ID Software successfully rebooted the DOOM franchise with DOOM (2016), creating a game that remained true to its roots while also being relevant. How could they ever top that? The answer: take DOOM (2016) and crank up the insanity level to 11. DOOM Eternal improves upon the formula in every way.
One of the biggest changes this time around is there is much more story to compliment the demon-slaying. ID Software listened to the criticisms from the first game in 2016, where the story was almost non-existent. The story in DOOM Eternal still takes a back-seat to the main gameplay, but there is more of it and cut scenes help to keep things moving. DOOM Eternal’s story answers questions like where Argent Energy comes from, who the Night Sentinals are and where they came from, who are the race called Maykrs, and the biggest question of all: who is the DOOM Slayer?
The demons get improvements as well, adding new ones to the list and bringing back fan favorites from the classic games. Enemies are no longer a pushover like they were in the 2016 reboot; they hit harder and close in faster. Even the cannon fodder zombies don’t get killed with your melee punch anymore. This makes for more challenging gameplay and dying is no longer a rare occurrence.
The new demons add variation to the enemies from the reboot. There’s Whiplash, a snake-like demon that slivers around the map hunting you. It has some nasty attacks, like a whip that does melee and ranged damage, and moves quickly to make it difficult to hit. Another new demon is the Prowler, added to the 2016 reboot in multiplayer only but this time added to the single-player campaign. The Prowler is like the imp but can take more hits and can teleport making it harder to hit. Next on the roster is the DOOM Hunter, a boss encounter early in the game but who gets added to frantic fights later in the game. This guy is a beast wielding a chainsaw that hovers around on a hover sled armed with cannons and rocket launchers. The last new demon on the list is the Marauder. This SOB is a pain in the ass; he slows the flow of the game down to a screeching halt. He is supposed to be your equal and boy is he one hell of a challenge, as he is the one demon that can’t be hurt by the BFG and must be engaged at a specific range. If you get too close, he shoots you with his super shotgun. If you are to far away, he throws his axe at you and sends a wolf-like spectre to hunt you down. If you try to shoot him, he blocks all your attacks with an unbreakable shield. The only way to beat him is to fight him at medium range and wait for his eyes to glow green. I hate this guy and screamed in anger whenever he showed up. It is the one new demon I could do without in this game.
The demons returning from the classic DOOM games are the Pain Elemental, a beefier version of the Cacodemon, the Arachnotron, a baby version of the Spider Mastermind, the cyber-demon, renamed the Tyrant, and the Arch-Vile. Some have tweaked attacks and abilities, while some are as they were in previous games.
With more demons to kick your ass this time around, you’ll need an arsenal to bring them down to their knees. Many of the weapons make a return from DOOM (2016), some benefiting from redesigns, though the Pistol has been replaced with the Ballista and the Gauss Cannon is replaced with the Unmaykr, which makes a return from DOOM 64. The Unmaykr can only be unlocked if you find six keys hidden in secret areas throughout the campaign. As in DOOM (2016), you can upgrade your arsenal with weapon mods. Each gun, except the BFG, can have two mods that can be switched on the fly during combat. As you progress through the game, you gain weapon tokens that can be spent to upgrade the weapon mods even further, making you even deadlier. Overall, the arsenal of weapons at your disposal are satisfying to use against the onslaught demons that you’ll come up against.
DOOM Eternal’s gameplay has been improved as well. Combat arenas that spawn demons are larger with improved manoeuvrability, making them much more fun to progress through. The DOOM Slayer can now double jump from the start but also gains the ability to double dash as well later in the game. The combo of double jumping and dashing makes you feel much more dangerous, and also comes into play during the platforming sections of the game.
Speaking of the platforming, one of the only complaints I have, aside from the damn Marauder, is that there are too many platforming sections. I get that these allow a moment of respite from the action and the opportunity to catch your breath while searching for secrets, but there are too many of these sections which at times threaten to derail the frantic experience.
Fortunately, the pace changes quickly and without warning. Standing still is a death sentence; the demons will horde you and kill you if you stand around for more than a few seconds, so keeping moving is a necessity. To make things a little more strategic, ID Software have limited ammo, forcing players to think before pulling the trigger. Health and armor are in equally low supply. That’s not to say that you aren’t equipped to succeed; you can chainsaw the lower tier enemies for more ammo, flamethrower demons to drop armor shards, and rip and tear glowing demons to gain back health. You’ll be doing this a lot, but once you get into the rhythm, you’ll quickly learn what you have to do to survive.
Or, you’ll learn what you have to do to try to survive. DOOM Eternal is no cakewalk. Death comes a lot more often than in DOOM (2016) and some previous instalments in the series. Like I said, they cranked up the insanity level to 11. Not only are the demons tougher and hit harder, you’ll be facing an almost overwhelming number of them in combat arenas with limited ammo. This game doesn’t hold your hand like other first-person shooter games. It throws you to the wolves and says “git gud” or die.
With the ID Tech 7 engine, DOOM Eternal looks beautiful and runs butter smooth than previous games. It even looks great on lower-end systems with the settings turned down. Combine that with improved sound effects and a cranked-up soundtrack by Mick Gordon and you have one hell of a visual and audio experience to compliment the incredible gameplay.
ID Software also threw in the kitchen sink by allowing you to unlock cosmetics and many other things without needing some kind of bought currency. If you find all the secrets, you unlock all the goodies, just like games use to be back in the day. In this day and age of microtransactions and monitization, it’s a nice touch and a nod to the series heritage.
DOOM Eternal is truly one hell of a sequel to DOOM (2016). It looks better, sounds better, and even plays better. If you are on the fence about DOOM Eternal, I can’t recommend it enough. It is by far one of the best FPS games you will play this year – and you’ll want to play it again and again.