Early Impressions: DOOM

In this Crossfader series, our video games staff takes a look at early versions of upcoming releases so that you can know which hype trains to board.

doom beta

The multiplayer beta for DOOM is an odd bird, seeing as people came into it with a wild array of expectations. Bethesda’s heavily staged demonstrations of the game prior to now have left many wondering how close to the original game DOOM will actually handle, let alone how the long teased multiplayer portion will function. If the final release is anything like the beta, however, I don’t think people have a whole lot to be excited about.

Before I go any further, I find that it’s necessary to issue a reminder to a vast portion of the public who seem to be confused on one important detail: It’s impossible for DOOM’s multiplayer to live up to any previous standards, because DOOM was never a multiplayer series to begin with. There seems to be this mass misconception that the first two Dooms were anything other than single player dungeon shooters released before online multiplayer was a feasible feature in games. And sure, DOOM 3 had tacked on multiplayer, but DOOM 3 was also a mistake and we don’t talk about it. You people are thinking of QUAKE, which you’ll also note shares none of the letters of DOOM. Please stop holding the new DOOM up to QUAKE; they’re not the same game!

doom quake

I just HATE IT when people make that mistake >:( !!!!

Got that cleared up? Good, at least someone got the memo. I can tell you with certainty, however, that the current devs at id Software didn’t, because I haven’t seen a game with such a bad identity crisis since BIOSHOCK INFINITE wandered as aimlessly as a senior lost at Soup Plantation onto my Xbox in 2013. In presentation, DOOM is supposedly an old school arena shooter, much in the same way that QUAKE, the game that many still think the letters D-O-O-M spell, was. Yet in practice, the game plays like anything but. While health and armor pickups litter the map, there is next to nothing in the form of weapon pickups. There’s Demon Runes, which enable the transformation of the player into a variety of monsters, as well as the odd instagib Gauss Rifle location, but the placement of these items are so scant, their spawns are so long, and their duration so limited that they might as well not exist. Item control, though still alive and well in the likes of HALO 5, is a joke here, undermining the key conceit of an arena shooter. Without the need to master map layouts and secure key areas, matches devolve into mindless free-for-alls, which I guess is fun if you’re ten.

Power weapons, like the Rocket Launcher and one-shot kill Super Shotgun and Vortex Rifle, are included as unlockable loadouts at spawn, further diminishing the level playing field inherent to arena games. Even more powerful and reliable weapons, like the Lightning Gun and Static Cannon, are hidden behind unlock rank requirements, rather than as items on the map, meaning that overall playtime is rewarded over player skill. And yet, there are very few gimmicks targeting the casual crowd. Melee is all but useless, and even the super powerful demon forms can be quickly overwhelmed by the enemy team, meaning that success is solely determined by how good you are with a gun. It’s a baffling paradox, where talent at shooting is simultaneously the sole deciding factor in the game while being utterly suppressed by the game’s design.

doom set aflame

It’s fitting that being set aflame would be a good thing in a game as confused as this

I’m guessing that id figured that people associate DOOM with old school shooters, and nothing says old school multiplayer shooter like DOOM QUAKE, so they went about replicating that. Halfway into development, Bethesda, the lovers of money and profitable trends that they are, told id that is a silly idea and to just do what everyone else on the market is doing, i.e., copy Call of Duty. Now, of course this hypothesis is ridiculous (Bethesda would never destroy a franchise’s identity), but DOOM is such a broken game that I might just believe it.

Having played a decent amount of DOOM’s multiplayer beta, I have no idea what type of game I’m supposed to be playing, and I doubt id has much of a clue, either. Is it an arena shooter without an arena, or a casual COD clone that refuses to hold your hand? Either way, it’s not a game I’m particularly keen on playing, unless the devs realize in the next month that you can’t have a skill based twitch shooter and copy the proven model from every cookie cutter FPS from the past decade. But the chances of that happening are slimmer than Hell freezing over, which knowing DOOM, is a distinct possibility. At least the campaign looks like fun.

Ed Dutcher is the Video Games Editor here at Crossfader. The last time Ed had a meal that wasn't microwaved, George W. Bush was president. He only learned to read so that he could play Pokemon.

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