DOOM Eternal makes DOOM 2016 look like Chex Quest. Within just a few missions of ripping, tearing and now also belching, I couldn’t imagine going back to id’s previous outing — Eternal had made it seem lightweight, decidedly more sluggish, and with much less versatility in violence. While the 2016 iteration may have revitalised the franchise, DOOM Eternal could and should revitalise an entire genre.
You return as the DOOM Slayer following his previous blood-soaked adventure on Mars as he looks to stop the invasion on Earth by the forces of Hell. DOOM Eternal doesn’t waste much time in showcasing its bigger scale, a Titan walking past you within the game’s first ten minutes and the world being in grimly eye-catching desolation. He is the planet’s only hope, something that Eternal revels in proving to you with its utterly intoxicating power fantasy.
It’s difficult to describe just how masterful Eternal’s combat is in words, it being the most exhilarating and challenging FPS action I’ve had in some years. Every single facet of the previous game’s murder has had an extra layer added to it, combos of chaos racking up as you dash and slice your way through the hordes. Eternal is The Simpsons’ Bonestorm turned into a real game, it inviting you into its Thrillhouse over and over for increasingly captivating carnage.
Things start off fairly simply, though DOOM Eternal makes a statement of intent by having the shotgun as your starting weapon — there’s no room for the simple pistol here. Over the course of the first few missions, Eternal does a great job of adding more mechanics to the mayhem, so many so that it may take a little while for you to get used to all the different inputs and how best to use them, but once you do, it’s unmatched.
One of the most interesting new additions to the DOOM Slayer’s arsenal is the Flame Belch, a shoulder-mounted flamethrower on a cooldown that makes enemies drop armour. A simple mechanic for sure, but one that is a life-saver the deeper into the game you go, it being absolutely vital in the midst of a mob while also usable as you rain down destruction with your weaponry. Players can also use grenades from a shoulder-mounted attachment, but it’s in how all of the DOOM Slayer’s abilities work together that Eternal’s combat truly shines.
In a single confrontation, your fingers are likely going to be put into overdrive as you put together montages of bedlam that are initially almost difficult to keep up with, DOOM Slayer blasting his way through the opposition almost like some kind of contact form of ballet. Get to grips with it all and it’s hard to think of many other games that give players such a sense of outrageous strength and skill.
Along with his new shoulder accessories, DOOM Slayer can also utilise the powers he derives from collectible Runes to do things like slowing down time while jumping, speed boosts after Glory Kills, and even a last chance while on the verge of death to recover some health. Those upgrades are just the start of it: you can also modify your guns with different mods and then upgrade said mods to mastery, use Praetor coins to unlock additional suit abilities, and find Sentinel Crystals to buff health, armour, and ammo. Though you by no means feel weak to begin with, this continuous escalation of killing prowess will make you feel like a god before long. You’ll notice I haven’t included any combat screenshots here, and that’s because the game moves so breathlessly that it’s hard to take a second to capture the pandemonium.
“…it’s hard to think of many other games that give players such a sense of outrageous strength and skill.”
How all of these upgrades work together during combat is a revelation. Most sequences ended with me fully utilising DOOM Slayer’s abilities, having leapt through the air before crashing down on my foes like a hammer with rockets, lasers, and furious vengeance at my disposal. Struggling with the tides of demons? Utilise the double dash (a mechanic so integral that it’s a large part of why I’d struggle to go back to the 2016 game) for some breathing space before you chainsaw, Flame Belch, and Glory Kill the weakest of the horde to get back into the fight. And what a huge fight you’re in for.
Each combat sequence in DOOM Eternal feels like you’re in a Roman gladiatorial coliseum, but you are the tiger making mincemeat of the hapless contestants. Pads send you soaring to either reach safety or another vantage point, while there are also “swings” that you can use to move around quickly, too. id have effectively created toybox after toybox for you to play around in, to smash things together in different ways and see what cracks a wicked smile. You may clear one room in a certain way and then approach things completely differently on your second playthrough, seeing methods of mayhem you may have previously missed.
You will certainly need to be experimental in DOOM Eternal to stay alive, especially with the broader variety of enemies to contend with. Zombies are basically adds but for your benefit, them acting as walking health, ammo, and armour dispensaries. Many staples of DOOM’s library of demons also make a return, the game smartly spawning them in increasingly difficult waves per room. Chipping away at the biggest and baddest (particularly The Marauder, who is just a bastard) before eventually Glory Killing them in grisly ways is akin to overcoming mini-bosses on a regular basis. While death may come often in DOOM Eternal, even when playing on its equivalent of medium difficulty, it’s impossible to not leap back in — I’d be worried about the bloodlust the game gives you if it wasn’t so damn fun.
