DOOM Eternal Review – For guts and glory

Reviewed on March 17, 2020

Platforms:

Xbox One, PS4, PC, Switch

Released:

March 20, 2020

Publisher:

Bethesda Softworks

Developer:

id Software

Hell’s armies have once again arrived on Earth, ready to bring about death and destruction in DOOM Eternal. As the Doom Slayer, it’s your job and your job alone to crush the skulls of your demonic enemies, shower them with bullets, and cut them up into satisfying little giblets.

Perhaps one of the best reboots of all time, DOOM 2016 was a celebration of all things violence. It was a constant barrage of high-speed gameplay and over-the-top carnage that had you feeling mighty powerful. If DOOM 2016 left you hungry for more then consider DOOM Eternal a 10 course meal, because that hunger is about to be kicked in the face and set on fire (that’s a good thing).

Fans of the 2016 DOOM reboot won’t be surprised by the content found within Eternal. For those less familiar, the game is a violent love letter to old-school first-person shooters. It’s a quick and chaotic game that isn’t interested in telling a ground-breaking story, and would prefer to focus on a visceral and satisfying gameplay loop instead. It’s also exceptionally gory. Like, dipping with blood and entrails levels of gory.

The game is essentially a single-player arena shooter, where linear paths connect different arenas for you and the demons to duke it out. Because it’s an arena shooter (of sorts), it also means the gameplay is frenetic. Movement is key as you kite enemies around the arena and utilise your movement abilities and the topography of the world around you to constantly dodge the barrage of incoming attacks.

Where Eternal differs from its predecessor is within the expansion of its systems. There’s more options than ever when it comes to combat encounters and so many tricks up your little slayer sleeve that it can be hard to keep track of at times. Movement options are expanded with not just a double jump but also a double dash ability to help in platforming and dodging enemy attacks. A grapple is introduced later into the game but usage of this tool is more limited.

When it comes to the combat there’s a lot to unpack. The Doom Slayer has a bunch of different weapons he can cycle between. Each weapon also has two different mods that can be utilised for an alternative fire mode. Grenades are part of your arsenal and there are two options here as well that you can swap between. Melee attacks are of course an option with a super powerful ‘Blood Punch’ that can be charged up for a devastating blow. On top of this you’ll have different attacks used to generate different resources – ‘Glory Kills’ are a kind of final blow that help generate health, your ‘Chainsaw’ can be used to generate ammunition, and a ‘Flame Belch’ is also available to generate armour.

All in all combat can become pretty dynamic, with the core principle of constantly moving and killing enemies being the one constant. At first it was all a little overwhelming but by the end I was glad the different tools existed, with the exception of multiple weapon mods. I never once throughout my playtime found the desire to swap weapon mods on the fly and instead focused on the power of specific mods for specific weapons. I even unbound the key for swapping weapon mods to stop myself from accidentally clicking it during battle. Thankfully I never felt hampered by ignoring that specific feature although a more coordinated player may find uses for it that I didn’t.

Combat can be a real challenge, even just on the default difficulty. Learning the systems of the game is important and utilising the tools at your disposal is paramount. More specifically, players will need to learn to use their Glory Kills, Chainsaw, and Flame Belch to ensure they have enough resources to survive. It’s a bit of a juggling act, with your resources being limited and in constant need of replenishment.

From a strictly gameplay perspective, DOOM Eternal is a masterpiece. You could write a thesis on what makes this game so satisfying to play – with high speeds, slick animations, weighty attacks, and visceral audio and visual feedback playing a major role. It’s optimised beautifully too, with my ageing PC keeping up with the action on screen.

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Narratively, DOOM Eternal is nothing to write home about, although that’s to be expected. DOOM 2016 made a joke out of storytelling with the Doom Slayer literally refusing to pay attention to the plot points in front of him and instead barrelling through the narrative like it doesn’t matter. It was clever, and a clear message that this game was here for the gameplay, not the story. DOOM Eternal acts on a similar principle.

It’s definitely not mandatory for a single-player game like this to contain a gripping narrative. Although having the continuation of a story or the expansion of a world is a pretty satisfying element to many a sequel. DOOM Eternal as a sequel therefore doesn’t feel quite as fulfilling. It’s a continuation of a formula that has the potential to become repetitive if you’re not in the right mindset. To me DOOM 2016 and DOOM Eternal are much of the same. It’s not a bad thing per se, especially considering how much I enjoy both games. But on reflection it doesn’t feel like an revolutionary step forward or a landmark moment for the franchise. DOOM 2016 was a breath of fresh air in the gaming landscape with which it released, although DOOM Eternal lacks the same ground-breaking punch.

“certain battlefields literally taking place within a heaving and dripping monstrous entity”

There is definitely a grandeur about DOOM Eternal that is appreciated. The gore dial has been turned up to 11 with certain battlefields literally taking place within a heaving and dripping monstrous entity. Blood, guts, and viscera were plentiful and not only when you were carving up demons. The landscape around you was often littered with gore and it helped to drive home what an unpleasant world this is suppose to be.

DOOM Eternal may not have resonated with me quite as much as the original did back in 2016. The gameplay, despite being incredibly satisfying, did begin to slip into the repetitive territory and that’s certainly partially due to a lack of narrative to change up the pace. Although with all of that said, there’s no denying how fun DOOM Eternal is to play. There’s a heap of content too, and a surprising level of depth to the combat encounters. Even by the end of the game I felt myself getting stronger and smarter in my gameplay, as the enemies become tougher and tougher. That’s a sure-fire sign of impressive design.

8

Great

Positive:

  • Cathartic, violent, and satisfying combat
  • Quick and frenetic battles with surprising depth and variety
  • Fantastically optimised and polished

Negative:

  • Somewhat repetitive gameplay loop

It’s hard to fault a game like DOOM Eternal. It’s clear a lot of meticulous effort went into making this a lovingly polished and enjoyable experience. Those who aren’t eager on the ultra violent nature of a game like this probably won’t enjoy their time with DOOM Eternal – although that should be obvious. For the rest of us though, DOOM Eternal is an incredibly impressive and cathartic experience. Very few games are able to make me feel as powerful as this one does. So bust out you gun, sharpen your blade, and get ready to wipe demon juice off the soles of your feet.