DOOMed for Success: A DOOM Beta Experience
The epitome of the First Person Shooter in many minds is the classic DOOM series, hearkening back to days of where a Y axis for looking up and down were something of an unreal notion; a fool’s paradise to some as the verticality of maps and implementation of new mechanics would develop over the coming years. The FPS genre has gradually come of age since the early 90’s with some genius developers releasing titles like Halo, Call of Duty and Counterstrike, to name but a few. These innovative titles brought their own unique gameplay styles to the table with Halo’s recharging shields and high health count meaning players didn’t drop dead from a single shot to the chest. Counter Strike introduced tactical team play on a very high competitive level. And Call of Duty brought arrogant 10 year olds who all apparently claim that they personally know your mother. Regardless of these new features, nearly every old-school gamer who played DOOM, Quake, Unreal Tournament or the likes have constantly pined for the return of the days filled with fast paced arena action and instagib mayhem. Fortunately for these few people Id Software have gotten their collective minds together to bring back and hopefully revive the old age arena shooter with the release of DOOM in May 13th 2016; and personally I’m stoked.
My time with the DOOM beta was short as my poor home network and intermittent connection issues hindered my playtime to only 3 hours of in game matches; which still amounted to a fair few games played. The action was frantic and the gameplay mostly one sided, and I’ll get to why in a few paragraphs, but the first thing we all love to do is pimp out our Doom marine with ridiculous colors and patterns. The customisation options were plentiful, but limited by equipment available and colors present until you ranked yourself up in the arena to get these rewards. You can change anything from your marine’s helmet to the lights on his body armour; you can even select individual armor pieces for his arms. With DOOM’s bright and colorful visuals most player characters can be designed to look like a knock off power ranger with some stylish zebra print patterns. If you’d rather have your marine look more realistic then you could apply some dirt and and scratches to your war torn armour, creating a modestly grittier look. The wealth of customisation doesn’t stop there as you can pop into your loadout menu and do the same to your loadout weapons. And this brings me onto my next point, loadouts.
Loadouts are relatively new in the FPS genre, bequeathing the player with an array of firearms for them to trod on into battle with, without having to actually find it on the battlefield; which arguably makes firefights a lot fairer on a broader spectrum. However, DOOM and other relevant titles have always had in-arena weaponry for you to pick up and “control” leaving you starting with the bare-bones basics. This emphasised the need to understand the map better and learn routes throughout the level so that you could easily predict when pickup timers would refresh. Most notably however it reduced the likelihood of campers; those who find comfort hiding in corners and waiting for their unsuspecting prey, like a serial killer in heat. Now that DOOM has implemented the loadout scheme we are bound to see some campers, but luckily with the addition of non-regenerating health and game changing power ups there are likely to be few of these folk skulking around.
In the Beta your armory isn’t vast, but the applications of every weapon have their high points. The Heavy Machine gun fires high damage ballistic rounds at a slow fire rate. The rifle, although fully automatic, doesn’t do too much damage and is best used at range with its built in scope. The Plasma Rifle is the newbies go to machine gun, with high bullet (plasma) magnetism the rounds slightly home in on their targets and as long as they are close, you’re bound to hit your mark. Use this weapon in combination with the Rocket Launcher – yes, you can spawn with a rocket launcher – and it’s game over. Beginners are bound to opt for this loadout and maybe some returning veterans as the effectiveness of these two weapons is unparalleled. You can easily get kills with the Rocket Launchers splash damage and even if you only manage to scathe an opponent you can quickly switch to the plasma rifle to tear away at the remainder of their health. The Super Shotgun (Double Barrelled Shotgun) is the fan favourite, with very high firepower at close range with its damage being severely mitigated the further away an opponent is. The Vortex Rifle is a lower tier substitute for a Railgun like weapon form the Quake franchise. Needing pinpoint accuracy this sniper rifle can deal good damage to individuals at any range but the bonus comes from it’s charged up scoped attack which can do roughly 1.5x damage of a player’s full health if a headshot is landed, granting an instant kill and one of my new favourite weapons. The Lightning Gun jumps franchises, having made its original debut in Quake, it has now entered the Doom universe. The Lightning Gun’s laser like stream of electricity does fair damage but requires a steady hand to use as keeping the beam focused on a fast moving player can be tricky to say the least. Finally we have the Static Rifle, arguably the most experimental weapon in your arsenal. Having to charge the gun only by moving and de-charging the gun as you stay stationary. The Static Rifle packs a punch but require a fair amount of time to charge can often leave you vulnerable. The Gauss Cannon makes an appearance as a power weapon pickup and acts as a one-hit kill behemoth. Pretty much granting the player who has it four easy kills.
