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DOOM Multiplayer Beta Preview - Is it still DOOM?

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I couldn’t wait to finish work this past Friday and finally get my first taste of id Software’s DOOM. As a long-time fan of id Software’s First-Person Shooter (FPS) games, having spent thousands of hours in Quake Live and DOOM 3, I had extremely high expectations when I jumped into the Closed Multiplayer Beta.

And it did not disappoint. The beta offered adrenaline-pumping and chaotic gameplay, amazingly well optimized performance, low latency and overall an absolutely addictive experience. However, the game might disappoint some old-school FPS fans, as it isn’t as fast-paced as previous id Software games and has a modernized approach via weapon Loadouts which, at first glance, didn’t sit well with me either.

Frantic and brutal gameplay

The Closed Multiplayer Beta only had two maps (Infernal and Heatwave) and two game modes, namely the classic Team Deathmatch and Warpath offering some chaotic 12 player action. Although the amount of maps and game modes where minimal, I felt like I could still play the Beta for 100 hours or more, with its frantic and brutal gameplay that oozes quality.

Both game modes see players engaging in fast-paced combat with devastating weapons, slaughtering their foes. Doing a 180 degree turn and shooting an enemy in the face with my trusty Rocket Launcher, splattering his/her blood and guts on a wall is immensely satisfying. The weapons feel powerful and has a unique secondary fire mode. For example, the Rocket Launcher’s secondary fire lets you detonate a rocket still in the air at will and the Lightning Gun’s secondary fire sticks to the ground and walls, damaging nearby enemies.

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The secondary fire modes lend to the need to think tactically and I had to learn so much about situational awareness during intense firefights. It’s an amazing addition that keeps the combat fresh and satisfying even after over 10 hours of uninterrupted play.

Throw in a Demon Rune pickup that spawns on the map which turns players into a demonic Revenant, flying around the map and blasting enemies to bits by shooting two rockets at a time, there is heart-pounding action around every corner.

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Hell hath no fury like a Revenant spawned

Hack Modules, which is basically a comeback mechanic, round off the experience. Hack modules get activated when you die and is part of your Loadout (which I will discuss in the next section of this preview). For example, one Hack Module lets you see your enemy’s health, while another shows you where and when the next big power-up will spawn on the map.    

Although I thoroughly enjoyed DOOM’s multiplayer gameplay, I did leave the beat with one big concern. DOOM’s multiplayer doesn’t feel fast enough. Half the games I joined, players where asking “how do I strafe-jump” or “why is this game so slow”. The game doesn’t feel quite fast enough due to the lack of strafe-jumping in the Beta.

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I mentioned in my article entitled “DOOM’s multiplayer just got one hell of a lot more exciting” that a dataming expedition by users found strafe-jumping in the game’s coding. For those of you unfamiliar, the act of strafe-jumping increases the player’s movement speed if done correctly. It requires specific mouse and keyboard input to do successfully as well as a ton of practice. It is an extremely hard skill to master, but does offer a huge advantage in one-on-one matches if you can pull it off.

The skill-based movement through strafe-jumping is sorely lacking from DOOM. Catching up to a player running for dear life, controlling key points and power-up spawns on the map is a massive part of DOOM 3 and Quake Live, something that really should be in the game. Hopefully, strafe-jumping will be enabled for custom games or added to maps via the SnapMap editor, which comes with the game and should give players enough freedom to create the DOOM they really want.

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DOOM uses a double-jump mechanic and allows you to mantle up onto hard-to-reach areas and find shortcuts in the maps. It took some time getting used to, but when I learned how to use double-jumping to my advantage, it did open up additional tactics. The movement in DOOM is decent, but it feels more like a cross between Unreal Tournament and Halo than id Software’s previous multiplayer offerings.  

