DOOM Eternal is Bigger, Badder, and a Hell of a Lot of Fun
With refined gameplay and a deeper focus on story, DOOM Eternal kicks all kinds of ass and looks like a worthy follow-up to its predecessor.
When DOOM revitalized the classic shooter series in 2016, the response that it was met with was about as subtle as the game itself. Backed by blaring heavy metal music and punching demons in the face, id Software’s reboot of the franchise was met with critical acclaim and commercial success, as it reimagined what a retro-style arena shooter could look like in the current gaming landscape.
That, of course, looked like one of the boldest, loudest, and brashest shooters to come along during this generation. It’s still hard to shake off the fact that DOOM was one of the best-playing shooters of the last several years, and it effortlessly blended an old school shooter mentality with fast-paced gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and a memorable, over-the-top campaign.
That kind of praise puts a lot of weight onto the shoulders of its upcoming sequel, DOOM Eternal. At a glance, DOOM Eternal looks and plays a lot like its predecessor. But looking under the hood and after playing a few hours of the game myself, it’s easy to tell that a lot of work has gone into making this long-awaited sequel even bigger, louder, and bolder than ever before. And yes; the music still kicks ass.
At a preview event in New York City, I was able to play through about the first three hours of the single-player campaign in DOOM Eternal. With this being the first time that I was playing the game for myself (after we previously played the game at E3 last year), I only had some vague ideas of what to expect from how Eternal would build on the success of its 2016 predecessor. After going through the first 2-3 levels of the campaign, I came away with the same sense of pumped-up energy that I had from playing the previous game; in fact, probably tenfold.
In nearly every way, DOOM Eternal has made enhancements and changes to make its fast-paced, relentless gameplay feel even more fast-paced and relentless. The core ideas of 2016’s DOOM had players constantly on the offensive and being aggressive. In Eternal, that push and pull of staying on your toes and taking demons head on has been expanded immensely. DOOM Eternal wastes little to no time in having you slice up and blast demons in the face, and right from the get-go, it establishes the rule that you have to keep moving or die.
Part of that comes from the fact that DOOM Eternal’s new setting and locations allow for an expanded range of player mobility and enemy types. As we’ve seen in its previous trailers, DOOM Eternal brings the chaos and reign of Hell’s demons to Earth, as its starting locations move you through a futuristic city that is gradually turning into…well, Hell on Earth. Compared to the corridors of the Mars space colony in 2016’s DOOM, in DOOM Eternal the shift in location to Earth not only makes for a huge change in visuals and setting, but also in gameplay and combat.
My first few hours of playing DOOM Eternal gave me a greater sense of how the game feels more varied in its environments and how these larger areas open up its exceptional combat even more. From the first 2-3 levels of DOOM Eternal alone, I moved through the hellish landscape of one of Earth’s major cities, a demonic castle, and a snow-ridden cultist research base without skipping a beat; each location was even more exciting than the last. Somehow, DOOM Eternal manages to make Hell look gorgeous, and the variety in the first few areas alone only made me wonder what the rest of the game has in store for players.
Though the larger environments may be an adjustment for some players, after the first few minutes of playing DOOM Eternal I felt that the shift to these more open spaces felt just as natural as the confined areas of its predecessor. To me, DOOM Eternal felt like it strikes just the right balance of level design and area size between id’s most high-profile recent releases, DOOM and Rage 2. In Rage 2, I especially felt that the level design was perhaps a bit too big combined with its DOOM-like gameplay, but Eternal seems to have justified its expanded scope with its plethora of new demons to fight and the Doom Slayer’s new abilities.
DOOM was already a challenging enough game on its own terms, and yet DOOM Eternal amplifies that difficulty even further by throwing far more enemies at you at a time. In a way, this creates the effect of DOOM Eternal feeling almost as much like a puzzle or resource management game as much as it feels like the hell-bent first-person shooter that it is. Because of this emphasis on prioritizing which enemies to take out first, I always went into each combat scenario looking at the group of enemies I was facing and planning the best way to take them out. Whether it was facing a horde of smaller demons or a few larger enemies like Cacodemons, Hell Knights, or Arachnotrons, figuring out how to maneuver between these enemies and taking them out efficiently is part of the fun of DOOM Eternal’s frenetic combat.
