There has been a void in gaming, an absentee of a certain brand of First Person shooter. A statement like that will probably come as a shock to many people, as the FPS genre is arguably the most bloated and crowded genre in the current video game landscape. There’s been an ongoing movement one can plot, from before Call of Duty, pushing realistic game mechanics. Movement speed got slower, and weapons became more effective. Health stopped being a resource one had to boost with power-ups, leaning instead on a recharging mechanic that wasn’t honestly any more realistic. Since the release of Quake 3 Arena, there hasn’t really been a game that compares to its specific style of multiplayer mayhem. Thankfully Bethesda knew what we wanted before we knew we wanted it, and now we have Doom. Well not quite yet, but we had the Beta, and if it was any representation of the final product, then come May 13 we are about to be struck by a real surprise hit.
This beta was an all around peculiar thing to me. It is strange that this game is called Doom when it is so clearly a Quake 3 Arena clone. So much so, is it, that minutes after the beta launched, memes like this one (http://imgur.com/gallery/ypJrbu8) started popping up everywhere. Sure the two franchises existed for a long time under the same roof, and shared many design decisions. And perhaps this game is simply a celebration of that gaming era, with a Doomcentric single-player and a Quake inspired Multiplayer. But then why introduce us through the multiplayer. Did they know our introduction to their product would be multiplayer, and if they did why didn’t they warn us what we were getting into. The game could have been titled “Doom 4: Arena” or “Doom 4: Quake 5: Rage 2” or even “Quoom” but maybe there’s a reason I’m not in public relations and my books never sell. Clearly this game has spent a lot of time thinking about branding and how it wanted to portray itself. People can poke fun, but few can play this game and not want to play more. It’s a kind of fun that’s infectious. Maybe that’s nostalgia speaking.
There’s a lot this game brings new to the table, and anyone who writes it off as just a Quake clone will be selling it short. There are no more weapon pickups, instead you choose two weapons each life to spawn. It’s a loadout system similar to Call of Duty, though less welcome here. The machine gun is weak, and it didn’t take many games before I was favouring a shotgun / rocket launcher combo. I did find the shotgun to be a beast, being slow to fire but pushing you into constant frantic close quarters combat. I missed having to memorize the weapon spawns, and race to the rockets before every other player, but I liked always having my favourite weapons. Finally, there was a melee execution system that was beautifully gory and efficiently paced to keep you on your way.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t power ups, however. You still need to find orbs for health, and armor chits for armor. On top of that, there is the newly introduced Demon Runes that appear at random (not random) times of the match for people to fight over and one lucky person to be transformed into a hideous Revenant demon. Not to be confused, I’m told, with the Revenant from Halo, that’s totally different. This one has a strange enhanced vision, oodles of extra health, two rocket launchers, and a nearly endless jetpack. It’s both lots of fun to play, and pretty freaking intimidating to turn a corner and come face to face with.
Outside of matches, the customization options are vast, and probably even more expansive in the final title. The beta let us change our armor, it’s colour, the colour and patterns of our weapons down to each piece, our taunts mapped to the d-pad, our loadouts, and controls (The default puts weapon switching to the right bumper for some ungodly reason, but that can be easily switched to the classic COD (Actually I know why, because rb is closer to the trigger, so you can switch faster, but it’s still a seemingly unnecessary learning curve))(Sorry about the brackets). After applying colour, you could even change how dirty and faded it all seems. Leveling up, even in the beta, was quick to unlock a bevy of new taunts and colours and armour pieces in excess of what even I could have hoped. And on top of all that, every match you earned new booster cards, like in Titanfall, to give temporary boosts to your next match. It’s as if the Doom people sat back for a decade watching what all the other shooters were doing, and then taking a little of the best pieces of each one.
The beta came with two maps, but to be honest I had to look that up. They weren’t particularly distinctive from each other. One had a bunch of lava, and one was more rocky, but you could easily mistake areas of one for the other. In fact, I had to look up that there were two, because even after hours of playing I wasn’t quite sure. While this beta did a lot that impressed me, I feel like whether or not the multiplayer will be a value to most people will rely heavily on the other maps that launch with the game. Quake 3 Arena was known not just for its gameplay, but its large variety of maps. I want to see creative uses of jump pads, and teleporters. I want a map in space like the classic Quake 3 map (Q3DM17:The Longest Yard). I want maps that focus on different power-up placements. I want tight claustrophobic corridors and long open vistas ripe for sniping. I want wide maps and vertical maps. A lot of modern multiplayer games have been shipping with lower map counts than ever before. Quake 3 Arena shipped with 19 maps at launch, and if they really want to celebrate that era of gaming, lets see them bring back that classic tradition.
Photos by: Sabrina Mendez