Building upon the success of a critically acclaimed game is difficult. Like most longtime Doomers, I was ecstatic when Doom 2016 was released, as it marked the return of the series after an absence of more than a decade.
Fast-paced first-person shooter action was the hallmark of the original Doom games. While Doom 2 was fast and action-packed, many players were disappointed by Doom 3’s slower pace and focus on a horror-themed story. It’s easy to see why the 2016 reboot was so well-received by the community; it contained nearly all of what players loved about the original game, and then some.
Doom 2016 emphasized movement and provided just the right amount of depth and complexity without being too complicated or swamping the player with unnecessary exposition; it was fast, gory, brutal, and unapologetic in its depiction of gratuitous, over-the-top violence.
When Doom Eternal was announced, I kept wondering if it could top the 2016 game, which was the pinnacle of the franchise up until that point. On this day, March 20thIn the year 2020, the game has finally been released, but how does it stack up?
In this review, I’ll go into detail about the things I liked and the things I didn’t about Doom Eternal compared to its predecessor.
Inquiring minds want to know: what is it? A gunman with a need for constant tension and rapid fire
Analysis of GPU: RTX 2080 CPU: i9-9900K Memory: 16 GB
Price $60 / £50
Explicit Announcement of When to Expect It March 20, 2020
Publisher Developers at Bethesda
Developer “id Software”
Multiplayer Battlemode: demons vs. those who slay them
The Gameplay – Fast, Exhilarating, And a Bit Too Rigid
As was hinted at in the preamble, speed, motion, and mayhem were major themes at Doom 2016. Id Software did their best to include these elements in the sequel while also adding new dimensions to the gameplay.
To sum up, Doom Eternal is faster and more complex than its predecessor.
New to Doom Eternal is a dash mechanic, and arenas make extensive use of jump pads. When you factor in the return of the double jump, the player will find themselves in the air for a much greater percentage of the game than in Doom 2016. Since the dash mechanic was added, Doom 2016 can even feel slow in comparison.
In addition, auxiliary tools and skills are now heavily integrated into the gameplay formula. As far as those whose goal is to reclaim lost supplies and regain command of battles are concerned, I’d say they’re a must-have. This includes:
- Some fans had mixed feelings about the 2016 release’s addition of the Glory Kills feature. They’re just as visually impressive and satisfying as always, and they’re crucial to regaining health and eliminating weaker demons quickly and easily without wasting bullets.
- Blood Punch – Blood Punch, a melee attack charged by Glory Kills, can wreak havoc on nearby demons. It’s a devastating ability that can decimate bulky foes and help you escape a horde if you’re cornered.
- A Chainsaw – This weapon is very similar to the Chainsaw from 2016, but it plays a much more crucial role in Doom Eternal because it is necessary for restoring ammo, which is in much shorter supply.
- Fire Breathing Belcher – The Flame Belcher is a brand-new addition to the arsenal; it is a shoulder-mounted flamethrower with an infinite clip size and a short cooldown period. When an enemy is set on fire by this weapon, they take damage gradually and, more importantly, they drop shards of armor as they burn and/or die.
- The Grenade Launcher has two different kinds of grenades—frag and ice—that can be fired from it. While the former is more effective for quickly clearing out large groups of enemies, the latter is far superior when it comes to crowd-controlling faster, tougher demons and setting them up for a finishing blow.
- In “The Crucible,” The Crucible, obtained late in the game, is like a melee version of the BFG, instantly killing any target. Only three charges can be stored in it, and spares aren’t exactly plentiful, so it’s best to save it for the most formidable of adversaries.
The primary arsenal remains largely unchanged, with only minor tweaks. The pistol has been removed and replaced by the Unmaker (now spelled Unmaykr) from Doom 64, which can be obtained at a later point in the game. To round out the arsenal, all the firearms from Doom 2016 return, albeit with new skins and attachments.
Now, as I’ve already mentioned, Doom Eternal’s gameplay formula is a little rigid, and this is mainly due to ammo limitations and the enemies’ resistance to specific weapons.
