When doing a game review for something like DOOM Eternal, one must self reflect for a little while. The game is intense on almost every level. I mean I could have sat here and prattled on about the action and blood, and I will, but there is another layer to DOOM Eternal. A game that is more than its effects and gore. Obviously, that's a huge part of it. It’s why some gamers chose DOOM Eternal and others chose Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Fans of DOOM have been awaiting this sequel for some time. There was an original pushback on the due date because Bethesda and id Software decided they needed more time to polish and fix certain bugs. I like when AAA companies put a hold on something. It’s better they fix bugs before a game comes out so they don’t have to deal with all the headaches afterward.
However, we aren’t here to discuss the business side of the game. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty that is DOOM Eternal.
Tell Me a Story, Uncle Slayer!
Usually, this is a skippable section because the story of DOOM should be simple. “There are demons, DOOM Slayer shows up, DOOM Slayer kills demons, rinse, repeat.” But ever since 2016, Doom has been trying to tell an actual story.
For those of you that might not have played DOOM (2016), Demons have overtaken Earth. You are a literal one-man army, on the path to becoming either a god or a killer of gods. Your quest was to kill three space witches. To try and stop the invasion in a multitude of settings from earth, Mars, a space station, Hell, and some floating castle. Basically everywhere.
However, while DOOM (2016) felt like a conglomerate of gory details all mashed together (and yet still done wonderfully), DOOM Eternal feels a little more put together with clearer intent on what it has in store for the player. While it picks up where we left off, I felt like there was a reason I was kicking ass and not bothering learning names. It was like everyone at Bethesda and id Software said, “Let’s try to turn the imagery and magic of a heavy/death-metal album covers (Don’t worry, I Googled it for you) into a video game.”
They did not let us down in the slightest.
DOOM Eternal tries its best to keep the action in the forefront, but they also give players plenty of lore to read and some cutscenes to watch if you want them. The overall gist is that you need to hunt down priests that have besieged Earth to save it. So you kill your way through thousands of demons to murder each of them, picking up many different tools and guns along the way.
DOOM Slayer’s characterization of a badass that gets things done without being a stone-cold killer never skirts the line of unlikability and radiates personality even if most of his dialogue consists of grunts. You would think that DOOM Slayer has so many unlikable qualities in real life, but he continually shows that he is in fact the good guy here, even if he does strike fear into the hearts of demons.
While that is the easy version, the game is honestly about finding your place in the universe and fulfilling your own destiny. Over and over the Slayer is told this is “no longer your fight” or “You can't win this time,” and he refuses to answer or listen. He just carries on with this obligation. Like it is his burden to bear and his alone. He isn’t swayed by other characters or the fear of dying and losing. We could all learn a lot from DOOM Slayer's struggle.
However, DOOM Eternal does a good job of mixing that sense of doom (get it?) and the never ending onslaught of blood and action and metal music. It is kind of brilliant.
I won't blame anyone for missing the layers of struggle that DOOM Slayer goes through mentally. It isn’t as subtle as the game makes it out to be. At least not as subtle as “Kill everything on the screen.”
Frantic Fun at High Volume
DOOM Eternal has a more kinetic, exciting experience to it that starts as soon as you see the title screen fade out. All of the gameplay that you encounter literally screams in your face “Don’t stop moving!” Eternal absolutely gives you the room to dance around like a murderous ballerina. The level design is far more open, diverse, and vertical than in DOOM (2016); survival is about acrobatics as much as it is headshots.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with DOOM’s combat mechanics, here’s how it works: you have guns, obviously, and you can use them to kill literally everything. However, if you don't kill the demons, but give off just the right amount of battle damage, before you send them back to the underworld, they’ll stagger and glow orange and blue. This gives you the opening for you to perform a gruesome finishing move called a “glory kill.” Something that feels like right out of the God of War games. You will do this 100,000 times to all the same types of enemies and it never gets old. Depending on where you grab them, it will also trigger a new kill. You know, to switch it up once in a while. This will also help you restore some health at the same time.
You are also equipped with a chainsaw, which you will need to keep gassed up, that will give you a one-shot kill on any demon. Killing one will give you a ton of extra ammo. Also, you have a shoulder-mounted flamethrower that will get you extra armor as it burns your enemies.
DOOM Eternal’s new additions include an ice bomb that freezes enemies in place and a “blood punch” attack that breaks through armor. Blood Punch is filled with glory kills and will blast apart more than one or two little demons. It was actually one of my favorite mechanics to use. However, the basic flow of the game feels more or less the same.
Battles will typically see you use most of your abilities in a perpetual whirlwind of resource management, killing enemies a certain way depending on what they’re weak to, which color they’re glowing, and what you’re running low on in the heat of the moment.
There aren’t many first-person shooters that show such a creative approach to moving through space. In the later parts of the game, it won't just be enemies that you are dodging around. Sometimes you’ll see spinning fire bars like you slipped into a portal that spat you out in Super Mario Bros.
Honestly, the ballerina metaphor is apt. DOOM Eternal will have you swing from a bar to avoid an energy blast. Just as you spin in mid air and shoot them on the way down. And then land in front of another demon only to discourage them from having arms. Then jump on a nearby ledge to blast a zombie in half. All while dodging incoming fireballs.
Describing it is harder than seeing it in motion. The very fact that such a thing is even possible in a video game is the result of DOOM Eternal’s unique system-driven combat, which is mostly unchanged from its predecessor.
It’s All About Balance: Fast, Brutal, and Accurate
One of my favorite things about the new DOOM Eternal is how id Software once again nails the sense of speed. If pacing is the backbone of an action game, then DOOM must have tracked down Wolverine and ripped it out of his body.
