Touching the Void: Doom Beta Impressions

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I’m running down a corridor towards the demon faced marker on my screen that shows me where the rune has spawned. I switch to the super shotgun to deal with the tight spaces and corners in case an enemy space marine jumps out of nowhere and ambushes me. I round a corner and see the demon rune in front of me. I make a dash for it but don’t check my surroundings. From my left comes an enemy space marine, unloading a shotgun round into me. It strips away the bulk of my armour and some of my health. I turn to face him, he is running beside me reloading his own super shotgun. I unload a round at point blank range. Blood sprays off of him, the number 53 floats away from him in yellow. I reload just as he aims down the barrel of his shotgun at me but the shot never comes. Instead the enemy space marine reaches the demon rune before me and turns into a giant, dual rocket-wielding demon. The announcer informs me that an enemy Revenant has spawned. I could run, I could try and hide, but I know there is no chance. I finish reloading the shotgun and squeeze down on the trigger, but before I can pull it back the enemy Revenant takes aim and blows me into a haze of blood and giblets, and screeches in victory. This is Doom, it’s fast, chaotic, and hellishly addictive.

The Doom beta has come for players across PS4, Xbox One and PC. Players across all platforms flocked to the beta to get their hands on a taste of the new multiplayer modes offered in the soon-to-be released final product. Immediately the graphics catch the eye, with their popping colours and dark shadows. The two maps on offer are fun, multilayered labyrinths which have the players running and jumping. The layouts of both push players to find the best vantage points from which to strike across the two modes on display. The weapons are new and take on familiar classics with a few unique additions to deliver death and damnation onto others. Character customisation is deep and satisfying, even with only a hand full of armour types and colours to choose from currently. However, it is the gameplay that you’ll stay for. Fast, gory and addictive, the multiplayer is easy to pick up and hard to put down.

Graphically the beta is impressive, not Uncharted 4 impressive but better than a lot of current gen games currently out. The textures are sharp and the colours are vibrant. The two maps in the beta show off Dooms graphical prowess well. They display the constant dynamic present in the series, that of technology meets demonic hell. There is Heatwave which is a factory surrounded by lava and Infernal which looks like the doorstep of some demonic cave. Both maps can go from tight, claustrophobic corridors good for shotguns to wide open areas good for sniping. There is a layering to the maps that naturally allows jumping and climbing to higher vantage points making the maps bigger than they first appear. They’re designed to keep the player moving forward and to punish anyone that slows down, and with mobility options such as a double jump the maps encourage exploration.

The two game modes available are your standard six on six team-deathmatch and a new spin on king of the hill called warpath. Warpath has your team trying to control a constantly moving point on the map while defending it from the opposing team. While I found myself playing team-deathmatch more, warpath was a refreshing change of pace which often resulted in fast, brutal deaths and a constant race back to the point of control to get revenge. The major shake-up Doom adds to its multiplayer modes is the inclusion of the demon rune. The demon rune is a randomly generated power up that allows players to transform into one of the demons from the game. While the Revenant is the only demon available during the beta it looks like more will be on offer in the final build, affording more terrifying gameplay options. As soon as a demon rune is announced it is a mad dash to get it. Whichever team gets it first is usually going to be at an advantage, but if you kill the demon you have a chance to get the rune for yourself. If it times out it will show up again later in the match, allowing for another scramble to try and get it first. This one addition quickly changes the make-up of any game type, adding to already tense gameplay.

The gameplay is fast and relies heavily on player reaction. A twitch in the corner of the screen can be an enemy coming from any angle and you’ll need to act fast to come out on top of any exchange. The controls feel like they were made with this in mind. They are streamlined and comfortable and easy to pick up. After a very brief learning curve you’ll feel like a veteran in no time. There is definitely a Quake or Unreal Tournament feel to the multiplayer, it is an old school arena shooter all the way. In a generation where Call of Duty and Battlefield are the go-to shooters, Doom stands out for its diligence to its past. There is no regenerating health, you have to find health, armour and ammo pickups littered around the map. That being said it does borrow from some modern day trends, like weapon loadouts. In place of being able to pick up weapons from the maps you have to choose your weapons from loadouts before the game. You can unlock more weapons with level progression, but you are stuck with what is in your loadouts. The one exception is the gauss cannon, a high powered, one-shot kill rail gun that spawns at random times in the maps.

The weapons range from tried and tested classics such as the rocket launcher to the new static rifle, which charges up as you keep moving. They are fun to play with and you’ll quickly have your favourites picked out. Each weapon has a secondary function, whether it’s just aiming down the iron sights or charging up a powerful shot. Despite this players seem to be able to absorb a fair amount of damage, it can take up to two or three hits from a rocket launcher before you can dispatch someone. I found a lot of people resorting to whittling their enemies down with the heavy machine gun or even the lighting gun (which shoots a constant stream of lighting), and then getting up close and personal and finishing them off with the super shotgun. When you shoot an enemy red numbers rattle off them showing how much damage you have inflicted. If they’re yellow it means you’ve landed a critical hit and dealt a significant amount of damage. Once the players themselves start flashing gold you can perform a glory kill. Glory kills demonstrate the new melee mechanic found in Doom. It is deeply satisfying to break someone’s neck or knee the face in of a particularly annoying opponent. Taking things a step further you have the ability to taunt your opponents with hilarious animations from throwing a touchdown, to skeet shooting or even making it rain. A word of warning though, definitely do this after you have killed an opponent or you leave yourself wide open to a rather embarrassing death.

Hack modules are Dooms take on perks. You gain access to them after you die and they help you get back into the fighter easier. They aren’t game changing like the demon rune but they can help, doing different things like giving you extra armour, showing you where the closest power up is or showing you where the person who last killed you has gone. They aren’t too intrusive and just gave me that slight edge to not get killed repeatedly. You have the ability to pick which hack modules you want between matches, or you can just auto assign them to make it easier. Where you will spend a lot of time is customising your character. Doom offers fairly deep customisation for a first-person shooter, allowing you to unlock different armour types as well as colours and patterns as you progress through the ranks. It’s a fun addition which helps put you further into the shoes of your space marine. You can also customise your guns, but only with patterns and colours.

Overall I had a blast with the Doom beta. Having grown tired of the militaristic focus of most modern shooters, I welcome Dooms over-the-top horror, sci-fi action with open arms. Its gameplay is direct and focused, it throws you deep into the action without any hesitation. While the weapons may not pack the punch I expected they were interesting enough to test them all and figure out which ones suited me best. The controls are comfortable and intuitive and make playing it feel easy. The maps are fun to run around and different enough that I didn’t get bored, and if warpath is any indication of what they’re doing with original game modes I’m excited to see what else they can pull out of their hat. More than anything, the beta has gotten me even more pumped for the campaign. I can’t wait for the final game and to tear through hordes of demons and jump into the multiplayer again.

Doom will be released on May 13 on PS4, Xbox One and PC … “get ready to fight like hell.”

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Samuel is a writing and philosophy student based out of Brisbane. When he’s not writing or theorising about the depiction of time travel in Star Trek he is a constant gamer, willing to play nearly anything anywhere. All disagreements can only be settled by Mortal Kombat.

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