To begin, let’s talk about ammunition: compared to the most recent version of Doom, the player’s supply is incredibly meager. When maxed out, your shotgun can fire 24 rounds, or 12 super shots, before you need to either find more ammunition or resort to using the chainsaw on some low-level demons.
Meanwhile, the Heavy Cannon (Assault Rifle) and the Chaingun can use up their combined ammunition fairly quickly, especially when employing certain secondary fire modes. Furthermore, the Plasma Rifle and the Ballista (a rebranded Gauss Cannon) now share ammunition, further complicating the issue of keeping track of supplies.
The maximum number of shots for the BFG-9000 has been reduced to two from three in Doom 2016, while the maximum number of rockets for the Rocket Launcher has been reduced to thirteen, though it makes up for this with greater damage output than the rocket launcher seen in Doom 2016.
Doom Eternal features larger than usual demonic hordes, as well as some new monsters that can cause varying degrees of annoyance when thrown into the crowded arenas, and with such a limited ammo supply, the player is basically forced to use the right weapon for the job, especially on higher difficulties.
Doom 2016 did have a similar requirement for using the right weapons to dispose of enemies quickly and efficiently, but I never felt like I was being forced to play a certain way in the sixty or so hours I put into it (most of which were spent on Ultra-Violence and Nightmare difficulty modes). If I used my lighter weapons against my weaker foes and my stronger ones against my tougher ones, I never had to worry about running out of ammo.
Meanwhile, due to Eternal’s emphasis on the Chainsaw’s utility for replenishing ammo, you’ll frequently find yourself low on supplies and forced to frantically search the arena for demons to chainsaw for fodder. I found this to be a major detriment to the flow of combat, especially as the game progressed into the late game and arenas became overrun with some particularly annoying enemy types.
And since we’re talking about disruptive enemy types, let’s talk about our pal, the Marauder.
A character straight out of Dark Souls, he’s here to make sure you “git gud.” With his shield up, he is essentially untouchable. He hits you with energy waves from a distance, fires a shotgun at you when you’re up close, and keeps spawning ghostly canines to keep you off balance. But if you stay at medium range and bait his melee attack, you can effectively parry his attack by shooting him during that split second.
Taking on the Marauder is not particularly challenging at this point. As a huge fan of the Souls series, I had no trouble at all recognizing his routines. The problem is that fighting him gets boring fast because he is so predictable. Each Marauder requires you to patiently wait for him to launch a specific attack before repeatedly countering it. It’s not difficult, it’s not entertaining, it doesn’t even feel satisfying, and when he appears, the game’s momentum is completely derailed.
In a humorous twist, I found most of the new monsters in Doom II to be a major annoyance when compared to the original 1993 Doom. Even in the year 2020, I still don’t like most of the new enemies found in Doom Eternal.
I won’t go into great detail, but some enemies I despise almost as much as the Marauder are as follows:
- Gargoyles are the result of a hypothetical world in which imps had the ability to fly and spit acid instead of fireballs. Now picture swarms of them, along with swarms of imps, in virtually every arena, constantly rushing you from behind and showering you with acid.
- Now picture an imp with superhuman abilities: it can teleport, it has significantly more health than regular imps, it relentlessly attacks from behind, and it throws purple fireballs that travel faster and deal more damage than those thrown by regular imps. This is the Prowler.
- The developers threw in Whiplash because three types of fast enemies that can rush you in melee and attack at range just wasn’t enough. This pest, which has a slim build and slithers around the arena, is notoriously difficult to hit. It has a large pool of health points and can quickly deplete yours. Ice grenades, thank the Lord, exist.
- Carcass — This monstrosity, resembling a Strogg, will occasionally erect an energy barrier in your path to keep you and the other demons safe. As frustrating as it may be, a few well-placed shots from the Plasma Rifle can overload the barriers and turn them back on the attackers.
- From Doom II, the Arachnotron returns as a high-damage, high-health mini-Spider Mastermind that proves incredibly annoying to deal with in the beginning of the game, before you have access to more powerful weapons.
