If the world leaders were to decide on whether video games should be banned based purely on Doom Eternal, we’d never see another video game release again. It’s the personification of aggression and violence. It coins terms like “Super Gore Nest” and “Fortress of Doom”. I said “Oh shit” out loud at least once every 5 minutes while playing it. You use the same button to tear people into 2 as you do to interact with things in the world. That interaction is usually a punch. There’s no crouch or kneel button, I guess because Doom Slayer bows to no man, demon… or tight space. It’s a ripping, tearing, sometime silly, shredding, blood drenched nod to the past and an evolution of everything that was good about Doom 2016. It’s the best Doom game ever made and an essential first person experience.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room though. The plot. Without spoiling it, Doom 2016 ended on something of a loose thread. The start of Doom Eternal does nothing to tie that up. You can get a bit of closure but you’ll have to go reading through collectable text logs if you want it.
Instead, Doom Eternal starts something anew. Earth is fucked. The demons of hell have invaded and the UAC hollogram’s are welcoming them with open arms. Biblical, end of days stuff. The Doom Slayer, with a face on him like he just saw someone put the milk in first when making a cup of tea, is not having it. Using his Fortress of Doom, a Gothic meet’s heavy metal cathedral in orbit around the planet, as his home base, he sets out to punch, decapitate and otherwise destroy any demon in his way.
The demons are lead by the Khan Maykr, a supreme being, leader of the realm of Urdak, who has determined that humanity is unworthy and their tortured souls are to be turned into Argent Energy (yes, that McGuffin is back). The Maykr has orchestrated the invasion of Earth through three Hell Priests – Deag Grav, Ranak, and Nilox – and their guardians. To repel the forces of hell, the Doom Slayer must find and kill the Hell Priests – but the Khan Maykr won’t make this easy and the road ahead of him will unveil some surprising links to his past.
This isn’t a Shakespearean plot by any stretch of the imagination but it shows all the hall marks of being written by someone who know’s their Doom inside and out and wanted to do something new while paying homage to the past. It’s also one of those plots that have depth if you go looking for it. Hidden away in codex pages are references to the series history that make them fit to the current context but if you just want to blast stuff in the face, the game doesn’t force any of this down your throat.
This is unlike what the Doom Slayer does to some of his opponents however. He’s all about forcing stuff down people’s throats. The unfiltered violence that’s a staple of any Doom game returns with aplomb in Doom Eternal. The Glory Kills return from Doom ’16 (a gory health restoring melee attack you can perform once you’ve whittled down a demon’s health) and there’s a bigger variety of them too. Eviscerating the skull of a Hell Knight or forcing the power core of a Mancubus into its mouth before it explodes is a really exhilarating feeling no matter how many times you do it. Each Glory Kill you execute fills a gauge which, when full, enables a single Blood Punch. These are devastating uppercuts which can turn a whole corridor of zombies into chunks or knock all the armour off a Cyber-Mancubus.
One of the biggest criticism’s of Doom ’16 was that all the ripping and tearing eventually became repetitive. With Doom Eternal, they’ve managed to avoid any staleness setting in by giving a purpose to every type of rip and tear. Ammo in Doom Eternal is a precious resource because you can’t carry vast amounts of it (but the amount you can carry can be increased with collectables). The design here has the similar effect to the weapon degradation in Breath of the Wild, as in you can’t just pick a favourite and keep using it. You have to mix it up. Ammo can usually be found in area’s where you’ll be doing a lot of fighting but finding and obtaining it means taking your cross-hairs away from the tooth and clawed enemies bearing down on you. Instead, you can use a chainsaw attack which will instantly kill the enemy in front of you and spawn a tonne of ammo out of their corpse at the same time. You can’t do this repeatedly (it has to recharge after use) and not at all to some demons (but you can get gas can pick ups which mean you can saw some better foes asunder). If you’re plush with ammo and health, you can also gain armour shards with a different type of attack – the flame belch. This is a short flamethrower blast that sets demons on fire and while they’re roasting, they slowly drop armour bits. Kill these enemies while they’re still burning and they’ll drop a big bounty of armour.
