Doom Eternal Review – Hellish Fun
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release: 19th March 2020
Playtime: 10-17 hours
Doom 2016 was one of the best reimaginations of a classic game that released so far. Featuring an impressive dedication to bringing relentless shooter gameplay to modern platforms, modernized and full of love, interesting level design, a frantic soundtrack and much much more, it quickly took its place as one of the best shooters you can play. With Doom Eternal I was skeptical whether or not Id could follow up on their success a second time but apparently they can.
In contrast to Doom 2016, Doom Eternal actually features a much more prominent story this time around. This time the Doom Slayer has to battle through earth, killing the three Hell Priests and the all prominent Khan Maykr.
On the one hand, the game no longer actively rips the story out of the way, the Doom Slayer now patiently listens to some dialogues and generally behaves more like an angry but overall calmer action movie hero. On the one hand, it still features the overly entertaining presentation of the Slayer has the god of death himself, simply focused on ripping and tearing and feared by everyone. Watching tiny humans squeal away in fear upon laying eyes upon him is always fun and Eternal has plenty of that.
On the other hand, the game also embraces its lore and kinda forced story and backstory for everything. Characters babble their almost comical lore dialogue lines, the Slayer listens to them and ultimately continues with his killing spree. Maybe it’s just me but I never cared about the whole Doom lore thing one bit, making the way bigger focus on nearly aspect of it almost contradicting with the overall atmosphere the series is going for. Sometimes its presented well and doesn’t distracct from the experience but most of the time, I just look at the dozens of pages of lore and wonder why I should bother and why the game bothers with it so hard.
Either way, the true core consists of the still amazingly fun gameplay. Where Doom 2016 introduced us to the fast, unrelenting onslaught of brutality, Doom Eternal tries to expand on it in every way possible. On the one hand, they kept all the things that made Doom 2016 such a well working and designed experience. Cover is still utterly pointless and so you jump and shoot yourself through millions of demons. If you’re low on health, try to find health pickups or glory kill a demon, further doubling down on the “Aggression is the best defence” strategy. Simply everything is designed to make you attack enemies, even if you don’t want to.
Doom Eternal makes a few tweaks that drastically change up the game’s general pacing. On the one hand, all weapons now have drastically less ammo. While some people may wonder why and may even call it artificial difficulty, Doom Eternal wants to encourage two things 2016 had problems with: Using different weapons and being even more relentless. In 2016, there was so much ammo that you often mainly used 2-3 weapons per encounter and well, it just seemed like a slight factor in every encounter. Now, I found myself using nearly every weapon in my arsenal to my advantage, simply because I had to. At the same time, the chainsaw became a way bigger part of my plan as well, naturally. It recharges automatically and is pretty much the only way to get ammo. Still, the 2-3 seconds long animations never seemed like a big deal for me but they certainly added up over time.
On the other hand, Doom Eternal adds both the flamethrower and Blood Punch to the expanded arsenal. The former is a refinement of the “a tool for every problem” philosophy that underlies Eternal in particular. No matter if you have too few ammo or armor or anything else, you should be able to recover that or do something against it if you’re good enough. The flamethrower in that regard is used to give you armor back, by setting enemies on flames and letting them drop armor over time, forcing you to stay near and also survive in order to… get more armor to survive a bit longer. It’s a thrilling little disadvantage and advantage at the same time, often leading to interesting situations. The Blood Punch though is more a tool to quickly kill ghouls and get life or simply weaker enemies. Charged by every glory kill, it rewards you with a ton of life and one hit kills almost every weakling, making it an immensely satisfying AoE attack that serves a purpose in both forcing you to glory kill more and regain life as a reward.
On top of that, both the levels and enemies were expanded in scope pretty much in every area. There are a more different enemies, some cool ones like the snake like creatures that wriggle around, shoot lasers and are simply horrendously mean looking, while others, well, are not so cool. The Marauder in particular, used heavily throughout the 2nd half, is a really neat boss but simply doesn’t work with the games normal levels, sadly he becomes a regular. He basically forces you into a 1v1 duel situation, has a wolf and is generally really hard to hit since you have to counter him and dodge his big, damaging attacks. Unfortunately, with dozens of enemies around you, he simply becomes annoying, as you find yourself running away from him, killing all enemies besides him so you can finally actually fight him. Since he’s, as stated previously, extremely strong though, getting killed by him is all the more frustrating due to the fact you have to repeat all of it.
The levels feature an all round positive growth. Offering the biggest levels I’ve seen in the series in almost every encounter, leading to a way less restrained feeling and taking advantage of the still amazing movement. Now, with more temporary platforms, lava and verticality, moving through them is a lot more challenging but also rewarding. Speaking of challenge, in many ways, Doom Eternal feels like a direct continuation of 2016, at least in how it throws enemies at you and approaches challenge in general. There’s no slow curve or anything, instead, most encounters early on feel exactly like they were taken out of the 2nd half of Doom 2016, making it harder but also all the more thrilling for people who played it.
Last but not least, the scope of the whole game just feels so much more ambitious. Featuring many, many different settings and ideas, easily surpassing the Hell/Mars setting of Doom 2016 leads to a pacing that feels perfect. Except for the last level, every encounter, level and setting change just feels like it’s at the perfect place. Naturally, each world we visit is full of its own ideas and atmosphere, especially the heaven-like world towards the end is probably the best thing I’ve seen, played and experienced in any Doom game so far. It’s just a joy to discover the creativity id Software approached their latest title.
Maybe, the added scope and impressive execution was also possible because of the clearly reworked id Tech 7. Rebuilt from the ground up, Doom Eternal features impressive visuals when it comes to lighting, detail and gore. Every enemy’s skin looks real, as well as their guts when they’re hit by a shotgun and lose chunks of their breast muscles. The levels are full of amotspheric lighting and creative setpieces. I was blown away almost every time I compared it to its predecessor and how much it evolved. Naturally, the soundtrack helps putting it all into place.
Doom Eternal is perfect. Well almost. If not for the last boss, level and constant reusage of the Marauder I would call it the perfect shooter experience. It’s cheesy, brutal, cleverly designed, breathtakingly beautiful and a joy to experience. So, please do.
[A Review Code was provided by Bethesda Softworks]