Doom is, without a doubt, one of the most important franchises in video game history. It is one that is decades old, and yet still relevant thanks to 2016’s Doom and the modding scene. Four years later, the ultra-violent Doomguy is back in a new game that promises to be bigger, badder, and bolder than the last. Does this game live up to the previous sentence? Absolutely. But the real question is whether or not that means the game is any better.
Hell has invaded Earth, and 60% of Earth’s population is dead. The only way to stop the demonic invasion is by killing three hell priests and ultimately Khan Maykr, who is a god-like being. After killing the first priest, the other two go into hiding, which leads Doom Slayer to travel to multiple demon-infested planets in the search for blood. Along the way, codex entries are picked up, adding more background to the Slayer as well as the history of the planets visited and their fight against demons.
2016’s Doom is a fantastic game. It offers fast-paced action, a great blend of classic and modern, and a great score by Mick Gordon. There are other good elements to the game as well, but what ultimately makes that game great is its simplicity. The game gives you a gun, a room full of demons, and lets you figure out the rest. This game, on the other hand, tries to also offer fast-paced action, but with more complexity. It seems like a natural evolution to the series at first, but in retrospect, I think it is what stopped me from loving this game as much as the last.
2016’s Doom isn’t really a story game, but it has its quirk. Doom Eternal, on the other hand, is filled with story and lore. This game has more story cutscenes and slower story moments, and there are codex entries in every level adding lore and background to the game. It’s fun to see the story and the codex entries flesh out just how much of a badass the Slayer is, and some of the history is pretty cool, but it eventually became overwhelming and bloated. There are way too many codex entries; and while you can ignore them, I couldn’t ignore my lack of interest in any of the story by the end of the game. Also, this game is a tad bit too comedic. I’m not calling this a comedic game by any means, but hearing a cacodemon swallow a grenade with the goofiest swallow soundbyte or seeing a picture of the Slayer holding a bunny felt dumb. Not all of it is bad though. Like I said, some of the codex entries are fun to read, and the story itself isn’t terrible, just too much. Also, I really like the various locations visited, and I think some of the writing is pretty good. Ultimately, the story feels too bloated for a Doom game, even if there are some positive elements to it.
A slow mission with a bunch of plot dump doesn’t exactly belong in a Doom game.
Of all the things to say about 2016’s Doom, the number one thing that comes to mind is its kickass combat. It is pretty simplistic, and I usually prefer more RPG-based systems similar to the multiplayer in Call of Duty, but I feel Doom is the exception to that. Doom Eternal tries to modernize its gameplay while keeping the previous game’s fast-paced action. There are a few new systems in play that affect the combat that in-theory sound neat, but in practice weighs down the combat pretty heavily.
One of the most prominent new features of the combat is the resource loop. In this game, you are always running low on resources, and weak zombies are now walking resource generators more than enemies. Glory kills (killing animations done to weak enemies) drop health, chainsaw kills drop ammo, and enemies that are on fire drop armor. The chainsaw was in the previous game, but this time recharges a single use over time. As for the fire, a shoulder-mounted flamethrower is introduced to this game, which is also on a recharge. I really like the idea of this resource loop, and I even think it would be a great system if it was the only new system in the combat, but this combined with the other new combat systems just feels like one more thing to worry about. On the bright side, the resource loop did create the flamethrower and the rechargeable chainsaw, and I found those a lot of fun to use.
One of the stronger enemy types has an energy shield, which breaks a lot faster with a plasma rifle.
The other new feature in the combat are enemy weakpoints. Just about every enemy type has some sort of weakness, ranging from disabling the mounted weapon on an Arachnotron to quickly disabling energy shields of zombie soldiers with a plasma rifle. Enemy weakpoints are nothing new in video games, and in a vacuum seems like the logical next step for making more complex gameplay, but I found this to be the most damaging to the combat. Doom Eternal has more enemy types than the last game, and I found a lot of the encounters to have a wide variety of enemies. Both of these are good aspects on their own, but the inclusion of enemy weakpoints means a lot of stop-and-go combat. I would have to keep switching weapons just to deal with one enemy at a time, which ruined the flow the combat for me. Enemy weakpoints are good for a game where you can stop and think about your next move, but Doom isn’t that type of game.
The final new feature, which isn’t really new but more prominent in this game, are the challenges. In this game, there are weapon challenges, mission challenges, and weekly challenges. Again, in a vacuum, it sounds like a good idea. I’m really into 100% completion and completing challenges too, so this sounds like a great addition that adds replayability. In reality though, it’s just one more thing to worry about while in combat. What’s worse are the weekly challenges, which give you experience points that goes towards a battle pass. For a game that is known as walking the line between retro and modern, the battle pass feels like a perversion to the series that I am actively against. Much like the other two features, combat challenges are just one more thing to worry about.
