There’s a moment roughly 3/4 of the way through the main campaign in DOOM Eternal in which the Doom Slayer arrives on the UAC base on Phobos, one of Mars’ many moons. A massive battle between remaining UAC forces and Hell’s army raging, the Slayer obliterates the demonic welcoming party before proceeding to the next objective – the BFG 10000, an enormous cannon capable of punching a gaping hole in the neighboring red planet. DoomGuy reaches the superweapon and drops into the operator seat before grabbing the control stick and mashing the trigger button. Your A.I. assistant VEGA politely informs our silent-but-deadly protagonist it will take just a moment to disable the security protocols…to no avail as patience is clearly not one of DoomGuy’s personality traits, of which there are…few. A humorous moment of self-awareness by id Software and Bethesda, showing even a game as awesomely badass as DOOM Eternal doesn’t take itself 100% seriously and understands its core audience. After the return-to-form success of DOOM in 2016, id Software followed up with DOOM Eternal – a game that very much incorporates what old AND new fans love about the beloved franchise but also tries to expand on their previous effort.
DOOM Eternal was released on March 20, the very same day as Animal Crossing: New Horizons in what was a month filled with quality games such as Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Nioh 2, Half-Life: Alyx, Persona 5 Royal, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and DOOM Eternal. In what was otherwise a very
shitty dour March 2020, gaming seemed to be the sole bright spot as many yearned for an escape from the bleak headlines around the world. I purchased both Animal Crossing and DOOM and spent the weekend enjoying two releases I had been waiting anxiously for since they were announced(and then delayed). I recently wrapped up my first playthrough of DOOM Eternal’s main campaign and can confidently say it was worth the wait, being the violent “yin” to Animal Crossing’s cutesy “yang”.
The story in DOOM Eternal takes place shortly after the end of DOOM(2016) and Earth has been overrun by legions of demons. The Doom Slayer emerges from Hell to locate the Hell Priests and then to reach the Khan Maykr, the otherworldly being responsible for Earth’s decimation as human souls are being harvested and converted to Argent energy. DOOM Eternal makes an effort to provide more of a narrative than the previous game with things like full-fledged cutscenes assisting to flesh out the story; I felt this was the weakest point of the game. The developers at id Software clearly wanted to expand on the story and lore of the franchise, however the majority of the lore and background story, such as greater details about the history and origins of the Khan Maykr’s agreement with the forces of Hell. There’s also numerous codex entries and recordings theorizing just what exactly is the Doom Slayer’s role in everything – merely a super space marine or a god-like entity of destruction? Both? Any of the ongoing narrative in the game is provided to the player through the likes of VEGA, Dr. Samuel Hayden, or the Hell Priests as they profess their grand scheme to you before being swiftly eviscerated. I mostly enjoyed the story found within DOOM Eternal, it felt similar to the Halo games where there is a general overarching storyline, but developers were careful to not let it “get in the way” of gameplay. I’d venture to say the majority of DOOM fans are not generally playing the games with much emphasis placed on narrative. The way DOOM Eternal’s storyline was fine with providing only what information was necessary at the time by just pointing out the next direction with countless codex entries providing further backstory to those who care enough to hear it.
DOOM Eternal is hands-down the best playing shooter I have played in quite some time, possibly this console generation. The movement is so smooth and fluid as the Doom Slayer seems to glide from one area to the next, quickly and swiftly annihilating entire areas full of demons. Running into an open area is usually an indicator things are about to get crazy. Before you know it, the epic Mick Gordon soundtrack takes off and you’re almost immediately facing off against a small army of demons. Armed with your trusty shotgun, DoomGuy brutally unleashes hell on anything standing in the way. The shooting feels wonderful with striking a nice balance in terms of “weight” – between the feeling of shooting paper enemies or bullet-sponges.
Throughout the game you pick up more weapons to add to your walking armory such as your plasma rifle, rocket launcher or chain gun. Of course, you will inevitably get your hands on the BFG 9000, ripped from inside the giant BFG 10000 cannon after DoomGuy blasts a hole into Mars with it. DOOM Eternal also brings back a few weapons from previous games like the Super Shotgun from DOOM II or the Crucible from DOOM(2016) which is usable this time around. The energy blade of the Crucible is found late in the game, but is pretty epic as you quickly slice and dice your way through demons of all sizes, including the massive Tyrant. It’s almost comical as you slice enemies like Cacodemons or Arachnotrons in half – a delicious act of revenge for making the early stages of the game hell(pun intended). The Super Shotgun has to be my favorite weapon in DOOM Eternal, not surprising as I’ve always tended to be the close-range “shotgun and magnum” player in FPS games. The addition of the deadly Meat Hook in front of the Super Shotgun is loads of fun and acts as your secondary fire function and will act as a grappling hook to close the distance between you and enemies. One of the most exhilirating feelings in the game was targeting an enemy above you, sending yourself hurtling at your victim and in the same motion quickly fire the weapon as you get close enough, turning the demon into bloody chunks.
