When Doom 2016 came out, I was a bit underwhelmed. To be sure, it’s a really good game. But it never felt like an actual followup to the original games to me, and instead felt more like an FPS Devil May Cry. With Doom Eternal, I was partially hoping that we’d see some level design more reminiscent of the originals as opposed to over-the-top arena action. Despite my hopes, it doesn’t do that.
However, in this case, that’s far from a bad thing. While Doom 2016 didn’t quite do it for me, Doom Eternal works because it fully leans into what differentiated its predecessor. Yes, it’s still very reminiscent of a DMC-style spectacle brawler with more guns, but it’s even more like it than before. The game is ridiculously overblown, cartoony and staggeringly preposterous. And it works spectacularly, all the while succeeding in one-upping the last game in practically every way.
Hell on Earth
Doom had a similar story to the original game with demons on Mars, whereas Doom Eternal naturally uses Doom II: Hell on Earth as its inspiration — but with a twist. The game continues the story arc, with Earth having been invaded by the demons. One could assume Eternal was going to mirror Doom II. However, it doesn’t. Instead of following well-tread, familiar narrative angles, it attempts to do what is very much its own thing.
The overall narrative concerns the Makyrs, a race of angel-like beings who joined forces with another race known as the Sentinels long before Doom Eternal begins. Together, they faced the forces of hell, before realizing the infinite potential that Argent Energy contained. Much like Samuel Hayden and the UAC in Doom 2016, the Makyrs end up exploiting hell for its resources. Only, they become corrupt and, ahem, hellbent on maintaining the flow of energy.
The events of the previous game, however, have left them scrambling for a new way to get this energy. And the answer was Earth. Unleashing the demons upon our planet allowed them to create a sustainable flow via possession and torment. The Doom Slayer awakens at the beginning of the game and heads out to stop The Makyrs and save Earth by any means necessary. Throughout the majority of the game, you go along with him as he hunts down Makyr priests to stop the invasion.
Ace of base
How does he go about this? This time around, he has a home base known as The Fortress of Doom. Here, he, along with a familiar ally, opens portals to hunt down the priests. This place basically functions as Doom Eternal‘s hub and allows him to use batteries acquired in the main levels to unlock new powerups or alternate skins. He can also practice fighting demons in the base’s prison without worrying about dying or ammo.
The console near the portal section also contains an area where you can listen to reports to follow up on what the Earth resistance is up to. The Doom Slayer, or Doomguy depending on who you ask, is a revered figure among the surviving humans and these recordings give a good amount of context to the game’s events.
Even better are the codex entries you can find around the world that focus on Doom Eternal‘s backstory in the form of pages and pages of text. The narrative is surprisingly well-conceived and I spent a fair amount of time reading over them. The story is still fairly typical, but it’s entertaining and supplies sufficient motivation to press onward.
Laughin’ and blastin’ so long
Let’s be real, though. The main reason to play Doom Eternal is the action. And does it ever deliver. The game is completely built on the gameplay of Doom 2016 and features an almost identical set of weapons, although many of the mods are different and, interestingly, the starting pistol from the last game isn’t present in any capacity. At first, it really does seem like more of the same. But once you dig into it, it becomes readily apparent that the game design focus is entirely different.
Doom Eternal‘s combat is really about synergy. The game is seemingly very stingy with ammo to the point that even upgrading it all the way won’t stop you from running out if you don’t play the game smartly. But this is for a very specific design reason. While it was easy to really lean on certain weapons in the last game, here, you need to use them all or you’re going to get beaten into the dirt.
For starters, the enemy waves are massive, with oppressive hordes of weaker demons constantly coming at you while you’re fighting stronger enemies. But they function as a means to an end. Glory kills, the move where you instantly finish weakened enemies, now grant significantly more health than in Doom 2016, meaning that you’re going to want to lean on them even harder than before. Doom Eternal also has a substantial list of differences that assist in making the general gameplay feel much more specific and rewarding.
Tools of the trade
The Doom Slayer now has several new abilities at his disposal. He can now easily gain armor during combat simply by setting enemies on fire, which causes them to drop shards of it. Killing one of these burning enemies results in them exploding and dropping even more. This attack, known as the flame belch, operates via a cooldown timer so you can’t spam it. Grenades also return but, similarly, they too operate on a cooldown timer as opposed to how you had to find them before.
Grenades come in either the regular or ice variety. You can switch between these two whenever at the press of a button. I prefer to use the regular ones to take out weaker foes, while the ice grenades are great for getting some damage in on a powerful one while greatly minimizing the threat they pose for a few moments.
Both can be augmented by Doom Eternal‘s version of Praetor Tokens, which now improve your grenades, as well as your mapping and area hazard abilities. The grenade augments are extremely useful, as they grant you some very beneficial perks, such as being able to hold two charges of regular grenades at once or extending how long enemies stay frozen.
