Just like the game in question, I am just going to cut to the chase. Doom Eternal is spectacular. Doom (2016) was one of the best first person shooters of the last decade, so id Software had large shoes to fill. Not only does Eternal rise up to the occasion, but the flair it does it with is unparalleled. The question remains though, how good is it actually?
After the events of the last game, demonic forces took over the Earth and the majority of the population has been wiped out. Humanity’s last hope rests in the shoulders of the Doom Slayer, who must annihilate Hellish priests and stop the takeover. Throughout the campaign Doom Slayer would meet various characters, mostly those who dare stand in the way of his mission. While most silent protagonist often fail to leave an impression, the subtle actions of the Doom Slayer fare much better. Even a single cocking of his shotgun can say far more than expositional dialogue ever could.
That’s the beauty in the narrative of Doom Eternal. It’s effective for people who just want to barrage through levels and ignore the story bits. There’s still something there for those who enjoy reading about the world and its lore too. Various codex entries detailing the invasion and information of weapons, enemies, etc., are very informative. Not to mention they also sport great artwork that would definitely appeal to huge fans of the franchise.
Doom Eternal doesn’t hold back right from the get-go. Unlike the first game where the only weapon available at first is a shoddy pistol, here players get the almighty shotgun. This instrument of death sums up exactly what players should expect: quick kills in rapid succession. Just like it’s predecessor, Eternal is extremely fast. Where most shooters focus on careful aiming and ammo conservation, Doom is about killing demons quickly.
Besides the shotgun, the weapon selection is exceptional. Whether players zap enemies with the Plasma Rifle or blow them up with a Rocket Launcher, the action is satisfying. But what makes the arsenal so stellar is each weapon has its use. For example, the Plasma Rifle doesn’t only neutralize enemy shields, but it also causes a massive explosion that blows up nearby enemies. In addition, there are also both Frag and Ice Grenades that recharge over time. Freezing enemies in particular can definitely help when things get hectic (and they will).
Mods also make their return, granting each weapon two additional firing modes. If having a shotgun isn’t enough, how about one that can also shoot in full auto mode, or hurl sticky grenades. Individual mods and their respective upgrades are as vital to combat as much as their base modes. The classic and intimidating Cacodemon becomes a pushover by planting a sticky bomb right into his mouth, staggering it instantly.
Speaking of staggering, Glory Kills make their, well, glorious return. When an enemy flashes blue and yellow, Doom Slayer can eviscerate his poor victim in a bloody fashion. Glory Kill animations never get old, thanks to the wide variety of enemies. Not to mention that each enemy can die from various angles. Style aside, they also cause enemies to drop more health. Considering how health pickups are scarce, attempting to stagger an enemy but not kill it can be rewarding to those who are in dire need of health.
The Flame Belch also returns from the previous installment. By utilizing a mounted flamethrower, the Doom Slayer can burn groups of enemies in order for them to shed armor pickups. Another useful tool is the chainsaw. Any enemy defeated by it drops ample supply of ammo. While regular fodder only need one fuel tank to be taken down, larger foes require three tanks to be dispatched. Eternal also makes regaining ammo much easier since now the chainsaw refuels automatically for one fuel tank’s worth. This small but clever change minimizes the needless scavenging for ammo pickups.
Runes also make their return from the last game. These are permanent perks that aid the Slayer, such as quicker Glory Kills or longer stagger time for enemies. Only three runes can be equipped at a time, and not all are made equal, but thanks to the variety, each player can customize their Slayer to their play style. Other upgrades like Sentinel Batteries and Praetor Suit tokens come in handy as well.
The biggest change in Eternal compared to its predecessor is definitely the higher emphasis on platforming. While most would groan at the idea of a first person platformer, Doom Slayer feels floaty enough for player to estimate jump distance properly. Even falling down by mistake doesn’t tax that much health, which makes the punishment properly mitigated.
Doom Slayer can double jump and dash like he previously could, but he now can swing on monkey bars to traverse areas. In addition, wall climbing is now a prominent fixture in the game. One of the few flaws is that the camera is too close to the wall during these sections, but thankfully not many hazards impede progress. It also helps that the controls are precise enough to make even the seemingly impossible jumps quite achievable.
While the shooting action of Eternal is definitely its main focus, the exploration element of its predecessor is back and even better. Thanks to the increased mobility, levels have various secrets hidden throughout. While some are more obvious than others, discovering those rewards is fulfilling. Not only for the aforementioned upgrade items, but also neat goodies. Vinyl soundtracks, cheat codes and even toy figurines that Doom Slayer can put in his ship.
That’s right, Doom Slayer has his own home base now. Between each mission, players can explore the spaceship as more areas unlock during the campaign. While the ship doesn’t have a lot of places to explore, it is a neat addition that adds more character to the silent protagonist. Without spoiling much, there are some amazing rewards waiting for those who love the series.
The only real negative I can think of for Doom Eternal might be its biggest strength. There are a lot of tools at the disposal of the players, but it can be detrimental. Juggling between weapons, mods, grenades, Glory Kills, chainsaw and more can be tiring. The game is blistering fast so memorizing what each button does can be disorienting, especially since the controls are a touch different than a traditional shooter. It’s not a huge problem since players can adjust quickly, but it can be daunting for newcomers.
The game looks spectacular. All of the environments are highly detailed, and they’re far more varied this time around. While the hellish backgrounds are to be expected, there are also icy tundras and foliage to bask in as well. It’s also amazing how the game looks as good as it does, and it never wavers from a rock-solid 60FPS throughout.
Audio wise the action is as bombastic as ever. Glory Kills in particular are crunchier than ever, as poor demons scream in agony. Mick Gordon returns to compose the soundtrack, which combines Doom’s traditional heavy metal riffs with more subdued hellish motifs.
In addition to the campaign, Doom Eternal also has a unique multiplayer mode simply titled Battlemode. In it, one slayer and two player-controlled demons fight in an area. The first team to win 3 rounds wins the whole game. There are five different demons to choose from, each with their own unique abilities. Marauders can chuck their axes from far away, and Revenants can fly around with their jetpacks shooting lasers.
Demons can also have various buffs they can employ. Healing zones, trap areas or even summon minions to dish out damage. The only flaw for the demons is that they can’t heal like the Slayer can. The slayer can also perform Glory Kills on the minions and collect their pickups (albeit the demons can block pickups for a short time).
While the mode tries to be balanced, admittedly it is far more interesting playing as the demons. Each controls differently, having different abilities and of course they can team up with another player. The mode doesn’t do a great job of feeling powerful while controlling the Slayer, making this asymmetric versus mode feel too unbalanced. Still, considering how fantastic the campaign is on its own merit, even the flaws of Battlemode aren’t enough to sully the experience.
Doom Eternal is an intense journey. The smart changes to the combat, new emphasis on exploration, bombastic new toys to play around with, and overall beautiful sheen of bloody paint make it a marvel to behold. When Doom (2016) originally came out, it was heralded as one of the best first person shooters in the last decade. And yet Eternal tops it in every single way. Even if it doesn’t have the SnapMap from the previous game, or the Battlemode is unbalanced, the single player campaign alone is worth the price of admission. Grab your guns, and prepare for one Hell of a ride.
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