‘Doom’; the grand-daddy of the modern FPS genre is staging a comeback. Bethesda are the latest to try to capture what made ‘Doom’ such a runaway hit in the early to mid 90s and over the weekend they opened a BETA to the general public and allowed us all to sample what they have in store for us on May 13th.
Recently Bethesda has had a massive amount of success by resurrecting ancient franchises; ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’ successfully melded old-school ideals with more modern trappings we’ve all become used to. They’re obviously hoping to capture lightning in a bottle again with a much bigger franchise…
…the question remains though whether it was worth resurrecting the ‘Doom’, or is this a franchise best left in the annuls of history.In the 90s the first-person genre was very different to what we know today; there were no load outs, no kill streak rewards and certainly no EXP at the end of rounds. Prestige was something you earned by smashing all opponents before you, not just spending a lot of time playing the game!
No! The great multiplayer games were what we call “arena shooters”. To qualify as an arena shooter you have to follow certain rules;
- Weapons that can be picked up on a map which all have a unique function and role to play.
- The ability to have multiple weapons at your disposal at any one time.
- Health and armour pickups which allow a player to survive damage from enemy fire.
- Mechanics which mean all players start each game on an equal footing rather than perks or character customisation which affects game-play.
- Fast paced movement which heavily relies on player skill and enables a range of vertical movement using jumping or weapon knock-up.
- An emphasis on controlling the map items rather than solely run and gun combat.
Lets get this out-of-the-way nice and quickly; ‘Doom’ is not an arena shooter.
To their credit ID have tried to emulate what Machine Games successfully with ‘Wolfenstein; namely, they tried to infuse old and new into a game that feels familiar but fresh. However, ID have compromised far too much and it is with this decision that it all unravels for ‘Doom’.
There is a real feeling of identity crisis that permeates through ‘Doom’ – in game-play it looks like ‘Doom’ with the blood dripping down walls, satanic imagery, health & shield pickups liberally spread out over the two maps – hell there are heavily armoured dudes toting rocket launchers killing each other. In screen shots it looks just like you’d expect ‘Doom’ to look in 2016.
Yet it doesn’t feel like ‘Doom’; in fact it feels like every FPS shooter and like none of them at the same time. The movement is a bizarre mix between ‘Quake 3’/’Unreal Tournament’ and ‘Call of Duty’. The movement is faster than what you would expect from COD (imagine a permanent sprint in those games), but it is too slow for an arena shooter (imagine crouch speed in Q3A), jumping is heavy and feels imprecise and the double jump seems like a measure to counter the loose physics. Those looking for a new ‘Quake 3 Arena’ will be left bitterly disappointed.
In saying that, if we look beyond the heritage and judge this game on its quality, as every game deserves regardless of name, then it fares a little better.
The two game modes included in the BETA were Team Deathmatch and King of the Hill – team deathmatch was really just your bog standard TDM to be honest, and while it was good, it was really uninspired and unmemorable. Warpath however was excellent; it’s basically a variation of king of the hill; only the “hill” was a slow-moving area that followed a set path around the level (that was visible to all players) and it turned the simple premise into a tense game mode that has a lot of longevity. Every game I played seen the momentum swing between the two teams and on more than one occasion there was a miraculous comeback; it really was an excellent twist on an established classic mode.
No matter the mode you played however it became apparent very quickly that knowledge of where the pickups were was absolutely vital. To stand any chance in combat you need a sizeable shield level and that is only possible by picking up the green icons – very quickly you had to learn the maps and the timings for these to appear in order to be there first.
If learning layout and timings is too much then you can rely on a “hack” that would display the timers on the screen for you – hacks are basically perks that are use limited and often not very useful. For every hack that showed enemy health, there was one that gave you a damage boost. Surprisingly these perks were the most balanced thing about ‘Doom’ and they were incredibly useful if you got lucky in the random allocation of them at the end of rounds.
The loadout system though was ridiculously unbalanced. The Rocket Launcher looked massive and it sounds impressive but the damage it does is woefully lacking – it feels like the standard FPS pistol rather than a weapon of mass destruction. That feeling goes through most of the weapons, but it does not extend to the shotgun or the sniper rifle – these guns are hideously over-powered and it has already led to most players having one (or both) in their loadout and destroying all those who stand before them. It felt unfair. I really hope they nerf those weapons before release – if not because of damage, then because sniper rifles have no place in ‘Doom’.
The big feature to differentiate ‘Doom’ from its competitors is the ability to summon and control one of the series iconic demons – in the BETA only the Revenant was available. And what should be a game changing addition is another missed opportunity! I don’t know if it was a lack of confidence from ID or a board decision but the demon feels exactly like your soldier only it has infinite double jumps in the form of a rocket pack and a mega powerful rocket launcher. It’s a huge letdown and the demon equates to nothing more than a way of scoring cheap kills.
Overall everything on show in the BETA was a disjointed experience; the mix of old and new resulted in an unbalanced and forgettable game. If the campaign is not significantly better I fear that in trying to satisfy old fans as well as attract new fans; ‘Doom’ will satisfying no-one.
Which will kill the franchise, and would be an incredibly sad day.
Did you play Doom?
Why not tell us what you thought of it in the comment section!