- Pain Elemental – A larger, more powerful Cacodemon that constantly spawns and hurls Lost Souls at you. Good news is that they aren’t nearly as bothersome as they were in Doom II.
- Worse than the worst — an arch-vile — No. Just no. The Crucible serves this purpose.
Doom Eternal’s combat system isn’t perfect, but I found it to be satisfying and effective overall. It’s good and bad that it’s so tightly focused and demanding of the player’s time and effort because of how much they’ll have to learn and adjust.
Enemies deal more damage and deal it faster, but glory kills, the Blood Punch, and the Flame Belcher make it easier to regain health and armor after an encounter. As a result, combat becomes more engaging and aggressive play is encouraged.
On the other hand, there is little room for experimentation, few options for dealing with more formidable foes, and a bit too much micromanagement to think about during major battles, particularly early on before you develop muscle memory.
At first, I tried playing on Ultra-Violence, but the game’s mechanics were so different from Doom 2016 and the weapons were so sparse in the early levels that I had to lower the difficulty to Hurt Me Plenty. The Cultist Base on Master Level Ultra-Violence was a real challenge at first, but after two days I had acquired and upgraded most of the game’s weapons and was able to breeze through it with ease.
The new combat system initially frustrated me greatly, but it quickly became one of my favorites once I learned the ropes and found my “zone.” It’s very similar to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice in that it forces you to play a certain way, and while I don’t particularly like that, I must admit that the formula comes together beautifully to form a truly original gaming experience. I simply must sit tight until someone creates a Marauders mod.
Finally, I feel like the new environmental puzzles and platforming segments are largely unnecessary, and that the game would be better off if they were removed entirely. They feel like filler the first time through the game, and like work the second time around.
The Story and Presentation – A Major Shift in Tone
HaveIf you’ve ever watched a police procedural, you know that a teen with unruly hair and a dark bedroom full of junk food and heavy metal posters is a sign that he prefers to spend his time alone and is a loner.
We always get to see gameplay, so we can tell that the game is a satire on violent video games complete with disembowelment and close-range executions, despite the fact that the show clearly can’t afford good computer animation. The 20-something actor playing the teen abuses the gamepad, indicating that either the game is incredibly difficult or the teen is completely clueless.
That is the eternal doom. In every respect. Those Mountain Dews and bags of Cheetos. Discography of Dream Theater. The uncomfortable controls, which cause cramping in the palms of the hand. …and the pervasive impression that everyone is in on the joke and having a good time. The ability to not feel guilty is crucial.
If you play Doom Eternal (and you should), you’ll see a space marine run and jump across blood-soaked torture chambers, shooting, burning, freezing, chainsawing, and otherwise mangling demons. You go from A to B, eliminating anything that stands in your way. Accessing locked doors often requires the use of a keycard. Most of the time, all that’s required is a kill on an enemy a notch or two harder than the one you just dispatched.
The plot continues after the events of Doom (2016): The world has been overrun by demons. You are a one-man army on the path to deification or deification-killing. Traveling from a demon-infested Earth to a demon-infested Mars and back, with stops at your space base, the Fortress of Doom, a hybrid space station and medieval castle floating (from what I can tell) near the moon, is part of your quest to kill three space witches.
Doom Eternal is very similar to Doom (2016), but it has a far wider scope and more defined goals. The development of Doom (2016) was notoriously troubled, with developer id spending years reimagining the project like a thirsty person wandering through a desert in search of water. The events of Doom (2016) felt to be more coincidental than intentional. On the other hand, Doom Eternal has a sense of direction, as if the entire development team was working toward a singular objective: recreating the enchantment of death metal album covers in a video game. I’m happy to report to you that they were successful.
Everything has gotten more “badass” (and I rarely use that word). The demon-catching grappling hook on the super shotgun can be set ablaze. Badass! The amount of flesh and muscle you’ve blown off a demon’s skeleton indicates the severity of its wounds. Badass! In this game, you begin with a shotgun rather than a pistol. Badass!
