A worthy successor to Doom (2016), Doom Eternal is visceral, frantic combat at its best.
- Developer: id Software
- Publisher: Bethesda
- Release date: 20th March 2020
- Genre: First-person Shooter
- Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Google Stadia
- Reviewed on: Xbox One X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
The Doom (2016) reboot was something of a surprise hit. Not many games, especially first-person shooters, have managed to successfully reinvigorate themselves for a fresh outing, yet still manage to retain that essence that made them special in the first place. Doom bucked that trend with an incredible shooter that played as good as it looked. In a time when cover-based shooters were king, Doom emerged with a frantic, lightning-paced run-and-gun experience that, far from feeling dated, was a breath of fresh air.
There’s been a lot of hype built up for Doom Eternal, and having had a hands-on at EGX last year, it’s justified. Even in a brief thirty-minute run-through of the demo code, the new mechanics and abilities shone through. Now that the full game is here, we’re happy to say id Software have taken that superb formula and ran with it.
Everything about Doom Eternal is bold, brash, and unapologetically intense – even the background music is aggressive. The menus are clear, concise and focussed, enabling you to quickly and easily get set up and into the thing we all came here for: Blasting loads of demons straight back to hell.
The campaign has a story that, in true Doom-style, is very light on exposition. It really doesn’t need it anyway: You are Doom-Guy. Those [email protected]#ked up creatures are demons trying to wipe out humanity – Kill them. Occasionally collect some keys – Sorted. There are actually some fairly big reveals within the story, but although hardcore fans may be excited to discover the true origin of Doom Guy, or why the corporations from previous games were after whatever the McGuffin power source was (I can’t even remember what it’s called). For people like me, Doom Eternal is one of those games where the cut-scenes are just an excuse for a quick breather in between the non-stop action, and the story is just an unimportant means of moving the story on.
Combat in the larger areas plays out like a game of deathmatch on Unreal Tournament or Quake III. You are sealed into the area, with demons spawning all around you, whilst you sprint, double jump and dash your way between them. Jump ramps and swings are judiciously placed to enable this free-form parkour map navigation, and you really do need to keep moving to avoid the heavy damage enemies can inflict. These enemy encounters are frequent and adrenaline-pumpingly violent.
Level design is much more varied and interesting than the drab browns of the martian surface and repetitive steel corridors of Doom (2016). Eternal takes you from the war-torn city streets of Earth to space stations and back again to hell, and these differing locales have allowed the art team to really express some creativity. Level design has also significantly improved in terms of layout. Levels are often complex and sprawling, with inter-connecting routes leading you back and forth through areas, revealing access to previously inaccessible secret areas.
Toxic goo and lava are a health-sapping hazard to avoid, as are perilous jumps that must be made across gaping chasms or as you leap between walls. This can occasionally lead to irritating deaths as it’s sometimes not clear which way you need to jump, and you will find yourself plummeting to your death if you make the wrong choice. Respawns are fast, though, and are usually very close to where you died, so loss of progress is never a concern.
Enemies in Doom Eternal now have weakpoints, or vulnerabilities to certain weapon types, and it’s crucial to your success that you quickly get a grasp on these, as enemies can be bullet sponges before you weaken them, and ammo is scarce. It is slightly more restrictive than the previous game in this sense, and it forces a particular playstyle if you want to win. There are, of course, options within the weapon types, but you need to play how the developers intended and this could be off-putting to some. For what it’s worth, though, I personally loved this slightly more tactical approach to the gameplay.
As you progress through levels, and splitting the main combat encounters, there’s usually a few sparse groups of enemies that you can take on that serve an important purpose. In Doom Eternal, ammo, armour and health packs are relatively hard to come by, and combat is decidedly harder than in the first game. With the new abilities, you can glean precious resources from enemies. Killing demons with your chainsaw results in a shower of ammunition for your weapons bursting forth. A quick burst from your shoulder-mounted flamethrower (flame belch – great name), and enemies will drop armour shards; and if you need health, glory kills are what you need. Practising these moves against the lesser groups will hold you in good stead when you find yourself under heavy fire in the arena battles, and being able to instinctively flame belch or chainsaw enemies when needed can really save your bacon. These are crucial mechanics, and they are not only necessary for survival, but they also encourage you to get into the thick of the action.
No good Doom game would be complete without a great selection of guns. [email protected]#k off big guns at that. You’ll be glad to know Doom Eternal has you covered. In addition to the standard firing modes for the shotguns, cannons, rocket launchers and plasma weapons, each gun has two alternate fire modes, activated by pulling the left trigger, and all the weapons can be upgraded. These alternate fire modes add serious amounts of additional firepower: The basic shotgun, relatively weak in terms of what’s on offer, can be transformed into a fully automatic death-dealing boomstick, or with the other alt-fire mode, it becomes a powerful grenade launcher, capable of shooting a round into the mouth of a Cacodemon for a guaranteed one-hit kill. If you manage to unlock all of the upgrades for each weapon, there is a weapon mastery that can be achieved too, and this gradual increase in the power and effectiveness of your weapons adds an RPG-like level of satisfaction to progression through the game.
It’s possible to blast through the levels pretty quickly, but if you do, you’ll be missing out on the multitudes of secret areas and upgrade tokens dotted around the levels. Each level has around thirty hidden secrets to find: searching for and working out how to get to these can greatly extend playtime (I averaged between 60-90 minutes per level). Some of these hidden items, such as bobble-heads, are purely just random collectables, but the majority add very important skills, abilities and upgrades. Praetorian suit tokens unlock character abilities such as grenade cooldown improvements, revealing secrets on your map or improving manoeuvrability. Modbots unlock the alt-fire functions for your weapons, Sentinel batteries unlock further secret areas onboard your ship’s hub area, and there’s much more to find too.