Despite the new features weighing down on the combat, I still had a blast with the fights. Even with the new features, the combat is super fast-paced to the point where my toes began to curl and I would almost hold my breath. Just like the previous game, boss fights are still exciting, the music is still incredible, and weapons have multiple attachments that are fun to try out. Not all of it is the same though, as for there are smaller but still noteworthy improvements and additions to the game. There is a lot more platforming in this game compared to the last, which translates to monkey bars and dashing, adding a new layer of speed. There are now two types of grenades (regular and ice), and they are on a recharge. Two new melee abilities, the blood punch and the crucible sword, are meaningful new tools in the Slayer’s arsenal. As for enemies, the new Marauder enemy type is a great foe to fight. The absolute best new addition, however, is the grappling hook on the double barrel shotgun. Grappling from one enemy to the next and giving each a face full of buckshot is fun like no other. These improvements are a blast to play around with, and I wish they were the only changes to combat.
I could play this entire game only using the double barrel shotgun and grappling hook, and I wouldn’t get bored.
The greater focus on platforming can be seen within combat, but it definitely shows outside of it as well. In this game, levels are more open-ended and larger, offering a level of freedom the previous game didn’t. Part of these levels include platforming segments, which are decent fun, but nothing special and feel like filler. What makes these levels more noteworthy compared to the last are the extra activities you can partake in. Just like the last game, the levels are filled with collectibles to pick up. The collectibles in this game include vinyl records, action figures, and cheat codes. This time around, secrets are lot easier to find on the 3d map, and the main challenge with them is finding a way to get to them. More important than collectibles, though, are the secret encounters and slayer gates. Secret encounters are timed encounters where you must defeat some enemies in a certain amount of time, while the slayer gates teleport you to a map and spawns waves of demons for you to kill. The secret encounters are forgettable, but the slayer gates are a blast to play, as for I think it captures the purity of Doom’s combat better than the main game itself. I wouldn’t say these levels are open-ended like Hitman, but they do offer an incentive to explore and revisit.
In between missions, you spend time in the Fortress of Doom, a space station used as a gateway between worlds. Here, you can play music from the soundtrack, interact with the collectibles picked up in the game, rip and tear some demons in the practice course, choose a mission to replay, and even play original Doom and Doom 2. Most of the fortress, however, is filled with upgrades and suits that can be unlocked with sentinel batteries earned or picked up in the game. The suits are just skins, but the upgrades are another thing worth talking about. This game goes a bit overboard with the upgrades. There are sentinel crystal upgrades, weapon attachment upgrades, suit upgrades, and rune abilities. Sentinel crystals improve health, armor, and ammo counts and occasionally unlock upgrades to other things like flamethrower duration. Weapon attachment upgrades improve the attachments of each weapon, not the weapon itself. Suit upgrades improve grenades, exploration, and the 3d map. Finally, there are nine runes in the game that improve various abilities like longer glory kill range, but only three can be equipped. There are plenty of upgrades to go around, but it felt like too much, and I found a lot of them to be worthless. The upgrades and the hub don’t feel necessary to the experience, but they are there, and they aren’t too obtrusive.
In true id Software fashion, you can play their older game in their newer game.
Both inside levels and out, Doom Eternal has some surprisingly great technical aspects to it. For starters, the game ran like a charm for me, as for my framerate was smooth and my PC was pretty quiet. Within the game, there are a few noteworthy settings. The weapon wheel can be customized, which may be a first for me. Weapon and Slayer skins can be changed within the campaign, the main menu background can be changed, and there is even the ability to have traditional weapon aiming, where the weapon rests in the middle of the screen. Considering how high-intensity this game can get, having the ability to change around my weapon wheel and not having to worry about performance helped a lot.
Outside of the main game, Doom Eternal also has a multiplayer mode. In this mode, two players choose to play as a demon of their choice, while the third plays as the Slayer. The game is essentially a two versus one multiplayer match, where the Slayer tries to kill the demons and the demons try to kill the slayer using a mix of combat abilities and demon spawns. Personally, I did not enjoy this mode that much, and I only found myself playing a few matches before calling it quits. The mode is easy to ignore, even if the battle pass leveling shows in the main game, so it’s hard to say a lot about it.
In conclusion, Doom Eternal follows up on the fun, fast-paced action of 2016’s Doom, but adds a bit too much to the experience. The game feels like it is trying to fix a problem that isn’t there, and as a result gives an experience that feels off. It is still a really fun game to play, and I would recommend it to any Doom fans or to any shooter fans in general, but I would recommend the previous game over this one.