The latest installment in the Doom franchise is just around the corner. Over the weekend Liam Maguren tried out the open BETA and found it great fun to play, but disappointingly ordinary.
The first trailer for the new Doom punched its way onto the scene with a fuck-you-flavoured fist through the zombified jawbone of E3. That’s an appropriately violent way to say I bloody loved it.
It was lightning fast, looked insanely fun, and had more gore than An Inconvenient Truth. But what really stuck out was the heavy emphasis on the primal joy of refined shooting mechanics – just like the first Doom. In a First Person Shooter world dominated by EXP grinding, skill trees, perk systems, and generic online multiplayer modes, this focus felt refreshingly elegant.
Then I played the BETA, with its EXP grinding, skill tress, perk systems, and generic online multiplayer modes.
I don’t have anything against EXP grinding or skill trees (I did clock The Division after all), but when such mechanics aren’t complemented by anything distinctive, it gives no reason to stray away from what’s already out there.
To put it another way: if I lived in a world of burgers and got to travel to different burger continents experiencing the wonderfully diverse burgers in the burger-verse, I’m sure as shit not gonna eat a ham sandwich.
So is there anything distinctive in this new Doom? If there is, I didn’t find it in the BETA’s three multiplayer modes, which boil to: Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, and a combination of Team Deathmatch and King of the Hill. The full game will get far more interesting with the inclusion of Soul Harvest and Freeze Tag, but BETA players had to settle for a cheeseburger, a quarter pounder, and a royale with cheese.
The weapon sets and load-outs don’t exactly push the imaginarium, either. But for what it’s got, it does well enough. The shotgun’s got a gut full of grunt, the assault rifle spits out some satisfyingly chunky bullets, and the rocket launcher feels more propulsive than most. And for the amateurs who die lots (e.g. me), they get the added bonus of having more time to shuffle through perks they probably won’t know how to use.
The weaponry complements the blistering momentum of the combat, a speed that’s stays true to the feel of late ‘90s/early 2000 PC arena shooters. So it’s appropriately fast-paced, but to its detriment, Doom feels a tad clumsy to play with a controller in hand. It became overwhelmingly noticeable when switching from the PS4’s Dualshock 4 to the precision of a PC mouse and keyboard – like taking off a pregnancy suit halfway through a one kilometre sprint.
Also staying true to the era where we were totally addicted to bass, health doesn’t regenerate, forcing you to keep moving like a shark on a sugar high searching for med packs littered all over the map. So if your game tactic comprises of camping with a sniper rifle or cowering behind chest-high walls, Doom will show no mercy.
The biggest defining trait I got to experience in the Doom BETA is the demon rune, which one lucky fellow can pick up during a multiplayer session. Doing so transforms you into one of many demons recognisable from ye olde Doom, giving you a bumpin’ advantage on the battlefield as bullets bounce off you like plush toys and your fists become the harbingers of gruesome death. If that sounds a bit awesome, multiply that by three adjectives, because it’s SUPER FUCKIN’ INSANELY AWESOME.
I didn’t get to play as that big red guy, but the BETA did give access to a pissed-off skeleton with a jetpack and rocket launchers on its shoulders (he’s known as The Revenant in Doom lore, but I’m gonna call him Leo.) My brief 30 seconds as Leo got me six kills, which is at least 5 kills above my average K/D. It’s like being The Juggernaut in a Halo match or The Monster from Evolve, but if another player manages to take you down, they’ll snatch those superpowers away from you.
If all of this sounds like your jam, rest easy knowing that Bethesta has fine-tuned this beast with the delicate fingers of a watchmaker. And aside from the chest-thumpingly rad ability to turn into a jetpack demon with rocket shoulders, Doom’s ultimate distinction comes with merging that old-school PC arena FPS gameplay with the upgrade systems found in modern shooters.
Perhaps that’ll be enough to satisfy fans. But it’s difficult to shake the feeling that without the Doom name, this would look like a Frankenstein’s Monster comprised solely of limbs and bones from other AAA shooters – old and new. And yes, you can easily say that about the entire big-budget FPS market and how it’s cannibalising itself, but there’s an extra sting applied coming from this franchise.
The name ‘Doom’ holds a legacy for being a leader in an entire genre of gaming; I’d hate to see this new entry being nothing more than another meaty cow in the McDonald’s herd.
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