Customization and Loadouts – A modernized DOOM

I had access to seven powerful weapons to dispatch my foes with, namely the Rocket Launcher, Plasma Rifle, Super Shotgun, Vortex Rifle, Static Rifle, Heavy Assault Rifle, and Lightning Gun and three “equipment” options, namely the Frag Grenade, Personal Teleporter and Siphon Grenade. Further, one “Power Weapon”, a Gauss Cannon, was up for grabs as an item spawn. However, in DOOM’s multiplayer you can’t pick up all the weapons at once, as you are limited by a weapon Loadout mechanic that you can set up before the start of a match.  

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Some of the tactics I adored using myself and watch professional players used to perfection was gun and item spawn control. Basically, in arena FPS games like Quake Live and DOOM 3, you could control weapon spawns in such a way that a player might not be able to get the gun they need, giving an advantage to the controlling player. In the new DOOM, because you can choose any two weapons to play with via your Loadout, weapon spawn tactics are a thing of the past. Sure, Megahealth and Armor pieces still spawn, as well as a “Power Weapon” and other power-ups, for example Quad Damage. However, the addition of weapon Loadouts feels as if strategically, the game’s multiplayer has been dumbed down a bit.

It's definitely a modernized approach to the way DOOM is played, one that I’m sure at least some old-school FPS players won’t appreciate. However, after a few hours of play, I quickly became accustomed to the use of a weapon Loadout. The change is definitely not the end of the world.

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I had a plethora of customization options available, from customizing taunts to each piece of Armor my DOOM marine wore, as well as weapon skins and colours. These cosmetic items are unlocked randomly when you level up. Yes, I just said level up in DOOM. Each time you kill a player, you level up, unlocking rewards, weapon Loadout slots and much more.  

The customization options and character progression makes the game feel a bit more like a Call of Duty game than the arena shooters of old. However, the system isn’t bad, not by a long-shot. I actually quite enjoyed customizing my character and levelling up to see what unlocks I would get next. However, some old-school fans of games like DOOM 3 or Quake Live might feel like the modernization of the new DOOM is a bit too much and definitely not needed for the game to be enjoyable; which it absolutely is.    

Graphics, performance and latency

The Closed Beta did not have many graphical options to tinker with, as the advanced options menu was greyed out. Although I couldn’t turn the detail up even higher, the game looks absolutely fantastic and runs on a constant 60fps without any dips in frame rate on my GeForce 970, Intel Skylake i5 processor at 3.6ghz and 16gb of RAM (which is slightly above the recommended specifications for 1080p).

Although the two maps aren’t that big in size, the amount of detail around each corner is impressive to say the least. Lighting and small movements in the environment, for example blood dripping from the walls on Infernal and steam shooting out of pipes on Heatwave is brilliantly well done, creating an atmosphere unique to each map. The action is so frantic and fast-paced that I had to stop for a couple of minutes to really appreciate the amount of detail id Software has crammed into each map.

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For our South African readers who might be a bit worried about latency, I have some very good news. In each game I played during the Multiplayer Beta, I had a latency between 40 and 60ms, which felt absolutely wonderful. At the time of writing we do not know which type of servers the Multiplayer Beta used, but the Beta client did say “Dedicated servers online” when connecting to the matchmaking system.

If you are hoping DOOM has the same pace in multiplayer as Quake Live or DOOM 3, you might be left a little dissapointed. As someone who has spent more than 3000 hours in previous id Software FPS games enjoying the fast-paced multiplayer, it took me some time to come to terms with the game’s modernized approach and a lack of skill-based movement. However, you should keep in mind that DOOM comes with the powerful SnapMap editor, so there is no doubt in my mind that players will create a customized multiplayer experience (for example a pro-mod) that will alleviate the concerns I mentioned in this preview.  

Although I mentioned some "flaws" in my preview, DOOM's Closed Multiplayer Beta delivered one of the best multiplayer experiences I have ever had and I can see myself playing the full game for years to come.

DOOM releases on 13 May 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One 

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