Doom (2016) Closed Beta Impressions

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Doom is back, rebooted for the modern age. Is it any good, does it live up to it’s promise to return to the groundbreaking original from more than 20 years ago? The answer to that is “I don’t know” because we have to wait until the full release in May, but from what I’ve played of the beta so far, it seems promising.

The movement of your Doom Guy in the multiplayer is quite speedy, there are no sprint buttons, strafing is easy and it is overall fast and fluid.Except for the jetpack double jump, that needs to be a touch faster. That said, the mechanics are quite simplistic, which is perhaps the point, but those looking for bunnyhops and rocket jumping will have to wait until the Quake reboot. But the simplicity of it is great: it is immediately accessible while still requiring skill. It also feels immensely satisfying when you’re on a kill streak, it is both exhilarating and meditative at the same time, which seems strange to say when talking about Doom, but it’s quite good. A downside to the core mechanics, at least in the multiplayer, are some ‘modern’ (read: console) concessions in that there is a two weapon limit to your loadouts, but you can use any combination of weapons. It’s unfortunate that this is so, but the core fast, never stopping moment by moment experience can overcome such a shortcoming. There is also no regenerating health or shields: you have to in classic fps style pick them up throughout the map and while they have cooldowns, they are generously placed.

There is also, as is typical for FPS, a level up system (which caps out at 15 in the beta) which unlocks new weapons for you such as the static rifle which gains power per shot while you’re moving. You also unlock new skins and colours for them, as well as armour pieces, to customize the look of your characters in the most garish ways possible. You can also make your armour and weapons looks smothered in dirt and look otherwise in damaged condition. It’s a nice touch.

In the beta, there are two maps and two modes. The modes are team deathmatch and Warpath, which is just a hold the area type of mode. I’ve just really played Team Deathmatch so far and it seems like most people. Because it’s Doom and that’s just what people play. Of the maps, the first is Infernal: essentially, a Hell map. The second is Heatwave, which has an industrial aesthetic. Both fit the overall look of the original, in my opinion as they have a coherent theme whilst still having healthy doses of colour and don’t clash in any stark ways. It’s good to look at. The levels are also well designed in that they facilitate the fast movement, with each part being an interconnected loop. Maps also possess powerups: one is becoming a revenant and inflicting terror on the enemy team for about a minute, there is also double speed, quad damage, armour boost, a gauss gun, etc. so the arena shooter DNA is still present.

In terms of performance, the game kept a solid 60fps most of the time on my system at 1440p. The vsync options are quite good as it has in built adaptive vsync. One thing you’re going to want to turn to low is the motion blur, seriously. Having it at medium or high just makes everything a blurry mess and you don’t want that especially in a game as fast as this. Unfortunately, the advanced graphics options are unavailable in this beta. So I have no idea what settings they give you in the beta. This is pretty unfortunate since betas of games on my radar are very useful in helping me benchmark the game and have an idea of how well optimized it is at release. So it’s annoying that the game doesn’t allow you to do this and crank up the settings, but what’s given looks fine but the occassional drops below 60fps even at my resolution seem unwarranted. Full release is still a month out, maybe they’ll have improved performance by then but I’m not holding my breath.

In sum: the beta of Doom 2k16 provides a promising glimpse into the full release, so I’m looking forward to see if it delivers, which right now, I’m leaning closer to a yes rather than no.

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