-Played on the Xbox One X
"We slaughtered thousands and millions more followed, but then he came - he cut through them like a sickle through a field - his fury surpassing their own. He is faster - more relentless. I believe him now to be more than just a man - he is... DOOM" - Dr. Elena Richardson, February 9th 2163.
DOOM 2016 was the first DOOM game I ever played. The fast paced action, the relentless slaying of demons, the reactive heavy metal background music, and the badass weapons really just felt like a harmonizing, almost serene mix thanks to id Software. When the sequel, DOOM Eternal got announced, I was hooked. Even at PAX East, DOOM Eternal was on my short list of games I needed to play. After a short Demo at PAX East, the few remaining weeks till launch felt like months, and the wait is finally over. Doomguy is back ready to rip and tear through hundreds and thousands of demons to deliver his reckoning and fury. First off, I think this game runs as smooth as it does thanks to its delay pushing it from 2019 into 2020. During later in the game, it still runs buttery smooth, visuals still pop, and the music still rocks. Actually, I experienced only one game crash during my whole playtime and that was after a long play session after a large and long fight. But, let's get into why I love this game so much.
First, the visuals. In DOOM 2016, there was a lot of repetitive-ness when it came to the general level aesthetic. Everything was on fire, like craggy mountains in the pits of Hell. As you progress through DOOM Eternal, you will come across a wide variety of levels, from a crumbling city, to a icy domain, to a dilapidated temple that seemed to be lost to time. They all look absolutely beautiful, and I caught myself staring out into the distance or just looking around at the details hidden away. The level designers, sky box artists, and artists need a raise for their amazing work.
Next, mechanics. DOOM Eternal is somehow faster paced than DOOM 2016. Enemies seem to swarm you faster, new enemies to the game and series are faster, stronger, and more agile than anything you've faced before and really require you to be as reactive as possible (I'm looking at you Marauder...). But overall, this is the best shooter I've ever played. The guns feel great to shoot, and distinct from each other. id Software found the perfect timing to introduce new guns so nothing feels stale or repetitive for too long. Plus, one great feature that goes along with your shiny giant weapons is enemies take damage as you're lighting them up. Hitting a Pinky in their tail? Chunks of flesh will fall off exposing muscle and bone. Hit an Arachnotron on their right side with a well placed bomb? That piece of brain will fly away. Enemies look tattered and worn down by the time you execute a glory kill on them to end their misery and it makes the experience that much more satisfying. Plus, the music rocks more than ever. When it kicks in, I could feel my excitement grow as I knew I was in for a wild time. Mick Gordon should be very proud of what he's made. I've left my game on from time to time just to have the music on in the background to keep me hyperfocused while trying to finish work-stuff. It's a very Pavlovian response.
While i'm talking about how the game feels, I want to touch on the newest mechanics for DOOM, the dash and parkour elements to levels. Dash is a great way to get around levels, avoid damage, and get close to enemies to glory kill them. But, it feels weird having parkour pieces to these long and intricate levels. This is one of my very few gripes with the game. Parkouring either feels mundane to pace the combat arenas, or overly frustrating because a double jump and dash that wasn't executed perfectly. This does add a new layer to collectible finding though. Collectibles are back and are very well hidden in most levels; particularly the cheat code floppy discs, records, and toys. Their hiding spots are fairly visible, but getting to them adds an odd parkour puzzle element to the game that sometimes felt out of place. In late game, booster portals are introduced, and make parkouring even trickier, sometimes confusing, and like a wall to the fast pace of the game. I look forward to seeing how they build on this feature, though, in the inevitable sequel, but in DOOM Eternal it feels like an odd fitting piece to the puzzle.
Another odd, but much better fitting piece, is the story. DOOM Eternal delves into why Doomguy is Doomguy and it was fun to take a peek behind the curtain. It is a surface level story, but they add a lot of lore and layers to what is going on around Doomguy as he is culling. I highly suggest looking out for audio logs from Dr. Elena Richardson about halfway through the game, as they shine a good light on how the resistance perceives his actions. There's some good beats too that I won't spoil here. Just be ready for something new.
My biggest complaint though is the difficulty spike. Anyone going into DOOM should know this isn't an easy game. It's not merciless like a From Software game, but you need to move and kill to stay alive. From your glory kills to get health, to your flame thrower and chainsaw that give you armor and ammo respectively, it's a melodious mix that you'll find yourself following along to to keep yourself in the action. There are several times throughout the game where hordes of large angry demons swarm you, you're out of ammo, and you stall because all non-fodder demons take 3 chainsaw fuel to cut through. This is where the game gets frustrating. These demons know how to chase, hunt down, and swarm you, and they will do this over and over again. Frustratingly, this is how I lost a lot of my extra lives. Throughout levels, you will find extra lives that bring Doomguy back with full health right where he died. But, if you fail a special slayer portal, secret portal, die, or reload a checkpoint, those extra lives are gone forever. The only way to get those back are to replay levels. For context, I played the game on Hurt Me Plenty, the normal mode of the game, and I beat DOOM 2016 on Nightmare and I can definitely say that this game is way more difficult than you'd expect. Especially after being introduced to certain enemies like the Marauder or any of the three bosses. As mentioned before, everything is relentless and wants you dead no matter what. My advice to you, take your time. Don't push through like I did to complete this review. DOOM Eternal is meant to be played at your pace. Treat it like a puzzle game. If you're having difficulty with a boss, an arena, or with finding a collectible, step away, sleep on it, or play a more peaceful island-based game on another platform and come back when you've calmed down. I did that a couple times and came back to the craziest moments I had during my playthrough.
DOOM Eternal is a sequel that does nearly everything right. It feels better, runs amazing, and adds many new mechanics that build so well on all mechanics you knew and loved from DOOM 2016. HonestLUL at this point, id Software can do no wrong. They know how to make games that get you pumped, feel immersed in, and overall, ready to rip and tear through thousands upon thousands of demons. If you're looking for something that is oddly stress relieving that doesn't involve peaceful animals, look no further than DOOM Eternal. And remember... Just keep killing, just keep killing, just keep killing, killing, killing, killing.
Photo credit: Bethesda and id Software