The glory kills first implemented in DOOM(2016) make a full return in DOOM Eternal, this time with even greater variety of over-the-top gruesome animations than before as the Doom Slayer performs anything from delivering a punch completely removing an enemies head from its body or dismembering demons with the DoomBlade attached to your left arm. Some of the glory kills get more elaborate to the point of almost being comical as you skewer a Mancubus’ heart and shove it down its throat before exploding or lunging at a Cacodemon and ripping its sole eyeball out as if plucked from a rubber Halloween mask, complete with “pop” sound….awesome.
Everything that DOOM fans old and new loved about the previous game is present in DOOM Eternal, but there’s also new mechanics and features added to the game, rather than being content to simply give players the same game with a slight variation. The game features an added emphasis on platforming….that’s right, as you make your way across demon-infested Earth and other planets you will notice many areas are only accessible by jumping towards a paticular section of walls(indicated by the horizontal pattern of lines on the surface) and climb upwards. In addition to the climbable surfaces, there are broken bars protruding from destroyed structures that act as monkey bars for DoomGuy to swing from; these are generally “Naughty Dog yellow” indicating an object is able to be interacted with. A large portion of DOOM Eternal is predicated on platforming elements as they represent not only a means of traversal, but also added mobility during intense battles with legions of demons. As in the previous DOOM, standing still is the surest way to die and constantly staying on the move is crucial. There’s not always a lot of room to simply run around enemies as many battle arenas are multi-leveled and requires some quick shifting: shoot>swing across a gap>flame belch to pick up armor>shoot some more>glory kill and repeat.
The Doom Slayer is also armed with a shoulder-mounted grenade launcher that fires both standard frag grenades, but also capable of firing ice grenades that instantly freeze enemies for a short period of time. This is especially helpful when you encounter hordes of demons(which you WILL) and represent another move in your repetoire you must utilize if you wish to survive. There’s also the Flame Belch, which releases a short burst of fire doing damage to enemies over a short time. The weapon mastery perk for the Super Shotgun is the added fire damage done to enemies when using the Meat Hook. Ice grenades, flamethrowers, grappling hooks….more awesome.
The gameplay in DOOM(2016) forced the player to always be moving forward, becoming the walking incarnation of destruction whose sole means of communication is violence. There are health and ammo pickups scattered throughout the game, but in order to sustain a continuous wave of ultra-violence you will need a near-constant stream of health, ammo, and shield pickups. With every enemy you obliterate, they will drop a small amount of health, with the reward for a glory kill being a larger bounty of health pickups. Whip out your trusty chainsaw and ammo pickups will rain from the eviscerated demons, any fire damage from the Flame Belch or Meat Hook yields extra armor. DOOM Eternal has an even greater difficulty and learning curve over its predecessor; you will need to be constantly interchanging between glory kills for health, chainsaw mutilation for ammo, and setting enemies ablaze to pick up armor. As stated before, stopping your momentum during a vicious firefight will all but guarantee your demise, always swapping between guns, grenades, and chainsaws. For me, this was the purest, most enjoyable part of playing DOOM Eternal, the game-within-the-game is to chain together your movement between demons, with glory kills for any needed health before swinging across a gap and then slamming the chainsaw into an imp below as a rainbow of ammo pickups bursts from your slaughtered similar to (ripping and)tearing open a bag of Skittles.
All of the army of demons faced in the previous game are back in full force in DOOM Eternal. Alongside the array of foes, there’s also some new additions including the Whiplash – a snake-like demon similar to the Gorgons faced in God of War. The Doom Hunter is a forminable synthetic foe which hovers around the area upon its cybornetic metal chassis casting fireballs and volleys or rockets in your direction. Most fearsome of all the enemies introduced in DOOM Eternal is the Marauder, a demon warrior with a massive energy axe that can be quickly deployed into a shield blocking anything the Doom Slayer fires at it. Marauders are also incredibly nimble as they fire projectiles at you and can only take damage when its eyes flash green a split-second before it attacks; there’s also the demon wolf it can summon to make your battle even more difficult. As with other DOOM games, enemies that you encounter as a mini-boss early in the game return as a semi-regular foe in the later stages of the game.
