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Doom: Heaven in Hell

Our favorite medium has felt some growing pains in the last couple of decades. Video gaming is evolving not just as a recreational pastime, but as a storytelling format. Regardless of who you talk to: developers, journalists, gamers, etc. -- it's clear that games largely aspire to be more than what they're viewed as: escapism, mindless entertainment, and other unfair labels. But it's easy to argue that perhaps games are trying too hard to be recognized as high-minded intellectual fare, the future of literature. If you're of that opinion, Doom is going to sound like the perfect balm. It's a big, loud, dumb shooter with a handful of modern trappings, and the world needs more of those. After spending an unreasonable amount of time with the closed multiplayer alpha and the recent beta, I'm ready to tell you why you need to mark off May 13 on your calendar.

Old-school. That's how to define Doom's gameplay. It's fast-paced combat with a sneering disregard for realism and a barely-veiled contempt for some of the modern shooter genre's most dubious characteristics. It's a speedy, gory fragfest that's only concerned with unleashing five-minute floods of instant gratification on its players.

Game modes available in the beta don't really push the limit in terms of innovation, but considering id Software's pedigree, they could never create anything new again and still go down in history as one of the pioneers of the genre. Team Deathmatch speaks for itself, while Warpath is a King-of-the-Hill variant in which the hill is in constant motion. The two beta maps, Infernal and Heatwave, are fantastic showcases not only for the gameplay, but for id Tech 6. The Union Aerospace Corporation mining facility that hosts Heatwave and the demonic hellscape of Infernal provide multiple opportunities to get tricky with your opponents, but you can meet a molten end in both should your footwork betray you.

I mentioned that Doom's gameplay can be described as "old-school." By that, I mean there's no regenerating health. You've got Health and Armor, both of which can be restored using special pick-up items or reduced by any of the game's horrifying arsenal of sadistic futuristic weaponry. On top of that, power-ups and power weapons occasionally appear to make things interesting.

The two power-ups featured in the beta, Haste and Quad Damage, improve your speed and damage output considerably, and any enemy marines in the area will know to avoid you by the characteristic color-coded glow that gives away the fact that you're running with an advantage.

One power weapon makes an appearance in the beta, and it's a doozy. The Gauss cannon will vaporize almost everything with a single well-placed shot, but using its alternate fire will trigger a vision mode that tracks enemies through walls. Watching a hapless enemy marine walk directly into your line of fire from the relative safety of another corridor is hilarious. Turning their bodies into a fine red mist a split second later is even funnier.

Then there's the Demon Rune. When its arrival is announced, its spawn point appears and a five second countdown begins. The instant that timer runs out, the Rune goes live and the first person to touch it is transformed into an extremely powerful demonic entity. Kill streaks inevitably ensue, as the demon is capable of one-shotting nearly every living thing in range and boasts an incredibly large pool of hit points. Though the finished product will allow you to choose from a stable of hellbeasts, Doom's alpha and beta only feature one demon: the Revenant. This skeletal horror not only splatters everything with its rocket launchers, but is able to take to the air with its jetpack.

I could say so much more about Doom, but it's best saved until the game is finally in our hands. It promises to be a complete package, with a lengthy campaign, a fully-loaded multiplayer suite, and SnapMap, a platform with which users can create their own content, from maps to modes and beyond. Considering the quality of what I've personally played, I'm convinced that it's bound to make a big, molten splash when it hits stores next month. Check back for a full review.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos
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