Back when I was a wee lad, having just graduated from High School and progressing slowly through an IT diploma at TAFE, I discovered a little thing called Quake 2, a shooter from a studio I’d heard much about but rarely ventured near, let alone a genre I never really dabbled with at the time. Back then I was fairly unsure about my gaming pedigree, never going too far from the tried and trusted Nintendo product. Sure I’d tried an FPS here or there, mucked around with Duke Nukem and Doom, but I’d never really played a game solely as a form of competition, or more specifically, as a multiplayer game.
To my surprise, I was actually half decent at it, eventually falling into regular bouts of Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament. It was around then that the first Call of Duty came out, so the focus on run and gun action shooters was starting to fall, against the advent of more realistic combat and situations. As the years went by, Call of Duty and Battlefield became the mainstay FPS titles whilst the likes of Halo, Gears of War, Far Cry and Crysis brought sci-fi action into a grittier, army recruit kind of environment. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but you can tell the COD influences on Halo 5’s sleeves a mile away, or the constant moving from one cover point to another that became Gears of Wars trademark (besides bloody chainshaws cutting people in half, of course.)
And then Bethesda announced a new Doom. Up until that point the series hadn’t been seen since Doom 3 back in 2004, a sequel that tried to run with that darker mentality, horror environments and jump scares aplenty. It did well for itself, but many may argue that it never reached the heights of its successful predecessors. So when the new Doom came to light and finally shown off at E3 last year, I felt an almost overwhelming sense of calm fall over me.
This wasn’t going to be another cover based shooter. It wasn’t going to be horror driven either. More importantly, Doom was about to throw the rulebook out the window and go right back to the beginning again. I knew then, as the first gameplay footage aired during Bethesda’s presentation, that this was finally going to scratch that old-school itch that had been nagging me all this time. The good news is, that itch has more or less already been scratched thanks to the Doom closed beta that ran over this past weekend, a beta I had been eager to get into.
From game play to audio, visuals to weaponry, everything had a sense of what it used to be, with a little modern flair and mechanics thrown in to spice things up. I will say it wasn’t perfect, there were a few things I hope they improve upon, but for the most part I really enjoyed my time with it and was completely hooked. Of course, from the point of view of a gamer who may have grown up with COD and the like, it might take a little getting used to. For one, in the multiplayer I played, there was no reloading of your weapon, no cover based shooting, no health regeneration over time … seriously, if you haven’t played Doom and the like at some point in your life, you’re going to get a little lost and/or frustrated. Such is the old school style, you may even feel a little alienated, since Doom is clearly marketed at those who want to go back to the good old days.
To my surprise, the new customisation options weren’t as annoying as I anticipated. From the outset I had very little options to choose from, with my character looking more like an outcast from Halo or Destiny, but after a few quick rounds I quickly levelled up and unlocked new armour pieces, colours and taunts, plus the ability to use custom loud outs. Eventually I got into a groove with my character, finding the right balance between what weapons to start with and the type of hack modules to include. At one point I had a chrome gold hero who, with a quick flick of the d-pad, could wave to his fellow comrades or put out a ‘don’t go there, girlfriend’ at someone who failed to kill him.
Hack modules are an interesting new addition, since it’s a largely new technique. Whenever you die, you can choose from a selection of unlocked hacks that allow you to even the playing field ever so slightly. They range from a slight bump up in armour, to having the last person who killed you highlighted so you can easily track them down, to the ability to seek out the most powerful weapons on the battlefield more quickly. They aren’t game breaking like a higher class weapon purchased at an online auction, or a lucky high end armour piece unlocked during countless rounds. These are more slight tweeks, things that can aid a newbie or improve a top class user without them becoming overpowered.
Doom is only as good as its levels and weapons, which here are just as polished and tight as they needed to be. There’s a sense of satisfaction as you round a corner into enemy territory, quickly pop a few shotgun rounds or missiles into an unsuspecting enemy, then jump out and out of the way as more come bounding around the corner. Better yet, if you pick up the creature spawn (another new addition), you’ll get to rampage around as one of the demons and lay waste to even more unfortunate souls.
I could go on about how much I enjoyed this, but it’s really just a beta. I’ve only had a taste of what’s to come, but the fact that I never had any lag, experienced bugs or glitches or found myself ‘wanting’ more just goes to show how right it all seems to be. Come the full release in May, whether the full package of a single player campaign and multiplayer maps is as good as this beta remains to be seen. I, however, welcome our new fragging overlords and will do whatever they require of me to bring more camping douches to them for a good spanking… ugh … I mean … Doom’s great! Can’t wait to play more!