It’s been a while since we had a chance to check out Doom Eternal. The last time we previewed it was at E3 2019, getting our hands dirty in demon blood. Back then, the game was slated to come out last November, but the game was delayed for further polishing and improvements. Now, with a March release date, it seems that id Software is right on track to reach that expectation level. Recently, we had a chance to get more hands-on time with a more complete version, and we gotta say, it feels good to slay.
Doom Eternal picks up eight months after 2016’s Doom, moving the hellish mayhem to the planet Earth. With demons running amuck and roughly 60% of Earth in shambles, it’s up to the Doom Slayer to do what he does best: kill demons. To stop the invasion, he’ll have to track down the Commanding Hell Priest and defeat them. The game seems to be taking a bigger approach to the lore of the franchise, giving a bit more emphasis on story. Despite this, fans of the 2016 game will see Eternal as an appropriate evolution for the series. Even with a bigger plot focus, this is still the great Doom gameplay that we know and love.
Our preview starts us off at the beginning of the game. The military on Earth has done what it can to fight against the demons, but it’s not enough. The Doom Slayer receives a distress signal from his ship in orbit, and decides enough is enough. Acting as a sort of hub world, the ship will slowly expand over time as the player collects Sentinel batteries to provide more power. Using portals, players will be able to visit new areas to take on the demon threat, while also taking in the war-torn Earth.
Earth is ravaged by rampaging demons, and the effects of the devastation can be seen right from the start. Buildings are dilapidated, there’s large pits and craters, and there’s several remains of the humanity that once existed. Regardless of the state of the planet, demons will not stop their invasion any time soon. Many fight among themselves, perhaps in a struggle for power or dominance. Little do they know, their end is near, so it’s time to “raze hell.”
While Doom Eternal at first glance can seem mindless, it’s much deeper than that as a shooter. Combat is often like a puzzle, albeit one with multiple solutions. Even so, there are ways to fight enemies that are both efficient and tactical. Despite being a fast-paced first-person shooter, there’s a lot of thought involved here. It reminds me of playing games like Portal, where fast thinking was the key to success for many puzzles. Doom Eternal finds a way to put this in the combat, and death is simply a lesson learned. Survival is the solution, and earning new skills and abilities encourages mastering that solution.
According to Creative Director Hugo Martin, Doom Eternal is very much aware that it’s a video game. Enemies will drop health, ammo, and armor depending on how you decide to kill them. Glory kills drop health, chainsaw kills drop ammunition, and using the new Flame Belch allows them to drop armor shards. Extra lives and secrets are hidden all around levels and they make for a fun little immersion break. There will even be platforms that float for absolutely no reason at all, because it’s a video game. The absurd nature of these things goes well with the subject matter of ripping demons apart limb by limb.
With combat still being a big focus, there are many enemies with their own weaknesses and quirks. Enemies like the Cacodemon and Revenant return, each with their own respective weaknesses. Feeding a Cacodemon a grenade will stun it and open it up for a glory kill while Revenants are practically nonthreatening when their shoulder-mounted weaponry is destroyed. Finding these weaknesses is often the key to survival, and efficiently balancing your resources keeps you in the game. Many new enemies will have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the game has no trouble highlighting them to make sure you know how to be effective in combat.
Different weapons offer variety, such as the Combat Shotgun or the Plasma Rifle. Going even further, players can unlock weapon mods, giving secondary attacks that can make these weapons even more devastating. Sticky grenades form the shotgun help to clear crowds while the Microwave Beam of the Plasma Rifle can take down powerful enemies from the inside out. The Heavy Cannon and Rocket Launcher are just a couple other examples of the powerful weapons the player will obtain, each with their own mod options. Players will even get an upgraded melee attack with the Blood Punch, which attacks multiple enemies at once. The player will be given the tools, but it’s up to them to use them effectively.
Aside from combat, Doom Eternal offers other types of puzzles too. This often involves timed segments or creative platforming, which helps players appreciate the level design. Combining double jumps, dashes, and even wall climbing, these environmental puzzles will test your abilities. For those that master these abilities quickly, they’ll be treated to several secrets and hidden power-ups early on. These puzzles not only show off the level design, but they also train players to use these skills effectively in combat too. There’s a certain satisfaction for being able to reach hidden areas with nothing but your skills alone.
The game, much like it’s 2016 predecessor, continues to be a gore-filled feast for the eyes. A smooth 60 fps helps to show off those glory kills and demon slaying with engaging gameplay. Environments all feel unique and helps to give the game plenty of variety. The first Earth mission shows a gritty and disastrous setting from the blood spilled by demons. The city of Sentinels, Exultia, is a medieval looking area with stone monuments and Gothic architecture. Traveling to the cultist base in the frozen tundra of the arctic easily contrasts the red aesthetic from beginning of the game. This is just a taste of what Doom Eternal has to offer, and we can’t wait to see more.
When it comes to killing hellish demons, not many other games do it better than Doom. Doom Eternal continues that trend, and shows that the delay makes the end result well worth the wait. It helps that Mick Gordon returns with a great new soundtrack to keep players invested in the action on screen. Players will be able to discover this themselves soon, as the game is only two months away now. Doom Eternal will release on March 20th for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Google Stadia. A Nintendo Switch version will release sometime at a later date. Are you looking forward to the game? Let us know in the comments below!
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