Impressions – Doom Closed Beta

This is a new thing I’ll be doing where I give quick thoughts on a beta or demo or the like. They’re not going to be as thorough as my reviews, they’re just done quick and dirty like.

Last weekend, I found that I somehow ended up being able to play the Doom Closed Beta. I don’t recall ever signing up for it, but hey, it was playable so why not? I liked what I saw of the single player stuff from E3, so I figured I might as well try the multiplayer.

The first problem with the game is running it at all! The company logos ran at less than 1 fps and made the game crash. I eventually managed to run it by running it in compatibility mode with Windows 8 and just brute forcing it, but it’s not a good sign when I can’t even run your game. Eventually, someone told me that the solution is to right click Doom, click properties, click set launch options and then add com_SkipIntroVideo 1.

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This is the first competitive FPS I can be considered consistently good at, so that helps.

Actually playing the game… I like it! It has a fast pace, with very fast and fluid movement that keeps the game from feeling as slow as Halo. But Doom avoids being entirely twitch-based, since players have a decent amount of health. While a sniper round or point blank shotgun will still kill you instantly, those are relatively rare.The parkour mechanics ran the risk of slowing movement down too much and feeling too sticky, but they’re implemented well enough that it feels natural. When used in tandem with the double jump/boost function, moving just feels great in this game!

Oh, but speaking of Halo, this game caught some flak from more old school FPS fans because players now have a two-weapon limit. Personally, I think it’s fine for multiplayer, for the sake of balancing things, but it’s a sticking point with long-time fans. A problem I do understand when it comes to weapons is the loadout system. You can now pick your loadout, and this includes rocket launchers and shotguns. It’s balanced since everyone has access to it, but it means you don’t feel incentive to seek out weapons on the map. Heck, there aren’t weapons on the map, aside from the occasional rail gun. While this thing is incredibly powerful, killing players in one hit, there’s far less reason to remember where it spawns and when. The one good side is that you never feel like you’re stuck with a weapon you don’t want; it’s straight to the fun action.

The weapons themselves are a mixed bag, at least from what I’ve seen. The rocket launcher and shotgun were what Is tuck with for the most part. They have good feedback, so you really feel like you’re damaging your enemy. The splash damage from the rockets feels right, and you can even detonate them manually by right-clicking. The shotgun has just the right range, and it can get extra range by holding the right mouse button. There’s an assault rifle that’s a decent mid-ranged weapon as well, and it feels great to shoot. And all of these have great sound design. Good stuff. The other weapons… not so great. There’s this weird laser gun that got a pretty bad reaction when it was shown at E3 last year, and I get why. It has bad feedback, doesn’t feel damaging, and sounds bad. It feels like a lame Halo weapon you’d immediately ditch. The sniper rifle has this nice effect where it does more damage the more you move around, but it was barely used. All in all, most players stuck to the rocket launcher, shotgun and assault rifle, and the maps generally are built around that.

The maps themselves are great. They have a great verticality to them, with armour and health sprawled around the place. This doesn’t mean players will be hopping around constantly however, since there are a lot of pits on them, so you need to be careful. One map even required some precision jumping in a certain area. The best part about the maps is that I never felt lost, nor did I feel too confined. Doom hits just the right balance with map size, and with health, armour and ammo lying around, you feel the need to be constantly in motion, and you find yourself just memorising where those kinds pick-ups are.

Oh, and another loadout feature is these kind of buffs. You can use them at the start of each spawn, and they have limited uses before depleting. You get new ones at the end of each match, however. They do things like let you track item drops, give you armour at the start of your spawn, and let you track the last guy who killed you. I don’t know who thought it’d be a good idea, but it doesn’t really add much to the game, and I treated it like as much of an afterthought as the developers seemed to.

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So cold and lifeless…

Visually, the game has lots of colour, but is otherwise pretty unremarkable in its design. You can now customise your character, but the character models have this cold, mechanical Halo look to them. It’s rather uninspired. The colour options are kinda limited, but the amount of colours you can employ, on your armour and on your weapons, is nice. Nothing really worth noting beyond that.

Overall, the game plays very well, and I really like it. There are some rough areas: the are clearly weapons that are more used and for obvious reasons, some random modern game design choices inserted in for no reason, and it’s not visually remarkable. But the good parts — the feel of the weapons, the map design, the movement and how its encourages — are well worth it. Doom, judging from the closed beta, stumbles a bit in how it tries to modernise the franchise, but retains enough old school elements and does what it does so well that I now can’t wait for the full release. Before this beta, Doom was barely on my radar, but now? I can’t wait.

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