This past weekend saw DOOM expose the world to its open beta resulting in countless space marines and demons being brutally slaughtered. We here at Analog Addiction were among the players partaking in the bloodbath and have spent the last week organizing our thoughts to best convey our impressions of the beta with you. It is crucial to keep in mind that this multiplayer action was still a beta format, although there are some who believe this beta served as more of a demo for the finished product given how close the release date is. There is always the possibility things will be tweaked prior to launch or that it has been already. With that preface out of the way, let’s breakdown the beta.
Possibly one of the most noticeable features of the beta was the inclusion of loadouts for multiplayer. Taking inspiration from more modern shooter titles, players were forced to select which weapons they spawned with prior to actually spawning. This came as a shock to many of us here as the older titles placed emphasis on locating stronger weapons strewn about the levels rather than being given rocket launchers or sniper rifles at the outset of your life. Multiplayer gameplay obviously cannot be identical to single player, but spawning with such powerful weapons, even if their damage levels have been decreased from what you may expect, caused a disconnect between our past experienced with the franchise and this new title. Modifying and updating gameplay is to be expected, particularly when there has been a 12 year gap between titles, but simply being handed power weapons and allowing everyone to run rampant through the map with them did not feel like Doom, it felt like Halo or Call of Duty, particularly with loadouts being present. The other oddity pertaining to loadouts was the fact that players could only unlock custom loadouts and some of the better weapons by increasing their multiplayer level. This meant that if you were just starting to play the beta, you were at a disadvantage against more experienced players not only due to their familiarity with maps and gameplay, but because they also had access to more powerful weaponry and the ability to create their own loadouts. Awarding things such as perks to players as they level up is a great incentive for progression, as are skins and experience boosts, but keeping certain power weapons locked or preventing new players from customizing a loadout or two is absolutely ridiculous in any multiplayer game which wants to be viewed as competitive.
During the beta there were two game types available to play. One was a typical team deathmatch mode while the other was called Warpath, essentially a King of the Hill mode in which the hill changes its location over time. Warpath was a nice option for those seeking a slightly more strategic mode as every player converged on a single location, but regardless of which game type you found yourself in, running through the maps in groups was almost a necessity. Early on it became clear that attempting to be a lone wolf player in this game would not result in much success. Even if there is no communication between teammates, traveling in packs is the only way you won’t repeatedly find yourself outnumbered and outgunned. The available levels to play were large enough that you had time to run around without being instantly killed but small enough to guarantee you would encounter enemies on a consistent basis, once again reinforcing that there is indeed strength in numbers. In this regard, DOOM seems to have found the perfect balance given the team sizes. You were kept on your toes at all times but very rarely felt cramped or limited in your options for mobility. With a plethora of pillars, cliff edges, and teleporters, you could find new ways to access areas or get the jump on an opponent. The maps had a great deal of verticality to them as well, allowing combat to span across various heights. Level design has always been Doom‘s strength and if these multiplayer maps are any indicator, the upcoming entry in the franchise will keep that trend going.
The weapon variety is another positive experienced in the beta, as every player style will have at least one weapon available to them. While the multiplayer could benefit from modifying how power weapons are obtained, as previously mentioned, the number of options open to players is fantastic. The Static Rifle is easily the most creative weapon, forcing players to constantly move around to charge up a round but dealing ludicrous amounts of damage with a single shot. When concepts like this are seen it provides some hope for what we might see in the finished title, but based strictly on the beta, it was the only weapon which stood out from the rest. The fan favourite Super Shotgun made its mandatory appearance, and was used by nearly every player we encountered, although many seemed shocked at how little damage it did in multiplayer. This is another example of how the loadouts have negatively affected the multiplayer, as leaving the Super Shotgun as a pick-up around the arena could have given some freedom to keep its damage output closer to what players experience during the franchise’s single player campaigns. Overall, the weapon selection is pretty good but if fewer weapons were readily available in loadouts and spawned throughout the level instead, there would be a much greater sense of cohesion with the rest of the franchise and there would not be such a drastic contrast in damage between single player and multiplayer.
By the time the beta came to a close, I was left with a feeling of indifference. There is no mistaking that the multiplayer games are filled with action and chaos, but unfortunately there are some glaring issues with the way in which the action is delivered. Without getting a glimpse of the single player component, there is no way of knowing if any of these problems have also found their way into the campaign and disrupted the traditional style of Doom‘s gameplay. We can only hope these controversial changes have been made solely on the multiplayer side of things in an attempt to capture the attention of gamers who have not played the earlier titles in the franchise and may be more accustomed to newer IP’s such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Halo. Reviving an old franchise such as this one will always come with a burden of trying to balance appealing to new players while providing a faithful sequel to long-standing fans. Based solely on the beta, I’m not certain either camp will be terribly pleased with the result in this case, but with the full retail release just around the corner, we will undoubtedly find out soon.
Eric is an Xbox editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.