Since the dawn of gaming, so many titles have been developed and released that it’d be difficult to name even a small portion of them. Some have withstood the test of time, while tons have been long forgotten. Few have been as memorable, or become as iconic as the original Doom, though, nor have many franchises carried so much import and reverie within their name. There’s good reason as to why the release of a new game in this series receives nearly unmatched attention, and it’s why Doom Eternal has been at the tip of many gamers’ tongues as of late.
Following the success of the series’ impressive and viciously fun (2016) reboot, Eternal proves that its developers aren’t interested in resting on their laurels, or rehashing past successes. While it looks a lot like its beloved predecessor, and features quite a few of the same mechanics, it happens to be its own demon-filled beast. Some will love this, while others may find themselves wishing this sequel was more like the shooter that came before it.
Set two years after the events of Doom 2016, this campaign picks up after demons have wiped out approximately 60% of Earth’s population. The planet is in ruin, and the only person who can save it is the legendary Doom Slayer, or Doomguy if you prefer that moniker. He’s got his work cut out for him, though, because things are more dire than they ever have been before, and those he’ll go up against carry even more damaging weapons.
From his spaceship of a base, the Slayer is able to teleport to different parts of Earth, Mars and what seems to be Hell, to do what he does best: rip and tear. In order to do so, he must find intel and open up portals. His end goal, though, is to find and decapitate a few of Hell’s most senior priests, all of whom know him well and are expecting his bullet-filled company.
The resulting 12-15 hour long campaign is comprised of almost non-stop action, with a surprising amount of platforming mixed in. Yes, you read that right: platforming in a Doom game. It’s unexpected, but it works decently well and allows for much more verticality, not to mention some well hidden secrets. This is one title that doesn’t shy away from collectibles, whether they be records, artwork, cheat codes, toys, or something else. Hell, there are even lots of unlockable skins and player icons, many of which have to do with completing in-game milestones.
Said campaign is also heavier on story and cutscenes than expected, although its story still leaves something to be desired. It wasn’t the deepest, nor the easiest to follow, but then again it didn’t need to be. After all, this is Doom we’re talking about. Story is secondary to action, of which there’s a ton.
The first thing you need to know about the aforementioned action is that it’s fast. The next thing is that it’s about as fluid as they get, with no framerate or technical problems getting in the way of the action, at least on Xbox One X. Lastly, you need to understand that it’s hard as hell. If you found the last game to be difficult, expect to to discover that this one is even more challenging. Quite a bit so, actually. To the point that people are calling the base ‘I’m Too Young to Die’ difficulty this one’s equivalent of ‘normal.’
When I first jumped into this thing, I was incredibly rusty, since I hadn’t played the reboot since it first came out. I should’ve played through it again, but didn’t. Then again, Eternal plays differently and has its own unique gameplay systems/flow. Yes, it borrows a lot from the last game, but it throws some new elements into the beloved formula.
The key to success here is to always stay on your toes, as continuing to move is often the difference between life and digital death. Ammo is limited, too, which is odd given what type of game we’re talking about. It’s true, though. While you will find some ammo scattered around each ‘arena,’ a lot of what you’ll use will come from killing enemies. Not in the typical sense, either, but through what the developers call glory kills.
The general idea here is that each arena-like encounter (of which there are so, so many) will be comprised of both basic and advanced enemies, the latter of whom become more and more common and complex as things progress. In this case, those grunts are just as important as the big guys, because they’re the key to your survival. Shooting a few bullets into one will cause it to flash, allowing you to press the joystick in and complete one of those vicious and previously mentioned glory kills, which are basically close up dismemberments. Runes (aka perks) can also be unlocked to allow for faster or more distant glory kills.
Glory kills are not limited to these minor demons, but they are the easiest to get to this state. The bigger, and much more deadly ones will require a lot of bullets, rockets or grenades to get there. Once you get the hang of things, though, you’ll be moving around the battlefield without thinking, pumping lead into everything in sight, and jumping from one glory kill to the next. If you don’t, you’ll be in trouble, because glory killing is the best way to replenish your health and ammo, both of which deplete very quickly.
The Doom Slayer also carries his trusty chainsaw, which is another way to get health and ammunition quickly. Instead of shooting, then glory killing a small demon, you can simply press X (or square, I assume) to saw them in half. The thing is that the chainsaw either requires fuel or time to recharge. More than one fuel can is required to saw mid-size enemies in half, whereas you’ll be able to keep cutting the grunts into pieces so long as you wait out a brief cool down period.
To put it simply: the chainsaw is your very best friend. I could never count the amount of times that it saved me when I ran out of ammo and had only several bits of health left.
