id Software, what the hell happened? No, seriously, that wasn’t a pun, what made you guys think that any of this was a good idea? I’ve come off the back of playing the Open Beta for DOOM’s multiplayer mode, and I have to say that if this is indicative of what we can expect in the full release, my inner child weeps. For clarification, the MP portion of DOOM appears to have been developed in co-operation with Certain Affinity, known for their work on MP content for titles such as CoD and Halo. I can only assume that the Certain Affinity dev team’s understanding of “innovation” means “tearing down everything that was good about the genre and building it from the ground up to be as bland as possible.” Has anyone from that studio even played an arena shooter before? I sincerely doubt it because an arena shooter this is not; nay, much like the demons that populate the world of DOOM, this thing is an abomination.
Ugh, this is Fallout 4 all over again. Strike two, Bethesda, strike-friggin-two. And id? I’m disappointed in you for allowing Certain Affinity to even touch the project if this is the best that they can do. VERY disappointed.
Where to start? First, let’s look at the basics: Map size to player ratio, which is to say that too many players are crammed into too small a space. In classic arena shooters of old, the word “arena” actually felt like an appropriate description. Large open areas would make up the bulk of the level, with some small and cramped areas to make for some intense, close-up combat to break up the rocket and projectile flinging. In the levels shown in DOOM, the vast open spaces have mostly been removed, and the only rooms present that might have qualified are absolutely riddled with bullshit hidey-holes. Where once upon a time you might have been mowed down while low on health and happened across someone dashing around a corner, this is now how every skirmish now starts. It’s rare in DOOM to begin a fight face to face with your opponents because they’ll sneak up on you, and vice versa, by just entering the god damned room.
Of course, being thoroughly reamed by opponents could also be due to them toting better weapons than you. Sure, it’s a classic arena-shooter trope that the first person to the rocket launcher is generally going to r*** face over the person stuck with the starting machine gun. In DOOM, however, the fun of rushing to the best weapons has been removed in favor of pre-equipped load outs. I’m just going to let that sink in for a moment – it’s okay, take your time. Once you’re done recoiling, get ready to chug that rage-aide when you discover that these load outs can be modified with unlockable weapons gained from leveling up between matches. Yes, yes they have reduced the skill-based play of DOOM to be little more than a CoD/Battlefield clone.
But wait, it gets worse!
Even just navigating your way around the map can be an absolute pain in the ass. Your walking speed feels like it’s set to “Halo-mode,” with no sprinting available, and a nauseating motion blur that – unless I’m doing something seriously wrong – you can’t turn off or adjust. A feature I would have really liked, had it been implemented well, is that you can grab onto ledges and pull yourself up onto the next level. The issue is that it doesn’t work every time, leading to many instances of jumping from one platform before smashing your helmet into the next, desperately flailing before falling to your death. You can’t even Rocket Jump for f*** sake – what kind of sadists were behind the development of this?
Speaking of half-baked and poorly implemented design elements, you know what’s a cool idea? Replacing the old “quad-damage” power-up from the classic arena shooters with a power-up that turns you into a demon and alters your abilities. You know what isn’t cool? Becoming an unstoppable murder machine that insta-gibs anyone you come across while soaking up more incoming damage than Hillary Clinton while remaining just as unphased. When I first heard about this feature, I was pretty dang excited; it felt like a straight improvement on existing design, the kind of thing that a successor to id’s arena-shooters should include. As it currently exists, it’s the biggest game-breaking feature present and an absolute fun-sponge.
You could have stopped this, Bethesda. YOU HAD THE POWER TO STOP THIS AND YOU DID NOTHING.
There is nothing – nothing – redeemable about this multiplayer mode that supposedly represents DOOM. Given that we’re also just a few weeks out from release, I can’t see it changing in any significant way as to avert the oncoming train wreck; you could even say that it’s DOOM-ed to be awful. I find it incredibly ironic (and truly disheartening) that we’ve reached this point and come full circle. The studio and franchise once responsible for setting the standard in shooters are now flat out copying tired design tropes from modern shooters instead of progressing arena shooters in any meaningful way. I have no doubt that the game will sell incredibly well, but I guarantee that it will be entirely down to the reputation behind the franchise and not the quality of the game itself. Who knows, maybe the single player will be good?