Firstly if you didn’t check it out I highly suggest you read yesterday’s blog post if for no reason other than the amazing custom artwork by my friend @Ammosart. As far as this weekend went, it was a bit of an odd one. I once again played a lot of Destiny, but this morning that is not one of the shooter experiences I am going to be talking about. I really hate it when game companies gang up on each other, because this weekend there were “special” beta tests going on for Overwatch, Battleborn and Doom. While at first they might not seem all that related, they are each chasing a multiplayer experience that they would really love you to care about. Battleborn is not even on the list of games I was interested in, thanks to a really bad alpha experience causing me to pitch it to the curb. Doom however… I really want to like and keep giving it ample attempts to sell me on its regressive notion of what first person shooter multiplayer should be. Now please note… I’ve had access to the alpha for quite awhile now thanks to a strange presell deal that they had for Wolfenstein The New Order. I have not really talked about it before now however due to the NDA it has been wrapped in, but with this weekends big beta event… that has been dropped.
Doom Multiplayer is a game that really hopes that you remember Quake 3 Arena fondly, and have been craving that sort of gameplay with marginally better graphics. The gameplay honestly gives flash backs to playing Rocket Arena… during a time when even then I thought the Quake Arena experience was far inferior to Unreal Tournament that I tended to play more often. If you miss the days of being shot across the map from someone you can’t even see as you spawn in… then this is going to be the game you have been hankering for. The big problem I had was in all of the matches that I have played… I never really found myself having fun. I mean I did okayish, but it very much felt like wandering around the same claustrophobic hallways that we used to in Quake. The worst sin however is the movement… it feels completely unrealistic and the same sort of stiff speedy running that those original Quake games had. What it is trying to be is fast paced run and gun action, but in an era when we can do that without sacrificing animation and design aesthetics. I’ve now played several different PC alpha tests, and installed it on the PS4 to give it a go there… and no matter what I keep coming up with the same impression. This is not a fun multiplayer experience.
The general “unfun” nature of Doom was only drilled home thanks to also being in Overwatch this weekend. It feels like both games are trying really hard to deliver something similar, at least in the department of a faced paced shooter department. Also both games really want you to want to watch them as some sort of an e-sports extravaganza. However Doom is a world that traded the drab green and brown nothingness of Quake for various shades of orange and blood red… whereas Overwatch is almost more game world than it actually needs to support the combat. As you wander around the world there is a constant barrage of tiny details. Posters on the wall, images up on computer screens… advertisements for murloc themed restaurants. The world is vibrant and feels alive, and almost begs you to inhabit it, and what makes it even better is that every single character is just as vibrant and well designed. Playing Torbjorn feels unique and completely different from playing Pharah or Reaper or Reinhardt. The only negative here is that at times they almost feel too unique, in that the control scheme of one champion doesn’t begin to map up to playing another one. It is fairly normal for “league” style champion design to differ wildly, but at least in League you are always going to be using QWE, but for Overwatch champions there is essentially an array of hotkeys that get used… and not all champions use all hotkeys. The most confusing aspect of this is how some champions have a movement key and others don’t… and even among the ones that do they don’t always sync up to exactly the same key.
So what ended up having to happen is that I started to compartmentalize “this is how I play this champion” from “this is how I play overwatch”. The only unfortunate thing about this game is that you can see how much effort they put into building the world, and personally I get a little nostalgic about “what might have been”. Titan was supposed to be Overwatch the MMO, and I would have loved that. Even if they had given me a game along the lines of Destiny or Division I would have eaten it up completely. So as you are playing through the levels you see signs of what might have been. As far as the game play itself it centers around running multiplayer matches, to rank up… to unlock loot crates… to get sweet skins and other cosmetic stuff… that improve your game play experience for those champions that you really love. At its core this game is a really tight multiplayer team based shooter, and if that is not the experience you have been looking for… this probably isn’t the game for you. It plays like a modern version of Team Fortress 2 and feels tighter than that game ever did. Every aspect of the experience seems like it has been painstakingly planned and the awesome thing about it is that for once Blizzard is probably being more forthcoming with information than any other multiplayer game has been. For example they went into more detail about the netcode behind the game play than any company I have ever seen. The only unfortunate thing is that I am going to have to likely wait until May 3rd to get to play the game again, given that is when the pre-launch open beta period begins. The game lived up to all of my expectations, and I am amped to get to play it with friends.