As a result of all of the above, Doom Eternal’s gunplay and utterly insane battles boil down into a gory type of dance. You’ll always want to move, be using anything you can to take down the plethora of enemies in front of you, and will need to jump from one glory kill to another in order to stay alive. Jumping also helps, but the enemies have good aim and love to gang up on you.
Each enemy has a weak spot, but it can be tough to target those specific areas when things are always moving so quickly, and you’re often one or two shots away from death. The odd thing is that the game introduces each new demon type by bringing up a text prompt, which tells you exactly where its weaknesses lay. For example, the arachnid turret’s weak point is its turret.
In true Doom fashion, you’ll have quite the arsenal at your disposal. This includes a shotgun, a super shotgun, an assault rifle, an automatic plasma rifle, a rocket launcher, a BFG 9000 and a limited use sword. Not to mention grenades, ice grenades and the ability to shoot fire or ice at nearby enemies, in order to gain armor. Needless to say there are a lot of weapons to be found and used within this game. They all run out of ammo rather quickly, too, although your ammo capacity can be upgraded at discoverable upgrade stations. The thing is that you’ll have to choose between bullets, health and armor upgrades at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I prioritize the latter two.
There’s a lot behind the scenes; so much so that it can get a bit overwhelming. Each level has tons of collectibles, as well as a slayer gate challenge (which is basically a much more difficult series of encounters, which must be unlocked by finding a special key), secret battles (which are triggered by finding a pinkish purple globe, and are difficult too), and more. The Doom Slayer’s massive ship also offers benefits in the form of weapon points, suit points, Slayer skins and those aforementioned health, armor or ammo upgrades. You’ll need to find batteries to unlock their doors, and those are found in hidden areas within most of the game’s 13 stages.
What do the weapon and suit points do? Well, let’s start with the weapon ones.
The easiest way to explain it is that almost every weapon has at least one alternate fire mode, which is accessed by pressing the left trigger, since there’s no such thing as reloading in Doom Eternal. Oftentimes they’ll have two, and you’ll be able to cycle through them by using the d-pad. The shotgun can fire grenades, the assault rifle can shoot out a bunch of helpful mini rockets, and the plasma gun can fire a heat blast, then become more powerful after it hits. Unlocking these alt-modes requires finding terminals, and improving their capabilities requires spending weapon points. You can even master weapons by completing their requirements, or by spending any hidden coins you’ve found.
Those secondary modes saved my life so many times. So, too, did the discoverable extra lives, which can be found in hidden or precarious spots throughout each stage. As odd as it was seeing ‘1ups’ in a Doom game, they did come in handy. The caveat here is that they don’t return if you reload the checkpoint or die out completely, and can often end up being wasted if you’re cornered or run into some bad luck. It would’ve been nice if id Software had given gamers the choice as to whether or not to use an extra life. That would’ve been greatly appreciated.
The suit points, on the other hand, provide ability upgrades. There’s a colour coded wheel, which uses colour to delineate different sections and types. Each upgrade also costs between 1 and 5 points. The idea is to pick and choose what you buy, from a wealth of options that include more powerful grenades, faster climbing and platforming, and no damage from exploding barrels.
Speaking of the platforming again, it’s important to note that it’s not just jumping from one raised spot to another, or engaging enemies from above. No, there are lots of moments wherein the player must jump from one rock wall to another, grab on, climb up and repeat. You’ll also jump from ledge to ledge and pull yourself up to new areas that way. The Slayer can even boost horizontally in mid-air, and can touch airborne objects that let him boost even further.
There are also horizontal flagpole type things, which you can grab onto, then use swinging momentum to jump off of. These will help you reach higher areas and secrets, and also factor into campaign progression.
I was surprised by the amount of platforming found in Doom Eternal, but I didn’t hate it (or even dislike it) like some people seem to. It took some time to get used to, and wasn’t always as user friendly as I’d hoped, but it didn’t frustrate me too much. There were a couple of times where I got slightly angry, though, because I kept missing what I was jumping at, and lost health and armor each time I fell. What surprised me more, however, was that there was swimming, not to mention underwater puzzle solving. It always seemed that said water was radioactive goo, too, meaning that I needed to find a hazmat suit before attempting anything.
Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in this game. It likely sounds overwhelming on paper, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. At times, it can be a bit overwhelming and feel like too much, but most of it helps the experience. Just make sure to put some effort into looking for secrets and upgrade terminals, because upgrades are important. This is a very challenging game, which is hard from the start and doesn’t ever let up. It pulls zero punches, and led to me dropping things down from ‘normal’ to ‘easy’ after the mid-way point. Even then, things were far from easy.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are four or five boss battles to be found within the campaign. Each one is different, and most of them are pretty good. However, the second last one is an absolute shit show that I never want to play again. It features an aerial boss, who must be shot until it becomes stunned. Then, once that happens, you need to use the super shotgun’s secondary fire mode to hook it and pull yourself upwards, so that you can ‘blood punch’ it. This must be repeated several times before the boss is defeated.
