DOOM took up the most time and real estate at this year's QuakeCon gathering at the Gaylord Texan Convention Center because of the iconic first-person shooter's 25th anniversary. But it wasn't the only game with a new or impending release on digital and retail store shelves. The Dallas-based game studios Bethesda Softworks and id Software held demos of their gaming creations that included some new additions to and updates for some of its most beloved franchises and re-releases of old favorites for modern consoles and mobile devices.
We braved the long wait times and gave our fingers and possibly our eyes more of a chance of developing carpal tunnel to preview the newest games from the floor of this year's QuakeCon.
DOOM Eternal (available Nov. 22 for Xbox One, PS4, Google Stadia and PC)
The hellish DOOM franchise is still alive and well thanks to 2016's blockbuster release of the rebooted DOOM for modern consoles and throngs of very patient fans. The only way to celebrate the groundbreaking, blood-flying first-person shooter's silver anniversary is with a new game.
DOOM Eternal, the fifth addition to the DOOM franchise, once again sticks players back in the heavily armored boots of the Doomslayer, a quiet, demon-slicing hero with no name or voice. Just like the 2016 reboot, the new game pays homage to the games before it with throwback-styled weapons like the plasma cannon, the super shotgun and the good ol' BFG (Big Fucking Gun) while throwing in some fun, new ways to eviscerate possessed souls and malleable monsters from the depths of Hell. Up until now, the hero of the DOOM games only wielded one weapon at a time except for the occasional throwable grenade, mine or instant shield. So the developers gave the Doomslayer's free hand something else to do with a wrist-mounted switchblade that cuts through enemies' skulls like a butter knife through a Jello mold and clouds of spraying flame to burn his enemies to a delightfully crunchy crisp. The wrist device can also shoot a pointed projectile known as the "meat hook" to bring the Doomslayer to different levels or parts of a map or a sliceable demon straight to his blood-soaked palms.
Fighting hordes of undead souls with an absurdly massive arsenal that includes rocket launchers, concentrated heat rifles and chainsaws will always be fun, but Eternal elevates the art of virtual violence with superb graphics, fluid movements and enemies that sustain concentrated, localized damage to specific parts of its meaty bodies. The multiplayer mode called "battlemode" promises more than just empty caverns and killing floors where players run around and literally frag each other's brains out until one player or team earns enough kills. "Battlemode" allows players to control one of the DOOM universe's more powerful demons to infiltrate another player's single-player campaign and disrupt their progress by turning them into a bloody stain on a barren space rock. Each demon offers different modes of movement and weaponry that builds to the game's strategy component hidden by mounds of bloody meat and bones.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood (out now for Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC)
id Software's predecessor to DOOM put players in control of the allied powers' greatest covert ass-kicker, William "BJ" Blazkowicz, who sneaked behind enemy lines to turn Nazi bastards and a cyber-augmented Adolf Hitler into chunky puddles of unidentifiable pizza sauce. The franchise took an interesting turn in 2014 when the game rebooted with an all-new Man in the High Castle-ish story-driven franchise that imagines a world where the Axis powers won the war and took over the world as they planned and put BJ back in action as he tries to topple the world's new regime of evil in The New Order and its 2017 sequel The New Colossus. This time and for the first time in the franchise, two different heroes, named Jess and Soph, take over for their father BJ, who suddenly goes missing in action.
Having two young guns in the fight changes the dynamic of this shoot 'em up from a lone hero who blows holes in the bodies of Swastika-sporting scum into more of team sport. Since the Blazkowicz girls are twins, their health and battle boosts affect one another and the mission. If one goes down and bleeds out, the team loses a shared life and when they lose three, the level starts over, so strategic teamwork is required whether you're depending on another player on their console or PC or on the game's AI as your teammate. You can also share upgrades and enhancement in the middle of the action and in between missions. This brings a fun, new co-op dynamic to the game and franchise that keeps blasting away at enemies from becoming a bore, but it can also be a hindrance if you're stuck trying to figure out the level's linear path.
