Throw Up The Horns For DOOM Eternal
Doom Eternal is metal as f***. The whole franchise has been, of course, but Doom Eternal cranks the dial to 11, throws gas on the fire, puts the pedal to the metal. Pick any cliche idiom you want: Doom Eternal holds its slayer horns high and proud, refining just about everything Doom 2016 did well. It’s tense, frantic, and absolutely transcendent.
It’s been that way from the beginning. Doom was first person nirvana in 1993, using early 3D acceleration technology to build labyrinthine worlds gamers absolutely loved. It holds up today, as do its sequels. Id Software’s dedication to pushing tech forward continued with Doom 3, RAGE, and culminated with Doom – COGconnected’s Game of the Year in 2016.
The guns, the gore, the mobility, and Mick Gordon’s relentless soundtrack fueled that title, and I’m here to tell you that it’s nothing compared to what id has achieved with Doom Eternal.
*Spoilers for Doom 2016. However, spoilers will be at a minimum for Doom Eternal in this article.*
With the Doom Slayer’s work on Mars complete, Doom 2016 concluded with Dr. Hayden teleporting him to an undisclosed location. In Doom Eternal the fight continues on Earth, and it’s up to the Doom Slayer to repel the forces of darkness from the realm of humanity. The tone of the events here is more self-serious than the last game, but it retains just enough of the ridiculous tone (shoutout to the UAC propaganda hologram). The narrative is deeper than I expected, but it’s optional in a lot of ways. The bare-bones are presented in the game itself, with the deeper lore getting hidden in the codex. The content there is quite good, but I wish the game did more to encourage engagement with it. Still, reading through a couple codex notes is a viable way to bring your heart back from the verge of v.fib.
Part of what gets the ol’ ticker going is Doom’s design work. Hellified Earth is gorgeous in the most disgusting way. Everything corrupted by hell feels alive and yet dying, with excellent industrial design applied to all the Earth technology. The demon designs are nothing new but have been brilliantly built to 2020 standards. Pinkies and Cacodemons are my personal favorites, but the fact I learned to pucker my sphincters just from seeing a demon approach says a lot about Doom’s permanently awesome monster design.
It’s gory as hell too. But not in an I-wanna-puke way. Laying waste to the legions of hell is so grin inducing that you might start thumbing the yellow pages for a reasonably priced brain scan. When you’ve just chainsawed a pink meat-blob in half and then impaled its pal’s eyeball on a spike with a Joker-size grin on your face, you start to question things. Maybe I AM disturbed. Oh well.
Technically, things run beautifully on the PS4 Pro. It’s basically locked at 60 fps during the important parts, with a hitch or two once in a while. On the PC side, the requirements are mighty stiff but it runs just as well as the other idTech games do. The hellfire looks particularly devilish, and I think that sticks out because it’s one of the things you’ll routinely be looking at during down moments. When hell hits the fan, you can’t see anything. There’s so much blood. You read the situation and react. It’s pure survival.
Doom Eternal is intense. SO intense. Everything in the game is balanced on a shotgun’s edge, meaning it’s unbelievably thrilling, and also you’re constantly at risk of being dragged down to hell. Id has done a fantastic job keeping the roulette wheel spinning in Doom Eternal. There’s never a sense of familiarity for more than a few seconds, and you’re constantly being forced to improvise and change tactics. There are a few components contributing to that, so let’s address the one most people won’t notice first: the level design.
Hellish Environments (That’s Good)
Besides being different thematically, the shapes, sizes, verticality, and contents of combat areas in Eternal are never rote. Sure, boost pads, monkey bars, and double jumps are common, but the spacing and layout here is constantly extremely conducive to experimentation. I ran into a few invisible walls here and there, but it really took some bizarre QA tester experimentation to get to those spots. In most cases, yes, that platform is within reach, you can boost off those monkey bars and dash twice to grab that 1UP, and yes, you can land on that Arachnotron and blood punch its stupid brain. It’s surreal, and makes you feel powerful even when failure is constantly nipping at your heels.