I hated this fight because of how cheap it was. While the rest of Doom Eternal was far from easy, and often featured choke points, it was still somewhat fair. This fight was not. The winged creature would make lots of the floor lava, would fire at the Slayer, and would also spawn cultists who did the same. Even on ‘easy,’ it was hard to manage everything at once and stay alive. This led to me eschewing my pride and using the better armor that the game over screen offered me. It greatly lessened the amount of damage I took, and allowed me to beat the boss. Maybe I would’ve beat it after many more tries, but I was tired and annoyed, and wasn’t having fun.
I’ve never been one to use cheats, and the above honestly bugs me. As someone who used to play many games on hard — including a lot of shooters — my pride has usually gotten in the way of even thinking about doing something like that. Hell, I used to give away any pre-order bonuses that I considered to be cheat-like, as in they offered upgrade points or improved health, or a special type of armor for pre-purchasing the game. This is one of the most difficult ones I’ve played in 30 years, though, and I don’t seem to be alone in that. Also, while I don’t mind a challenge, difficulty for the sake of difficulty isn’t normally my thing. It’s one of the reasons why I avoid rogue-likes and can’t stand the Dark Souls games, or Bloodborne for that matter. Thankfully, Doom Eternal isn’t THAT difficult, though it is often very challenging, and is also sometimes unfair.
In addition to its 12-15 hour-long campaign, this release also offers an online multiplayer set-up called Battle Mode. Within its hellish maps, one player takes control of the Doom Slayer while two others select demons to play as. The goal is for the Slayer to try to take out the demons, or vice versa, over the course of (up to) several rounds. Each ‘team’ gets ability upgrades in-between rounds, and the demons are best to work together in order to reach their goal.
I gave Battle Mode a shot after beating the story mode, but don’t see myself returning to it. While it was better than expected after reading a bit of negativity online, it’s not my thing and wasn’t incredibly fun or anywhere close. I kept ending up as the slayer, and felt that he was over-matched within this set-up, which is lacking balance.
Now, let’s move on to the presentation, which is impressive to say the least. This is quite a beautiful game.
If there’s one thing that Doom Eternal is, it’s chaotic. The gameplay is fast, and death is often a shot or two away. For that reason, dancing between enemies and keeping on your digital toes is of the utmost importance. Thankfully, the campaign performs like a dream, with flawless gameplay that is as smooth as butter. Not once did I experience slowdown or any sort of framerate issue, but I must admit that I was playing on our Xbox One X review unit. The sound was also of quality, although not as impressive as the visuals or performance. All of the gunplay was loud, boisterous and intense sounding, and the mix of orchestral music and metal really added to things. Some of the metal music could’ve been better, but it ended up filtering into the background anyway, because my mind was almost always focused on trying not to die.
During my fifteen or more hours with this thing, I only encountered a couple of glitches. One was a black screen after an environmental object was surprisingly thrown at me. The other involved a battle that kept going on and on and on, with massive enemies who simply wouldn’t stop spawning. The latter one happened after I’d switched to the lower difficulty, and fixed itself after a few retries and one or two checkpoint reloads. The proper battle was much, much shorter than I was used to, and didn’t involve a seemingly endless amount of baddies.
With all that having been said, this is an easy game to recommend to people who want this type of experience. That said, I wanted to explain things as thoroughly as possible, because this isn’t the type of shooter that everyone will love. It’s hard and unforgiving, to the point where it’s not all that accessible, and the difficulty hurts the replay value in my opinion. Others will feel differently, though, because some love such intense challenge. That’s why this thing offers several different difficulty modes, including a 1Up one, wherein you only get a set amount of lives.
Those who expect an expansion of the 2016 reboot will likely be surprised at how many new mechanics are in play in Doom Eternal, not to mention how limited the ammo is and how difficult the game is on its base settings. These new mechanics show that the developers put a lot of thought into things and didn’t rest on their laurels, but do lead to frustration. For that reason, I’ve had difficulty writing this review and giving this thing a final score. While I applaud the effort to improve, and feel that it’s a very well made game, the increased difficulty, reduced ammo and heavy platforming don’t necessarily make this a much better experience than what we had before. That said, it’s well above average and is well worth playing if this type of thing is up your alley.
This review is based on the Xbox One X version of the game, which we were provided with.
- Incredibly fluid and devoid of performance issues
- Chaotic, intense and pulse pounding
- Lengthy, with lots to unlock as well
- Mediocre at best multiplayer mode, which feels unnecessary
- Too challenging for its own good?
- The odd hiccup