Rip and tear, until it is done. These words that once started as a joke now echo through Doom‘s mythos like a warning sign of pure, unbridled rage and vengeance. The Doom Slayer has awakened once again to find Hell on Earth; our planet swarmed with the denizens of the underworld, an otherworldly invasion of biblical proportions. Now stationed in the Fortress of Doom high above the Earth’s atmosphere, the Slayer must liberate Earth from these demonic forces while fueling his bloodlust for violence. This is where DOOM Eternal begins, and eternally, shall it reign as one of the best first-person shooters of our time.
Note: This review is completely spoiler-free.
Picking up some time after the events of 2016’s DOOM, Eternal finds the Doom Slayer armed and dangerous (again) with a new arsenal, suit of armor, and somehow in even more of an anger-induced state. Earth has been ravaged by Hell’s apocalypse, with the last remnants of humanity fighting for their lives against all manner of demons. It’s up to the Slayer to once again free humanity while paving his own legend in the process.
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Every single frame and line of code in DOOM Eternal is jacked up on an ungodly amount of testosterone. It’s bigger, bolder, and better than its predecessor while delivering some stellar innovation to the series. For one, Eternal strips the more mindless run-and-gun nature of its previous entries down, and reconstructs them in a way that feels strategic and tactical. This may sound odd for a Doom game, but it still retains the same high-octane, adrenaline-pumping action of the series – you just have to be a bit more mindful of your moves, as each one is calculated, ensuring no shot is ever wasted.
Developer id Software accomplishes this seamless blend of relentless, up-close violence with strategy in a few interesting ways. Ammo, health, and armor is now relegated to performing specific actions and killing the right demons. This is achieved with corresponding commands, like using your newly equipped flamethrower to ensure every enemy you set fire to drops armor while they’re alight. Your chainsaw can now obliterate smaller enemies for ammo pick-ups, while the now gorier glory kills drop health. Admittedly, it’s a bit tricky getting the hang of these mechanics in the first hour, but once you’re locked in the flow of combat, it becomes reflex and second-nature.
The verticality of the gameplay is absolutely insane and opens the door for so many creative and stylish kills.
Another fantastic addition to combat is the grappling chain attached to the Super Shotgun. It allows players to quickly close the gap against far-to-reach or floating demons, all the while performing the same ruthless combat mid-air. The verticality of the gameplay is absolutely insane and opens the door for so many creative and stylish kills. Platforming ties into this mechanic, as levels are now designed with more climbing, scaling, and jumping in mind. It hasn’t always worked with a first-person perspective, but DOOM Eternal makes it feel entertaining with how smooth everything flows. In the middle of combat, jump boosters even give you the added advantage of scaling environments quicker, usually for leverage over demons below.
Mobility is the name of the game, and like 2016’s DOOM, you’re constantly on the move. Doom Slayer’s movements are faster, snappier, and more responsive than ever before thanks to improved and incredibly fluid motions. id Software uses this to create a diverse and more punishing roster of enemies, and my, what a delightfully malevolent batch of demons they’ve made. It’s easy to often get swarmed by a dozen variants of demons at a time, adding to Eternal‘s chaotic and bombastic gameplay. DOOM Eternal is the best that Doom has ever felt to play.
With the added tactical advantage, you also have to find ways to control the flow of combat by using the right weapons at the right time and on the right enemies.
Each weapon comes with a couple of unique modifiers, such as the new and improved Gauss Cannon (now aptly retitled the Ballista) which can launch a wide-range burst of energy at a group of enemies, or the combat shotgun that has a powerful and handy quick-fire burst. With the added tactical advantage, you also have to find ways to control the flow of combat by using the right weapons at the right time and on the right enemies. Even in the latter stages of the game when it throws an army at you (not an exaggeration), it never feels daunting or overwhelming because of how well you can crowd-control and gain the upper hand in the open-ended and cleverly designed levels.
