"I forget everything between footsteps.
It's easy to underestimate the humble door. You open it, you go through. Sometimes, you must find the key first, and for many games, that's the whole extent of the player's interactions with doors. They're something to get past, something that cordons off one bit from the next bit. A simple structural element, of special interest to level designers, but not the ones who turn the knobs.
Death is a given, and that's doubly true for video games. And when death comes, it tends to come in force. Who among us can claim we haven't, at some point in our gaming career, meandered through plains sprinkled with corpses, or waded through rivers of blood past bobbing human remains? If video games are to be believed, corpses are more gregarious than the living. They flock to gruesome sites of executions, torture and massacres, hang themselves from nooses, impale, flay, contort or dismember themselves into bloody bouquets for us to gawk and shudder at in passing.
If the games we play are anything to go by, the depths of hell are one of humankind's favourite destinations when it comes to travels of the mind. Few fantasy RPGs or horror games could be considered complete without at least a quick excursion into the domain of demons and sinners. And what better place to conclude your game than hell itself? What better villains to fight than the citizens of Pandemonium? Hell has found a steady home in many kinds of games, and its popularity shows no sign of abating.
Two of my favourite quotes about physics come from what you'd probably call unscientific sources. One is from Lauren Child's scatterbrained hero Clarice Bean - "Sometimes I think gravity is a pity" - and the other is often attributed to Albert Einstein but is more likely from Ray Cummings' 1921 short story, The Time Professor: "Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once."
Every so often a games comes along that is so revolutionary that it inadvertently kills its genre as everyone scrambles to replicate its success. For shooters, that game was Epic's 2006 shooter Gears of War. As covered in Tom Bissell's excellent book Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski re-imagined the shooter genre as one of chaos and fear. Where big meaty soldiers would still feel vulnerable when faced with the onslaught of enemy fire chipping away at concrete mere inches from their face. In short, Gears of War wanted to change the old nature of "war is horrible, but isn't this fun?!" with "war is terrifying for even the most macho of soldiers, but doesn't it make you feel alive?" It's a subtle distinction, but an important one. Shooters were no longer about catharsis - or rather they weren't just about catharsis: they had to instil a feeling of vulnerability.
Id Software's Doom reboot was one of 2016's most pleasant surprises. A meek marketing campaign and Bethesda's choice to not send out review copies early mired the comeback with a dose of skepticism, but thankfully the final product prevailed, mostly due to its astonishing single-player campaign. While the multiplayer and SnapMap level editor had their followers, Doom's main draw was its solo mode. As such, many were crushed when Bethesda confirmed that all of Doom's DLC would be based around the competent but unremarkable competitive multiplayer modes. But there's good news: id Software did craft new single-player content, and it's absolutely free. Even better, it's glorious.
It's been a while since we've done one of these! While putting together our tech analysis for id software's fantastic Doom reboot, one thing became clear - this was a game handing in a remarkable level of visual fidelity while maintaining an extremely high frame-rate. The scale of the achievement here can't really be understated: we were looking at a 60fps game handing in visuals better than many, if not most, 30fps titles. Just how did they do that?
The PC version of the Doom 2016 reboot finally has the Vulkan API update we've been waiting for. Everyone's a winner in terms of higher performance but for AMD owners in particular, there are some game-changing improvements. Our initial tests suggest anything from a 30 to 40 per cent increase in gaming performance for Radeon users but these are rough, initial numbers. It could actually be higher.
So what is Vulkan exactly? Well, think of it as the OpenGL equivalent to DirectX 12, with many of the same advantages - principally, far better utilisation of multi-core CPUs, along with the implementation of GPU asynchronous compute. The latter element in particular sees big improvements for Radeon hardware, and it's used extensively in Doom. id Software's lead rendering programmer Tiago Sousa recently revealed efficiency improvements of 3-5ms per frame on the console versions of the game - a seriously big deal when you have a 16ms per-frame render budget.
In a tech interview with Digital Foundry (due to be published in full this weekend), the id team talk about the advantages of Vulkan and the potential of async compute in particular.
