DOOM’s Fate Rests in its Single Player Campaign

A strange beast this Doom multiplayer mode is, as much of a hybrid as the cybernetically-enhanced demons that have populated the franchise since the early 1990s. While it’s keen to adopt the full range of features we have grown to associate with modern shooters (level progression and configurable loadouts, a dizzying array of badges, challenges and unlocks, minor perks and enhancements to subtly differentiate your hulking marine from the next one) it also harkens back to the simpler joys of Unreal Tournament and Quake Arena.

It’s not a matter of speed, it’s a matter of pace. Your character doesn’t necessarily move around much faster than a CoD soldier (and there’s no sprint button to expedite the process) but the constant chaos encouraged by the layout of the available stages and a couple of crucial design decisions make for an experience that owes as much to these beloved classics as it does to Doom’s overelaborate contemporaries.

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The two modes available in the closed beta are both fairly typical: a traditional team deathmatch where two teams of up to six members blast the hell out of each other in order to be the first to reach a total of 75 kills, and Warpath, where points are earned by keeping control of an outlined moving zone (the latter mode seemingly the preferred one for most players, judging by the speed in which its lobbies would fill up). The relatively brief, hectic bouts took place in the two levels offered, the claustrophobic industrial corridors of Heatwave and the more open vistas of occult-themed Inferno.

In both modes the old-school, fast-paced feel of the combat is, mostly due to a carefully engendered need for constant movement. There is no recharging health or shield to encourage moments of respite outside the fray; instead, you have to run around gathering capsules strewn throughout the level that will help replenish the former and reinforce the latter, usually in rather small increments. Ammunition is restocked in a similar manner and a number of ultra-powerful weapons that can only be collected from certain locations in each level (and are unavailable as initial loadout choices) offer an additional reason to stay on the move. A lack of secluded spots and a proliferation of splash-damage options are also strong deterrents against camping.

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But by far the most fun incentive to keep roaming each level is provided by demon runes. These sporadically appearing pickups transform your character into a massively powerful hellspawn with special abilities. Only the jetpack flying, missile launching Revenant was offered with the closed beta: imagine Left 4 Dead’s tank with a preference for heavy weaponry instead of pounding the pulp out of you and you get the idea. However, the full release will feature more demons, a couple of which seem to have indeed been influenced by the special infected types in Valve’s classic.

The range of available weaponry covers most traditional bases, from the rather unexciting heavy assault rifle to the wildly popular rocket launcher, and from the sniper-friendly vortex rifle, to the devastatingly powerful super shotgun. Most weapons have an alternate function which presents interesting tactical choices in the heat of battle: my personal favorite, the plasma rifle, could switch between a fairly standard stream of pellets to a massive blob covering an entire area with a caustic substance. On the negative side, shooting felt a little impotent, its lack of heft exacerbated by the cartoony damage indicators sprouting up from your opponents at every successful shot.

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Which is not to say that the multiplayer experience was an unpleasant one by any means. Rounds were played out fast and furious, their chaotic nature ensured that everyone got their fair share of satisfying kills, and the endless loop of unlocks and customization provided a solid safeguard against boredom. In a genre whose popularity – however massive still – seems to be on the decline, however, there was no sign of either the exciting innovations or the kind of superior execution needed to make Doom a likely candidate to bring the online shooter back to its Modern Warfare heyday or, at the very least, poach a substantial chunk of the Halo faithful. The fate of the reboot of one of gaming’s most iconic franchises, it seems (and it’s hardly surprising), will be judged on its single player mode. As for the remaining few who are more invested in the online aspect of the game than in its much-anticipated campaign, they’ll soon have a chance to judge for themselves: three days of open beta for its multiplayer mode have kicked off today.

  • Pal Whatapal

    Looks like fun, let’s go

  • narg

    There are good single player games, and good multiplayer games. I play both. And think they need to stay separated. It’s when they combine is when the game gets lackluster.

    • KashIsKlay

      I highly disagree. Halo series, Borderlands., CoD4, GTA V, Left 4 Dead, Perfect Dark, Golden Eye are examples of games that have done both. Nothing is perfect but when it’s done right it makes for some of the greatest games of the generation.

  • I had hoped they would take the story to Earth rather than keeping it on Mars. I might go play the O.G. Doom II now.

  • Sat. Night Velocity

    If the campaign is actually over 10 hours like they say and not just padded with filler…count me in.