Simultaneously reviving a franchise and reinvigorating the genre it largely created, id Software’s DOOM (2016) was an absolute revelation. A follow-up to DOOM was all but assured, but given the raging success of its predecessor, DOOM Eternal carries a heavy weight of expectation upon its chiselled, battle-hardened shoulders. So does it rise to the occasion? The answer to that question is – yes. In fact, it not only rises to the occasion, it rips the occasion’s leg off and stabs it in the face with it. DOOM Eternal’s campaign is a dark, menacing and utterly brutal masterpiece from a development outfit who can seemingly do no wrong.
He had a good run
Picking up after the events of DOOM, life on Earth continues to suck. Despite Doomguy’s best efforts, demons have swamped the Earth and humans are on the brink of a rather messy extinction. From his floating Fortress of Doom in space (where else would you want to have a Fortress of Doom?), the Doom Slayer coordinates his attacks on the legions of Hell to stop them consuming the Earth completely.
For a game that on the surface seems focused on fulfilling pugilist fantasies, it was surprising when the original DOOM actually had a cohesive and interesting plot. Prepare to be surprised again, because DOOM Eternal goes a long way to deepening the lore of the world, giving us insights into the origin of the Doom Slayer himself and his penchant for ripping and tearing, as well as the nature of Hell and the role of humanity in all this shenanigans. Most of the deeper story is only gleaned from codexes strewn about the joint – which to be honest is not exactly the most elegant way of portraying a narrative – but I found myself reading them religiously nonetheless. The first half of the game is a little heavy on the obscure lore, but once the pieces all start falling into place I found myself quite enamoured with the gritty tale of power and corruption. It doesn’t quite hit the peak of its crescendo with the sublime style of its predecessor, but I walked away from DOOM Eternal’s campaign feeling like I’d achieved something, and smashed a lot of skulls in the process.
…moment-to-moment gameplay is not only about breaking bones and glorious explosions of viscera (although it is most certainly all about that), it’s also about careful on-the-fly resource management.
Josh Rizk Simulator 2020
Even if you don’t care for the story, if you simply want to punch demons until they’re nought but a red mist then DOOM Eternal has you covered. The fast-paced action returns and feels familiar, but a few new mechanics and emphasis on aerial manoeuvring inject another level of strategy into the combat. In addition to Glory Kills, where a weakened enemy can be summarily executed in brutal style for health pickups, you’re quickly reacquainted with the Chainsaw and introduced to the Flame Belch. With enough fuel for the Chainsaw you can hack a demon in twain and they’ll not only die, but spew out ammo. On the other hand, if it’s armour you need, a quick tap of a button will call forth a flamethrower that sets demons on fire and makes them spawn armour. In this way, moment-to-moment gameplay is not only about breaking bones and glorious explosions of viscera (although it is most certainly all about that), it’s also about careful on-the-fly resource management. Because all of this resource management is linked to weaponry and constantly dishing out pain to get them gains, the flow is maintained and the sense of pace never falters.
Coupled with the pace are novel movement mechanics that give an unfettered sense of freedom, pairing extremely well with the chaotic action. Double-jumping and double-dashing as well as clambering and launching off conveniently placed horizontal poles will have you swinging through the air like some Tarzanian spectre of death. If you stand still in DOOM Eternal, then death is never far away, and you’ll be making full use of the Doom Slayer’s acrobatic arsenal to get the drop on the demon hordes. Even more so than its predecessor there’s a lot of emphasis on platforming within big arena fights, as well as puzzle platforming between fights. Normally mixing an FPS with puzzle platforming is as popular as a fart in an elevator, but DOOM Eternal makes it work magnificently. While there will be a few instances where you’ll feel like you should have made a jump, or you can’t quite summon the accuracy the game demands, for the vast majority the platforming is tighter than an Imp’s skull as it’s squashed betwixt the mighty paws of the Doom Slayer.
Exploration is encouraged, as it’s by exploring the environments that you’ll unlock a whole suite of upgrades for your weapons and suit. Whether it’s tracking down weapon mods that give an alternate function to your guns (most have two unlockable mods), finding secret encounters that give you more upgrade tokens, or finding runes which give you powerful abilities like slowing down time during alternate fire mode (this one is a godsend), there’s always a good incentive to poke around the expansive levels. I did feel like the allure of the multifarious upgrades did dwindle somewhat about two thirds of the way through once I’d got my arsenal upgraded to suit my style and strategies, but even if I’d partially lost the taste for the carrot on the stick, I enjoyed hunting down as many secrets as I could find.
