It’s tough to overstate the importance of 1993’s Doom to first-person shooters, and for that matter, to video games in general. Doom had it all: lots of firepower, a lengthy campaign, and even an online mode, if you could free up your phone line long enough to dial in on a 28.8 kbps modem. The fourth game in the series comes out May 13, and after spending a few hours in the multiplayer beta, I have to say I’m impressed.
Not only does the bluntly-title game feel like a wholly modern shooter, but it brings along some of its unique old-school sensibilities. It’s definitely still Doom, but it fits in beside modern shooters like Call of Duty and Star Wars: Battlefront.
The full game will have a campaign as well as an array of multiplayer modes. The beta was limited to just two multiplayer maps, but it gave an idea of what the finished product would be like.
It’s fun, fast, and easy to pick up
First of all, as you can tell from the video above, this game is intense. It’s more about moving fast and keeping an itchy trigger finger than it is about fighting strategically. And although the multiplayer is deep enough to keep players coming back, most players won’t feel like they’re in over their head.
That said, the more you know about your weapons the better, and the faster you can think on your feet, the more likely you are to survive when a rain of rockets starts exploding around you. In Doom, you move fast, kill fast, and die fast.
It also has a great sense of momentum. Like in other recent shooters, your character is remarkably nimble. You can jump, double-jump, and climb up ledges, assuming you boost yourself close enough.
Levels are well designed
The levels on offer in the beta were intricately designed and pleasant to look at — that is, if you’re into the whole fire/pentagram/skull motif. Playing Doom is kind of like transporting yourself into the cover of a death metal album. The environments are fiery, they’re over-the-top, and they don’t care about your safety.
They have a good mix of open areas and more constrained rooms, often with some amount of verticality that can let you get a jump on your opponents. You’ll also find narrow bridges that span pools of lava, with health and armor power-ups scattered around. Both levels in the beta were fun to navigate and gorgeous to look at.
You can customize your loadout
One modern shooter trope Doom borrows is character progression. Your soldier earns experience points as you play, and you can level up between matches to unlock new goodies. You can also customize your weapon loadout, filling your two weapon slots with gear like rocket launchers, shotguns, and plasma rifles, plus your choice of throwable. You can also select perks that go into effect when you respawn.
Beyond that, you can also customize the paint patterns and colors on your weapons and armor.
You can become a demon
It wouldn’t be Doom without the minions of hell playing a role. One power-up turns a lucky player into a powerful demon with a rocket-launching jetpack. As you can probably guess, it’s fun to be the demon, and less fun to encounter an enemy demon.
It could use more blood
When it comes to blood and gore, you might think Doom would give Mortal Kombat a run for its money. At least in the multiplayer beta, that simply wasn’t true. When you shoot your opponents, it’s not blood that flies out of them, it’s numbers. This gives you an idea of how much damage your weapons are doing, but I’d rather the game stick to its roots and give bloodthirsty fans some bodily grossness to feast our eyes on.
Bring on the campaign
If one of the goals of a beta is to leave fans wanting more, consider Doom a success. I’m particularly looking forward to blasting my way through the campaign. If it’s anywhere near as good as Wolfenstein: The New Order, Bethesda’s other major shooter, then we’re all in for a treat.
Bethesda is a company that knows how to take an older beloved property and turn it into something worth loving all over again. From what I’ve seen of Doom, it looks like that’s remaining true. It uses the core of what made the series great in the ‘90s and injects it with enough new ideas to make it feel relevant again. Bring on the campaign.