Doom Eternal Review
Rip and tear once again.
Doom Eternal is the world’s goriest game of chess. On the surface, the game’s over the top carnage might seem like mindless ripping and tearing, but at the core of every battle in Doom Eternal is a series of split-second decisions that mean the difference between life and death. There’s a very strict set of rules that the game forces you to abide by. It knows exactly what it is and wears the violence as a badge of honor. Doom Eternal wastes absolutely no time getting to the point, and so neither will I. Doom Eternal is one of the best first-person shooters of the generation.
The thing that’s most immediately apparent when starting Doom Eternal is the game’s unbridled confidence. Just about every aspect of the series has been turned up to 11. After a slick intro cinematic, you’re immediately thrust into a room with demons to slay. Unlike Doom 2016, you don’t start with a measly pistol. You start with not only the shotgun, but also the chainsaw, and that alone should be enough to demonstrate that Doom Eternal doesn’t waste any time getting things started. From the second you’re given a gun to the moment the credits roll, Doom Eternal is a nonstop thrill ride that will beat you down and force you to use every tool at your disposal to survive.
That’s the primary difference between Doom Eternal and its predecessor, too. In Doom 2016, you could get away with using whichever weapons you liked. Doom Eternal enforces a much stricter ruleset, though, dramatically lowering base ammo counts and making certain weapons better suited to tackling certain demon types. The demonic hordes of Hell have grown significantly in number as well, and the game pits you against groups of enemies way larger than anything in Doom 2016. Demons are also much more aggressive and can take you down in a few hits, especially on higher difficulties. As a result of these changes, Doom Eternal feels like a strategy game masquerading as a shooter, forcing you to constantly think on your feet and blend together glory kills, chainsaw kills, and several different weapon types in the most efficient manner possible. Failing to utilize all of the tools at your disposal will quickly lead to your demise, and this will no doubt turn off a lot of players that are just looking for an extension of Doom 2016. Those that stick with Doom Eternal’s strict ruleset, however, will be greatly rewarded with some of the most brilliantly design combat encounters in recent memory.
The demons in Doom Eternal can be viewed as deadly resource caches as much as enemies. Because you’ll constantly need to refill your health, armor, and ammo pools, you’ll not only be dodging the attacks of powerful foes, but also prioritizing weaker enemies and marking certain targets to glory kill or chainsaw. In Doom 2016, glory kills were pretty much the only thing you’d be doing in combat other than shooting. Sure, the chainsaw was available, but it was used sparingly thanks to the much higher ammo count of all the weapons. In Doom Eternal, the chainsaw is a necessity rather than an option, and you’ll be thankful for how quickly it regenerates fuel once you realize how often you’ll need to use it. A new shoulder-mounted flamethrower called the flame belch also adds another layer of complexity onto the combat loop, allowing you to set groups of demons aflame and cause them to drop armor as a result. Every fight in Doom Eternal is a game of resource management, and you’ll find yourself barely scraping by at times while the relentless hordes of demons slowly whittle down your health, armor, and ammo. The power fantasy of Doom Eternal comes primarily from mastering its multi-layered mechanics rather than outright brutalizing everything in your path.
Speed has always been a key element of the Doom franchise, but Doom Eternal incorporates mobility and platforming into the core gameplay loop to an extent never before seen in the series. In typical Doom fashion, if you stop moving, you’re dead, but Eternal’s environments are built with movement and verticality in mind, to the point where some arenas can start to feel like playgrounds with monkey bars and swingsets dotted around. Jump pads will send you flying into the air, and you can swing using yellow bars to reach new heights. The Doomslayer is also equipped with a double jump from the get-go, as well as a new horizontal dash ability that is obtained very early in the game. These movement options are just as crucial to your survival, if not more, than your comically large arsenal of weapons, and they open up several new avenues for experimentation. The Doomslayer has always been an incredibly mobile character, but Doom Eternal sees the Slayer more acrobatic than ever before.
Doom Eternal also features quite a few dedicated platforming sections in between combat encounters, incorporating the aforementioned jump pads, monkey bars, and movement abilities into jumping puzzles to get to the next fight. Certain walls are now climbable as well, providing safe spots to reset your dash cooldown or simply to plan your next move. While many of these platforming segments are over before you know it, some of them hide some of the game’s many secrets and collectibles, making them worthy of exploration. Still, they never overstay their welcome and the secrets don’t require too much digging to uncover, so it’s hard to resist going out of your way to try and find weapon upgrades or hidden toys when the opportunity presents itself. They also help to break up the would-be monotony of endless combat encounters, doing wonders for Doom Eternal’s pacing, something Doom 2016 needed a little extra work on.