Textures are detailed and rich, enemy model details are otherworldy, animations are slicker than an oil spill on a highway made out of Teflon-coated jelly, and the lighting may as well have been done by God himself
In relation to the game’s RPG mechanics, I do feel like DOOM Eternal is a much harder game than its predecessor. Even for an experienced player, the default difficulty (Hurt Me Plenty) offers some beefy challenges by virtue of the sheer number of demons it throws at you and the combination of different demon types. I found that it was more enjoyable to upgrade my arsenal and get a decent grasp on enemy types on the default difficulty before jumping into the harder Ultra Violence difficulty. There are of course higher difficulties than that still, but I’ll leave that to the masochists. One thing I did think was slightly odd for a game that’s quite difficult by design was its insistence on handholding in how to approach combat. It is always explained exactly how to take down a new enemy type or even boss, including exploitable weak spots and appropriate weaponry, which takes some of the fun of discovering new tactics on your own. Also, while enemies are mostly an absolute blast to rend limb from limb, the Marauder and Archvile enemies are pushing the friendship. Both are bullet sponges with fairly specific and annoying mechanics, and whenever they appeared the jazz music stopped and the good times soon after.
On the topic of bullets, the guns continue to be awesome. While they’re mostly revamped versions of old favourites, new weapons like the Ballista (which is essentially an explosive energy-based crossbow) and the cryo grenade (which freezes enemies and can give a precious few seconds in battle) fit in nicely. The star of the show is most definitely the iconic Super Shotgun, which now comes with a nasty little attachment called a Meathook. This attachment allows you to easily latch onto just about any enemy and propel yourself towards them before quickly unloading two large shotgun shells in their face hole, and you can incorporate it into your platforming repertoire as it’s got quite a decent range. Upgrade it and you can also set enemies on fire with it so they give you armour shards. Magic.
Jesus Christ this game is beautiful
I still reckon it’s flat
While it ought to come as little surprise, DOOM Eternal is a technical masterpiece. Running on their updated proprietary idTech 7 engine, this is quite possibly one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. Textures are detailed and rich, enemy model details are otherworldy, animations are slicker than an oil spill on a highway made out of Teflon-coated jelly, and the lighting may as well have been done by God himself; it’s just that bloody good. Despite the fact that there is an almost always an extreme amount of action and detail on screen, on Xbox One X the game never dipped below a buttery 60 frames per second, and load screens are also lightning fast. How this is at all possible is unclear, perhaps the devs are tapping into some sort of necromantic power of their own, but the time they took to delay the game and polish the experience was obviously very well spent. This is how games should run at release.
While the single player campaign is most certainly worth the price of admission alone, DOOM Eternal features a 2 v 1 asymmetric multiplayer portion that tries and add some legs to the title. But while it’s admirable in its novel premise and certainly provides moments of fun, it’s not really engaging or varied enough to make it a serious contender in the online space. Essentially you have the option of playing as a variety of demons, who along with another demon must take down the Doom Slayer (who is controlled by another player). The first to win three rounds by eradicating both the demons or the Slayer, wins the match. It’s a simple setup that actually manages to be fairly balanced, but once you’ve played for a few hours it’s likely you’ll have seen the vast majority of what it has to offer.
Between the demons and the Slayer, the latter is far more enjoyable to play as, if slightly more difficult to snag a win with. Slayers have the full suite of weapons and mods from the single player, as well as enhanced speed and mobility. They can also use teleporters and jump pads, and just as with the single player, keeping on the move is your best option. The same resource management is paramount here too, and you’ll want to be using every skill in the book to restore health, armour and ammo. On the other side of the field, demons are significantly slower and only have a limited pool of abilities, and for this reason they can feel a little humdrum after a few rounds.
Victory is mine
Fulfil your fantasy of being the annoying Marauder
Match quality is fairly variable, and some matches suffer from hefty lag spikes which make it difficult to adjust in such a fast-paced game. Progression is also not made as exciting as it could be, and unlocking skins, victory poses and the like is a fairly slow and laborious process. Between the grindy progression and singular mode, it’s hard to see this one surviving long. One wonders if simply refining the original’s multiplayer offering may have been the wiser choice.
If 2016’s DOOM was a celebration of primal violence, DOOM Eternal is a day-long parade in its honour. It’s faster, more sinister and just meaner than the original in every way, building upon an extremely strong foundation with meaningful gameplay additions that manage to add depth without getting in the way of the core action. It raises the bar in terms of visual fidelity and technical performance and even manages to flesh out some fairly decent lore when it could probably have just rested on its strengths as a DIY demon surgeon simulator. Multiplayer is fairly forgettable, but its existence does nothing to harm the phenomenal campaign. It may have some stiff competition this year, but it’s certainly got a fighting chance for 2020’s GOTY.
Reviewed on Xbox One // Review code supplied by publisher