Compared to most gamers who are into the DOOM series, I’m very late to the party. Decades late. Aside from occasionally playing a few levels of Final DOOM (a collection of expansion levels for Doom II) back in the day on PS1, I never got into the whole “DOOM craze” like all the other “cool kids” during my childhood years (same with Duke Nukem and Wolfenstein). It wasn’t until the beginning of 2017 that I jumped onto the bandwagon and played the two original DOOM games, DOOM 3, and then the DOOM reboot that had released the previous year. I had a blast. Needless to say, my hype for DOOM Eternal was through the roof, and it was one of my most anticipated games of this year. I’m happy to say that it (almost completely) lived up to the hype.
Picking up some time after DOOM 2016, DOOM Eternal begins with the legendary DOOM Slayer overlooking Earth from orbit in his snazzy new ship called the Fortress of DOOM. Exactly where he was after being teleported away from Mars at the end of the previous DOOM is unknown, but apparently, he had been gone long enough since Earth is already in ruins thanks to a demonic invasion of epic proportions, and much of humanity has been slaughtered, not counting those who managed to evacuate. The DOOM Slayer then wastes no time in going down to Earth to kick some demon ass and put an end to the invasion. It didn’t take long for me to realize that DOOM Eternal, while certainly similar to its predecessor in its mechanics and presentation, is a very different beast by comparison. Before I continue, I feel I must mention that I’m a “Hurt Me Plenty” (normal mode) gamer and don’t feel the need to play games on “hard mode” or “crush my nuts mode” because I lack the patience, so don’t judge. When starting DOOM Eternal, I found myself embarrassingly low on health just from fighting one of the first zombie enemies you face off against in the first level. I wanted to kill it with the melee attack and not use up my already very limited shotgun ammo (this is something I was able to do several times in the previous game), only to find that, for some reason, the supremely macho DOOM Slayer hits like a feeble old woman (at least until he acquires the powerful Blood Punch ability) and was doing almost no damage to the zombie, meanwhile the zombie got some free hits on me and brought me down to low health. That was a (disgraceful) wake up call for me, and I proceeded onward with a heightened sense of awareness that the DOOM Slayer was, for now at least, very easily killable.
This fact was made even more apparent to me for the next few missions after finding myself low on health after almost every enemy encounter. The demon enemies were tough, relentless, and had much better aim when shooting all manner of fireballs and energy blasts at me. Eventually though, I found that the key to getting through these battles with more than just a pinch of health was to take full advantage of the new abilities the DOOM Slayer quickly gains access to; they’re not there just for show or as gimmicky additions meant to differentiate this game from the previous one. They are necessary for survival. Chief among these abilities is the dash move, which allows the DOOM Slayer to quickly dodge in whatever direction you’re running or jumping. In order to avoid the charge attack of a Pinky or the fireball blasts of a Mancubus, you’ll have to use the dash ability, otherwise they’ll very likely hit you. Simply strafe-running to the side won’t work all that much like it would in the previous DOOM games.
There are other weapons and abilities you must take advantage of to get through this game without dying constantly. Operating on a cooldown mechanic, the Equipment Launcher allows the DOOM Slayer to shoot grenades, streams of fire, and ice blasts at his demonic foes, and these firing modes do more than just increase the number of ways in which the DOOM Slayer can inflict harm on his enemies. Setting enemies on fire has them drop armor pick-ups, while freezing enemies and then attacking them has them drop some health pick-ups, and you’ll need to take full advantage of these gameplay mechanics as you will find that both these resources are far more scarce throughout the environments in this game compared to how more readily available they were in the previous games.
And that leads me to the scarcity of ammo. I honestly found this to be a slight problem in the last game; some weapons would eat through their ammo quite quickly, and the fact the ammo cap for most weapons was rather low made it a rather common occurrence to have some weapons run low or completely out of ammo, then you’d have to search for more ammo in the environments or kill enemies with the chainsaw to have them drop loads of ammo. But since the chainsaw itself needed gas in order to function, it wasn’t something you could always fall back on; still, there was usually enough ammo lying around in case the chainsaw wasn’t an option. Now, in DOOM Eternal, the ammo cap for pretty much all weapons is supremely low, even after upgrading the amount of ammo you can stock up on, so I found myself running low on ammo for at least a couple of weapons almost every time I finished a battle. And much like the health and armor pick-ups, spare ammo pick-ups are much harder to come by. This makes using the chainsaw more of a necessity than ever before, and I’ll admit that I didn’t like that at first since I was concerned about the chainsaw running out of gas at the worst time possible.
It wasn’t until a few missions in that I remembered how, even after using up all the gas, the chainsaw in this game refills enough of its gas after a brief cooldown period so that you can still use it on smaller enemies as much as you want to get more of that precious, precious ammo you will so desperately need. That oversight was on me, so I don’t blame the game for that. Nevertheless, the constant need to replenish ammo at every turn got annoying, and I personally believe the weapons need higher ammo caps.
