When someone mentions a Doom game, most players will get a clear image of violence, gore, and non-stop action. Modern Doom, in particular, decided to capitalize on the franchise’s history and dial things up a notch to a level where many thought that it was at its absolute peak. Well, ID makes one hell (pun intended) of subversion of expectations and manages to take the formula to even greater heights with Doom Eternal.
Much like its protagonist, Doom doesn’t care about modern sensibilities, microaggression, and snowflake culture. It’s an unapologetic game that comes at you with all the subtlety of an atom bomb and takes you for one hell of a ride.
When talking about the story in the Doom franchise, many people quickly dismiss it as a mere excuse for all the gory action. And mostly, they are completely right. While Doom has a story, it has mostly taken a back seat, often being delegated to walls of texts within games or external sources. Doom 2016, somewhat tried to push it to the forefront, making it a core part of the gameplay during the campaign. Despite that, Mars and hell weren’t all too different or interesting and the game shied away from the overly fantastic elements of the lore.
Well, in Doom Eternal, ID pushes the story element a bit further, but this time wholly embracing the craziness of the Doom universe. While the Doom Slayer is still the poster boy of strong, silent types, we find out a lot more about him and his history, going as far as finding out exactly how he became the badass we all know and love.
The game even features a HUB of sorts where the Slayer has a room that gives some insight into his personality. We find out that he is his own biggest fan, he loves metal music and guitars as well as toys and weapons. We also get a hint that he’s perhaps a gamer himself since the room features a sick gaming-like PC with multiple monitors.
It’s not just the Doom Slayer that gets fleshed out a bit further. We get to find out more about the other factions like the angel-like Makyr, the demons, and even humans. It’s just too bad that, while the story takes a more of a center-stage, a whole lot of it is still delegated to optional collectibles that you find out scattered around the world. To clarify, what you see playing out in the game itself is still just the tip of the iceberg and if you want to find out even more, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and start reading.
Despite that, the story was actually quite enjoyable to follow because, in the process of trying to stop the demons from completely overrunning the Earth, mysteries of the Doom universe are revealed left, right and center. Without getting into the specifics, know that you’ll find out some really cool stuff that will tie the often disjointed games of the franchise into one neat little package.
Besides that, you’ll get to witness the Slayer do some really impressive stuff during the campaign, as the cult of his badassery is dialed to eleven here. Suffice it to say, that even if you aren’t all that interested in the story or don’t care, you can still play Eternal and just enjoy the action without feeling like you are missing out.
Story aside, most play Doom because of the fast, gory and hard-hitting action. And when it comes to that, it doesn’t get any faster, gorier and hard-hitting than in Doom Eternal. Know that if you liked Doom 2016, after playing Eternal, that game will seem painfully slow and definitely not as exciting. This is mainly due to two things – the level design and the additional movement options the Slayer has access to.
His fast movement speed and double jump have been expanded with the ability to dash twice in any direction, even during a jump. Furthermore, the Slayer can now swing on monkey bars, climb certain walls and launch himself using jump pads spread across the much expanded and much more vertical levels and arenas. Not only does all of the above spice up the combat gameplay but it also allows for more calm moments of platforming as well.
In regards to that, while I definitely appreciated the break in the frenetic non-stop action, the platforming was a bit of a hit and miss. This is due to the fact that most of the time it doesn’t require thought or precision to be executed. I understand that ID didn’t want to break up the flow of the fast gameplay too much, but this had the consequence of having the platforming segments feel like being on autopilot.
This leaves you with the combat as your main source of entertainment and, oh man, is it entertaining. Doom is one of the rare games where who the protagonist is and how he behaves is expertly blended into the gameplay via the so-called “aggressive resource management”. In essence, it’s a system where your main source of any resource, ranging from ammo, armor, and health – are the enemies themselves. This forces the player to constantly be on the move, killing them quickly and mercilessly in order to live longer and kill even more of them.
Which resource you get depends on how you kill the enemy. Need health? Perform an animated g(l)orry kill. Need armor? Set the enemy on fire first. What about ammo? Use a chainsaw to cut them to pieces. While you might criticize this system for limiting the way you approach the game, the hyper aggressiveness it entails makes Eternal quite unlike anything else on the FPS market.
The game’s very hard too, even at lower difficulty settings and you won’t be able to just pick one favorite weapon and roll with it for the entirety of the game. In fact, success is guaranteed only if you constantly keep on the move, often switching weapons while slaying demons every few seconds. They’ll come at you in greater numbers and with more diversity, requiring you to make use of almost every weapon in the Slayers arsenal.
While it has a few surprises in store in regards to special weapons, the main ones received minor changes when compared to its predecessor. What spices them up is the fact that Doom Eternal is one of those games where upgrades have their own upgrades and the system is, in fact, similar to what we’ve seen in Rage 2.
Each weapon has two different modes of firing, each of which can individually be upgraded. You also have two different sets of perks, upgrades for the Slayer’s armor and more. Most of them come in the form of optional collectibles which, along with the lore tabs, made for a good motivation to go off the beaten path and explore the larger levels.
There are 13 of them in total which will take you around 10-15 hours to complete. While that might seem short to some, it’s actually quite enough for a game with such relentless and frenetic pacing. The definitive best way to experience Eternal is in short, intense bursts because doing prolonged sessions can definitely make it a bit tiresome and repetitive. Still, if you are up for it, the game offers a high degree of replayability with master difficulty levels, fun cheat codes and plenty of cosmetics and other optional unlockables as main motivators.
The last thing to mention is the fairly simple 2v1 multiplayer mode where one player takes control of a fully upgraded Slayer, while the other two take control of powerful demons. The demon players have access to different abilities and upgrades, one of which is to summon additional, smaller demons to harass the Slayer. The mode is, if anything, completely in line with the singleplayer portion of the game. In my experience, the Slayer seems to be the underdog due to his reliance on killing smaller demons for resources which leaves him open for easy attacks from the demon players. It’s somewhat fun, but clearly not the main focus of the game.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
When it comes to visual fidelity, Doom Eternal is only slightly better looking than it’s predecessor which was a fairly beautiful game. One area where Eternal is miles ahead, however, is the level design. Even though the arenas most of the combat takes place in are often structurally similar to one another to accommodate the Slayer locomotion, they are visually really stunning and diverse. Everything has this larger than life feel to it similar to a game like Dark Souls. You’ll often think that some distant building is just a part of the impressive backdrop only to actually arrive there minutes later via platforming.
When it comes to music – it’s really awesome and dare I say, more badass than in Doom 2016. As you’d expect, the soundtrack is dominated by a mix of metal and high-powered electronic music. Even though it’ll probably fade to the background once the heads start rolling and your focus shifts to annihilating demons, every second of respite brings it forward to get you pumped for another round of slaying.