Collectibles themselves have also been dramatically improved in Doom Eternal. The toys from Doom 2016 thankfully make a return, as do the other standard things like Runes and weapon mods, but Eternal has seen an injection of new hidden content that will attract even those who aren’t typically secret hunters. Music tracks from the original Doom games, as well as other id Software series like Quake, appear in the form of collectible vinyl records that can be played in the new Fortress of Doom hub area. Sentinel Batteries unlock new things in the Fortress of Doom, providing everything from upgrades to new skins for the Doomslayer. The real standout secrets in Doom Eternal, though, are the secret encounters and Slayer Gates. Secret encounters are exactly what they sound like, hidden optional combat encounters that must be found before they can be attempted. Slayer Gates, on the other hand, provide the most challenging fights in all of Doom Eternal, and you’ll have to use absolutely every trick in the book to come out alive. These secrets are great because they provide the best reward Doom Eternal can possibly offer: more Doom Eternal. Toy figures and music tracks are a fun novelty, but nothing encourages exploration like the promise of more expertly designed combat encounters.
Story has never been the focus of Doom, and Eternal’s story is nothing to write home about. The pacing has been dramatically improved, though, and the level variety issue that Doom 2016 was criticized for has thankfully been addressed in the sequel. Each location is just as exciting as the last, and the frequent changes of scenery prevent levels from blending together. After trudging through Doom 2016’s environments that were all some variation of Mars or Hell, it’s refreshing to be sent somewhere new every hour or two. There’s a lot to see in Doom Eternal, from cities ravaged by the demonic invasion to ancient Sentinel ruins, and each environment does a lot to keep things feeling fresh throughout the roughly 15-hour campaign. Of course, the excellent music helps too. Mick Gordon returns as the composer of Doom Eternal’s soundtrack, and the pulse-pounding heavy metal tracks are even better than the fantastic work featured in Doom 2016.
Doom Eternal is also infinitely more replayable than its predecessor, as higher difficulties offer more of a challenge than ever before and the total amount of collectibles is through the roof. Then, there’s the addition of master levels, which are remixed versions of locales from the main campaign featuring different demon types, enemy placements, and combat encounters. At launch, there are only two master levels available (one of which is locked as a pre-order bonus), but more are planned to be released in the coming months. The currently available master levels definitely live up to their name, though, throwing so many different things at you that you might as well be playing an entirely new mission. The two master levels in the game right now are from the earlier portions of Doom Eternal’s campaign, so simply adding in demons from later in the game like the Marauder is enough to spice things up at the moment. How id Software chooses to remix levels from later in the campaign remains to be seen, but given the challenge and complexity of what’s already available, they likely won’t hold anything back.
Once you wrap up Doom Eternal’s single-player offerings, it’s time to jump into Battlemode, the game’s new multiplayer mode. Doom 2016’s deathmatch multiplayer has been removed entirely, replaced by an asymmetrical mode that pits two player-controlled demons against a fully-equipped Slayer. Playing as the Slayer feels exactly like it does in the single-player component of the game, while the different playable demons provide new skillsets to master. Because the Slayer is so ridiculously powerful, the two demon players have to synergize with one another and use their abilities in tandem to pin the Slayer in an unfortunate position in order to finish him off. Battlemode is a novel concept, but it’s definitely the weakest part of the package. It serves as a fun distraction for a few hours, but the mode sorely lacks any sort of longevity. After an evening of playtime, you’ve likely seen everything Doom Eternal’s multiplayer mode has to offer.
All in all, Doom Eternal is one of the most confident games I’ve ever played. It knows exactly what it is and exactly the type of experience it sets out to provide, and attempting to come at it in any other way simply will not work. It knows how over the top it is and it revels in its ridiculousness. Enemies explode in a rainbow of ammo pickups after you chainsaw them in half. There are floating 1-up pickups all over. The secrets are marked with giant question marks. Headshots and weak point shots play an immensely satisfying audio cue when you land them. Doom Eternal is not afraid to be itself, and that’s an impressive feat in a world of watered-down AAA games. Doom Eternal doesn’t care what type of game you want to play. It’s in charge from the beginning, never relinquishing its grip until the credits roll. It’s incredibly demanding, laser-focused, and unapologetically brutal, and it’s all the better for it.
- Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Stadia
- Published By: Bethesda Softworks
- Developed By: id Software
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- US Release Date: March 20th, 2020
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Doom Eternal is incredibly demanding, laser-focused, and unapologetically brutal, and it's all the better for it."