As DOOM’s release date closes in on us, the public was finally given a chance to get some hands-on time with the multiplayer (assuming they purchased a copy of Wolfenstein: The New Order or snagged a code through other means). Editor Andrew Reiner got some hands-on time with the single-player portion, and came away rather impressed with what he saw. So how does this slice of multiplayer stack up?
Well, it’s surprisingly complicated.
Have no fear, fans of Quake and Unreal Tournament fast-paced arena style combat. The multiplayer component for Doom is comparable to those, with players moving quickly around the map and blasting each other to pieces. Combat is immensely enjoyable, largely thanks to the weapon handling as well as the fun of zipping around entire maps in seconds. It feels like playing a genuine old-school first-person shooter instead of a competent homage to that era of games. People explode, sending rib cages and decapitated heads into the distance, while power-ups hover for you to grab, including a delightful one that lets you turn into a revenant, a powerful missile-toting demon capable of ripping through hordes of players.
The two modes available in the beta are team deathmatch and Warpath, which we've played and chatted about at length before. While team deathmatch is self-explanatory, Warpath is basically a variant of king of the hill where two teams vie for a control point, except that point is constantly moving on a track that runs through the map. Players have to fight over this glowing train to take it over and whatever team is in control of the path receives points with every passing second until the other team takes it back. Both modes are exciting and do a good job of serving as vessels for Doom’s brand of chaotic violence.
The two maps you can play in the beta, Heatwave and Infernal, are both classic arena style maps filled with nooks, crannies, and loops for players to use to their advantage. Heatwave is an industrial style level that has pits of hot slag that will melt players who aren’t careful with their jumps, while Infernal takes place in Hell and is filled with platforms hovering over an abyss. Of the two, I preferred my time with Heatwave because it offered more tactical positions to exploit against other players, but both maps are well designed and look gorgeous…in a gruesome, covered-in-entrails sort of way.
Basically everything that’s old school about Doom works. When the game tries to shoehorn new, aggressively non-DOOM elements into its multiplayer, then things get kind of annoying. For example, a variation of the loadout system from Call of Duty is here, forcing players to carry only two weapons during a match. Not only does this limit player freedom and downplay the possibility of enjoyable madness during matches, but nothing about it feels justified. It seems like a tacked-on limitation designed to tap into industry trends as does the multiplayer's hack consumables.
As you level up (yes, a progression system like the one from Call of Duty is here too) by playing matches and gaining experience, you unlock a plethora of items that run the gamut from being cosmetic tweaks to your armor to customizable loadouts to usable “hack modules” that let you briefly activate a special ability in a match. One hack highlights the last person who killed you, letting you see them through the map for a handful seconds, while others might let you find power-ups scattered across the map or see an opponent’s health bar. All of the hack modules in the beta feel superficial and didn’t really add anything to my experience other than something that cluttered my screen.
None of the cosmetic options for your armor and weapons, like color patterns or different armor parts, are particularly compelling or worth bothering with, especially when compared to the customization options in Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo. When I fiddled around with these systems the game felt like it was trying (and failing) to keep up with a new generation of shooters instead of being its own confident, exceptional experience.
Luckily, the tacked-on progression system is only a small portion of the multiplayer experience, with just a big enough presence to annoy but not enough to rob Doom of its frenzied and gory charms. After all, this is a beta. Content might come further down the line in the full release that makes that progression system more enticing.
As it stands now, Doom’s multiplayer is a good old-fashioned time that will likely delight fans of old-school first-person shooters; though, I can’t help but wish the multiplayer part of the game boldly embraced its roots more.
Doom is due out on May 13 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. You can check out the rest of our coverage of DOOM in our hub for the game.