You get a double-jump immediately, you get double-dashing soon after, and it gets better from there. Once you get the Flamethrower (not even an hour into the story), it leads to a rapid-pace, self-sustaining world of power-ups, where you periodically chainsaw, burn, or glory kill to keep your run going. If you saw, torch, and rip apart things correctly, you'll always have a stream of health, armor, and ammo respectively without having to rely on pickups.
It takes a little while to master. I know it sounds confusing, but it's more natural and intense in practice, especially when you're juggling a room full of varied enemies on a tougher difficulty setting. Also, there is never a moment where you have to reload guns. It's a symphony of bullets and blood.
Like I said, it can get overwhelming at first, and then suddenly novel and exciting. Yes, your hands will grip your controller (or mouse) like it owes you money, and yes, your heart will pound in your chest like an animal trying to escape a cage. But it is honestly some of the most exciting gameplay that I’ve seen in a game in years.
Trial and error is essential to Eternal's learning curve, especially on harder difficulties. It wasn’t the greatest way to acclimate myself to the new ideas and weapons introduced throughout its 15-hour runtime. I wish I started off on an easier setting first just to pick up the learning curve, and then moved on to the higher difficulty.
I think what helped me a little was grabbing any Extra Lives I saw. Yes, Doom Eternal has old-school 1UPs hidden around each level that keep the momentum going with an instant respawn. My only gripe with them was I wish they weren't spent automatically when I died. I will admit I died … a lot. Whether from my own stupid mistakes, bad timing, misjuding a jump, or an overwhelming panic admist a ton of baddies. A prompt would have been nice because DOOM Eternal's fights get larger, more complex, and more challenging the further you get. And those 1UPs would have come in handy.
Rock Your DOOM Socks Off
If there is one thing I have to say about DOOM Eternal, it’s that the music is damn near perfect. I am not a Metal guy in the slightest. But nothing gets my blood pumping more than the DOOM Soundtrack, and DOOM Eternal just brought more of that (I’ve made it my new workout music).
DOOM Eternal’s soundtrack is basically perfect. The return of Australian composer Mick Gordon brings more of what DOOM (2016) has, and it continues to be metal as hell and perfectly suited to DOOMo’s aesthetic. Gordon’s work is intense and original. It blends industrial sounds with groovy bass lines and bleeding guitars that serve as a pulsating backdrop to the crazy action happening on screen. It’s like he was born for one reason, and it was for DOOM.
It’s only one example of how well id Software has handled the tone and vibe of the new DOOM games. DOOM always had cool music, but the early games’ famous low-quality MIDI jams with out-of-tuned guitars just can't compete with what Gordon has done. You can’t hold it against the old games, though. In fact, without those early games, we might not have what we have now. So thank you ‘90s DOOM. Anyway, Mick Gordon is a national treasure and should be celebrated as such. To be able to carve out an iconic sound that people will come to identify with DOOM just as much as the ’90s soundtracks is an incredible feat.
It's Not All Blood and Rainbows
In DOOM Eternal, the “fun” is in the movement as I mentioned above. Because you must restore health and armor with close-range attacks, moving in and out of scrimmages becomes the foundation of winning strategies.
However, despite having weapons that can bring instant death to an entire room, you can’t survive exclusively by playing aggressively. Because one wave of enemies typically gives way to another wave, and then another. A good fight requires constant decision-making: which weapon to use against which enemy, what ammo to conserve, when to mine weak demons for health, and when to rip out the biggest enemy’s soul.
I think where DOOM finally starts to fall a little short for me is in the platforming. First person platforming can be terrible for a game, and it doesn’t do DOOM Eternal any favors. They’re fine I guess. I mean most of my deaths come from platforming and missing jumps.
The worst example was as follows: I hit one of those bouncy platforms trying to get to a higher platform, jumped right into a cacodemon, and fell right back down into the lava.
I completely understand why DOOM Eternal has these areas, though. In general, platforming exists to show off just how big the beautiful environments are. DOOM is trying to move the franchise outside its old school scenes. The old claustrophobic corridors just won’t do it anymore for developers and fans alike.
There are sections of the game that baffle me, like the slow sticky purple goo that you are sometimes forced to walk through. This brings the game to a screeching halt. With a game like DOOM that thrives on its speed, these sections make no sense to me.
The second half of the game has its blemishes also. DOOM Eternal has one of the strongest and most amazing first halves of any action games in recent history. And to be clear, this isn’t the point in the review where I tell you the second half is a disappointment. It’s not. It’s still as fun as the first half. You know, at least when it’s not asking me to swim in purple goo filled with killer tentacles to unlock another door.
Overall Final Thoughts
DOOM Eternal is a sequel like no other. I could honestly sit here and talk about it all day. At the same time, you should discover more of the dynamics on your own. All the cheat codes you can unlock, all of the toys you can collect, and the fortress you can decorate and explore. I’d love to spoil all of it, but I won’t. I mean other than mentioning them just now.
I’d also like to suggest that you stop and check out the artistry of DOOM Eternal. In between curb stomping one demon and using another’s leg to shove up his own orifice, it is something to be savored. I know I just complained about the game’s pace stopping dead, but it does that on its own. You as a player should stop to take a breath to admire the engineering and artistry that makes your actions possible. You should always be moving, but you don't have to rush.
DOOM Eternal’s combat is incredible. I could spend hours just balletically blasting demons in a destroyed world that is perfect for parkour. DOOM Eternal is bigger, badder, and more wonderful than its predecessor, and for the most part, that’s exactly as much fun as it sounds.
|Amazing music||That purple goo that stops gameplay|
|Fast-paced, bloody action||Platforming seems out of place|
Writer's Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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This article was written by John D. AKA SomeBeardy2Love. John has been gaming for over 30 years, has a podcast, and watches nothing but anime and Bob’s Burgers. He has a sponsored beard and a modest book collection.