The core gameplay loop of DOOM remains intact where players have to both be aggressive and resourceful at the same time by prioritizing which enemies to take on first. In Eternal, that has been expanded even more as there can easily be over a dozen enemies that you have to take on at a time, making it crucial to target specific enemies first so that you can crush the rest of the remaining demons in the fight.
With the higher amount of enemies that you’ll have to fight at a time, DOOM Eternal also expands on the range of weapons and abilities that players have at their disposal. In that regard, Eternal gives players a ton to work with, from the number of returning DOOM weapons like the Shotgun and Plasma Rifle to a range of new equipment like the Flame Belch and Blood Punch. Aside from sounding utterly ridiculous, the Flame Belch and Blood Punch especially offer some new ways of thinking strategically in combat to not only take down groups of enemies, but to acquire power-ups and health items in the process. Likewise, the chainsaw returns as another vital part of your arsenal to recover health and power-ups, aside from just feeling incredibly satisfying to rip through a demon in half.
The heart-racing feel of DOOM Eternal’s gameplay is heightened even further with the introduction of a new battle damage system that gradually has bits and pieces of the demons you’re fighting literally torn away with each blow. Seeing chunks of flesh being torn off a Hell Knight with Shotgun blasts or a Cacodemon with its guts exposed after a Rocket Launcher explosion brought just that extra level of detail and gruesomeness to the combat, especially when combined with the return of Glory Kills. There were several moments while playing DOOM Eternal where I just laughed at how over-the-top the Glory Kills could be, and I mean that in the best way possible. In that same way, nearly everything in DOOM Eternal has just been amped up to a slightly more ridiculous and fun degree, all for the better.
The combat in DOOM Eternal is arguably the series’ best yet, and the fact that id Software has layered so many enhanced mechanics and tweaks without taking away from the pulse-pounding action that the series is known for is a magnificent feat. That especially goes for the new mobility options that the Doom Slayer has to complement the series’ gunplay, such as a new dash ability to quickly dodge attacks and being able to climb up walls and surfaces. While some of these mechanics took some getting used to when applied to its more platforming-heavy segments, which felt a bit uneven at times, DOOM Eternal still feels like it is in the running as one of the best-playing shooters of this generation alongside Destiny.
While I expected DOOM Eternal to look and feel as good as its predecessor, what I didn’t expect from my time playing was the fact that its story would have such a deeper emphasis and focus. I won’t get ahead of myself and say that DOOM Eternal’s story is going to be the next The Last of Us by any means, but with this sequel id Software is bringing a bit more depth to what players are encountering in their fight to save Earth from the forces of Hell.
Though DOOM Eternal has players jumping right into the action pretty much from the beginning, over the course of the demo several new characters involved with the origins of the demonic threat are introduced to expand the world and lore of DOOM. Even the Doom Slayer himself takes some of the spotlight in what I played from the game to develop further as a character and less as a Walking Death Machine. Of course, the storytelling is still completely ridiculous and tongue-in-cheek in the way that DOOM is, without question, but the fact that id is layering some extra depth among all the carnage is commendable in its own right while still keeping DOOM as DOOM.
While three hours with DOOM Eternal was plenty of time to get a great feel for its gameplay and what direction that the story is heading in, somehow three hours still didn’t feel like enough and only left me wanting more. From top to bottom, id Software has taken what made DOOM such a successful reimagining of an iconic series and somehow amplified it even further. The gunplay still feels fantastic, the range of weapons and abilities at your disposal is even greater, and DOOM Eternal is even more of a visual powerhouse to behold than its predecessor. If anything, DOOM Eternal is a pure, unfiltered spectacle through the lens of a nightmarish heavy metal concert, and it’s one of the only times that I might suggest that someone should go to Hell as a good thing.
DOOM Eternal will release for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia on March 20, 2020, with a Nintendo Switch version to arrive down the line.