Similarly, the flame belch is augmented by finding crystals, which increase your health, ammo, and armor. These reduce the cooldown or increase how quickly enemies drop armor. Then there’s the blood punch. Every few glory kills charges up an extremely powerful punch that can strip certain strong foes of their armor and instantly dispatch weaker enemies. Successfully managing Doom Eternal at higher difficulties requires that you properly juggle all of these elements and more.
Knee deep in the dead
Then there’s the chainsaw. While it was more of an emergency maneuver last time (and as a way to replenish health and ammo when you were in a bind), here, it’s more of a necessity. The chainsaw is more useful at this go around. With Doom Eternal being more stingy with ammo, you’ll find yourself whipping out the chainsaw far more often, cementing it as a useful tool instead of a weapon you’d use on rare occasions. It synergizes better with the redesigned combat, adding it comfortably in the suite of abilities that you need to use in tandem with one another. Like a blood-caked puzzle, it all fits together, giving Doom Eternal an extremely satisfying, cerebral feel to combat.
And it pays off. The game is possibly the most intense first-person shooter I’ve ever played, which is saying something. The way the game throws enemy after enemy after enemy at you sees you moving and attacking nonstop for extended periods of time. And even the movement has been improved. One of my main complaints in regards to Doom 2016 was how slow you were. But now the dash mechanic from Rage 2 has been included, along with monkey bars to swing from.
Get a move on
You really need that dash, too, as the enemy behavior is much deadlier here. Demons are more mobile, and are often faster and trickier. Even the default zombies from the last game are often replaced by variants with plasma guns and flamethrowers. And, most importantly, heavy enemies often have weak points to exploit.
For instance, you can instantly dispatch a Cacodemon by firing a grenade into its mouth, which will leave it open for a glory kill. Mancubuses can have their arm cannons blown off. Revenants can lose their shoulder missiles. Left unchecked, these enemies can absolutely destroy you, so prioritization is a must, especially when you’re fighting multiple heavies at once. In classic Doom style, there are also some bosses that start showing up as regular enemies later on. The game is just insane.
The difficulty is mostly fairly even on Hurt Me Plenty, though. I started the game on Ultra-Violence, which is what I played on the last one, but I was floored by how much harder it was. Doom Eternal will stomp the crap out of you if you pump the difficulty up. I ended up switching to Hurt Me Plenty later, though, as my constant deaths were making it take too long to play through the game. But towards the last quarter, even Hurt Me Plenty starts to feel like mid-game Ultra-Violence.
On the level
The levels in Doom 2016 were good, but Doom Eternal‘s are even better. Not only are they significantly more varied, but they’re also much larger, but still dense with detail and hidden secrets. The game took me a couple of dozen hours or so to get through, but that will vary based on how much you want to find those secrets and how badly you want every last weapon point.
Each level has 10 weapon points to discover, often broken up as five for the core level, two for optional secret encounters, and three for unlocking and besting the super-challenging arenas of the Slayer Rooms. Each Slayer Room grants you an Empyrean Key, of which there are six. Collect all six and you can unlock the Unmakyr, which is a gun that runs off of the same energy as the BFG. Slayer Rooms are thankfully quite entertaining, and are a good break from the endless shooting of the combat sections.
Kill demons, and look great while doing it
Since there are a dash mechanic and monkey bars now, the platforming in Doom Eternal is way more impressive than its predecessor. You’ll see yourself covering vast distances while flinging yourselves at climbable walls — all the while dodging obstacles.
Doom Eternal also looks fantastic. The levels display excellent use of color and space, from ruined buildings on Earth, to visually stupendous foreign planets teeming with interesting architecture and the long-dead remains of Ancestrals in the background. The enemies and their animations are incredible as well. You actually blow chunks of flesh off demons relative to where you shoot them. The glory kills are hideously violent, yet have a way of not getting too old despite their repetition. Then there’s cleaving enemies in two with the awe-inspiring Crucible, a sword you get toward the end of the game that one-shots damn near everything as long as you have power for it.
Damned in any language
Doom Eternal does a lot of things right; it’s really a masterclass in modern action game design. It improves upon its predecessor in nearly every way and has some of the most visceral, furious combat that gaming has to offer. In lieu of the typical deathmatch and capture multiplayer modes, it features a tense, challenging 2vs1 mode where one player controls the Slayer and the other two control a handful of demons that can summon lesser foes. I haven’t gotten to dig into this too much as the servers just went live, but it’s really something and I’ll be sharing my impressions of it in the near future.
When all is ripped and torn, and finally done, Doom Eternal is a triumph. From ripping your foes apart to carefully picking though every inch of its exceptionally well-designed levels, the game is just fantastic from the explosive start to bloody finish. There are even cheat codes you can use to replay the levels however you see fit. I didn’t think I’d be nearly as impressed as I am with the game, but it’s hard not to be satisfied with the overall result.