Once upon a time, Halo was the tale of a place. A tale of it, and a tale shaped by it. Installation 04's famous skybox - that pristine curl of oceans and meadows, rearing amid the stars - may be very obviously a flat backdrop, but it does create the impression of an underlying 3D continuity, the vague conviction, as in a Souls game, that you can pick out the site of a previous battle high above the skyline, winking through the atmospheric haze.
Doom's campaign was a wonderful surprise, and a progressive and worthy follow-up to a true classic. The multiplayer? Not so much. Sure, it's fun enough, and as Jon Denton said the other day, it features some smart design. But few would argue that Doom's multiplayer holds a candle to its campaign, despite it being a major focus in promotion on the run-up to release.
Right, yes. This should have gone up on Tuesday, but I was a little busy freaking out about giving Overwatch an Essential badge. Donlan likes to tell me that when we do give a game the big golden sticker, the review has to feel like an event. An event. That really adds to the pressure of writing the thing.
Much like Doom's stellar campaign demonstrates the single-player first-person shooter coming full circle while dragging the best of the past 20 years along for its blood-soaked ride, so too does its multiplayer. Here we have a return to online combat as an afterthought; a frozen dessert after a delicious main course as opposed to the kind of life-engulfing commitment online shooters have morphed into in recent times.
It's fun to get swept along by new-game fever - especially when the game is as pleasant a surprise as id Software's robust Doom reboot - but the tide of enthusiasm can carry you to some regrettable places. Don't, as I did, make the mistake of thinking that this would be a perfect moment to reappraise the 2005 Doom movie, which is currently available on Netflix in the UK and across Europe. There is no reappraising to be done here. It's a bad film, probably worse than you remember. Just another rubbish video game movie - except it's not, because of one historically remarkable shot, and because Doom's fearsome magic has eluded other game makers as well as filmmakers. For years, it even eluded id themselves.
Tricky one, Doom. Tricky one to reboot, or deboot, or whatever it is that id Software has been tasked with this time around. Tricky lineage to negotiate. How do you expand upon a game whose force and purity all but created the pace, mechanics, and look of a generation of shooters? How do you do that, all the while knowing that in the sheer unadorned potency of the original game there is something that can only ever be damaged by elaboration? Returning to Doom, surely the temptation is to make Doom more complex - but complexity only makes it less like Doom. Amazingly, though, despite the odds stacked against it, the new Doom feels a lot like, well, a lot like Doom. It has that same headlong rush, that same engine of wet splatter chugging everything forward. I've been playing through the campaign while trying to work out how they've done it, how developmental hell turned out a game that is such a joyous blast to play. And I think a big part of the game's success comes down to one weird thing: the guy you're playing as in Doom is playing Doom.
Since we've only just received Doom review code, we're going to have a full review up next week. In the meantime, here are some early impressions of the campaign.
UPDATE 20/4/16 18:51: id Software's Tiago Sousa got in contact to confirm that both versions of Doom actually utilise dynamic resolution scaling, rendering at up to 1080p. Sousa also reveals that the temporal anti-aliasing component uses an impressive 8x sampling and is tied in directly to the dynamic scaler, "so transitions are relatively hard to spot".
Original story: Bethesda's Doom reboot has seen several beta revisions released over the last few months, with patches and various tweaks added to the game as id Software refine the experience ahead of the title's May 13th release. Targeting 60fps for both campaign and multiplayer, Doom is an ambitious project, and a consistently high frame-rate is essential for this style of turbo-charged gameplay.
The multiplayer aspect of the game has drawn criticism about the use of loadouts and levelling up - a valid line of criticism bearing in mind the series' roots - though it's too early to tell exactly how much of an imbalance this will create. However, beyond the gameplay controversies, the technological experience holds up well across both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, delivering a mostly solid experience at the desired 60fps refresh.
"There was never a name for the Doom marine because it's supposed to be you" - John Romero, co-creator of Doom
John Carmack delivered his annual QuakeCon sermon to devoted id Software worshippers in Texas tonight. Following a few announcements and brief trailers of Rage and Wolfenstein, introduced by CEO Todd Hollenshead, Carmack took the microphone and (after a while) a seat and rambled absorbingly about everything from mobile games and in-game ads to his admiration from Nintendo and his thoughts on the rest of this console generation. Here are few hastily transcribed highlights.