Remember the splat of a fragged enemy’s body in Quake after a quad-damage rocket to the face? That’s here. So too though is CoD’s load-out system, unlockables and, em, Assassin Creed’s mantling and traversal? Every thirty-something year old’s favourite gorefest, Doom, is back this May and having played the multiplayer beta during the weekend I’m not sure for the better. It seems as though iD have tried hard to take elements from the most popular shooters around to create a fresh, frantic take on the genre but they also forgot to include what has made their past games so great. Let’s look at the fixables first.
The matches feel eerily quiet. For a game based on constant movement, I never felt like there was anything actually happening around me. No sense of a chaotic atmosphere or, well, fight. I laughed heartily to myself as I watched players of a newer generation line up their headshots as I careened around them jumping and flinging rockets watching my k/d rise. This is Doom. This is Quake. Keep it moving or die, lads. The player base adapted quickly of course but still, no tension. No excitement. I put it down to the lack of music at first but the more I played the more I felt it was a problem with the audio design of the game itself. The guns just have no impact. Either when shooting or being shot, I never really noticed. Numbers pop off people ala Borderlands & Destiny but what those games have in abundance is character in their weaponry. When you fire a gun in Destiny you feel it. Rocket’s propel themselves at foes with gusto and the recoil rattles both your controller and speakers. Doom’s rocket launcher (oddly available as a primary in load-outs) feels like a Super Soaker. The historically lauded Super Shotgun splashes out pellets as though you’re throwing a can of paint over someone. This is a beta though, we must remember, and with added music and a bit of a kick up the arse it could end up resembling the reincarnation of Black. For now, its Black Beauty.
I hope it changes too because odd as it sounds, the mantling and double-jumping feels smooth and fun and there’s potential for some hectic match-ups in the maps shown. It doesn’t quite have the verticality some other sci-fi shooters have but the lack of radar means a team who knows a level could plan some delicious traps. There’s also plenty of health buffs, armour and ammo lying around. If only I had some way to feel bullets hit me I’d know I needed them. Joining radar on the side-lines is reloading because its fucking Doom. Learn to stop pressing square. I didn’t however and it was lucky the square button doesn’t do anything because it took a hammering from me as I spewed an inordinate amounts of rounds from my assault rifle. It’s a strange tactical afterthought, a throwback to the good ol’ days to when playing shooters meant you did lots of shooting but I ended up missing it. Finding enemies reloading at a bad time can lead to clutch plays and silly wins in modern shooters and it’s a mechanic I enjoy for the sake of realism, amongst others.
Realism is out the window here obviously though. It especially gets sucked into the vacuum of space as the game’s novelty power-up drops. ‘Demon mode’ sees you grabbing an icon and becoming a monster from the main game. Revenant was the one seen here most often and boy is that shit unbalanced. Armed with shoulder cannons and a disgraceful amount of health, this Evolve-em-up addition to the fray felt forced and to be honest, completely unnecessary. The spawn points felt camped on and turned the game into a demon-hunt for some but for others a confusing distraction. If, for example, a radar popped up when an opposing player went all Leo and the Bear and you could literally hunt the demon down, it might work better. In reality, the silence of the player’s weaponry and footsteps meant that the GIANT DEMON could quite literally sneak a load of kills on the board before being taken down. It will take a serious re-jig and balancing act to get this one right. Quad-damage is cool; it even has the same noise as in Quake here. Let’s leave it there.
The control scheme is tight and intuitive. Changing weapons feels fluid and the fact that its mapped to R1 means you can switch from ranged rifles and launchers to shotguns without missing a beat. The left triggers combine aiming and secondary functions however and this begs the question, where’s the melee button? The melee which has been the star on show in each of the trailers so far? This is the aptly named “Glory Kill”, with arms being shoved down throats and jawbones rendered from their owners. It’s mapped to R3 on the standard control scheme which upsets the apple cart slightly. Gone is the slick switching from rockets to shells to arm-down-the-throat you see in the trailer. It’s more slick switching from rockets to shotgun to accidental grenade splash damage suicide because why isn’t melee a trigger. Blame the player I hear you roar, not the controls. I agree to a certain extent but I never found a way to make it all it fit without something feeling a little off. A custom option will no doubt be included in the final version. The aforementioned square and triangle sit unused, a reminder of both the simplicity and confusion of what’s happening on screen.
Although its hard these days to take betas seriously after Battlefront et al have released more or less the final product with a month to go to get their balancing correct, I think there’s scope here to fix the issues in Doom. The movement is great, the gameplay feels different but familiar and its iD, we still trust them right? If the weapons are beefier I think the single-player could be a blast too. iD have clearly been listening to what the gaming community on a number of issues (‘mute all’ option in the lobby, thank you) but they have created their own in doing so. Maybe games have moved on and maybe this is what we all need and just need time to accept it. They’ve aimed for a pure experience but what I found was an experience lacking in stand-out moments or joy. I didn’t feel connected to the team around me, I didn’t care who saved me with a well-timed grenade or who I was fighting for. The number on the scoreboard ticked up and then I died and then I respawned and ran around the cage with all the other heavily-armed rats once more.
All told, I’m out for now. What I didn’t mention above is that the visuals just aren’t for me. It’s a personal preference but it’s too cartoonish and garish. I genuinely think Doom 3 looks better. Overall, like a confused Transition Year student looking at a CAO form, it simply doesn’t have a clue what it wants to be. I’m going to stick to my MIDA Multi-Tool, reloading and radar for now.
(PC, Xbox One, PS4)
Release Date: 13th May 2015