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Doom's multiplayer mixes modern and retro, but it's still the fastest game in town

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Doom's multiplayer mode, which is publicly playable for the first time at QuakeCon 2015, is lightning fast — just not in the way that you might be used to.

My first round of the game's competitive mode was — appropriately enough — a 6-minute 6-on-6 Deathmatch, although time felt like it elapsed far faster than that. The QuakeCon demo offers a fairly small sliver of the game's multiplayer component. But it gave an idea of what Doom's doing to set itself apart from the modern shooter herd, and how it's been adapted from its decades-old roots.

Before the match even began, each player was able to customize their loadouts, equipping two weapons from a list of six — mostly mainstays like the Plasma Gun, Rocket Launcher and Super Shotgun. Loadouts also included an Equipment slot, though only two options, a Frag Grenade and Personal Teleporter, were available there. Three preset loadouts were also available, and players were able to swap between them at will after each death.

Not once during my match was I one-shot-killed by an enemy that I couldn't see.

It was surprising having the option to put together loadouts for a Doom title, but there's no less emphasis on controlling the arena and scavenging for more powerful fare — not to mention health, armor and ammunition. For example, the Gauss Rifle, a railgun capable of projecting a long, straight line of destruction, could only be found mid-match. Teams that play too defensively will miss out on the game's most powerful weapons altogether.

Every consideration for Doom's multiplayer mode — and assumedly its single-player offering as well — seem geared to keep the player moving as fast as possible as much as possible. Downed enemies drop health and armor, forcing you to potentially expose yourself in order to recover after taking a few hits. One weapon, selectable in your loadout, actually becomes more powerful the more you move around, which couldn't be more on-the-nose.

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I expected to get completely shut out during my Deathmatch session, afraid that Doom would move way too fast for my modern sensibilities. Only after playing it do I realize that all shooters are, in their own way, pretty fast — Doom just has a different interpretation of speed.

Case in point: Not once during my match was I one-shot-killed by an enemy that I couldn't see. When an enemy and I turned a corner and saw each other, the encounter wasn't given to the first player to pull the trigger; it went to the most mobile, craftiest player. Soldiers on Doom's battlefield move faster than the soldiers on other shooters' battlefield, but in a lot of ways, they're a lot more survivable.

"I think it's an important part of a game, that level of personalization, customization, the carrot on the stick."

The only caveat to that pacing was the appearance of the Demon Rune, a power-up that transforms you into twin rocket-launching, jetpack-strapped Cyberdemon. The Demon Rune would spawn at certain intervals during the match, giving both teams a few seconds to get to its spawn point and pick it up first. It would behoove you to get there first — the Cyberdemon is brutal, carrying twice the health of a normal soldier and weapons capable of gibbing enemies on sight.

It felt a bit gimmicky — I nabbed an impressive 21 kills thanks to my hoarding of the Rune almost every time it popped up — but it added a welcome bottleneck to the fight. The Cyberdemon can certainly be taken down with concentrated fire, but the message became clear really quickly: When the Demon Rune is spawning, it's all hands on deck.

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I really enjoyed my match (despite the fact that my team got steamrolled, 61 to 32), but it felt like a small piece of a more complete whole. According to executive producer Marty Stratton, there's much more to the multiplayer experience of Doom — most of which hasn't been announced yet.

"There's a lot of stuff, actually, that we're not going into too much detail about yet, because we have a while before we're coming out," Stratton said. "There's whole components of multiplayer that aren't represented in this pre-alpha here at QuakeCon."

I'm much more suited to more modern shooters than I ever was with the classics, but I still managed to hold my own. Stratton said that despite the game's classical approach, it shouldn't ostracize the Call of Duty and Battlefield crowd, either.

"For a player who's only played Call of Duty — I hope they pick it up, and have a fresh, exhilarating experience that maybe they haven't had before," Stratton said. "If it's someone who's only played Doom and Quake, I think they'll also feel like this is something familiar, but there's a lot — some of which we're not talking about yet — there's a lot of stuff there that makes it even more addictive, or has new components they haven't seen in a game from us before."

Those components will include some form of progression element for Doom's multiplayer modes, although Stratton didn't go into detail about what kind of unlocks players can shoot for.

"...I think people will be excited about it when they get a sense of what we're doing."

"I think it's an important part of a game, that level of personalization, customization, the carrot on the stick," Stratton said. "There's lots of ways to do it. We've approached it in a way that works with our gameplay, without necessarily saying 'Oh, it has to be like Quake, or it has to be like Call of Duty.' When you find the gameplay you want, you build those types of systems around supporting that in whatever way is necessary.

"It all kind of gets tossed into a big pot of soup, and you're saying, 'Does it feel fun, or does it not feel fun,' and then you make your decisions along those lines," Stratton added. "But I think it'll be an important part of Doom, and I think people will be excited about it when they get a sense of what we're doing."

E3 2015: Doom multiplayer