Even though id Software and Bethesda have spent a small fortune on cutscenes, our protagonist seems bored by them, as he never speaks during them, instead opting to simply walk through the cinematics and end any one-sided conversations with a bullet to the head. He has evil to dismantle and no time for the nonsense of fantasy literature. Doomguy is his monicker of choice. Well, what else would you conceivably hope for?
Even though the visual style appeals to my inner teenager, what truly sets Doom Eternal apart is the emotional experience it provides. It’s a lot like dancing in terms of how you feel. This motion feels great. I’m gliding across the dance floor and through the air, picking the most efficient steps to keep my momentum and grace intact as I switch effortlessly between partners to twirl, toss, and gut. It’s a ballet, but one performed to the sound of crunching guitars and dripping with blood.
There are hordes of foes in each room, and they all strike with such rapidity (with fists, stomps, fireballs, and laser beams) that you have no choice but to run and shoot from the hip. In reality, it’s a huge relief that weak enemies appear with the predictability of a Slayer song’s drumbeat. A well-timed melee kill or setting a demon on fire with your shoulder-mounted flamethrower — a new feature in the series — will cause them to explode, releasing health and armor energy. Using the right combination of fire, bullets, and melee, you can turn demons into humanoid sprinklers that spew green and blue tokens, accompanied by a satisfying metallic sound effect reminiscent of coins falling from a slot machine.
The enemies you face quickly become larger, more powerful, and more lethal, but they also happen to be vulnerable to the newest weapon in your arsenal. The turrets on the spine of a giant, anthropomorphic brain can be destroyed by a sniper’s bullet or a sticky grenade. A teleporting demon from Hell is being pursued by heat-seeking rockets. You can take a breather in the middle of a fight behind a turret shield while it peels the demon’s skin off like an orange.
Doom Eternal, at first glance, is a throwback to everything that prompted the gaming industry to establish its own ratings board: a glorification of violence, a fetishization of heavy weapons, and a dabbling in the satanic arts. However, beneath that apparent simplicity lies a complex and impressive feat of balance, an act of creative maturity that belies years of experience in making this very particular kind of game. Like a sophisticated update to roshambo, every violent option in the game—every weapon and encounter—contributes to the action as a whole.
You’ll feel like Doomguy when you finally figure out how to use a freezing grenade (also new in this entry) to slow a powerful demon, set a creeping horde on fire due to its abundance of armor, shoot a flaming arrow into a flying beast, smash the flaming horde for health, and cleave the original frozen baddie in half just before it thaws. And now Doomguy thinks he’s a deity. A lot of ingenuity is required to create something that, despite its often-dumb-sounding nature, can be both thrilling and challenging to the mind.
That contrast between serious skill and the ridiculous adventure of a demon slayer is why I enjoy the Doom series so much. This is why the original Doom was named Polygon’s 2016 Game of the Year. Despite providing silly, meathead escapism, the series often hides the engineering, craftsmanship, artistry, and risk-taking required to produce a game that looks this familiar, yet feels fresh.
When compared to other first-person shooters, such as the big, flashy, self-serious games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, where players must perform instant, microscopic movements to perform headshots in order to survive against supernaturally gifted teenagers, Doom Eternal stands out. In order to compete at the highest levels, players of these series must constantly adapt to new metas, learn new maps, and memorize new angles and weapon advantages. It’s a common tactic for AAA first-person shooters, but despite the impressive scale, most of the “fun” in these games happens when you’re looking through the sights of a gun. Traditional scopes are only available as an upgrade for one weapon in Doom Eternal. The ammo you need is in the chest cavity of every enemy, so you can shoot from the hip without worrying about running out.
The “fun” of Doom Eternal is found in its gameplay. Because of the importance of close-quarters combat for regenerating health and armor, dodging into and out of battles quickly becomes a cornerstone of successful tactics. Walls, hills, tunnels, platforms, and monkey bars are strewn about the environment for cover and escape, but also for the player’s amusement, and you can double jump, double dash, and use a hook that pulls you toward its living target to set your distance.
