Release: March 20, 2020
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Reviewed on: Xbox One X
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Google Stadia
Note: this review covers only the campaign mode of Doom Eternal.
Hell on Earth
One of my favourite games of the last decade, the 2016 reboot of Doom was a delicious cocktail of high-speed first-person shooting, gory melee executions, striking humor, and technical and audiovisual brilliance. The soundtrack alone was more memorable than some entire games I’ve played over the years. To top it all off, the game also featured a good amount of exploration and upgradable gear, keeping me hooked for hours on end.
If you loved that game as much as I did, then you are in for a treat with the sequel. Indeed, Doom Eternal adds more flavour to the cocktail with fresh movement and platforming mechanics as well as some cracking new abilities and equipment to slay demons with. There’s also an even bigger emphasis on exploration than before, with plenty of secret areas to find and collectibles to hunt.
Following the events of Doom, the game begins with Earth being annihilated by the forces of Hell. Naturally, the ensuing story revolves around the Doom Slayer saving humanity from the invading demons.
Set partly on Earth and partly on other worlds, Doom Eternal makes great strides in building up the lore and widening the narrative scope of the series. You will meet new characters, kill demons on new planets, and learn more about the Doom Slayer’s past. Much of the story’s detail is only provided in codex entries, though, and none of this diminishes the game’s focus on action.
Rip and Tear!
The meat of Doom Eternal is of course its gameplay, and boy, does it deliver. The developers have managed to pull off the trick that defines most great sequels — refining an already fantastic game to perfection without tampering too much with its core essence. Thus, the gameplay experience is largely the same as before, only with a few tweaks and additions that take it to the next level.
As the Doom Slayer, you still move around with great speed, shooting demons in the face with various firearms and tearing them in half with your melee strikes, all the while jumping up and down floors and platforms, scouring the environment for resources, and dodging enemy attacks. New additions to Doom Eternal that further increase the speed of the game include the Dash skill, which gives you a quick thruster boost in any direction, and your ability to fly across battlefields by swinging from monkey bars.
What makes the combat so thrilling is that you must keep moving to survive, and the game is always pushing you to get up close and personal with your foes. For instance, you may find yourself on the brink of death, your only option being to gain some health by performing a melee finishing move, or “glory kill,” on a staggered enemy. Or perhaps you run out of bullets and must use your chainsaw to make a demon explode in a rain of blood and ammo packs. In Doom Eternal, you must also make good use of the Flame Belch, a shoulder-mounted flamethrower that sets demons ablaze and makes them drop armor pick-ups when damaged.
All of these mechanics combined make for an incredibly fast-paced, challenging, and satisfying combat loop that always keeps you on your toes. But, of course, they’re only half the story.
A Gun for Every Occasion
Bringing a great deal of variety and tactical depth to the firefights is the diversity of enemies you’ll face and the versatile weaponry you must use to defeat them. Each of the more powerful demon types have their own specific weaknesses, which the game handily points out to you on your first encounter. Some can be softened up quickly by destroying their guns, for example, while others are especially vulnerable to certain weapons or attacks.
As in Doom, you can upgrade most of your weapons with up to two different mods, which give you access to powerful alternate fire modes. For instance, you can make your Heavy Cannon (i.e. assault rifle) fire a barrage of Micro Missiles, or quadruple your Chaingun’s damage output by turning it into a Mobile Turret.
The weapon mods themselves can also be improved by spending Weapon Points, which are awarded to you for completing challenges and combat encounters. After buying all the upgrades for a particular mod, you are finally presented with a Mastery Challenge requiring you to use the mod in some specific way to unlock its most powerful form. Focusing on completing these challenges amidst the game’s chaotic combat is a fantastic way to spice things up and push yourself even further.
Your arsenal in Doom Eternal is mostly the same as it was in Doom, though with a few welcome additions. For example, the fan favourite, double-barreled Super Shotgun now comes considerably enhanced. With it equipped, you can now press your secondary fire button to grapple an enemy with the Meat Hook, sending you flying towards them. This can be used both as a fun way to navigate the battlefield and to score some magnificent kills on the grappled enemies.
In addition to the Meat Hook and the above-mentioned Flame Belch, your attack repertoire is also expanded by the Ice Bomb, which replaces the Siphon Grenade from the previous game, as well as some powerful new melee attacks. Also, the rather useless Pistol has now been completely removed, meaning you will start the game with a Combat Shotgun in hand.
Upgrades and Collectibles Abound
While perhaps most crucial, weapon upgrades are not the only way to enhance your Doom Slayer. You can also equip Runes and spend Praetor Suit Points to improve your combat efficiency in various ways. Sentinel Crystals, for their part, give you a permanent upgrade to your maximum health, armor, or ammo count. According to your choices, you will also unlock a different equipment perk with every two of these upgrades.
Of course, to use all these items, you have to acquire them first. Thoroughly exploring each level is therefore vitally important in Doom Eternal. The levels are riddled with secret areas containing all sorts of collectibles, some with gameplay effects and others without. One especially fun collectible type are the music tracks from classic id Software games, which can be played in the background on board your spaceship between missions. However, perhaps the most noteworthy of the new collectible items are the 1UPs, or extra lives, which will instantly revive you upon death as long as you have at least one left.
Most levels now also contain a Slayer Gate — a special combat challenge room unlocked by a hidden key. Extremely intense and quite lengthy to boot, the Slayer Gates will fill you with adrenaline like little else. Entering these challenges is always a rush, because you do so at the risk of permanently losing any extra lives you may have accumulated.
To find all this stuff, you must utilize not only your map and your eyes but also your enhanced platforming skills. Indeed, some acrobatic feats are often required in the game, both to reach secret areas and to progress through missions. Thankfully, chaining your double jumps, dashes, swings, and wall-climbs is always engaging and provides a nice change of pace from all the shooting.
One for the Books
Coming out of left field with its modernized old-school take on the genre, the 2016 Doom reboot was one of the best shooters of the 2010s. Following such a successful return for the franchise, the inevitable sequel had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Doom Eternal does not disappoint, but instead sets the bar even higher for the series going forward.
Of course, no review is complete without a mention of negatives, and even in the case of Doom Eternal, there are a couple.
The first thing that slightly deflated my enjoyment of the game were the Marauders, a new pain-in-the-ass enemy type I couldn’t quite get comfortable fighting. My success against these guys seemed to be mostly a matter of luck — sometimes they went down surprisingly fast, sometimes they took ages (and some precious extra lives) to eliminate. Either way, their appearance was always a buzzkill for me.
The other negative was feeling somewhat fatigued towards the end of my first playthrough. I felt the game’s final hours were prolonged just a little too far, with increasingly ridiculous fights being thrown at you with no respite. Sure, I could have paced myself better towards the end, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the game made me feel this way. I suppose I would have hoped for the last levels to feel more empowering rather than a constant struggle for my life. While I always enjoy a good test of skill and an intense fight in these games, too much of even a good thing is simply too much.
Despite these small grievances, Doom Eternal is a fantastic sequel and thoroughly kick-ass game, and one that I will play many times over in the years to come. In fact, after a day’s pause, I’m already on my second run and ready to face my demons again.
Lastly, I just want to voice my appreciation for Mick Gordon, the composer behind the amazing soundtracks of both Doom and Doom Eternal. Punchy, crunchy, and hellishly intense, the music in these games makes up an absolutely essential part of the experience. So, kudos to you, mister Gordon, and may you compose yet many more killer soundtracks for us all to enjoy!
All images sourced from: www.igdb.com/games/doom-eternal/presskit