At the end of the level, fast-travel is unlocked back over the areas you have cleared to enable you to pick up any secrets you may have missed. If, however, you didn’t notice you missed one, it’s worth waiting until you’ve unlocked some cheat codes before replaying the level: I missed a single toy collectable right at the end of a level that had just taken me an hour and a half to work through. Lamenting this, I begrudgingly (and with more than a little OCD spurring me on) chose to replay the level, but I was given the option to run through with cheat codes enabled. For me, this meant infinite ammo, permanent sentinel shield (you aren’t invulnerable, but you may as well be), and a couple of others. Twenty glorious minutes of glorious, guns-blazing action later, and I’d effortlessly annihilated hordes of demons, utilising the most destructive weapons in my arsenal with wild abandon, and collected the elusive toy. It was truly epic fun, and I fully intend to replay the whole game in this fashion.
Even if you complete the whole game in one playthrough and find all of the collectables, there’s still plenty of replayability to be found. Taking inspiration from battle royale games, each month has seasonal content to complete. New character skins, poses or player badges and titles can be earned, be that by winning matches in multiplayer or gaining X amount of kills with a certain weapon. These challenges encourage experimentation too, and you can often find new, more effective ways to kill certain enemies while going for these challenges.
The multiplayer in Doom Eternal has departed from the more traditional experience found in Doom 2016, now opting for a unique 2v1 mode called Battlemode.
In Battlemode a single Slayer is pitted against 2 player-controlled Demons and a whole horde of NPC demons. Slayers are fully equipped with every weapon available in the single-player campaign and can still replenish health, ammo and shields by bringing down utter annihilation on any and all demons in his way. The demons, however, do not replenish health: Upon death, they will drop a valuable pile of resources, before respawning at half-health after twenty seconds. To win, the Slayer’s goal is to kill both of the demons within twenty seconds of each other.
Matches are fought over several rounds and the teams fight to be the first to reach three wins for the overall victory. Between rounds, each player can pick an upgrade. For example, as the slayer, you can get an upgrade that makes every demon killed drop some health, and for the demon, there are upgrades such as an extended health bar. When 3 rounds have passed, regardless of who has won them, each team will be offered a special upgrade that can turn the tide of the battle: For the slayer, my personal favourite is the BFG, and for the demons, the ability to summon a Baron of hell.
Battlemode is wicked fun, but it does feel slightly unbalanced against the Slayer. I have managed many wins as a demon but only one as a slayer. The odds are stacked against you and even slightly proficient Demons will make it extremely difficult to win as a slayer. Having said that, I have been matched against extremely skilled Slayers that made quick work of me and my Daemon cohort.
The matchmaking does show the general preference of the player base. There are three options for finding matches; Quick Play, Slayer and Demon. Slayer and Demon will matchmake only for your chosen player type, whilst Quick Play will put you in the next available match. With two Demons and only one Slayer per match, you would expect it to be skewed in favour of becoming a demon, but in all my time playing, I found that quick play results in a near-guaranteed match as the slayer, showing the majority of players are actively choosing to play as Demons.
Doom Eternal’s graphics are excellent. It may not be as detailed or as lifelike as, say, Half-Life Alyx (seriously, check that game out), but everything in Doom Eternal is pin-sharp, clearly rendered and super-smooth. Particle effects are especially good, with showers of blood spraying forth from enemies as you cleave them in twain with your chainsaw. Bright neons abound on health and armour pickups, and ambient light scatters across the maps. It really doesn’t do anything particularly special, if we’re honest, but everything it does do is perfect, with the game running at a locked 60 fps in glorious 4k on the Xbox One X. We’ve heard reports that the HDR mode on PC isn’t currently working as it’s supposed to, but that certainly isn’t an issue on the Xbox. Offering one of the most comprehensive HDR setups yet seen on console, you can fine-tune the HDR to perfectly match your TV or monitor’s output, and the results are astounding. Deep blacks and punchy, vibrant colours give Doom Eternal a level of sheen and quality that is virtually unsurpassed.
Audio in Doom Eternal has the same level of quality, too. There are hints of Trent Reznor’s original heavy riffing soundtrack, but it has been brought bang up to date, and the music is a rip-roaring blast of sound that perfectly accompanies the action on the screen. Weapons all have powerful reports, explosions blast into your ears, and the growls and groans of demons resonate around you in stunning surround-sound. They really have done a fantastic job with the audio, and it sounds just as good through a high-end surround sound system as it does through gaming headphones.
In closing, Doom Eternal is a nigh-on perfect shooter experience. The limited amounts of ammo available could arguably be increased, though. I appreciate that it does make you switch between weapons more often than you perhaps otherwise would, but too often you run out of ammo and have to frantically search out a demon that can be chainsawed to give you a few extra rounds. This limits how often you can use the more powerful weapons, and ultimately reduces the ‘Living God’ feeling you get when mowing down legions of the damned. Thankfully, blasting through with cheats on still gives you this power trip, and kills earned still count towards weapon mastery and seasonal challenges, so there’s always a silver lining.
Doom Eternal is a blisteringly fast-paced, adrenaline-soaked action-fest, and one of the best first-person shooters of this generation. While the new tactical approach to eliminating enemy weak points may be off-putting to some, for the majority of gamers this will add a new layer of depth to the gameplay, but it most importantly still feels like Doom, and doesn’t negate the core philosophy of ‘run, shoot, kill, repeat’. The story may be thin on the ground, but that doesn’t matter one iota when killing things is this much fun.