As most gamers looking forward to the release of the newest iteration of Doom courtesy of infamous Id Software I was as giddy as a schoolgirl as the beta weekend loomed closer and closer. After playing it for part of this past weekend my excitement was quickly abated. I went from wanting to buy the game on release day to simply moving into my GameFly queue. In this day and age with the amount of releases one simply cannot afford to buy every new game unless it has some lasting power, mainly in its multiplayer. While the singleplayer is a perfect homage to the original Doom games brutality and violence, the multiplayer suffers from an identity crisis, attempting to bridge the gap between arena shooters of old (mainly Quake and Unreal Tournament) and the latest version of Call of Duty.
The first thing one might notice when booting up the beta is that (at least for the PC) the lack of any sort of graphics options. Id Software has since rectified this omission, citing the need for stability in the beta. This is a quite far cry (pun no intended) as my ping never dipped below 110 no matter what resolution or settings were selected. Judging by this they might need more time than the game has left to fix the networking issues. If you are going to have a multiplayer experience that you describe as “fast-paced” you cannot have game-breaking lag anywhere in the vicinity. The “fast-paced” speed is also an understatement. It is faster than Battlefield but that isn’t saying much. There is no sprint button and you do not get any sort of movement boost or ability to perform any arena-shooter style maneuvers. The newest iteration of Unreal Tournament (still in beta) is the epitome of the arena-shooter, the movement system in this is not even close. Breaking the momentum further are the ledge-grab animations which are not as fast paced as you might think. This movement system also goes hand in hand with Id Software’s level layout.
Don’t worry it’s still violent
The level layouts are done with a sense of style and balance. None of them have any sort of terrible choke-points which sometimes permeate the lesser online shooters. Comparing the layouts to arena shooters shows their omissions. Gone are the boost and jump pads of old. The remaining power-ups of Quad Damage, Haste, Invisibility and Regeneration can only be used one at a time. The maps still feature health, ammo and armor power ups and knowing where they are can make or break your match. The old-school Doom teleportation still remains, aided with the new Demon-rune power up. The new power up is partially game breaking. The Revenant demon is quick, does an insane amount of damage and can use a jetpack. If one team can consistently get the power up they are almost guaranteed to win. The only thing the other team can do is band together and attack the demon, which is made all the more difficult by the enemy players protecting it. This is especially seen in the Warpath mode which features a moving capture point with a path to it and a Demon rune on the opposite side of the map. The team that goes for the rune usually wins. The map design also omits any weapon pick ups save the overpowered Gauss Cannon, and that brings us to the weapon balance dilemma.
The weapon system is part COD, part Halo utilizing a 2 weapon 1 grenade loadout system. This is a sharp contrast to old school Doom / Quake which put all the players on the same footing in the beginning of the match. No longer will a new skilled player be able to dominate using those skills. Just like in Call of Duty the people that put in the time will have the advantage. For those that cannot afford the time commitment this feels like a misstep. As far as the weapons themselves, some like the Vortex Rifle require you to stand still which is almost impossible if you want to survive. This is also reflected in the map design itself, which lacks any good camping spots. The leech grenade is somewhat overpowered, giving you a great advantage. The shotgun is also a terrifying sight to behold, only to be nerfed by its limited range. The rocket launcher on the other hand, feels extremely weak requiring way too many shots to put down a freshly-spawned player. The weapons are ripped from old arena shooter but given a modern makeover which simply makes them as confused as you will be when a 100% accurate rocket doesn’t kill a fresh player (with no armor). Some the other additions are even odder.
The new hack-modules also tie in with Doom’s balance issues. They are rewarded after a match so new players won’t have access. They include things like Supply Timer, Power Seeker, Vital Signs, Retribution, Scout and Armored. They definitely provide an unfair advantage if you have them, especially Armored which starts you off with armor, and Power Seeker which shows you where and when the Demon Rune will be. They are a call back to Titanfall’s Card system, which was not without its faults. Some are a higher tier than others and last longer, with the timer stopping after you die. This addition is a welcome feature to a somewhat feature-low multiplayer.
Overall, when compared to arena-shooters of old, Doom is the bastard child of COD and Quake with a pinch of Doom’s violent identity. That identity can’t decide what it wants to be. It isn’t as quick or agile as an arena shooter but it isn’t as progressive and feature-rich like the latest COD. This lack of cohesion hurts the game and will undoubtedly cause confusion among the player base. While being marketed as an arena shooter it tries to latch onto the COD crowd to try get as much mass appeal as it can muster. While this is a reasonable compromise for the current state of the market, in the long term it is not sustainable. This is due to the unlocks, which came fast and hard with almost everything open by level 12. Hopefully this was due to the beta and not how the system will work. This could be rectified with the promised Snap Map feature, putting the identity of the game in the hands of the players. Otherwise after the singleplayer is beaten and summer begins Doom might wind up in the return bin. Or worse part of everyone’s Gamefly / Redbox queue.