Hugo Martin: Doom Eternal's destructible demon system makes such an impact 2016's Doom is now 'hard to play'

Among the many very metal moments of the Doom Eternal reveal at QuakeCon this week was a look at the new system creative director Hugo Martin called 'destructible demons'. This feature means that when you shoot, slash, punch, kick, or otherwise do damage to demons, you'll be able to see it in the degradation of their bodies. Arms and legs can be blown off, and armor can be peeled away.

The impact of this new destructible demon system is such that Martin told me he now finds it difficult to play 2016's Doom. 

"It is cosmetic, it's purely visual flair, but it also has—gameplay implications aside—tremendous impact on the feel of the game," he said. "Huge. So much so that when you play Doom 2016 and it's not there, it's really hard to play it. 

"Because it's like, now I'm used to pulling out my [heavy assault rifle] and shooting that giant fat mancubus and just shredding him and turning him into a corpse before he dies. He looks like a zombie coming at me. And then in [Doom 2016] you just can shoot him to high heaven and nothing happens, you know, because it's like any other video game. We feel like it has such an impact on the power of the weapons, the power of the player, it feels amazing."

As far as the "gameplay implications" Martin mentioned, the destruction of demons isn't limited just to their flesh and bones. With the caveat that Doom Eternal is in early development and this system is subject to change before release, Martin used a few demons as examples of how destroying part of them might actually change their behavior. When it comes to that mancubus, for instance, you may be able to disable his primary weapon during a fight.

"He'd still be able to attack and stuff like that, but that you would alter the effectiveness of his attacks," said Martin.

The arachnotron's primary weapon, the gun turret on its back, can also be targeted specifically by players. "So if you focus in on that, get a sticky bomb on it, blow it off, you would eliminate one of his primary attacks.

"He doesn't have his main attack anymore, at that point he'd have to start to rely on his secondary attack, which in the case of the arachnotron he has missiles that, they're like these little grenades that he pops out of these little compartments on his side. He's got a pretty good melee swipe, so he's capable to do some pretty cool melee stuff. We think that stuff's really strong. We want the AI, certain chess pieces to command your attention, you know what I mean? And ask a bit more of you as the player."

Some demons won't work that way, however.

"It's not a hard and fast rule for us that every heavy, for example, has to have a piece to him that you could blow off to affect his attacks," Martin said. "It's mostly if the opportunity presents itself and it feels intuitive. We don't want to crowbar that stuff in. It's kind of like, the Pinky is a good touchstone in that he looks armored from the front, he looks soft and fleshy from the back, and you want the player to have that wonderful moment of, like, 'I think I could wound him from the back. Oh great! That's a lot easier.' And in the case of the arachnotron, it's got this big gun turret on his back, so [it] makes sense: 'I could blow off everything else, can I shoot that off? Oh yeah I can, sweet! I guess he can't shoot that gun any more.'

Doom Eternal is coming in 2019. Check our the rest of our coverage of QuakeCon right here.