Doom PC Open Beta Impressions: Hybrid Theory

Doom PC Open Beta Impressions: Hybrid Theory

The newest game from id Software tries to recall some classic shooters while keeping one foot in the modern era.

Do you remember the heyday of Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament? The arena shooter wars, with fans fighting to determine which was better? In an era of Backstreet Boys, Survivor, Harry Potter novels, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and the Sopranos, we were treated to some of the best shooters ever. It's a style of shooter that fell off the radar since then.

QUAD DAMAGE! [All screenshots from Doom open beta via Steam.]

Doom multiplayer wants to be a time machine back to that era.

It's not perfectly in touch with those roots, but it definitely feels like a successor to Quake III Arena. Bringing the original Doom's multiplayer into the modern era is would probably be rather difficult, given the intense speed that game required and this title's expanded console focus. If id Software is going to mine its past for multiplayer action, it's better to use Quake III Arena than something say, Rage.

Jumping into the game again over the course of the weekend, I had fun. I settled right into the pace of the game: always moving, frequently strafing or taking to the air. I tend to play most modern shooters from the sniper role, but Doom wants you to keep moving. Don't stop. Frag or be fragged. You're dead? Respawn fool!

The movement and speed of the game is slightly slower than the Quake III Arena that lives in my head - nostalgia is a horrible drug - and the double jump could be a touch higher, but the combined with the design of the two levels in the beta, it works for what id is trying to pull off here. The levels are built for the new mantling move, with your character pulling themselves up if they catch the edge an object. Once you get a solid feel for when you'll mantle, you'll start incorporating that into your general movement. By the end of the weekend, my movement was smooth and getting around was a flawless experience. I assume there will be some Q3A purists who miss the rocket jump or the ability to change direction on double jump, but I can survive the lack of those options.

Unlike those classic shooters though, Doom leans on a weapon loadout mechanic instead of having in-level weapon pick ups. Learning all of the weapons and where they were in each level was part of the fun and strategy in those old days: do you go for the Rocket Launcher knowing it's out in the open and everyone else is too? It also pushed you to explore the level a bit more. This is probably the area that new Doom is going to get hit the hardest in and I'm suprised id went with this system.

Some will hate the loadout weapon system.

Instead, you always starts you off with two weapons and an accessory. Everytime you die, you can choose to respawn with the same weapon loadout, or choose a new one. As part of the progression system, you'll start off with three developer-set loadouts: Assault, Sniper, and Ambusher. At level 2 you unlock the first two custom loadouts and the last is at level 10.

The weapons need another pass too; some for balance, others for general feedback. The Super Shotgun and Vortex Rifle currently strong as hell, which is surprising considering you'd think the Rocket Launcher would be in that league. In contrast, the Heavy Assault Rifle doesn't feel heavy at all and could do with a meatier sound to it. The Plasma Rifle and Lightning Gun feel light as well, but I assume that's supposed to be the case. Regardless, the Plasma Rifle could use a boost in damage. When it comes to accessories, the Frag Grenade is fine, but I found the Personal Teleporter to be a much better weapon, recalling Unreal Tournament's Translocator.

If any weapon or item brings Doom's multiplayer down, it's the Demon Rune. This spawns on the map and turns the player who picks it up into the Revenant. The problem is the Revenant is way too powerful, destroying most players in a single shot, even if they have armor. A Revenant can wildly alter the trajectory of a game in Team Deathmatch and this is with players who are just getting used to the game. The Demon Rune just hurts arena balance and there needs to be an option to turn it off on servers.

Motion blur for days.

The open beta was split between two game types: Team Deathmatch and Warpath. Team Deathmatch is self-explanatory, but Warpath is a twist on the familiar Domination mechanic, in which both teams have to hold a specific area for points. In Warpath, the region you have to control is constantly moving on a set path; you can always see where it's going and where it is. That actually changes the Domination strategy a bit, because your best bet is to stay just outside of the Domination zone once you control it, but you can't stop moving. Sometimes, if you're trying to take the zone, it's best to let it come to you and blow up everyone who's escorting the zone along. It's the kind of evolution of the concept that I'd like to see used elsewhere.

I touched on the weapon audio earlier, but the audio is also lacking for the announcer. Compared to the deep growl of classic Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament announcers, the guy they have in Doom seems bored. It's just so soft that you never really feel the killstreak callouts. At some point, I simply stopped hearing the announcer completely during a match.

I liked what I played of Doom's multiplayer. Does it have issues? Sure, but a few tweaks here and id Software could have something interesting on its hands. The major issue Doom multiplayer has is going up against Epic Games' current reboot of Unreal Tournament, which is much closer to those classic 99-2000 era shooters, but is also free to boot. As a taste of the full game though, I think Doom is headed in the right direction and I'm hoping that single-player builds on what's found here. The future of multiplayer though? I had fun with it, but even with the progression system, it's been a long time since I've played MP on a regular basis and I'm not sure the purists will be completely happy with this, considering it's carrying the Doom name. You mileage may vary though.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

Read this next

Classic Doom Ports No Longer Require Bethesda Net Login to Play

That login screen should be fully optional now.

Classic Doom, Doom 2 and 3 Look Like They're Coming to the Nintendo Switch Today [Update]

Take your demon slaying with you on the morning commute.

Doom Was First Triple-A Game Brought Up on Stadia, id Software Says

During GDC 2019, id Software also showed two live demos of Doom (2016) and the upcoming Doom Eternal.

This is What Zelda and Doom Look Like When Mashed Together in a Mod

When a game about an elf boy and another game about rampaging hellspawn love each other very much...

More Previews

For Honor Preview: A Whole New Sword Game

Jaz plays Ubisoft's upcoming sword fighting game, and talks to creative director Jason Vandenberghe about how it was developed.

Dragon Quest VIII 3DS Preview: New Characters, New Dungeons, New Challenges, Black Sabrecats

Though Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for the Nintendo 3DS isn't a ground-up overhaul the way Dragon Quest VII 3DS is, there's still tons of new stuff to get excited about.

Will Final Fantasy XV's Big Twist Ruin The Game?

Early details about about FFXV's endgame have emerged, to much consternation.

Final Fantasy XV Travel Diary, Final Day: Stray Thoughts and Observations

There's still plenty to see and do in Duscae, but it's time to close the book on this massive RPG (until November 29).