He jumps – literally jumps – for joy, bouncing up and down with folded hands and wide eyes. This pogo stick from a guy next to me in line is clearly excited about the Demise multiplayer demo at this year’s QuakeCon. And from the looks of the dozens of other fans ahead of us with mice and controllers already in hand, he’s not alone.
With over a decade since the last major Demise releasing in 2004, this franchise reboot should raise quite a high bar of fan expectations. Based on some hands-on time with the game at QuakeCon this week, fans probably won’t be disappointed – and neither will newcomers. The demo shows off a game that provides an insight into what it means to combine the memories of yesteryear with modern sensibilities.
Basically the first thing you do in the demo is set up your loadouts, choose one of three presets (Assault, Sniper or Ambusher) or customize your own presets with two weapons and a loadout. Your armaments are mostly familiar retro – rocket launchers, plasma cannons and of course Super Shotguns – but you also have new gear like grenades and a teleporter device. This last addition is pretty good: drop it and hit the gear button again to return to that spot, getting you out of a sticky situation and potentially telefragging an unsuspecting enemy to boot. While you can change loadouts between deaths, it probably won’t be long before you realize you want missiles forever.
Speed, speed and more speed
The demo featured a single multiplayer map, called Heatwave, but it’s a cramped, workable location for the six-on-six setup. It’s a pure team deathmatch set in a hellish foundry filled with lava pits, jump boosters, and a slew of multi-layered, overlapping catwalks. The area is littered with opportunities to both drop the opposing team and smack your forehead after jumping into the fire.
It feels very much like one doom 3 multiplayer map, but it moves at the much faster speed of doom 2. It plays much faster than I expected, thanks in part to a compact mix of open spaces and cramped hallways. The setting gives a very special touch to the interpersonal encounters, fraught fights that lasted relatively long by modern shooter standards.
In other shooters, you can be killed instantly by a sniper shot from across the map or met with an undignified death from behind. In the new Demisethose situations were more often the opening move in a short five-second chess game, albeit with rockets instead of rooks.
The movement system is more robust than you might remember if you haven’t played a “classic” id shooter in a while. The game felt like one Earthquake match removed several dozen notches. Twitch shooting skills can save you, but making yourself harder to hit by moving like a caffeinated hummingbird is key to success. The focus on constant movement fills combat with a great sense of scope, knowing that both you and your errant shots fill the space.
The new traversal scheme, which allows grabbing edges and climbing to a higher surface, actually opened me up to an incredible sequence of events. Facing another player, I hopped around firing missiles until I accidentally crawled up a catwalk, grabbed a bar and pulled myself up until I was 20 feet above. I saw my crimson foe below, apparently confused by my disappearance, and I brought him to a most delightful end.
What is a revant doing here?
Then I was killed by an avenger. Well, a vengeful human. The new Demise contains a new demon rune item, which occasionally appears on the map with much fanfare. Whoever wins the mad battle to get to the rune will be the first to transform into the aforementioned revenant, a giant beastly thing with dual rocket launchers, a bucket of health, and a jetpack.
It’s a lot of fun to play as a revenant, but not so much fun to fight against it. In two rounds, my teams had vastly different ideas about how to deal with the new opposition. When we left the revant to his own devices and only got involved when we crossed paths, it felt like a welcome wrinkle in the game. When we maniacally tried to track him down, it felt like a slow speed bump in an otherwise vibrant and frenetic structure.
A vindictive insertion into our bloody interpersonal proceedings felt like an unpleasant and almost insurmountable appearance. Killing a vengeful player isn’t an impossible task, but it’s harder and different enough to feel somewhat disgusting.
Weapon pickups (and quad damage and invisibility) felt much more familiar. The six weapons available for loadouts are serviceable, but things like the gauss rifle are only scattered around the map for players to grab in the middle of all the action. While the choke points created around it and the demon rune acquisitions are similar, the close quarters combat over gun pick ups were generally more enjoyable.
Aside from cyber demons, the two Demise matches I tried quickly solidified into a slick six minutes of explosions and emancipated body parts. The only other negatives were a few unfortunate lonesome periods where my teammates resorted to asking, “Where is everyone?” about the headphones. I wondered the same thing when I found myself wandering for over 20 whole seconds without even seeing them.
Perhaps Id Software has yet to find the right mix of old school mechanical speed and new school engagement pace to keep everyone together. Anyway, the breaks were few and short enough not to get in the way of the rest of the excitement. This is a promising start for a very storied franchise. Until now, Demise is fast, exciting and above all fun.
Doom will be released in Spring 2016 on PC, PS4, and Xbox On.