This past weekend, I got to try out the Doom Beta, finally. The beta offered us a small sampling of Doom 2016‘s multiplayer gameplay. While the main game is being developed by Id Software, the multiplayer mode has been made in conjunction with Certain Affinity. This group has a lot of experience with console multiplayer giants such as Halo and COD: Black Ops. The demo included 2 maps, Heatwave (mars) and Infernal (hell) and 2 gameplay modes, Team Deathmatch and Warpath (King of the Hill).
My Gaming Background:
It’s worth noting that this Doom Beta review is coming from a 29 year old, self proclaimed hardcore gaming who played his first game of DOOM in the early 90s on an Acer running MS-DOS. I still play Doom to this day using source ports such as Zandronum and GZDOOM with mods such as Brutal Doom. I also still play Quake and Quake Live, actively playing online. I consider Doom to be a PC game franchise, in addition to one of the best games ever made along with Quake. However, I have also enjoyed the simplistic pleasures of Call Of Duty split screen with friends on Xbox and own most consoles which have come out over the last 20 years. The reason I am mentioning this is because my thoughts on this game will not be the same as someone who considers Halo to be the best game ever (I’m not a fan). You will also notice me mention Quake a lot, and even though Quake and Doom have different names, they share the same spirit in my opinion.
The multiplayer in the DOOM Beta is fast, almost like Quake 3. Almost. It also feels a lot like Halo, which I find disturbing. As far as speed goes, the beta as a whole feels like a step between Modern Warfare 2 and Quake 3. Not “twitch” speed, but certainly not lethargic.
The violence and gore of the game is aesthetically pleasing, but feels a bit cheap on a visceral level due to a number of factors.
For one, the sound effects are not quite beefy enough. They sound insignificant. While they are certainly too quiet, the issue is deeper than that. It sounds like they could use a bit more care to have some unique sonic qualities like the sound effects in previous Id Software games. Sounds such as the harsh metallic shots of the Quake nail gun, or the deep pulses of the plasma rifle are missing. Instead, you get far more contemporary and standard sounds which could have been pulled from a generic sound bank. To put it plainly… If I was kid and I was playing with my friends acting like we’re Doom Marines, I would not spend a lot of effort making these gun sounds with my mouth.
Another problem with the sound is that there is very little indication you are playing as a human. Your Doom Marine does not grunt, or express any sign of physical pain despite being pelted in the face with rockets. The original Doom Marine grunted in a variety of ways whether he was being burned with fire balls, checking a wall for secret doors, and even a blood curdling death cry. Look up a video of Quake 3 or Quake Live and it sounds like you having an insane battle with people getting shot and taking hits, while truly exerting themselves in a vicious battle to the death. This is not the case with Doom; it sounds very dry and quiet. A tiny note here, I don’t love the announcer. He sounds a bit too playful. I wish he had a darker and more serious sound.
Shockingly, there was no music during gameplay. This is noticeable when you start a match immediately. This is starkly contrasted by the very cool music at the title screen and music which cues right before a match begins. But once the game starts… it’s silent. Hopefully this is just because it’s a beta. Ideally, there will be a pumping soundtrack to kill to in multiplayer (such as Quake 3 and classic Doom).
Another thing which cheapens the violence is that bullets, rockets, and other elements in the game seem to have no effect on you physically. In other words, a rocket does not push you back and bullets do not even make you flinch. You can also walk through other players. You can’t even rocket jump, like in the Quake series. I feel like being shot in the face with machine gun might make my head shake a bit. Or at least, grunt (because that’s what tough game characters do). The absence of physics such as force from weapons make your interaction in the game world less compelling.
Most of the weapons work as expected. The usual suspects such as super shotgun, rocket launcher, plasma rifle, and Quake’s lightning gun are present. There’s also a new weapon called the gauss cannon, which basically guarantees an instant kill with very little shooting skill needed to use it. All the weapons also have an alternate shot, which helps give the game a bit more depth. With all that good, for some reason, the developers decided to place emphasis on how much damage every shot makes in the form of RPG style numbers appearing above every opponent you shoot. I feel like this puts unnecessary focus on which weapons are “good” or “bad” rather than mastery of the weapons themselves. A focus which is basically dictated by perhaps the worst feature in the entire beta… Loadout. Gone are the days of carefully racing through a map looking for a good weapon. Instead, you can now pick your weapons before the match begins. The catch? You can only pick 2. The result is a multiplayer experience about picking up health and armor, while trying to get to the demon transformation item first. I feel like this feature removes half the depth of shooting games like Doom and Quake 3, which required players to master the different weapons out of necessity. It also required players to master navigating maps, learning quick ways to get around. This is a really bad feature that will hurt this game in the long run. A simple solution to this would be have Casual Mode, where you have a load out, and Hardcore Mode where you can use all the weapons. Loadout is definitely one of the features which make the game feel like a cheap knock off of COD or Halo.
On a positive note, the devs added grenades to the mix which have been implemented in a fashion similar to Call of Duty or Halo. I feel like this is a new feature which works well, and adds to the gameplay. In addition to the standard (and underwhelming) frag grenade, there’s also a personal teleporter (like in Quake 3) and the Siphon Grenade. This is a great weapon which drains health from any opponents in it’s spherical range, while healing the person who threw it. Melee in the game is handled in a similar fashion as Halo where the player strikes the opponent with the butt of their weapon. It is also possible to perform special kills, although I am unsure of the conditions required to do so. This feature increases the fun factor of the game, but is indeed a gimmick.
