For the third year running, I’ve gotten the opportunity to attend QuakeCon. Well, “attend” may lead you to believe I’m rocking a rig in the BYOC room and fawning over Bethesda’s afternoon pressers as new info on Fallout 4 spills my way.
I wish that were the case. More accurately, I’m enclosed behind a booth, which is in turn littered with garments that I’m selling to Dallas’ local PC master race who are currently populating the Hilton, Anatole – all celebrating the event’s 20th active year. Despite the impressive amount of events I get to be a part of, as with this one, and as with them all, being in direct-to-consumer sales doesn’t exactly give me much time to relish the happenings.
But, tonight, I somehow squirmed my way in to a 6 v 6 Deathmatch of Doom’s multiplayer. And all it took to get in on the action was some strategic loitering. After the exhibit hall closed for the day, not five-hundred feet from me, a few dozen people were still being allowed to run some matches on stage. I assumed some of them were gaming press (I heard one fellow say, “Eh, need to see more” in a tone that teetered between suspicious and pretentious – the mark of a journalist), but I think QuakeCon volunteers also got the chance to fill some seats. They were easier to spot. The smiles were their tell.
Once a match came to a close, there was still some spots leftover, apparently, and in a fated moment, an id Software helper pulled the velvet barrier aside and asked if my coworker and I wanted to play.
Here’s my secret: I’ve never played a shooter on PC. I don’t even own a PC. I’m a console guy, born and bred; and that’s a pretty literal statement – I owe it to my siblings’ decrepit NES for introducing me to the world of video games. Thankfully, id was kind enough to hook up Xbox One controllers to their demo stations in addition to a key and mouse setup (I’m happy to report I was far from the only scrub to opt for the gamepad).
I can’t quite detail to you what occurred over the next five minutes in exacting details, mainly because it was fast as hell and I only really started to work out the components by the time it was over. But it felt amazing to play and, to put it finely, was a stupid amount of fun right from the get-go.
I’ve heard more than a fair share of comparisons to Call of Duty since id revealed the multiplayer, and no doubt that stems from the speed in gunplay and maneuverability, but I’d say the taste I got has a stronger Halo flavor to it. It isn’t just the wild weaponry at play – laser guns and warp pads and electric-damage splashing rounds. It’s in the standoffs that reward the fleet of foot over who fires first. It’s in the substantial benefit in sticking to your team like glue and making hard moves on the other team.
In my brief session, I caught glimpses of both modern and old FPS conventions working in tandem. Players will have to cope with the lack of regenerative health but enhanced locomotion means you’re not soaking up damage on a flat plane. You can air-hop and vault up ledges to escape (or stalk) players. The lateral design of the map we fought on allowed you to bob and weave pretty freely. Most enticingly, you could flip the score by dashing to special points on the map that periodically showed up. The first player to hit this point would transform into a canon-firing demon of Hell. Those bastards are harder to take down than a rhino and hit you about as softly. It’s Doom’s version of the juggernaut suit.
New Doom is definitely a twitch shooter, but unlike the blink-and-you’re-dead firefights prevalent in Activision’s FPS, you’ll have to pump considerably more hurt into opponents, forcing you to focus on leading and evading in order to gain an upper hand much in the same way you’d find in Bungie’s shooters. But it doesn’t feel like a mere cobbling of new shooters and dressed up in Doom art. It felt like its own beast. A quicker, smarter beast.
(But… Eh, need to see more.)