The now Zenimax/Bethesda-owned id have been eerily quiet since Rage met a mixed reception and underwhelming sales. I quite liked it, non-ending aside – it might have nothing on BioShock Infinite’s visual majesty, but the people-filled non-combat hubs between its more tunnelish combat were more convincingly alive than Columbia’s Auton population. In any case, Rage wasn’t the combeback Carmack and co needed, leaving us hoping that the in theory forthcoming Doom 4 would be. Half a decade on, there’s neither hide nor hair of it to be seen, and alleged sources close to the project have told Kotaku why that could be. Clearly there’s something in it, as it prompted Bethesda’s Pete Hines to acknowledge that id had indeed switched to making “a new version” of Doom 4 after an earlier one “did not exhibit the quality and excitement that Id and Bethesda intend to deliver.”
Here’s Hines’ full statement: “An earlier version of Doom 4 did not exhibit the quality and excitement that Id and Bethesda intend to deliver and that Doom fans worldwide expect,” Bethesda’s vice president of marketing and public relations Pete Hines said in a statement to Kotaku. “As a result, Id refocused its efforts on a new version of Doom 4 that promises to meet the very high expectations everyone has for this game and this franchise. When we’re ready to talk about the Doom 4 Id is making, we will let folks know.”
As for Kotaku’s sources, you need to the full piece over at the big K, but crucial quotes are perhaps “There were jokes like, ‘Oh, it’s Call of Doom.’ They referenced it because of the amount it was scripted —there were a lot of scripted set pieces” and “The coolest part… were the horror and shock elements, unfortunately bookended by somewhat pointless and contrived shooting galleries of hoards of uninteresting enemies.” This was despite the inspiration for the project being the legendarily ridiculous Doom II.
Wuh-oh. Still, whatever you might think of Bethesda’s recent output, they currently seem fairly resolute to bring about infrequent, big, high-ambition projects which scoop up at least some critical acclaim, rather than pursue the Activision or EA business model of relying on churned-out glossy clone-shooters. If they ordered a change of focus on Doom 4, I don’t doubt that it was because they didn’t feel the project was up to scratch. The question is really what the game’s now like, having changed direction in 2011.
Kotaku’s sources allege there were problems with the project even after that, including that “mediocrity” remained an issue, and ultimately that there was an “exodus of talent leaving ever since.” The report cites a lot of internal strife at the studio, and that there’s no danger of the new version of Doom 4 arriving any time soon. Next-gen consoles are apparently the target, but then that’s a given for anything not coming out within the next six months.
Also claimed is that plans for Rage 2 were abandoned on Zenimax’s orders, but that too isn’t any kind of surprise. Who knows what’s true, but in any case the upshot is that we can’t expect Doom’s attempt at redemption any time soon. ‘Done when it’s done’ isn’t the reassurance it used to be, eh? The good news, of a sort, is that a Doom 4 still seems to be happening.