Doom and Quake set a standard for first-person weaponry that still stands. The guns id created in the ‘90s are still templates for what we’re shooting today, down to straight-up homages like Team Fortress 2’s Quake rocket launcher skin.
All that rich history makes the new Doom something like an adolescent that has to live up to the fame of his family. We’ve already dug into how we feel about the beta, but a game as unapologetically retro as Doom’s multiplayer deserves a closer look at its guns. Here’s how I think they handle.
"Who ordered the remote-detonating rockets? Anyone? ...I'll just leave them here."
Manual rocket detonation is an arbitrary thing to add to a classic gun, but it's not entirely unwelcome. Being able to right-click to explode my rockets slightly discourages me from going for direct hits, but it also makes it easier to clip someone with splash damage around hard corners. This is the only context that I like the addition of floating, Diablo-style midair damage numbers to Doom—knowing exactly how much damage you dropped on someone helps you know how accurate your follow-up shot needs to be, or whether you can switch to another gun to finish someone.
I liked the little cat-and-mouse games that crept up as a result of the new detonation mechanic, but mostly I wish the personality of the weapon was as fun as its functionality. (You'll hear this a lot as you scroll down this page.) I don’t like the launcher's viewmodel at all. The ammo loadout does nothing for me, especially considering the capacity is plentiful, and the mini-display makes the whole device look chunkier, almost assault rifle-like. A gun with decades of meaningful FPS history deserves a more reverent sculpt.
Also: Doom’s multiplayer embraces the arena shooter roots of the franchise, so it’s odd that you can’t rocket jump with this FPS staple. Although ceilings are low in many of the areas across Doom’s two beta maps, the combat speed and the elevated placement of some pickups (where grandma keeps the quad damage), Doom could definitely accommodate this classic technique of self-harming propulsion.
This one walks the line between generic and interesting. I like the alt fire more than the primary; the right-click throws a ball of plasma out that splashes onto the floor, damaging anyone who steps in it. I love throwing this AOE behind someone in a narrow corridor, then pressuring them into a backpedal to make them eat some unexpected damage. Left-click kicks out a weirdly straight stream of energy balls, testing of how long you can lead a moving target at range. But there’s no kick animation on the viewmodel, which gives the underwhelming feeling that you're sending out weightless bubbles.
This is the only Doom gun (in the beta, at least) that needs to be reloaded. It squanders its opportunity to express itself. The original Doom did more with 10 frames (firing and reload, I counted) than id accomplishes here. Compared to its ancestor, there’s no gratifying snap-click or equivalent when swapping shells—you don’t get a sense that cartridges are being ejected and slammed back in, you don’t hear those plastic and metal details interfacing with the barrels as you did in 1993.
Sniping feels alright in Doom, although the approach to balancing it is a little heavy-handed: when you’re dialed into a scope, you emit a solid red laser across the map, inviting anyone around you to attack from the side, above, or below. I do like that being in-scope doesn't weigh your movement down much, freeing you up to chase while charging up Doom's TF2-style long gun. Like almost every other weapon on the roster, though, the look and sound of the rifle doesn’t release any special brain chemicals.
Heavy Assault Rifle
Yikes. Let’s start with the good, I guess. I like how bulky the viewmodel is—this isn’t simply a genero-M16. It almost looks like something a Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine might lug around. Its recoil behavior is totally unsatisfying, though. It shoots pretty darn straight for a gun with “heavy” in the name—in a context like Doom I’d rather have something that’s messy, rugged and destructive. And why does it have a scope?
It’s an instakilling railgun—with some splash damage, even—that can activate a wallhack on right-click. The Gauss is a ticket to at least four guaranteed kills, granting its user a moment of Instagibbing. The Gauss fits in well as a high-pressure pickup—it’s powerful, it comes with great responsibility, and it reminds you of that wonderful Unreal Tournament mode.
Further blurring the lines between Doom and Quake, this little hitscan tesla coil can zap anyone at a distance. Its alt-fire makes a significant tweak on this classic, letting you electrocute the ground near one or more enemies to deal half damage—I found it almost too easy to mop up fleeing targets with this. Again, when your source material is inherently absurd (shooting lightning bolts at space marines in hell), why not go for a visual design that's more over-the-top, something like... Wolfenstein '09's Tesla Gun, for instance?
One of Doom’s coolest gimmicks, the Static Gun charges up as you move, and loses power if you stand still. It's a great premise: if you miss your opening shot, you either have to switch to your other weapon or you have to play defense in order to create offense. It’s tense to be in a situation where you want to shoot, but you haven’t charged the gun enough to be able to deal a deathblow, so you strafe and dodge a bit more, hoping your crosshairs will still be in the right spot once the gun’s ready. It’s shame, then, that the Static Gun is so joyless to fire, emitting no interesting particle effect or sound to match its creative mechanics. The sound of crackling electricity might've been all this thing needed to give it a stronger spirit.
If you want to get pedantic, okay, a demon that you inhabit temporarily is not technically a gun. Flying around and racking up easy kills as the Revenant, one of seemingly several playable powerups in Doom's multiplayer, is gratifying enough. You hover, you fire shoulder rockets that come close to instakilling everything you encounter, but you have to be mindful that dying as the Revenant gives nearby enemies the opportunity to take control. I need to see more of these demonic powerups on more maps to develop a more solid thought on them, but I generally like the way they fashion something mobile and dangerous to evade, chase, or rally around. If I'm looking for reasons to be disappointed, it's that this thing doesn't take the opportunity to be more over-the-top satanic: you're a skeleton with a jetpack, but you fire conventional rockets? The Devil is a weird arms dealer indeed.