Do not stop to think. There is no time to think—there’s a demon back there, just keep moving. There’s health in the next room. Keep firing. There’s ammo in the next passage. Reload and you’re dead. There’s armour in that blood fountain and—oh shit. The dead are back: instant respawn. That bastard who just put his knee through your skull isn’t far away. Hook up a wallhack and get revenge with a glory kill of your own.
On April 15, after years of waiting, fans were given access to a non-exclusive Doom beta. And, unlike the 2005 film, Doom is worthy of the name.
Plagued with management issues for the better half of a decade, developer Id Software stalled out the long-awaited Doom franchise reboot until the direction of the project completely changed in the early 2010s. With Doom (previously known as Doom 4) developer Id Software stepped away from the survival-horror conceit of Doom 3 and returned to the arena twitch-shooter style that fans of Doom 2 will remember.
The new Doom is like running down an escalator to Hell. It is run-and-gun in its purest form: a non-stop showcase of shotgun spray, demonic possessions, and glory killings in close-quarter arenas. Movement feels like Mach-speed, with jump shortcuts and portals around the maps, while running over pick-ups will replenish health, shields, and ammunition—making reloading obsolete. Even Wolfenstein: New World Order—Doom’s closest current counterpart, as the progenitor of run-and-gun —forces players to eventually take shelter, reload, and double back to scrounge health pick-ups. In Doom, offence is the only defence, and there’s never time to hide.
Death comes in all shapes in Hell, but the classic Super Shotgun/Vortex Rifle combination remains tried and true in multiplayer. The shotgun is a franchise classic that obliterates marines and demons in close quarters, while the Vortex Rifle is a rail-gun/sniper cross that delivers the best long-range damage available. “Demon runes” appear periodically throughout the match to add a threat greater than other marines and their guns. Upon pick up, demon runes transform players into juggernauts with swelled HP, increased damage output, and unique glory kills, until a timer runs out or the demon is slain. Slaying a demon then releases the rune and allows another marine to steal possession and capitalize on the remaining time. The jetpack-wearing, rocket-toting Revenant is the sole demon transformation available during beta play, but various demon classes, including the agile Prowler and the Baron of Hell melee class, will be available with Doom’s full release on May 16.
This month’s beta offered two variants of 6v6 multiplayer, including a standard TDM mode and a king of the hill variant called “Warpath.” In Warpath, players fight to secure a zone that rotates through various areas around maps housing pick-ups, including movement and damage boosts, and weapons like a gauss cannon or chainsaw. Two of the nine announced maps were present in the beta: “Heatwave” is set in a demonic industrial site, and “Infernal” is Hell itself—fit with bloody pools, satanic etchings, and dark tunnels and platforms for maneuvering.
Doom isn’t all reminisce; assassination animations, called glory kills, debuted to fans at last year’s E3 and constitute a main highlight of the action so far. Critically-injuring an enemy leaves them open to an array of devastating finishing moves that vary by physical orientation. For example, a favourite of mine involves targeting an enemy’s torso, and then disconnecting their leg and curb stomping them with it. Hitting enemies from behind will snap their neck, and hitting them head-on results in a glorious knee-to-face execution. The full game will offer even more unique glory kills to perform on a full variety of demons in multiplayer, as well the AI monsters of Doom’s story mode.
The biggest development to come from this pre-release stage is what Doom hasn’t incorporated. In an age where first-person shooters have become homogenized, Doom retains its identity. After Titanfall debuted, its parkour-inspired movements were adopted by the Call of Duty franchise. With Halo 5, 343 Studios took the franchise into a similar realm with the additions of sprinting, dashing, and mantling. But Doom is not another post-Titanfall AAA FPS—it is the renaissance of deathmatch games like Quake, Unreal Tournament, and Serious Sam.
The Doom beta wasn’t a perfect experience—I could have gone for slower supply regeneration if only to satisfy my memories of Unreal Tournament supply droughts—but it promises a game that will sap many hours of daylight. Id Software has room to improve on subsidiary aspects of the game, like customization and their “hack module” boosts. These timed boosts may affect XP, armour, or provide information on enemies remaining HP. The most useful module so far is the wallhack, which can pinpoint enemies and power weapons through walls. While the hack modules are a new take on the boost concept, post-game unlocks are currently bland and Doom loses some of its originality because of it.
While Doom may not mesh with military FPS fans that prefer strongholds and stealth, those fond of gored-out scream fests like Gears of War, Serious Sam and Turok will find what the blood-bagged shooter they’ve been waiting for.