Mick Gordon’s DOOM 2016 soundtrack became notorious for turning nuns into Satanists, and I’m delighted to report that Eternal has somehow crammed even more madness into his orchestrations. Chunky basslines with a nice helping of synth make a grand return here, but later level soundtracks also veer into the creepy territory that DOOM 64 became notorious for with ethereal chanting and discordant voices aplenty. The way it’s mixed into the action is also impeccable, each decapitation and shotgun blast syncing with his heavy basslines and guitar riffs before smoothly transitioning out when the fight’s wrapped up.
“Eternal is The Simpsons’ Bonestorm turned into a real game, it inviting you into its Thrillhouse over and over for increasingly captivating carnage.”
In-between fights, you will regularly be leaping onto and climbing up walls in small platforming sections as you navigate your way towards the next thing that needs to die. This gives Eternal a sense of scale far bigger than its predecessor, the mostly compact environments swapped with more open sections, all with fast travel unlockable if you reach the mission’s end. A couple of other additions to the gameplay do muddy things, however. The first is that the game will sometimes have purple floors that slow down the DOOM Slayer, effectively negating the brilliance of the game’s freedom of movement and just not being terribly enjoyable. The other is the swimming, which, to be fair to it, feels about as smooth as trying to swim around as a sentient tank would be, I guess.
I completed DOOM Eternal’s story in roughly 14 hours, which is a few more hours of playtime than its predecessor, yet I instantly rejoined the fight by replaying levels on increased difficulties and may even try an Ultra Nightmare run someday if I’m in a masochistic mood. As you may have guessed if you’re a long-time DOOM fan, there’s also a tonne of secrets and lore to track down, ranging from toys to extra songs and even cheat codes, all of which you can check out in your hub between missions: the Fortress of DOOM.
Effectively the DOOM Slayer’s bachelor pad, the Fortress of Doom overlooks the ruined Earth and is where you can spend Sentinel Batteries to unlock extra resources and also new cosmetics for the man himself. I opted to swap between the classic Doomguy skin from the original games and the clean 2016 version, but there’s plenty here to make you feel like the DOOM Slayer is truly yours. There’s even a training area called the Ripatorium where you can take on demons in your downtime, a mission select panel, and even something called the Master Levels: remixed versions of campaign missions that id will add more to over time. If there’s one criticism I have of the Fortress of Doom is that it’s a little confusing to navigate as it all looks so similar — some basic signage wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Those aforementioned Master Levels are just one part of id and Bethesda’s long-term plan to keep players coming back to Eternal, almost like a live service. You can also complete weekly challenges to earn cosmetics and other items as part of a “Series”, which seem to be akin to community events. Just playing the story also gives you decent XP gains, so I was unlocking additional content solely for playing the game as I would anyway. It’s difficult to judge how worthy of an addition these unlocks are as they are mostly suited to Battlemode, DOOM Eternal’s multiplayer that was not available during the review build, but as long as they steer clear of microtransactions as they said they would, id might have one of the best examples of live service done right on their hands.
“I’d be worried about the bloodlust the game gives you if it wasn’t so damn fun.”
Even if Battlemode doesn’t quite live up to its promising nature, the campaign is more than worth the price of admission on its own. DOOM 2016 made a name for itself for being a no-nonsense story, the DOOM Slayer infamously batting away exposition dumps and getting to the task at hand. While DOOM Eternal still sees the big green machine as a stoic hero, the surrounding narrative is surprisingly complex while being packed with a lot of background lore. The world of DOOM has been opened up like never before, though you can still blank it all and have a surface level understanding of the plot that’s still engaging.
In terms of performance, my PC is not the most powerful setup (GTX 1060, i7-7700, 16 GB RAM), though I was still able to eke out a decent 60fps with most settings on high with Vsync applied, between 50 and 80 with it disabled. I encountered very few technical problems overall with DOOM Eternal minus some minor frame dips when the screen became overloaded with enemies, its extra time in the oven clearly paying off. Those perturbed by the UI from preview footage will be glad to know Eternal features HUD customisation, including a fetching orange that I became fond of. It is just a strangely beautiful game with a superb eye for detail in both its character and scenery work — the apocalypse has never looked quite this apocalyptic.
DOOM Eternal is everything you could ever want from a DOOM game. It is the natural evolution of the successful 2016 reboot, a magnificent upping of stakes that is almost peerless in giving power to the player with plenty of content to keep coming back to. If it’s pure escapism you want from your video games, DOOM Eternal is the dictionary definition of that.
DOOM Eternal Deluxe Edition Steam key provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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DOOM Eternal is a bloody masterpiece of glorious violence that may well be the best the series has ever been.
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