DOOM’s 2016 reboot helped bring the series into the modern era, gave new fans the chance to experience the iconic series, whilst providing veterans with the DOOM HD experience they’d craved for years. The reboot made a number of sweeping changes, but also retained the elements that make the series so renowned, and so it was always going to be difficult for DOOM Eternal to have the same impact on the series, and while the sequel isn’t as groundbreaking, it manages to build on its predecessor’s best qualities, resulting in not just a highly-polished entry in the DOOM franchise, but one of the most enjoyable first-person shooters of this generation.
Picking up roughly two years after the events of DOOM, Earth has been overrun by Hell’s demonic forces, and you, taking control of The Doom Slayer, must return from an unknown location in the cosmos to save the day. It’s probably fair to say that the story here isn’t the most important aspect, nor has it been in previous entries, but unless you read the significant backstory played out through the wealth of collectable codex, you’ll seldom care as you rip and tear your way through roughly 15 hours of mostly enjoyable gameplay. If you take the time to read every codex entry you’ll find a surprisingly deep lore, but it’s a shame it’s not played out cinematically, especially as nearing the end, I became disillusioned with pausing my gore-fest to read a 200 world synopsis. That being said, this approach does mean newcomers to the series can dive straight in with little context.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t need to be the next Last of Us as what the story lacks, it more than makes up for in gameplay and combat. Anyone who’s played the previous DOOM titles will know that this isn't your normal FPS. You’re encouraged to push forward and dive head first into every beautifully-gory and ludicrously-fast-paced battle, but don’t be under any illusion that strategy isn’t needed; you’ll need to ensure you’re making the most of every weapon in your arsenal and how each one can benefit your needs. For example, ignoring the chainsaw will quickly see you run out of health and ammo, while new tools can help you recover valuable armour. Veterans of the series will recognise the majority of the weapons on offer here, such as Combat and Super Shotguns, the Plasma Rifle, Rocket Launches and of course the BFG 9000, although the latter feels substantially weaker than in previous entries.
In addition these weapons can be upgraded with mods, such as the Super Shotgun which now comes with a Meat Hook, enabling you to lock onto enemies from a distance and swing towards them, giving you a top-down look at the battlefield and helping you land that killer blow. Some of the modifications are certainly better than others, but the sheer number will mean no two player experiences are likely to be the same.
In addition to gun combat, DOOM Eternal has added a range of new movement mechanics, influencing how you traverse levels. These include the ability to climb walls, dash more consistently across wide gaps, and use horizontal swing bars as a way of reaching new areas. At first, I quite enjoyed these new elements, but by the end of the journey some began to get tiresome as a result of some poor button timings. What’s more, some require your undivided attention to get right, so trying to swing between pillar-to-pillar while a demon pelts you with fire balls becomes irritating quickly.
Fans of the series will know that it’s not just the guns that make DOOM the series it is, but also the demons, and it was pleasing to see so many new and returning enemies making an appearance. New enemies such as the Doom Hunter and Marauder add some extra bite to combat, especially the latter who starts off as a mini-boss but becomes a regular nuisance later on, and boy was he. Given his nature as a more one-on-one slower fighter, the Marauder became lethal when mixed in with other demons. Pain Elemental, Arachnotron, and Archvile demons make a welcome return, while the majority of all the demons have had their aesthetic changed from the previous DOOM to make them appear more like they did in the original. Demons also show the scars of battle here thanks to a new “Destructible Demons” feature whereby parts of the demon’s body start to decay and deteriorate as you attack.
What was noticeable was the lack of traditional boss fights in the game, following the reception they received in the previous entry. What’s more, the boss fights that made the cut here were a little underwhelming as well, with most being nothing more than bullet sponges, requiring very little strategy to overcome. Unless of course you push the difficulty level up to maximum, in which case, there’s something wrong with you. Even playing on the easiest difficulty, I often found myself struggling in the early stages; I can’t imagine trying a play-through without dying. Especially as there is a significantly sharp difficulty spike in the final act. Something which may put more casual players off.
As I said above, the story took around 15 hours to complete, which isn’t too bad from a FPS perspective, but if you’re after 100% completion, you’re looking at close to double that. There are tons of collectibles to source, additional Master Levels that remix story levels and crank the difficulty up to maximum, codex entries to read, and numerous upgrades to your health, armour, and ammo to find. I recommend taking the time between battles to source as many upgrades as possible as they make your life significantly easier the deeper you progress. Collect all the upgrades, and you’ll certainly feel like a Doom Slayer come the end! There’s also a wealth of aesthetic upgrades you can use in the multiplayer Battlemode, but sadly that wasn’t live before launch for us to try.
Between the majority of all story levels, you’ll return to your man cave in space known as the “Fortress of Doom”. Unfortunately, the Fortress is rather large, and there’s not much to do other than spend collectables for upgrades, view your secrets and weapons, take out your anger on some demon punching bags, and listen to the series’ glorious soundtracks. I’m sure more features will be added post-launch, but for now, the Fortress feels like a missed opportunity, and nothing more than forced loading screen between campaign levels. Talking of music, DOOM Eternal’s soundtrack is a masterpiece, and I recommend everyone takes the time to listen to and immerse themselves in as much of it as possible, because honestly, I’ve rarely come across a soundtrack that perfectly epitomises a game like it does here.
In addition to improved combat and presentation, DOOM Eternal’s visuals are very impressive. Some of the level designs could be improved though, as all the game really offers is views of a ravaged Earth, mixed with cybernetic alien worlds. Demons look gorgeous in their own unique way, while the mixture of varied colours really pop while you’re tearing limb from limb, especially if played with the full HDR settings in force. The backdrops look a little lacklustre, and somewhat dated when compared to other major titles of the generation, but you’ll seldom have time to look at them. What’s more, during my journey, I never experienced any notable glitches, slowdown or framerate issues, which was a nice change of pace in today’s release and fix market.
DOOM Eternal may not be the groundbreaking hit its predecessor was, but it’s certainly the better game, despite its rather lacklustre story, and irritating platforming mechanics. It takes all the best elements from its prequel, polishes, refines and adds a mixture of new strategy, combat and gunplay elements to produce one of the most enjoyable FPS on the market today, and one that manages to welcome in a new audience, whilst appeasing the Doom veterans.
- Xbox One