The arenas present in the beta are Heatwave; an industrial processing plant, and Infernal; a cavernous hellscape filled with blood and bones. Both arenas are well laid out and are fun to negotiate with plenty of verticality and secret stashes to discover. Portals lie in the corner of each map along with a few jump pads to gain some height advantage. DOOM’s new clambering mechanic comes into play when scaling some of these areas, but isn’t really required. Personally, I don’t particularly like the Clambering feature as it stops your overall momentum and slows the pace of the game altogether. Powerups are placed in hot zones where players gather most often and the abundance of health and armour means every player has an equal footing when it comes to combat recovery.
As I had mentioned before the combat can become a bit one sided by utilising the plerthora of powerups present on both maps. These power pickups being Quad Damage; Quadruple your damage output. Haste; double your player spee. Gauss Cannon; a one-hit kill WMD. And The Demon Rune; a rune that turns the player into a fast damage dealing creature able to obbliterate anyone with its dual rocket launchers. And all of these are in game at one time. If one team manages to get there hands on at least one of these items – particularly the Demon Ruin – then its GG’s to the opposition. It’s not particularly hard to overcome adversaries with these power ups, but it does require you to know how to approach them. I’m unsure on Id Software’s stance with the implementation of all these items. On one hand, you have loadouts which help newcomers feel the familiarity they have with newer style FPS games and also gives them a fighting chance in the arena. On the other hand, having a multitude of over-powered pickups on the field can be detrimental to the initiation process for these newcomers. A semi-decent player can easily recall where these pickups are and effectively use them. Allowing these “pro players” to dominate the match, aggressively hindering newcomers and making the game feel unapproachable – at least online. I guess this is where Hack Modules come into play. Hack Modules act as DOOM’s burn cards, giving players a necessary advantage by offering extra protection on spawn or displaying timers of power pickups or simple health and armour shards. These won’t be overall useful to veterans but may benefit the newbies.
There were only two modes available to participate in within the limited Beta, the traditional Deathmatch and a new mode called Warpath. Deathmatch is pretty much the same type of game mode you’d find in nearly every FPS on the block. Stand toe to toe with your opponents and see who comes out on top with the most kills, scoring a maximum of 75 points (Kills). Warpath was the game mode that intrigued me the most. Warpath is a simple evolution of the King of the Hill style game mode where teams try their damnedest to hold a specific point on the map for the allotted time. This time round however, the “Hill” moves dynamically within the maps confines and acts as a capture point on rails. Warpath works well to keep the combat flowing in a general direction whilst not diluting the game too much by placing powerups infrequently in the opposite direction of the Hill. It was disappointing to see a lack of players within this game mode, but perhaps an objective based game mode just isn’t as preferred as mindless slaughter is of Deathmatch.
Overall I’d say DOOM is looking exceptionally well in both functionality and appearance. Running at a smooth 60fps with no dips in framerate whatsoever – and that’s hard to say these days with console games. The pristine visuals of the environment and characters is astonishingly good and I’d happily argue it’s one of the best looking games I’ve played to date. With DOOM’s ambitious return to arena combat we may hopefully see other games follow suit as well, at least that’s what I’m hoping for. DOOM’s multiplayer checks every box you’d expect from an old-school shooter and more. We will now just have to wait till release to check out what the full product has to offer in terms of Singleplayer and its “revolutionary” SnapMap. It’s been an exciting weekend and I simply cannot wait for more doom carnage come May, so I’ll catch yous all on the arena floor on release.