Doom has a surprisingly compelling multiplayer experience

Last weekend, Bethesda and id Software invited all interested players to try out their upcoming shooter Doom as part of an open beta playtesting period. The beta, while limited in scope, allowed players to see firsthand whether or not this newly reborn version of the classic shooter series would appeal to them, and despite my normal aversion to competitive multiplayer games, I decided to hop in and see what all the fuss was about. What I discovered is a surprisingly compelling multiplayer experience which strikes a solid balance between old-school sensibilities and modern gaming comforts.

Trimming the Fat

You might be surprised to hear that, back in the day, I was actually a pretty big Unreal Tournament fan. Granted, I mainly just played with my friends/siblings or with bots, but like many players before me, I was a huge sucker for the series’ trimmed down, fast-paced gameplay. This new Doom made me very nostalgic for my Unreal Tournament days, which makes sense considering that was one of Bethesda’s and id Software’s main goals.

Classic arena shooter trapping such as non-regenerating health, the inability to sprint, a permanent double-jump ability, and findable power-ups are paired with more “modern” features like a full leveling/progression system, weapon/equipment unlocks, earnable cosmetic items, and in-game challenges which give players a constant stream of micro-goals to work towards while they’re fragging each other. There are also more unique elements such as Hack Modules (timed boosters which can grant various bonuses like increased XP from kills or the ability to see the health bars of enemy players), and a randomly spawned Demon Rune which can give the team that finds it a powerful, if temporary, advantage.

These Demon Runs, which transform the player who picks one up into a terrifyingly deadly demonic enemy, help to spice up otherwise routine games of Team Deathmatch, and Hack Modules can help give individual players the extra edge they need to turn the tables on their opponents. Doom’s multiplayer also utilizes a very compelling progression/rewards system, granting both standard weapon/equipment unlocks and a randomized assortment of cosmetic items (armor pieces, weapon/armor colors, taunts) and Hack Modules every time a player levels up.

And speaking of character customization, Doom’s is surprisingly in-depth, allowing players to customize both their multiplayer character and their weapons with various colors, patterns, accents, and (for the actual character) taunts and armor pieces. During the entire time I played the Doom beta over the weekend, I don’t think I ever saw the same exact armor/color combinations used by two different players, every other player I saw had managed to cook up a unique armor/color combination all their own. Chances are good that, once Doom is released, id Software will eventually implement some sort of microtransaction system for cosmetic items, but if it also keeps the current system of granting cosmetic rewards simply for playing, it shouldn’t be a huge issue.

Adjust Accordingly

Perhaps the biggest change that Doom players will have to get used to is the simplified controls. Since actions like sprinting and reloading are taken out of the equation, several buttons on a console controller aren’t even used. For instance, I played on the PlayStation 4 and the default setup makes it so that the player never has to press the Square, Triangle, or L1 buttons, and R1 is assigned to switching weapons (players who are more used to modern shooter games where Triangle is used to switch weapons can change this in the options menu).

Every weapon in Doom has a primary and secondary firing mode, but the secondary mode for most weapons usually involves firing a different type of projectile or manipulating the standard projectile in some way. This means that shooter fans who are used to aiming down the sights before firing will need to get used to a more freewheeling run-and-gun style of play (or they can simply stick with weapons like the Assault Rifle or Vortex Rifle, both of which have a zoom function). This faster, more frantic pacing serves as the polar opposite of slower, more methodical shooters like Rainbow Six Siege, so if you want a shooter where tactics and preparation don’t really matter, Doom could be just the thing you’re looking for.

An Admirable First Impression

My time with the Doom open beta didn’t turn me into a diehard believer, but it did pique my interest enough that I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it after it launches on May 13. If there winds up being a dedicated co-op mode of some kind which utilizes the same progression/unlocks system as the competitive multiplayer component, that combined with my nostalgic fondness for old-school Unreal Tournament games will definitely help its case. Either way, I think that at the very least, Doom will help to diversify the shooter landscape, giving old-school gamers a refreshing blast from the past, and more modern shooter fans a change of pace from the atypical shooter experience.