Speaking of the weapons, they range from the shotgun, super shotgun, rocket launcher, plasma rifle, heavy cannon, BFG 9000 (of course) and more, and almost all come with special mods like in the previous game that open up their effectiveness, such as micro-missiles for the heavy cannon and a sticky grenade launcher for the shotgun. And this time, certain weapons work far more effectively against certain enemies since several of them have weak points that can be exploited; for example, you can shoot a Revenant’s shoulder cannons to remove their ranged attacks, and this is best done with the heavy cannon or shotgun, or you can use the powerful Blood Punch ability to remove the armor of a Cyber Mancubus to make it more vulnerable to attacks. Along with the above-mentioned enemies, a lot of the familiar enemies from the series’ past return, including Imps, Hell Knights, Barons of Hell, and Cacodemons. New enemies like the snake-like Whiplashes (hate those guys), Carcasses, and DOOM Hunters were introduced, as were enemies from the classic DOOM games who weren’t in the previous game, namely Pain Elementals, Archviles, and Cyberdemons (now called Tyrants). And some of the boss battles are quite challenging, even in normal mode.
Oh, yes, and we can’t forget the Marauders, easily the cheapest enemies in the game. While taking these bastards down is satisfying, dealing with them is just an annoying exercise in frustration given the precise timing required to actually damage them, and this is made worse when other strong enemies join the fray to further complicate things. The Marauders honestly ruin the otherwise buttery smooth flow of this game. Though I will say that DOOM Eternal is not shy about throwing many different enemy types at you in one encounter, which I rather like since it keeps you on your toes. As fast-paced and relentless as the previous DOOM was, DOOM Eternal easily outclasses it in that department.
But there are moments of downtime, namely between (most) missions where you can go through the Fortress of DOOM and do a few more relaxing things to pass the time, like check out your collection of weapons or toys that you find in missions, listen to music tracks from previous id Software games that you can also find in missions, and use points that you gain for completing mission challenges and finding other collectibles to unlock more beneficial perks for the DOOM Slayer, weapon mods, and skins. There’s even a “Ripatorium”, which is a demon prison where you can get some consequence-free practice fighting demons without losing any ammo or resources once you decide to go back to the main game. Another aspect of DOOM Eternal that I appreciate is its story. I’ve heard many “DOOM purists” think the focus on story drags the game down, but I consider that attitude to be a sign of short attention spans. Much like the previous DOOM, most of DOOM Eternal’s lore is revealed through surprisingly well written and in-depth historical documents, audio logs, and news reports that can easily be ignored by those same purists who can’t be bothered to listen to an interesting story. But there are even a few flashback cutscenes that reveal more surprising info on everyone’s favorite pissed off murderer of demons…I mean, “mortally challenged”.
I must also mention it was refreshing to f#ck demons up in a variety of different environments, including a ruined Earth, above and in Mars, different Hell regions, and gothic-styled castles and arenas in other dimensions. These environments are also home to a number of platforming challenges that require the DOOM Slayer to swing on horizontal poles, climb walls, and use midair dashes to get to where he needs to go, all while avoiding certain obstacles like fireball cannons or fire plumes. And while I didn’t take part in any multiplayer, the game’s Battle Mode lets you play as either the DOOM Slayer fighting two player-controlled demons or vice versa, and supposedly there will be updates added to the multiplayer in the future.
Will DOOM Eternal satisfy true fans of the series? Hell yeah, it will. If these true fans don’t care for the game’s extra story elements, then they can skip the cutscenes and ignore the lore collectibles. They and other gamers will not be shortchanged on the action front since there’s plenty of that to go around, and there’s certainly a stronger element of challenge compared to the previous game. The proceedings can get messy and downright chaotic when small armies of enemies are thrown at you and jump on you all at once, but focusing and relying on your instincts is the key to getting through it all, not to mention remembering all the weapons and abilities you have on-hand that will get you out of a bind when utilized correctly (admittedly, I at times forgot to use abilities that would have made certain battles much easier). Strategies like taking advantage of each weapon’s specialized mods, exploiting enemy weaknesses, using the Equipment Launcher, killing enemies with the chainsaw, bashing them with the Blood Punch, glory killing them, dashing like a madman, and assigning the right runes to the Slayer to further maximize his survivability aren’t just included to make the proceedings somewhat easier, they’re essential for survival. And the way all these elements meld together is truly a thing of beauty, though not everyone will be able to pull it off. In short, if you enjoy killing demons in a relentlessly fast-paced manner with a hardcore metal soundtrack driving you forward, then you can do no better than DOOM Eternal.
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia
Release Date: 20th March 2020