represents. Where was the creative spark, the innovation, the step forward for the genre? But the decline for id really began long before Rage, didn’t it?
Doom 3, with its overwhelmingly positive critical reception and reported 3.5 million in sales, serves as a feather in id’s cap. I’d argue that it also created the blueprint for id’s downfall. Powered by the id Tech 4 engine, Doom 3’s deeply atmospheric presentation was nearly flawless, and the visuals blew gamers away in 2004. Take away that visual presentation, though, and what is Doom 3? Not much. There’s little in the way of storytelling, the shooting mechanics were pulled straight from 1994’s Doom 2, the levels are as linear as they come, and the barebones multiplayer mode that was included felt tacked on. Doom 3 is an impressive demonstration of the id Tech 4 engine, but it’s really not a terribly impressive game.
Id seemed to follow that same technology-over-gameplay blueprint with Rage, and why wouldn’t they? Doom 3 was a huge hit. Unfortunately, impressive technology, in the form of id Tech 5, wasn’t enough to cover up id’s core game-making flaws this time around, and with Rage’s sales disappointing publisher Zenimax Media enough for them to cancel Rage 2, id Software is on the ropes. There are even reports that suggest Zenimax will transform id into purely a technology studio if its next game is a flop.
Which brings us to Doom 4 and me charging up the defibrillator. QuakeCon 2013 kicks off on August 1, so it’s time for us to once again wonder if id will provide an update on the shooter they’ve been working on since 2007. We’ve yet to see so much as an official screenshot or piece of concept art of Doom 4, let alone a trailer, so we still have little clue what form the shooter will take. Thanks to a revealing April feature in Kotaku, we know do know this: Doom 4 is in trouble.