Doom - Closed Beta Hands-On

Ahead of Doom's imminent return, we spent a few hours blasting away at last weekend's closed beta.

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Let's not dwell on history. We all know that Doom has pedigree, a unique place in the grand scheme of all things first-person shooter. Wolfenstein 3D might be the granddaddy, but Doom is the one that got cloned a gazillion times.

But past glories are knives bought to a gun fight, and id's shooter is going up against a dozen or so high profile, highly competent, and heavily armed tripleA opponents, and if Doom is going to be received in the manner that it has no doubt become accustomed to, it's going to have to be good. Really bloody good.

At the time of writing it's hard to say just how good this new Doom actually is. We can say with certainty that we've largely enjoyed what we've played thus far, but then again, we've not played all that much. Two modes, two maps, a small selection of weapons. It's not enough to start getting really excited, but it as reassuring to see that it's headed in the right direction.

It's not as fast-paced as we thought it was going to be. It's still frantic at times, but it's no bolt of lightning. There's chunky health and armour pick-ups dotted around the place that made us feel nostalgic for arena shooters of yesteryear, but it didn't feel as light on its feet as a classic arena shooter might, or as other recent revivals like Rise of the Triad.

As you'd expect, nay, want, the weapons are chunky. Instead of picking them up as you go, you pick a loadout before heading into battle. The rocket launcher is fun, and on top of dealing some damage with a direct hit (though not as much as you might expect), they can also be destroyed mid-air, allowing for some tactical application. The shotgun is slow to reload, but surgical use makes it hard to deal with in close-quarters. There's an OP rifle that deals out one-hit-kills when fully charged. The heavy assault rifle we warmed to, but as with most of the weapons, the feedback once you've pulled the trigger isn't as prominent as we'd have liked.


One thing that we loved was the personal teleporter, and there's no doubt that those who master this piece of kit will come to battle with a supreme trick up their sleeve. Of course going into a fight with a grenade is always helpful, but the teleporter offers a potential 'get out of jail free card', or a confusing trick to pull on an opponent that can leave them disorientated and vulnerable.

There's two maps, Heatwave and Infernal, and both reek of Doom; the very definition of quintessential. Heatwave might have an industrial edge to it, but that hasn't stopped someone from decorating it with enough candles to make a fire marshal weep. Infernal has a more demonic feel, magma bubbling below, unexplained symbols carved into rock. Both maps offered a mixture of confined spaces and open areas, and a degree of verticality that, at certain points, will have both teams looking high and low for potential threats/targets. In terms of traversal, we liked the mantle ability, and the inclusion of double jump means it's easy to get around.

However, it wasn't layout or decorations that defined our experience with each map, it was the modes that we sampled while visiting them. 6V6 Deathmatch was a run of the mill fragfest that you've seen before. Quite fast, quite exciting, but nothing revolutionary. The chance to transform one player into a demon is a neat trick that adds an extra layer to the meta-game. When playing as the demon - in this case the Revenant - you're hard as nails, you've got a limited-use jetpack, and the rocket attack is very powerful (perhaps too powerful, we'll have to see). It's not hard to rack up the kills. You are, however, a lanky walking target, and all guns will be pointed at you as you turn into defacto tank and damage dealer.

Warpath, on the other hand, gave the two maps much more of a role to play. Teams are playing king of the hill, but this hill just won't sit still. Arrows float above the ground and point you in the direction of the moving capture point, and while this might look inelegant, the mode probably doesn't work all that well if both teams don't know which way they're headed at all times. It does sometimes feel like an escort mission, as you move forward as a team while guarding your mobile position from the always imminent attack by an enemy you know is being guided directly to your ever-shifting position.

The two maps seen were solid, the two modes played were engaging. Warpath held our interest for longer and felt full of potential, but a standard deathmatch mode like the one we have here is always reliable entertainment and we had fun blasting away, even if we felt more purpose in its objective-based counterpart. There's still enough of the series' DNA in there that we came away reassured that it's on track to deliver the kind of experience we expect, but only to a point.

Doom is an all-time classic, and it needs to be special, now more than ever, given the titles it's gunning for. What we've seen so far is certainly decent, but if it's going to take on all comers and once again sit atop a throne of bullets, id needs to kick it up a gear with the campaign and the rest of the modes coming to the game when it launches on PC, PS4 and Xbox One next month.


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