Overall, the difficulty in DOOM Eternal feels significantly greater than the previous game and pose quite the challenge to your reflexes. The final stage of the game finds the Doom Slayer returning to Earth to battle the gigantic Icon of Sin atop destroyed buildings as you must not only deal with the world-destroying demon, but also endless waves of every other foe you have faced thus far. You must find a way to take down the boss(es) while avoiding oncoming fire from the likes of Revenants, Cyber Mancubus, Archviles, and a couple Marauders. It is imperative you keep collecting the charge “ammo” for your Crucible blade and the occasional BFG shot if you are to have a chance of defeating the Icon of Sin.
For everything that DOOM Eternal builds upon from the 2016 soft reboot, is more always better? For everything about the DOOM series that’s over-the-top and gratuitous, there’s always been a sense of simplicity in what the games were about – point and shoot. For as many positive things I’ve heard or read about DOOM Eternal, I have come across others stating how they can’t stand the platforming sections or cut-scenes in a DOOM game. I was speaking with someone about the game who was expressing their disappointment with it, stating that they were so excited about DOOM Eternal and a follow-up to what was probably their favorite FPS of the console generation(possibly ever), only to be let down in what they had played so far – “DOOM is supposed to be about killing demons!”. DOOM(2016) was a more focused effort that condensed everything fans loved about the series into a modern FPS title, whereas Eternal is meant to expand upon that foundation rather than simply being a copy of the previous game. I certainly understand why someone may still appreciate the more condensed experience of DOOM 2016 over Eternal, as preference here is completely subjective.
I absolutely loved my experience playing through DOOM Eternal, however I have a few criticisms I had concerning the execution of some of the platforming/puzzle combinations or the fact id Software clearly wanted to include a more ambitious storyline, but relegated most of it to reading codex entries or listening to recordings. I also share the complaint of others concerning how the game forces you to keep your chainsaw busy and stay on the lookout for smaller enemies to rip through to pick up more ammo, but you will be nearing the end of a particularly tough battle only to find out your ammo is completely EMPTY. To make the situation more dire, the only remaining enemies with be larger demons such as the Arachnotron that cannot be killed simply by running at it with your chainsaw. The only way I was able to make it through situations like this was running througout the area as to avoid enemy fire until the recharge period for the grenades had finished. For every other moment where DOOM Eternal excels at swinging from one action to the next to generate pickups, moments like this feel as if the game backs you into a corner with very little room for escape. There’s also the Fortress of DOOM, a giant hub world for the Slayer that serves little other purpose than to view collectibles such as the tracks from previous games you will find scattered across levels or Sentinel batteries that can be used to unlock alternate skins for DoomGuy such as the green space marine outfit from the original 1993 game. There’s also the Ripatorium, a training area of sorts which provides a space to sharpen your demon-killing skills. I’m not generally a fan of hub-worlds, especially in FPS games, but I didn’t dislike it as much as Sanctuary 3 in Borderlands 3 or the terrible submarine hub-world in Wolfenstein 2. Fortress of DOOM is a pretty badass name though…
Despite the few criticisms I have of DOOM Eternal, it does everything else so well it’s relatively easy to overlook. The gameplay is as good as any FPS I’ve ever played, joining other shooters of this generation like Destiny, Overwatch, Titanfall 2, and DOOM(2016) of course. The game is a graphical powerhouse, you can just see the chunks of demon flesh being blown away as they take damage! DOOM Eternal plays a bit like a violent ballet as you slice through hordes of demons with such fluidity and precision. The arena battles are intense and get to be quite challenging, but force you to quickly strategize the best way to combat an army of enemies vastly outnumbering you. During a given battle, I would find myself quickly gunning down smaller demons, before hitting a Hell Knight with an ice grenade and freezing it in place. I would then quickly swap back to my Super Shotgun and fire the Meat Hook at an enemy causing it to drop ammo from the fire damage before being blasted into a bloody pulp. Next, lob a sticky grenade from the Combat Shotgun into the mouth of a Cacodemon and swinging from one of the nearby monkey bars tear its eye out with a glory kill, then finally dropping down and ramming the chainsaw into a soldier causing an explosion of colorful ammo pickups.
Some of the new elements and mechanics added to DOOM Eternal may not appeal to everyone, the platforming elements of swinging from broken bars and climbing walls as if in my own twisted jungle gym was a blast. There is something so satisfying and near intoxicating about the gameplay in DOOM Eternal, the juxtaposition of weapons and attacks to take out enemies all while grabbing health and ammo pickups is amazing and not something I’ve experienced in any other FPS titles like it, proving DOOM can still be a leader in the FPS genre after all these years. The most concise way I can describe my feelings on DOOM Eternal is simply – Fucking Awesome!
Stay safe and thanks for reading!