Time played: We played 15 hours of Doom Eternal, finishing the main campaign on the Hurt Me Plenty difficulty and gathering most of the collectibles and upgrades.
Doom Eternal has risen from the depths of hell as the sequel to Doom 2016, continuing its predecessors' legacy of mixing old and new in hopes of revitalizing the FPS genre. Although Doom 2016 had its shortcomings, these initial ideas now serve as the spine for a complete new vision for what Doom truly is.
Fast-paced combat, loud weapons, and terrifying demons abound in 2016’s offering. The retro DNA had found the perfect balance alongside the technical improvements that have been present all these past decades – and Doom Eternal has built on this in abundance.
It’s been more than 25 years since the first Doom, and Doom Eternal looks and feels exactly what the game 2016 tried so desperately to be. The elements that worked in Doom 2016 are still present in a new single-player campaign, but everything else has been cranked up to 11 and then some; every punch, slice, dodge, and guitar riff is a testament to this.
The Doom Slayer, best known as the Doom Guy, hasn’t ceased to fight against demonic creatures since his last adventure. He’s now residing on a massive ship fittingly called Fortress of Doom, which serves as a base of operations that you’ll visit in between missions. The story begins with a warning message announcing that hell has arrived on Earth, and the situation is growing worse by the minute. It’s your task to find the root of what’s causing this, and rip it with your bare hands to try and save humanity, traveling through heaven and hell.
Even though Doom Eternal places a bet on storytelling, cutscenes are rather short most of the time, giving you plenty of time to kill demons and explore every nook and cranny of each level in search of collectibles and secrets. Throughout the 15 hours it took us to finish the campaign, we witnessed several story moments involving new and returning characters, building up the tension and ambiguity of our mission as we began to notice the consequences of saving mankind when an ancient civilization sees the arriving of judgment day as a prophecy.
But the Doom Guy doesn’t care. He hunts and kills whoever proves to be an obstacle, and he does so without speaking a single word – his actions often being gruesome and even hilarious during said cutscenes. This gives the character a sense of authority that goes along well with its mythos, seeing him turning his back on someone that’s trying to warn him about the outcome of the mission or simply interrupting an enemy’s speech by shooting his head off without hesitation.
This heavy metal attitude is embedded in every new addition to the game. Your old suit is replaced by a weaponized armor that can shoot bombs or light enemies on fire using a small turret on its left shoulder, and all the while a hidden blade can be found on the right arm ready for use. The iconic double-barreled shotgun now comes packed with a grappling hook, but in a clever and very Doom way, it isn’t used to swing from platforms; instead, it acts as a meathook to close distance between you and the enemy you’re aiming at. Moreover, every weapon has two mods that alter their secondary fire that can be upgraded and even mastered by completing a challenge, gaining yet another perk.
Runes also make a comeback, and you can select up to three of them at the same time. These can give you a boost of speed after finishing a glory kill, close-quarters executions that make for quite a view as we break bones and necks with that new blade of ours, slow down time if you’re using your secondary fire in mid-air, or even give you a short time window to pull yourself back together when you’re about to fall in battle.
The only thing they fear is Doom
Pretty much every aspect of your Doom Guy can be enhanced, and luckily there’s plenty of ways to find the means to do so. There’s an array of items to hunt in each level, but exploration doesn’t feel like a chore anymore. From short underwater sections to acrobatic segments that seem straight out of Super Mario Galaxy, exploring levels might sound too different to what we’re used to on paper. But these moments never interrupted the momentum, and we were back in a fight before we realized.
Said momentum is powered by battle arenas once more, which are now even signaled on the minimap. They had a big importance in the past game, but needing to activate a gore nest each time felt unnecessary pacing-wise. Now, as soon as you get close to the area, there’s a high chance that enemies will be either already be welcoming you with fireballs or fighting with each other as the Doom Guy stomps into the fray. These encounters feel natural, and all arenas are cleverly designed to make it easy to take a step back or a detour to gain advantage over the enemy, using jumping platforms and portals for navigation as everything in sight is trying to take you down.
Doom Eternal’s new additions turn you into a one-man army, and combat feels more strategic as a result. Pouring flames into enemies makes them drop armor when shot as if they were popcorn, glory kills grant you much-needed health kits, and mutilating demons with a chainsaw leads to an explosion of blood, guts, and tons of ammunition. These basics are key to survival, playing almost the role of a rulebook to follow, which seems like a lot at first but slowly turns into second nature.
Demons now have weak points that can and should be exploited properly in the midst of battle. Shooting a grenade into a Cacodemon’s mouth will stagger it, exposing it to a glory kill in mid air where you rip its eye with your hands. You can destroy the cannon of a Mancubus or the turret on an Arachnotron’s head to gain tactical advantages as you deal with multiple demons at once. While first encounters were more erratic, by the later levels we were constantly putting these lessons into use.
There’s a lot of information to keep up with, but each fight feels seamless, pace and intensity being intact regardless of the difficulty you choose to play on. As in traditional fashion, you’re able to go back to each level to hunt down all remaining collectibles and upgrade items, while Master Levels present themselves as a remixed version, with different enemies for an additional challenge.
Mastering all weapons and fully enhancing your suit will take a significant time, but finding everything and beating the main campaign feels like a mere beginning. As soon as we saw the credits rolling we were already thinking of selecting a higher difficulty and going back again. Doom Eternal encourages you to learn everything it has to offer until you become stoppable, multitasking headshots and glory kills in mid air while planning your next move ahead as you study your surroundings in the blink of an eye.
The vision of the series has been iterated with the passage of time, but its soul remains strong here. Visiting the Fortress of Doom feels like an homage, with collectibles such as songs from both past entries and other games like Quake II held on display and ready to play. Toys also make a comeback, now presenting chibi adaptations of enemies on a shelf inside the slayer’s personal room, which is packed with easter eggs and lore references. Everything has purpose and meaning, but it never feels like a different game altogether, and it’s tailored to the experience we’ve all grown to love.
If anything, Doom Eternal elevates said experience in multiple ways by adding just the right amount of new additions to keep things fresh in each level, either with boss fights or secret challenge rooms, with meticulous level design pulling it all together.
While we didn’t have the chance to try out Battlemode (the servers aren't live until launch), the new slayer versus demons multiplayer mode, the campaign carried the perfect length, knowing exactly where to iterate on a previous idea or present a devastating new enemy, and there are weekly challenges planned for the foreseeable future that grant you skins and many other cosmetics for your multiplayer profile, which seems like the perfect excuse to come back from time to time.
But aside from this additional content, the experience shines the most when it understands when is the right moment to just simply let us into an arena to fight back hordes of enemies while distorted guitars and rapid-fire riffs chants us in the background.
If Doom 2016 felt fast and violent, Doom Eternal is furious and relentless. It takes everything you know from the FPS genre, and everything you loved from the classics of the 90s, and pays tribute to both, opening the gates to something familiar yet completely new.
The array of difficulty options and highly customizable UI welcomes everyone into the action, and aside from an ending that feels a bit rushed, you’ll be left wanting to get back into yet another arena after learning the ropes, taking on even greater challenges in a natural progression that feels endless.
Doom Eternal releases for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on March 20.
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