I am going to be frank off the bat; DOOM Eternal, developed by id Software, is probably the greatest single-player FPS I have played in recent history, and one of the most challenging as well. I was a fan of its prequel, the franchise reboot DOOM (2016), for its fast-paced and visceral gameplay, so naturally news of a sequel was exciting to me. Even the prequel was special from its other FPS contemporaries for its approach to gameplay and level design philosophy, as a fitting embodiment of the motto, “violence, speed, momentum” iconic of famous streamer Dr. Disrespect. So how does DOOM Eternal compare? Well, imagine everything about DOOM (2016), and ramp it up to the next level; DOOM Eternal is like DOOM (2016) on crack. This review also only covers the single player campaign, as there is a multiplayer mode, but I am frankly not interested in it at all so whether the multiplayer is a diamond or a pile of garbage is irrelevant to my thoughts on the game.
DOOM Eternal continues the story of the 2016 game as its direct sequel. Shortly after the Doomguy’s exploits on Mars, demons commence an invasion of Earth in order to harvest the planet for its energy and resources. Naturally, the Doomguy is obligated to save Earth, and in the process slaughter every demon he comes across in his path, as is expected of him. The story does get a lot more in depth, but that is the more or less the core premise.
The bread and butter of the modern DOOM games’ appeal is in their gameplay, which is so successful due to a combination of different factors. The gunplay is tight and feels super fluid, and each weapon in the Doomguy’s arsenal plays very differently allowing for a lot of variety at the player’s disposal. The variety is further increased with each weapon’s capability to be modded for additional functionality, like lock-on rockets for the rocket launcher or a bolt-action sniper for the heavy cannon. The game’s weapon balance is actually impeccable and very well-tuned, with each weapon having its own strengths and niches, and I ended up using all the weapons in my arsenal to beat the game, which is a testament to the game’s weapon design and balance. DOOM Eternal further enhances the Doomguy’s weaponry by giving the player access to cool gadgets like the ice bomb and the blood punch, which allow for even more ways to destroy demons.
Another awesome feature that makes a return in DOOM Eternal is the glory-kill mechanic, which basically lets the Doomguy perform a gory execution on any demon after it’s taken sufficient damage. These glory kills feel extremely visceral and brutal, and most of them involve the Doomguy breaking off a demon’s limb and impaling them with their own appendages, which is super metal. Not only are they visually amazing, but they also have the advantage of being able to instantly kill off demons without spending extra ammo. While ammo is not exactly that hard to find and can be replenished via the chainsaw (sort of a glory kill itself, just with a different end result), good resource management is still important as more efficient ammo usage means less time spent on chainsawing fodder demons and more time on taking out the bigger threats. Glory kills also render the Doomguy invincible during the animation, so it’s also a way to guarantee the death of a demon while not taking any damage.
The most important part of DOOM’s gameplay loop, and in my opinion what separates it from any other FPS I have played is the emphasis on movement. DOOM Eternal places a ton of importance of moving around and not staying still, taking advantage of the map layout to run-and-gun effectively while keeping the demon hordes manageable. While this philosophy is present in its 2016 prequel, I feel like DOOM Eternal executes it way better, mainly because of the new movement options given to the player. In Doom Eternal, the player can double jump immediately without having to find an upgrade late in the game, and also acquire the ability to dash (in both mid-air and on the ground) fairly early. This allows the Doomguy to move at a significantly faster pace than before, which is crucial because the demons can also move very fast. Oh, and mid-game he gets access to a grappling hook.