Even though you have access to weapons that can wipe out an entire room in a single blow, playing an aggressive style alone won’t get you very far. Each battle decision, from which weapon to use against which foe to how much ammo to save to whether or not to mine weak demons for health to whether or not to rip out the biggest enemy’s soul, requires quick thinking and decisive action.
In addition to the many excellent action set pieces, id has included a number of platforming sections. Basically, they’re doing fine. Listen: Most first-person platforming games make you feel guilty, but I never got frustrated zipping across hundred-foot chasms in my supercar. The platforming is mostly there to show off the huge levels, expanding the series beyond its original confined hallways. Doom Eternal has vision and isn’t afraid to blow things out of proportion to show that the demons pose a threat to the entire Earth, not just some isolated outpost in the dark.
If you are interrupted during the game, that is the only time it becomes difficult.
Midway through Doom Eternal, there is a stage that takes heavy inspiration from Call of Duty, complete with narrow corridors and purple goo on the floor that literally slows the action and makes dashing and jumping impossible. Whenever the tired old joke about demonic being “mortally challenged” is delivered, it never fails to ruin my mood and wipe the grin off my face. The third and final section of the game includes aquatic gameplay. Doom Eternal is a freestyle dance on dry land. It’s like a game of “pin the tail on the donkey” when you’re underwater. Unlike on land, swimming movement is restricted. It is not easy to see. You’re just supposed to fumble around until you find the right glowing target to smash, and then hopefully the fun diversion will be over.
In the later acts, you may find yourself in vast, empty arenas populated by hordes of powerful boss monsters rather than the skate park-style arenas of the earlier acts. A few times, my adrenaline-fueled runs came to a grinding halt when I got wedged between a few particularly large enemies and the geometry of the world, rendering me unable to run, jump, or dash. That’s where I was: trapped, helpless, and on the verge of death.
Fighting the Marauder, a boss more akin to those in Dark Souls, requires undivided attention. As with the rest of the game’s problems, this encounter stands well enough on its own, but it brings the overall experience to a disappointing halt.
The second half is not perfect; there are some hiccups (or, to continue with the dance analogy, some missed steps) in there. This makes sense. The first half of Doom Eternal is one of the strongest, leanest, and most confident in any action game or, really, any big-budget game ever. However, I want to make it clear that I am not at the part of the review where I say the second half is disappointing. Not at all. It’s fantastic, and it comes very close to being perfect. Sometimes it doesn’t require me to plunge my body into a vat of acid to gain access to a new room.
I have more to share, especially about the developer’s thoughtful approach to layout and construction. The plethora of secrets, playthings, and dungeons to discover in your fortress. As much as I’d like to, I won’t give anything away. Learn the particulars on your own time.
Doom Eternal should be enjoyed slowly, like a delicious dessert. Take a moment to appreciate the design and artistry that allows you to chain your violence in one ecstatic flourish, between feeding one demon its own heart, breaking another demon’s arm, and hammering the freshly protruding bone through the demon’s skull. Keep moving, but don’t ever be in a hurry.
Well, I think that sums up everything I can say about Doom Eternal. A step forward, but then a step back, as the title suggests.
There is a greater sense of urgency and dynamism in the gameplay, but the formula has become more rigid and is perhaps a little too complex. Time will tell how well it holds up, but how id Software will improve upon it for their next game without making things more convoluted is anyone’s guess.
When compared to what we saw in Doom 2016, I feel like the story completely missed the mark in terms of presentation and tone. It could attract more viewers, but I’m not fond of where the franchise is heading creatively.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the graphics are technically great, with good and stable performance (not that that’s a huge surprise). Meanwhile, Mick Gordon really went to town on the score this time around; Eternal has both upbeat tracks perfect for tearing and slashing, and more solemn, atmospheric tunes.
Ultimately, I feel like Doom Eternal could have been a perfect 10/10, but I can’t because of its current story, art direction, and shallow platforming and puzzles.