DOOM is a classic video game with a place in a lot of people’s hearts. Even myself as someone who isn’t super into FPS has a soft spot for DOOM. The FPS I do enjoy these days are the faster paced, old school style ones like the reboot of Shadow Warrior. So naturally, I was looking forward to the reboot of DOOM, but my excitement was tinged with a lot of scepticism. Too many classic franchises have come back, only to be pale shadows of their former selves with all that made them great ripped out. I think many of us jumped into the DOOM multiplayer open beta, either on PC or console, hoping to have these worries assuaged. By the time I got into the Doom beta, it already had “mixed” reviews, and that dropped down to “mostly negative” before the beta was over. So let’s examine exactly why DOOM has found itself in the pits of review hell.
The first thing is probably the existence of loadouts, XP grinds and unlocks. This really gives a feel almost immediately of a COD-style progression system that I’m sure we’re all really, really tired of by now. The real bug bear of these three is the loadouts. One thing that is a signature of old school FPS, especially the older Doom games, is be able to carry lots and lots of guns. In the original Doom trilogy you could carry 9-10 guns at once, and they were all varied. Let’s take a look at what was on offer back then: assault rifle, BFG9000, Chaingun, Chainsaw, Fist, Pistol, Plasma gun and rocket launcher. In the DOOM beta reboot multiplayer, there are three loadouts available by default, and you can unlock two more. In each loadout, you have two main guns and a third slot for a grenade or other side item depending on the loadout. You can pick up one weapon on the map, but that’s it. You are limited to your loadout and the map weapon if you are lucky enough to pick it up. This is DOOM 2016’s first real error. Couple this with the generic XP grinds and unlocks that seem to be inescapable in modern FPS, and you are already looking at a game that is watered down compared to its predecessor.
This theme of “DOOM on the outside, generic FPS on the inside” continues throughout, and is probably the main cause of the negative reviews. If the DOOM multiplayer beta had limited weapons but still managed to maintain what made DOOM great, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now. The main issue with the gameplay seems to come down to three core factors: the speed of the game, the lack of tools at your disposal when it comes to movement, and canned melee kill animations.
The other two things that characterise old school FPS are being able to move at the land speed record, and the insane amount of control you had over your movement. Think back onto what made games like DOOM, Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior great: darting around insanely fast, shooting at enemies with a large array of satisfying guns, and being able to crazy things that make no sense like rocket jumps and bunny hops. You also had the option of side strafing, which led to gameplay which was fast, frenzied and creative. The DOOM multiplayer beta, on the other hand, feels slow and restrictive in comparison. You have a kind of double jump, and you can jump up and grab onto ledges to really utilise your environment, but that’s about it. The moments where I felt fast, leaping over enemies and shooting at them mid-air were crowded out by moments were the gameplay could have been changed out for any multiplayer shooter but with it’s own skin.
All these factors combine to give the whole thing the feel of a generic multiplayer shooter wearing the ripped off face of DOOM. There are all the bug bears of modern FPS: content gating behind XP walls, slower movement, COD-style progression systems, huge gun models and universal ammo. Now, the main selling point of the DOOM reboot is undoubtedly going to be the quality of the singleplayer campaign. But to see the multiplayer so boring and cookie cutter is very disappointing, and it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that iD Software can capture that old DOOM magic again.
The real concern that hangs over the singleplayer now, is that if the real bug bears of slow movement, universal ammo and lack of options like rocket jumps are in the multiplayer, are they really not going to carry over to the main campaign? I highly doubt we will see faster speed of movement in the campaign, as that very much seems like a core mechanic integrated into how the DOOM beta plays. So while there is yet hope for the singleplayer, the DOOM beta is a worrying sign of the future, and a modern FPS wearing the face of DOOM is definitely not what people wanted.