So by now it is pretty clear that the Doomguy is a very powerful individual. So how does the game keep things interesting and challenging? Not only does the game introduce new demons with different powers to keep the variety fresh, every encounter also features a metric shit-ton of them. In most games, throwing a ton of enemies at the player usually feels like artificial difficulty that is designed to be more of a pain in the ass rather than an enjoyable challenge, because in most games the player character is not equipped to handle such an onslaught of enemies. However, in DOOM Eternal, the Doomguy is easily capable of taking on these vast hordes. It is not an easy task, and it forces the player to have a solid grasp on every weapon in the Doomguy’s arsenal as well as mastery of the game’s movement mechanics, but that is what makes the game so brilliant. I played through the game on nightmare difficulty, because I am a masochist (actually my brother beat it first on nightmare so obviously I had to do the same), and honestly this game reminded me of FromSoftware’s titles (Dark Souls, Sekiro, etc.). For those who have not read my previous reviews, I am a pretty hardcore FromSoftware fanboy, because I enjoy the gameplay design philosophies employed in their games, of providing a difficult challenge that is rewarding for the player if mastered. Nightmare mode in DOOM Eternal feels the exact same way. It certainly deserves the “nightmare” moniker; I probably died more times in my nightmare run than I did in my entire Sekiro play-through. While I definitely did feel frustrated at times, there were very few moments where I felt like my death was undeserved. Beating this game on nightmare forced me to get intimate with every weapon and tool I had at my disposal as well as learn each encounter’s map layout to be able to move effectively and unhindered. It also feels extremely gratifying; clearing a slayer gate feels just as euphoric as beating a tough boss in a FromSoftware game.
The non-combat parts of the game are also pretty cool. There is a good deal of platforming and exploration, and some of the rarer items are actually hidden behind some challenging puzzles. These provide a nice break from the hectic pace of the combat encounters as well as give some time to read up on the game’s lore through the different codexes that can be picked up. The platforming is especially cool because a lot of the platforming puzzles are designed specifically to be solved with the new movement mechanics, such as dropping from a platform and mid-air dashing to get to an upgrade item right below. The upgrade/progression system is also very well-designed, with a bunch of different items upgrading different parts of the Doomguy’s arsenal, including his weapons, suit abilities, and base stats. The weapon mastery challenges that allow one to “max out” one part of a weapon’s upgrade tree are my favorite; one can choose to undergo the specific challenge to acquire the mastered ability, but it is not mandatory; there is also the option to spend a weapon mastery token to automatically unlock the mastery ability if one finds such a token while exploring.
If DOOM Eternal was just the gameplay with a nonexistent story, it would still be a stellar game. Turns out the narrative is actually somewhat interesting, with a lot of effort put into setting up the universe. The story delves more into the Doomguy’s background as well as elaborates more on the lore pieces surrounding the Sentinels, a faction of warriors that the Doomguy was once part of, along with other alien races that have a part to play in the overall narrative. Funnily enough the game also makes it obvious that the Doomguy’s reputation precedes him; the various non-demon characters in the story are all well aware of just how ferocious and unstoppable he is and usually act scared or intimidated when interacting with him.
My main criticism of the story is mainly in the delivery of a lot of the lore bits. The meat of the lore is found in codex pick-ups, and those are usually just big walls of text explaining the various historical events and places associated with the narrative. While I personally do not mind reading, I feel like building up such an interesting universe and leaving most of the information to exposition dumps seems like lazy storytelling. There is one theory floating around surrounding one of the more important characters, and that is definitely one of the cooler parts of the story should it be true, but for sake of spoilers I will not elaborate further.
Another excellent part of DOOM Eternal that is worth mentioning is the soundtrack, composed by Mick Gordon. Now I normally do not care for the heavy, metal-like music that dominates most of the soundtrack, and would probably never listen to that sort of music leisurely. However, if I am blending demons into a bloody pulp, there is nothing else I would rather listen to. DOOM Eternal’s soundtrack fits the game almost too well, and the heavy beats do an excellent job of making each demonic encounter feel that much more intense. The visuals are just as amazing, with a lot of the map set-pieces looking really grand and a ton of detail put into the glory kills (the Doomguy actually performs a different kill on a demon depending on what side he attacks the demon from). There is also a lot of visual detail put into the demons, especially when they take damage; as they take more bullets more of their guts are exposed, which is grotesque but also a neat visual indicator to the player that the demon is actually taking damage.
Overall, I have no major negative things to say about DOOM Eternal. It is a masterpiece, and a must-play for anybody who is a fan of FPS titles.
Rating: I impulse-bought this at retail price, and honestly I do not regret a single penny. DOOM Eternal is worth every cent of its $60 retail price tag, and that is just with the single player alone.