Map design is fun and allows you to go basically any where you see. The gameplay encourages vertical combat thanks to multi-tiered level design which includes platforming above bottomless pits. All of this is enhanced by a new feature I personally love, the double jump. It feels like when a game you love got a sequel in the 90s and they added double jumping. The gameplay feels fresh thanks to that feature, which is enhanced by the nicely designed levels which encourage a variety of play styles from sniping to straight up frontal assault. I also embrace the cliff hanging feature, which allows your Doom Marine to grab on to nearly-missed ledges and immediately pull himself up. This adds a good feeling of excitement while traversing the exotic and deadly maps. There also teleporters and jump pads, which will be familiar to Quake and Doom players.
A new feature, which is similar to perks in Call of Duty, are Hack modules. Hack modules give you special features on your next respawn such as being able to see where the most powerful items are on the map. Another one shows you where the last player that killed you is, while another gives you more armor by default next time you respawn. Some of these are nice features, which help distract the player and influence them to move around the map. This is a good feature, and certainly makes for some fun battles.
Items on the map have been simplified. Health items are blue, armor is green, and ammo is universally yellow. In the past you had to find the right type of ammo, but now ammo is ammo, so as long as you keep moving you should never run out of it. I’m ok with this feature because it encourages players to keep shooting. Quad Damage is present, which further cements Doom and Quake into the same universe. This powerup is always good fun, however it is certainly outshined by the new demon power up which changes you into a demon for a period of time. Similar to Quad Damage in Quake, most players will run from you, however there are always a few slayers out there who will try to take this power up from you. There is also a mega health item which gives you full health and armor. Furthermore, players can also get the haste option, which makes you run a bit faster.
Controls are good and uncomplicated. I played the game with a laptop keyboard and a standard wireless Logitec mouse. All the buttons on the keyboard that matter are easily accessible. You are always running, and there is no sprint button. I feel like, the speed should be bit faster without there being a “sprint” button, however I don’t see this as a game killer.
People who were speed demons in Quake 3 Arena will notice that there is less (or no) speed bonus for jumping or turning (or at least none I could detect). These features are known as Strafe Jumping and Bunny Hopping. This was a popular tactic players could use to get around maps faster, allowing them to secure powerful weapons and items first. While this sounds like a minor complaint, this is another step in the direction of removing gameplay from the Doom/Quake multiplayer bible in favor of a more approachable and simplistic game experience. What this means is less gameplay value for the title. Another gripe is that for some reason the developers insisted on adding motion blur, which makes the movement feel fake and slightly unresponsive. I noticed overall snappier movement with the setting set to low.
Another new feature is player customization. This allows players to earn different looking pieces of armor and paint schemes. The paints have various options including matte, gloss, and metallic. Furthermore, you can also change the intensity and wear on the paint. The result is an (overly) colorful array of Doom Marines, allowing each player to have their own identity in the game. I think this is a nice feature which will please players who wish to standout on the servers. Weapons can also be painted.
The technology design in the game echoes contemporary SF FPS like Destiny and Halo. It does not have a “blood and sweat” industrial look like previous Id Software games. I would have liked to see a more industrial look, but I can live with what the designers have done even if it is generic.
Over all, the game seems to be pretty well optimized. I tested this is on an Intel i7 with 16gb RAM and a GTX970m Laptop. I was able to run the game on max graphics even while streaming. However, I found it was smoother and more enjoyable if I simply lowered the resolution to 720p. The levels are detailed nicely, with pools of blood and skulls scattered throughout. There’s plenty of evil Doom imagery to go around which definitely gives the game a Doom-like appearance.
The thing with all these compromises they’ve made to the complexity of the gameplay is you get a very contemporary feeling, unremarkable shooting experience that is already available in other games such as Halo. The DOOM aesthetics are mostly there. The weapons are cool in concept. However, it’s hard to enjoy them when the shooting feels trivial thanks to the game telling you how little damage you make with the 2 weapons you’re allowed to use at a time. Furthermore, they’ve dumbed down the movement in the game which makes for even less gameplay to master. Over all, I found the Doom Beta experience to be enjoyable. However, as this beta stands, it falls short of great, and is certainly not timeless like it’s predecessor, Quake 3 Arena. While, I understand Doom and Quake fans are a fickle bunch, we love these games for more than just a “hell theme”. The gameplay of Quake 3 is deceptively deep with features like strafe jumping, rocket jumping, and various weapons to master. For this game to be held to the same “god-tier” level as those games, it must do more than wow us on an aesthetic level. Something which I feel like Doom has failed to do so far.
Casual Gameplay Video (2 hours)
Nice visuals look like hell and are well optimized.
Weapon options are good.
The Siphon Grenade is a nice addition.
Love the double jump and cliff grabbing.
Nice map layouts.
Perks add some gameplay.
Demon power up is fun.
Great music, for what little there is.
Loadout is terrible and cheapens the gameplay.
No character pain grunts.
No stagger when hit.
Sound effects are weak.
Strafe jumping and Quake 3 style movement is gone.
Doom is developed by Id Software and published by Bethesda. The Doom release date is May 13, 2016 and will be released on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.
Buy Doom (20% off with Amazon Prime during pre-order and first 2 weeks of release)