Doom Eternal Review – The Doom Slayer Returneth
Doom Eternal20th March, 2020
ID Software and Bethesda surprised everybody in 2016 when they released Doom. Not only did the multiplayer beta release to a resounding sigh, but Bethesda also started a policy in which reviewers wouldn't get a copy of the game until release, creating a lot of doubt. Fortunately, Doom was fantastic and the policy didn't last long. Following the excellent reception of Doom, expectations have obviously been heightened and the anticipation for yet another true old-school shooter is at boiling point. Can Doom Eternal and the Doom Slayer satiate this desire for demonic blood? Let's find out.
Note: This was a review in progress. Review now complete as of 24th March.
Let's answer the question right away. YES. Doom Eternal can and will satiate any Doom-like desires you may have. Much like the Doom rebirth in 2016, this is a fast-paced, action-heavy shooter that has that incredibly addictive quality of being relentlessly in your face. If you're playing Doom, you're slaughtering hordes of demons using a wide range of devastatingly entertaining weapons. Even better is that the demons that are terrorising the world are petrified of you.
Much like the earlier entry, the Doom Slayer is as talkative as he ever was. Unlike the earlier entry, he doesn't seem as impatient as he was before. Now and then you will have moments where somebody starts yammering off a long monologue, only to be pulverised by the slayer. However, there are times where the game seems intent on throwing a list of names, events and whatever else your way. There's something about a Khan who makes things. Honestly, the story interests me so little that I felt like the skip button should at least result in the cinematic murder of a demon, just to keep in with the nature of Doom Eternal. Sadly, it didn't the one time I tried it.
The part of the story I like is how the game represents just how the demonic horde feels about the Doom Slayer. As soon as he enters a room, the infighting suddenly stops and all they can see is him. It's elements like this that truly adds to the world. Rather than have the enemies just stood around waiting for him, you get to see elements of strife between the demons. Naturally, Darwinism should be at its height in such a competitive society. The fact that you are the ultimate boogeyman, the strongest of them all, is brilliantly displayed by something so simple.
If you want to delve into the world and the lore, the game doesn't leave you hanging. There are the aforementioned long monologues. In addition to these, there are a wide number of codex entries to find through simply playing the game and killing enemies, to hunting around for secrets - some of which can include random codex entries. These offer a great deal of inside into the world of Doom Eternal and, frankly, are more interesting than the cinematic story parts. Maybe it's just me, but the series has taught me to not care about the story in Doom.
This move towards actually force-feeding some elements of the story doesn't take away from the true draw of Doom Eternal though - the pure, visceral, violence. The game has ample of this to keep you entertained, creating that superb balance between offloading an armies worth of ammunition into a demonic horde, before running around like a headless chicken attempting to rearm, re-armour and heal up before getting back into the thick of things. Much like the previous outing, it offers a fantastic game of tug of war where you're often just getting by on the brink of death.
Of course, if you played the previous Doom, then Doom Eternal will also feature elements that you're well aware of. When you kill an enemy, they'll drop some health pickups to keep you going in the fight. If you take them down using your chainsaw, usually your method of last resort, you'll get a fair few ammo pickups. There are also combinations of attacks that can give you armour drops and more. It all works exceptionally well to keep the fast-paced combat flowing, at least if you're good at the combat loop. I'm not the best, to be quite frank.
This doesn't stop me from loving almost every second of the combat. Almost being the key word in that sentence. Doom Eternal can be pretty overwhelming at times, with almost too many weapons with multiple secondary attacks to use and work through. This is especially true when you also take into account the fact that these weapons have multiple customisation options and each of these has a challenge to complete, letting you achieve mastery of the weapon.
Even though there are a lot of weapons with their multiple secondary attacks, I have to give props to Id Software for the placement of everything. It all ramps up perfectly, where you never feel too overpowered and, at the same time, you never feel like you're in over your head. You are the Doom Slayer, so you should be able to demolish the demonic horde, but it also should be a reasonable challenge.
As much as Doom has always been about collecting new things, secrets and so forth, there's a case to be made that Doom Eternal has taken it a little too far. Each level has dozens of collectibles to find, from extra lives and dolls to records, sentinel crystals and more. Every mission is massive in its own right, but the issue then is that they feel a little too familiar, for lack of better word. There's no real surprise. You go from arena battle to arena battle, just going through corridors and platforming sections in between, now and then just looking for a little space to find the aforementioned secrets.
The campaign will take you a fair amount of time to complete. For me it was over the twenty-hour mark, though that's also because I love to explore every nook and cranny, picking up everything I can. There are a few frustrations to be found within the environmental puzzles, having to time almost too perfectly jumps onto monkey bars and dashes to clear large gaps. While I appreciate a little variety in a game and Doom Eternal does add a lot of verticality, it adds a little too much - linking into the earlier issue of maps being too similar in function, moving from arena to corridor and then repeating.
Even if the function is too similar at times, it never fails to be entertaining and appealing aesthetically. Maps are gruesome, gory and chock full of details. The same applies to the demons, all of them looking and feeling unique when fighting them. Musically, Doom Eternal also works perfectly, the heavy metal ramping up during a battle, adding to the fast and frantic nature of the game. It's rare that everything works so perfectly together, but it does here, even better is that I've not encountered a single glitch or bug, with the game performing perfectly.
Let's talk multiplayer. With all the talks of the multiplayer being a core component, with Doom Eternal being primarily an online experience, I expected more. The multiplayer, Battlemode, pits two demons against the slayer. This asymmetrical mode certainly has the Doom Eternal action you're used to. It even has some decent tactical options there, particularly when you take on the mantle of the mortally challenged. The issue is that it just feels lacking to me and there's only so much enjoyment I can get out of just one game mode.
That's the real issue with the multiplayer is that it's lacking the "eons old" deathmatch mode, the mode that people loved and still love from the franchise and multiplayer games in general. While Battlemode is fun, it is entertaining, it's just one mode. The other aspect about the game is primarily an online experience is the fact that both the multiplayer and single-player modes both tie into a levelling system as well as a number of challenges, such as killing a number of particular demons with particular weapons, which will rotate weekly.
PC version of the game reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.
Doom Eternal is a brilliant game, one that is a worthy successor to the previous release. While the game does stumble here and there, trying to be something that it really shouldn't be, the outstanding gameplay more than makes up for any issues. Going by the campaign alone, Doom Eternal is well worth your time and money, particularly so if you liked Doom. I'm not sold on the multiplayer, as it feels just a bit too threadbare.
- Exceptionally fast and fun combat, creating an almost perfect gameplay loop
- A wealth of secrets, codex entries and more to find while exploring
- Excellent visuals and audio that perfectly complement the gameplay and general feel of the game
- The Codex, unlike the exposition (read first con) is genuinely interesting and offers a good way of absorbing into some elements of the world
- The game performs fantastic, provided you have the right settings
- Doom Eternal tries to force too much exposition into a game and series that really doesn't need it
- The number of weapons and components can become a little overwhelming at times
- Maps can, at times feel a little too similar with continuous chains of battle-arena, corridor, arena and so forth