All of this culminates in gameplay that is phenomenal on every technical front. More importantly, it creates an air of palpable dread – not for the demons, but for the Doom Slayer. Basically, DOOM Eternal is one giant hype man for the Slayer. NPCs cower in fear at the sight of the Slayer, and demons will often try to run away when they see you brutally massacre their entire armada with your bare fists. The story is ludicrously built around the insane urban legend of the Doom Slayer, like he’s an omnipotent boogeyman. Without delving into spoilers, there are speeches and monologues in the game that gave me goosebumps from its pure, blood-pumping hype alone (“There is only one dominant life form in this universe, and it carries a steel-barreled sword of vengeance!”). That’s one thing I did not expect from DOOM, of all games: absolutely terrific writing, both in its dramatic heft and, surprisingly, dark satirical comedy.
That’s one thing I did not expect from DOOM, of all games: absolutely terrific writing…
DOOM Eternal‘s campaign, which should take you around 12-15 hours to beat, features twice as many diverse areas as its predecessor. From snow-covered regions and the fiery pits of hell to the desolate wastelands of Earth in the midst of a demonic civil war, each location is lovingly crafted and offers a great amount of variety. From an art direction perspective, the game is simply stunning to look at. On Earth, for example, towering demons walk between buildings while gigantic tentacles slithering out of fiery portals in the sky eat the surroundings. At least as an apocalyptic vision, DOOM Eternal definitely presents one of the most unforgettable ones I’ve seen.
In between missions, you’re free to explore the Slayer’s hub area called the Fortress of Doom. Here, you’ll find an intricate web of corridors, staircases, and rooms packed with upgrades, weapons, and side objectives. The best comparison I can make is the Sanctuary in Borderlands 3, only slightly less confusing to navigate. Even after many hours and missions, I was still finding new areas in the Fortress, and things to read, upgrade, and play around with. The Slayer even has a “bedroom” packed with plenty of fan-pleasing goodies and items, but I’d rather not talk about it so that it’s a surprise for you. You won’t be spending much time here, but it’s a nice change of pace if you need a little down-time in between missions on your campaign.
DOOM Eternal fleshes out the story of the franchise, and does so in a wholly fulfilling way.
Eternal places a stronger emphasis on lore and world-building this time around, giving fans satisfying answers to some age-old questions while exploring the universe at large. If you’re a fan of Doom‘s lore, Eternal offers that and so much more. Is it fan-service? Sure, but it’s meaningful fan-service that adds so many complex layers to the series. It takes a few unexpected turns, but by the end, you feel like you’ve just read the Scroll of Life and now understand the inner workings of a deceptively deep mythos. DOOM Eternal fleshes out the story of the franchise, and does so in a wholly fulfilling way.
Talking about modern Doom wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Mick Gordon’s soundtrack. It’s easily his best work to date and a grimmier, heavier upgrade to 2016’s already bonkers score. The music kicks in at just the right moments, filled with roaring heavy metal guitars, thumping electronic bass, and often, symphonic screamo death metal choirs (I’ll let you process that for a second). The track that especially stands out is “The Only Thing They Fear Is You”, which has quickly become my favourite piece of music in the series to date. Couple that with Eternal‘s breakneck, chaos-driven gameplay and you have yourself a recipe for quite possibly the most adrenaline-fueled video game ever made.
As far as negatives go, I really have nothing major to say that would ultimately hurt the experience. I occasionally encountered a few graphical glitches, but nothing that took me out of the game. For the most part, DOOM Eternal is pristine and polished, visually striking, and runs buttery smooth, at least on PlayStation 4 (which this review is based on). For the time being, unfortunately, Eternal‘s multiplayer, Battlemode, will only unlock on launch day. Expect a more detailed deep dive into Battlemode soon.
DOOM Eternal is a truly magnificent video game, and that rare shooter that comes around once a decade. id Software have outdone themselves this time, taking everything that made 2016’s DOOM work and tweaking it to some brilliant and unexpected new heights. The combat now forces you to think fast and be quick on your feet at the same time, prioritizing snappy reflexes while simultaneously rewarding the attentive mind. The story is given such a strong, welcomed upgrade that fleshes out the lore of the Doom universe to fan-fulfilling results. Mick Gordon’s soundtrack might also be your new favourite, so brace yourself. In fact, brace yourself for the entire experience. DOOM Eternal is a hyper-violent, loud, and menacing masterpiece that has, yet again, reclaimed its throne as the king of the shooter.
DOOM Eternal reclaims its throne as the king of the shooter, delivering a sequel that’s bloody brilliant in damn near every aspect.