Game Review: Doom Eternal Demands You Rip and Tear, Again
Doom Eternal is a game where you plumb the depths of hell and tear out its foundations. Doom Eternal is also a game where you climb to the heights of heaven, snap God’s neck and leave their throne cracked and empty. That might be a spoiler but it only counts as one if you think Doom Eternal’s story matters, which it doesn’t. Not to say that id Software didn’t go all out in the story and lore department just like they did in every other part of the game. Compared to Doom 2016 – the reboot that set the original FPS franchise back on track – Doom Eternal is more, like a whole lot more. More bullets, more blood and more bombast.
“Rip and Tear, Until it is Done.”
Doom Eternal has you once again step into the boots of the Doom Slayer. Two years after the events of Doom 2016 the Slayer is back to save Earth from a demon invasion that has already wiped out 60% of the planet’s population. His journey to stop Hell’s legions and the former ally commanding them will take him from Earth to Hell to Mars to the worlds of his ancient allies: the Night Sentinels. All empires must fall and their doom comes in the form of a silent marine with a double barrel shotgun.
Doom Eternal is heavy on lore whereas most of its predecessors were not. Weirdly enough what made Doom 2016 so refreshing and funny is no longer present in Doom Eternal. When presented with exposition by one of the few others characters the Slayer would either dismiss them off-hand or do the exact opposite of what they wanted which usually involved putting his fist through something important. In Doom Eternal it’s almost like the Slayer is actively listening to not only his allies but his enemies as well. Codex entries can be found throughout the levels leading the player further down a hole of tell-don’t-show. Most read like the work that would be written by an AI if you gave it nothing but Robert E. Howard and Peter F. Hamilton novels to read. As an example here’s the game’s entry on the super shotgun:
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#70006C” class=”” size=”19″]”The sting of the Slayer’s abominable arsenal casts fear into the lowest of our kin. Its blazing barrels of brimstone spew his vitriol and loathing upon us, and cast our brethren to the dirt. Mark the venom of his chosen apparatus of agony, the Diabolical Musket, Lucifer’s Bane, it’s claw of pig iron gouging the flesh of the martyr and hurrying him upon us”.[/perfectpullquote]
Pretty gnarly huh? But that’s the best of it and by the time you read the seventh entry on the history of the Night Sentinels you’ll be pretty sick of hearing about these fabled inter-dimensional warriors. Soon holding the skip button will feel almost as good as when the Slayer cut off a message with his boot. Still, all of this is basically window dressing on a game that feels like playing through some of the best death metals album covers of the last 20 years.
Calling Doom Eternal a beautiful game doesn’t sound right. Breath of the Wild is beautiful. Hollow Knight is beautiful. Sure Doom Eternal has incredible vistas and well-designed locations but by the time you’re done moving through them everything will be so covered in blood and dripping viscera that beautiful is the last word that springs to mind.
Its enemies meanwhile have faces only a mother could love and sometimes not even then. Old favourites like the floating Cacodemon, furious Hell Knight and flame-spewing Mancubus return. Bolstering their ranks are new demons such as the walking brain Arachnotron, Medusa-like Whiplash and Dark Souls-inspired Marauder. All present their own challenges and each and every one are as ugly as sin. But these new faces from a fresh hell aren’t the only new thing that adds to Doom Eternal’s challenge.
Whereas in Doom 2016 most battles could be won by skirting around the edges of each arena, leading the demons on a merry chase, the same can’t be said of Doom Eternal. Id Software’s newest requires you to dive right into the middle of things. The imps and the soldiers are as fast and mobile as ever but the heavier, stronger enemies are faster now too.
Tactics is a bigger part of Doom now more than ever. Enemy weak points are more obvious and sniping an Arachnotron’s turret or overloading an energy shield will often give you the breathing room to make a dash for ammo or weaken a zombie enough for a vital glory kill. The glory kills are back with more gory variety than ever – a personal favourite is breaking a Whiplash’s arm and shoving the bone through its open mouth – and each one rewards players with health.
A new shoulder mounted gun called the flame belch sets enemies on fire and forces them to spit out armour shards as they burn. Pulling out a Cacodemon’s eye is rewarded by a champagne cork pop just as shooting the combat shotgun’s sticky bomb down its throat makes it give off a Scooby-Doo gulp. All of these moments in combat, big or small, feel rewarding but the environments these fiery, bloody battles take place in can occasionally frustrate whether accidentally or intentionally.
The modern iteration of Doom is built on speed and although it can be daunting at first it’s quickly easy to master once you realise that slowing down means death. Why then, in Satan’s name, would you add pools of purple sludge that slow you down? They’re impossible to jump out of and even the new, often lifesaving, dash ability is no real help. It goes against everything that Doom stands for especially when so many other parts of moving, yes even the first person platforming, feel at worst fine and at best fluid. In fairness these portions of the game are very rare but they’re memorable for their ungainliness as too are the arenas that see you stuck on bits of geometry or pinned against a wall by a horde of demons with no escape.
Still Doom Eternal doesn’t have to be the finger-cramping game it’s intended to be. The arena pinning problem can be solved with some quick thinking and a BFG-9000 blast. The numerous upgrades for your weapons, suit, health, armour and ammo are easily found. The alternate fire modes on weapons like the assault cannon, combat shotgun and plasma rifle can often turn the tide of seemingly unwinnable fights.
Doom Eternal is also a very accessible game which indicates a real sea change considering the condescending attitudes offered by fellow Bethesda stablemate Wolfenstein: The New Colossus’ difficulty options a few short years ago. Even if the lowest setting proves too much Doom Eternal spreads helpful cheats throughout the missions, the first few of which guarantee a game-changing experience.
Doom Eternal is everything a blockbuster sequel should be which is more. Whether more Doom is what you want is up to you. Yes there’s more story and although that proves uninteresting in the long run more of Doom 2016’s combat is always welcome. If more tactical gameplay was what you wanted then Doom Eternal has that in spades. Ripping off a zombie’s arm and beating it to death with it has never felt or looked so good.
Mick Gordon makes a welcome return with a thunderous and volcanic soundtrack. The Ozzie composer’s blast beats, Djent-style guitars and warbling, ready-to-implode synths are all there with added ferocity. Doom Eternal’s singleplayer feels dynamic and rewarding with enough tough encounters that die-hard fans will be satisfied and enough accessibility that the game is essentially open to nearly everyone. Doom Eternal is more of the same with added blood and bone and although that may not always work perfectly the extra heft carries it through where other games would fall under their own weight.