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (out now for HTC Vive and PlayStationVR)
If you're not into deep strategic shooters and just want to send as many Nazis back to hell in increasingly creative ways and you've got access to a VR headset, then Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is more your speed. We actually got a first look at it at last year's QuakeCon but Bethesda and company added a noticeable improvement by the start of this year's gathering: a chair.
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot puts players in the cockpit of a bipedal, mechanical killing machine in the thick of World War II. The game can easily make the steeliest of stomachs go queasy if you're standing while your brain can't comprehend the sight of movement and the feeling of standing still but a simple chair can keep your lunch down and make the whole experience more focused on the fun of dismantling Nazis figuratively and literally.
Your craft is by no means impenetrable, especially when your enemies upgrade to bigger and more advanced weapons technology that bridges the link between machine and man. Just like the non-virtual Wolfenstein games, you'll need to plot your path carefully and look for cover to conserve health as you lay waste to anything in your path. The movements are just as fluid as they were during the first run, especially that we were able to play it without making inner-ear fluids swirl to the point of digestive propulsion.
New Updates for RAGE 2 (Out now for Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
Avalanche Studios' post-apocalyptic punk shooter has been out for less than a year but the additions to the game have brought it to a ridiculous level that parodies the very genre of gaming in which it lives and breathes.
RAGE 2 is a post-apocalyptic first person shooter that feels like a bizarre mix of Mad Max and The Warriors with just a punch of Futurama's absurdity. Players roam The Wasteland as a recently promoted ranger who upgrades himself by taking a dead soldier's armor in a fallen battle and drives across the barren world to complete mercenary missions and massive battles in order to dismantle the evil, ruling faction known as The Authority with a wide variety of upgradable firearms, abilities like "dash" and "shatter" and projectiles like the four-bladed Frisbee known as a "wingstick." The most basic version of the single-player campaign sticks to the core story and atmosphere, but the add-ons and DLC bring the sci-fi shooter from edgy to Saints Row 4 and 5 levels of ridiculousness. The additional "cheat codes" allowed players to customize the gameplay to their liking by adding options, like running commentary calls from the likes of British actor Danny Dyer and the NBA Jam guy Tim Kitzrow, combat features such as single shot kills and an explosive "red barrel rain" and even stylized features like adding a drive-side ejector seat to every vehicle.
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The latest updates to the game offer increased difficulty levels such as "Ironman" and "ultra nightmare" and a "new game+" mode that brings back your entire arsenal once you've completed the main game and new player skins hidden in the "arks," the game's treasure chests for clearing certain areas of enemy armies. New cheat codes include a "Dash Ragdoll" feature that launches players toward the enemies without control of their limbs, a "super knockback" melee that emits a radial fire punch and sends waves of surrounding enemies flying in the mist and a "BJ Blazkowicz" voice pack that casts the Wolfenstein protagonist as the voice in your head encouraging you to kill. The crazier the add-ons and cheats get, the more playability they add to RAGE 2. So keep 'em coming Bethesda.
DOOM I, DOOM II and DOOM 3 (out now on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, iPhone and Android)
Bethesda and id Software weren't content with just making a new DOOM game for the franchise's 25th anniversary. They took it a step further by re-releasing the original DOOM trilogy on consoles and PCs and the first two DOOM games on mobile devices for people who still want to murder demons but have places to be.
All the games are faithfully re-created right down to the last pixel and look just as grand and glorious on a big screen 4K TV as they do on a handheld Switch or mobile device screen. The version that you can control with a physical controller or a keyboard will be more familiar to people who grew up playing the games in their heyday. The mobile versions of DOOM and DOOM II also have good controls but it takes awhile to get used to them and feel like a new challenge if you're just using the touchscreen that's sectioned into three spaces for moving, opening doors and operating controls and turning and firing whatever weapon is in the Doomguy's hands.
DOOM isn't known as a game with a long history of multiplayer modes, but the newest versions have a local, split-screen multiplayer game that pits Doomslayers against each other in a timed death match. If you were hoping for an online multiplayer game, then you don't get what DOOM is about. Even in single player mode, it's meant to be marveled at with other people occupying the same physical space as you. Cutting up virtual strangers with a chainsaw isn't as satisfying as slicing up a friend who's sitting next to you on your couch.