What I didn’t expect to like so much is exploration. It’s really, really fun. Levels are more or less linear, but finding little side paths and backtracking to find skills points you missed switched on my inner completionist without feeling like a weekend to-do list. It feels so good because the movement in Doom Eternal is the new high watermark. It’s sublime.
Like everything in Doom, movement happens at hyper speed. The Doom Slayer hauls ass. Dashes recharge quickly, aiming is twitchy and precise without feeling overboosted. Perfectly placed rockets while sailing overhead feel second nature. Squeezing off the exact number of plasma bullets to activate a glory kill opportunity is trivial, and I’m not the world’s best FPS player. Honestly, I can’t believe that playing an FPS with a controller feels this good.
The guns feel outstanding too. Precision heavy cannon bolts can take out the Arachnotron’s turret, while a grenade in a Cacodemon’s mouth staggers it. I have my favorites of course (meat hook into Super Shotgun blast obvs), but literally every weapon, every mod, every upgrade has a perfect time and place to be used. The weapon mod system plays a big role, and although it’s more of a checklist I found an immense amount of satisfaction and sense of discovery every time I unlocked something. I thought back to prior encounters, damn near salivating at the thought of taking another crack at a tough slayer gate.
Perhaps the most miraculous balance in Doom Eternal is the way combat flows. Actions feed perfectly into one another, and it never. gets. old. Much of it is like Doom, but it’s been refined like a fine, hellish wine in Eternal. Staggering foes still allows for health restoring Glory Kills, while the chainsaw uses fuel but causes huge ammo drops. Meanwhile, setting enemies on fire causes armor pickups to spill out of them. One or more of those things is always necessary, and weaving those actions together in an endless string of destruction is magnificent. Get it wrong and you’ll most certainly die, and with the adrenaline really pumping I repeatedly came close to becoming the Doom Slayer and snapping whatever happened to be within reach. Sanity prevailed though, and the forces of good lived on to build muscle memory and master the dance.
A Soundtrack That Slaps
The sound design is sharp, loud, and uncompromising. Mick Gordon’s soundtrack absolutely rips, like a buzzsaw inside your brain whipping you onward. It’s not that it’s particularly unique, but it suits the mood of the environment and the mission of the Doom Slayer perfectly. Bullets and explosions crack and snap, while demonic voiceovers are both stereotypical and likely to inspire you to send the beast back where he belongs.
I’ve come to the part where I tell you about all the things going on in Doom Eternal that aren’t the campaign and/or shooting demons. There’s a lot. The Doom Slayer can upgrade his suit (though I found most of the upgrades underwhelming) through found Praetor coins, use weapon points earned in battle to upgrade guns, use sentinel shards to upgrade health, ammo, and armor while earning useful perks, equip runes that enhance his killing, find and display collectible toy versions of demons, and use sentinel batteries to unlock stuff in the Fortress of Doom. Oh, and there are cheat codes. Yeah. Strangely, it doesn’t feel unapproachable or at all like there’s too many things going on. Maybe that’s because the most complicated menu in the world would feel mundane compared to the hair-on-fire insanity of the game, but hey, I’ll take that all day long.
Doom Eternal is a phenomenal game. It’s incredibly intense, like id Software did a massive burnout on the faces of other shooters. The movement and shooting is perfection, and the balance is immaculate and restrained despite being the video game equivalent of standing too close to a rocket launch. If you’ve got any fondness for shooters, the 90’s, or fun generally, consider Doom Eternal absolutely essential.
*Review codes provided by the Publisher*
*Doom Eternal’s multiplayer – Battlemode – looks really interesting, but will only be online once the game launches to the public. As such, this review and score ignores its existence, but I’m massively interested in seeing what it’s like. Stay tuned here for updates and impressions.*
- Incredible movement and feel
- Outstanding visuals
- Soundtrack slays
- Could have more embedded stories
- Ho hum suit upgrades