Switching weapons to those most effective against whatever’s barring your way, punching, burning and slashing all has a purpose here. Sound triggers and large-but-not-big-enough-to-break-your-concentration UI pop up’s tell you when you’re short on something and you need to change things up. Staying on top of you armour, health and ammo becomes a beautiful ballet of blood and bullets. Blood punch the Reverent, rocket launch to a group of gargoyles, turn and cleave a zombie marine in two with the chainsaw which replenishes your ammo in the process, spin and fire a grenade down the throat of a Cacodemon. Finish off my a Glory Kill, ripping out the floating blob’s eye with a wrist blade and then punching it back in. All of this becomes second nature and essential, as if you’re playing a real time strategy game rather than a bloody FPS.
The weaponry and gunplay in Doom Eternal make all of this just that bit sweeter by being a truly impressive arsenal. It’s a bold statement but I’m going to make it anyway. The Super Shotgun in Doom Eternal is the best shotgun in video games – now including a alt-fire grappling chain which can quickly draw you to a target – taking the crown off of …Doom ’16’s Super Shotgun. Every weapon in this game is killer, not filler, has appropriately meaty firing sounds and has a huge amount of customisation options. That sword you’ve seen in the trailers? Sublime.
The weapons are drip fed to you as your progress through levels which can only be described as masterfully created. There’s one particular level in Doom Eternal which is some of the most majestic tension building I’ve ever seen in a game – as you enter a base, you’re told you’ll be facing off against an old foe. As you progress through this level, you see the boss you’ll be facing being put together, flesh on machine, weaponry bolted to bone, before you eventually come face to face. Or more appropriately face to snarling maw. It’s fantastic. In terms of environmental storytelling, every corridor tells a story of action you’ve missed and deaths not witnessed. Secrets hide behind false walls or in vents off the beaten track. While some parts of the game won’t please anyone – there’s sections of the game with a purple goo which removes the Slayer’s ability to jump which I can see being divisive in the long run – for me, the level design is pitched nigh on perfectly, driving you from fight to fight in area’s designed with mobility in mind.
Talking of mobility, parts of Doom Eternal feel more akin to Mirror’s Edge than it does to its predecessor. There’s a whole lot of parkour and platforming involved in getting through each and every level. This works 2 fold – it makes the levels feel absolutely massive. When you’re barrelling through space between chunks of asteroid, swinging on poles and slamming into climbable walls, it makes the whole game feel vast. Secondly, as gorgeous as the kill corridors in this game look, the double jumping and dashing really space out the combat to help keep that fresh too.
Doom Eternal really is a looker too. Even on my bog standard PS4, the game looks and performs fantastically. The art style is highly detailed but even with explosions going off and a screen full of enemies running around, the game retains a smooth and steady frame rate. This is a really impressive technical achievement.
And this brings us to the soundtrack which is, to the surprise of no one, hardcore. Thrash metal meets dub step with some of the classic riffs from Doom ’16 making a return joined by new shreds that’ll have your heart racing and your foot tapping throughout.
One of the greatest achievements of Doom Eternal is to consistently raise its own game. Levels last just as long as they need to, their challenge building up to satisfying releases of violence and then a rest in the Fortress of Doom. Collectables, of which are they are several different types that upgrade weapons and abilities, all serve to make the Doom Slayer ever more formidable and tailored to your particular play style. The set pieces are bad ass too.
As the Doom Slayer grows, so does the threat posed by the demons. Bosses become grunts for later bosses. The mix of demons attacking you changes, requiring more and more strategy. By doing this, the Doom Slayer rarely feels over powered and the threat posed to him always feels real. This is punctuated by a section of the game that has you control a Revenant (which doubles as a tutorial for the multiplayer mode). It’s here, when you’re hovering over other demons and blasting them into chunks that you realise how powerful the demons are and how bad ass the Slayer is to be taking them on.
Doom Eternal has an online multiplayer mode called Battlemode and it’s… just okay. In this mode, 1 player plays as the Doom Slayer while 2 others play as a demon of their choice. It’s a first to 3 wins death match between the 2 teams and on paper, it should be a compelling mode. Unfortunately, it being asymmetrical, it can mean you end up having some very unbalanced games. Thankfully, this mode is a little sweetener to the main course of the main single player game which is worth the price of admission alone.
Doom Eternal is the best Doom game to date and an essential play for first person shooter fans. Some of the story beats won’t be as impactful to those who haven’t played Doom ’16 but it’s still a plot full of symbolism and cathartic violence that is worth playing regardless.
Polished to the nth degree, visually sublime and with a soundtrack that’ll get your heart racing, it’s a thrilling game from bloody beginning to gory end.
An early GOTY contender.
Doom Eternal is available now on PS4 (reviewed on a base PS4), Xbox One and PC.
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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