[Note: The multiplayer aspect hasn’t interested me nor do I have anyone to play it with, so that’s why it won’t be covered in this review.]
For as much as I dislike relying on comparisons, it’s hard for 2016’s Doom (I’ll call it Doom 4 for the sake of ease) to not be stacked against Doom Eternal. It’s more of that heavy, crunching combat I enjoyed back in 2016 (which in itself is worth it at price of admission), and while there hasn’t been drastic changes in terms of the gameplay loop of explore, fight, hunt for secrets and repeat, it does just enough to keep it from feeling like a glorified expansion pack. Tight gameplay, plenty of options to fight with based on the situation, exploration that’s a bit more than industrial parkour, new fantastic hellscapes… If only the boss fights weren’t gimmicky and bloated.
Where 4’s story was essentially ‘Oops, All Demons’, Eternal’s story is… It’s still ‘Oops, All Demons’, except this time Earth is under threat of demonic consumption with the Doom Slayer using a floating fortress as his base of operations to plan out and stop the incursion. There’s plenty of collectible lore to discover and read into for greater context and information, but admittedly that was low on my to-do list. What I did read into was well-structured, written and considered, so even though I went through the full game barely looking into the lore, it’s there for anyone interested and I can appreciate the effort from the writers. The plot can still be followed since it’s rather open and shut on who the bad guys are and what needs to be done to stop them - It’s Doom, after all.
Anyone coming from 4 to Eternal should feel right at home, but for those unfamiliar, Eternal’s gameplay is fast, arsenal and equipment based first-person-shooter combat frequently taking place in arenas with multiple terrain and movement options for better positioning and evasion. While there are some options for being precise, a tactical shooter this ain’t; standing still typically means game over, so mobility and target priority is a must. I can’t help but feel like the AI in Eternal got an upgrade in terms of their aggression, as there were far fewer instances I could duck behind a corner and catch my breath; if there’s enemies, they’re either in constant pursuit or bombarding you from range. Add to that encounters having more enemies to begin or spawning as the fight goes on, and you have a campaign that requires good usage of all your tools and ammo management even on normal difficulty. The flamethrower being so reliable does hurt the game somewhat, as having a tool that lets you set enemies ablaze for more armor increases your survivability, but lets the game get away with more, angry enemies. During regular encounters this is fine since it’s less time scrambling for pickups and more time in the fray, but this turns boss battles into a drawn out survival challenge instead of feeling like a major bout. With pickups being limited and enemies being used as ammunition and armor caches, cannon fodder regularly appear to serve that purpose - While still retaining their aggression amidst the boss’ own attacks. The previous game was just the boss versus the player which made the set piece feel all the more grand; in Eternal, bosses feel like a colossal gimmick with resource pinatas running around instead of this nefarious big bad to take down, especially with them having a tell to watch out for before damage can be inflicted - Often having a break in between to wait for the next opening.
This being my only real complaint of Doom Eternal, at least bosses are spread apart which means the majority of your time in the game is spent going from regular encounter to encounter and exploring the level for secrets. There’s standard secrets for upgrades, power ups and weapon modifiers to aid in combat (as was the case in 4), but there are also collectibles that are displayed and usable back at the Doom Fortress (level hub). There’s even items to find at the fortress, making it another place to explore for prizes but also to unwind in and maybe find an easter egg or two. Platforming has more going for it with some segments making use of swing bars, climbing walls and boosters to cover great distances with. Some of these elements also appear in arenas for greater mobility and vantage points, and when combined with an upgrade to allow greater air control, other than jump height there’s not a terrible lot keeping you from repositioning anywhere you want during fights - So long as it’s a valid surface and there’s no ten foot demon ready to clap you out of midair. When fast travel gets awarded, backtracking being a chore to find missed secrets is avoided and lets you pace out how to progress the level, either by heading right for the end then retracing your steps or snooping around after encounters or platforming segments.
My expectations for Doom Eternal were middle of the road mostly because I wasn’t sure where else they could take the game when I went into it. Its campaign expanded upon why the Doom Slayer is power incarnate and certainly ensures you get to wield that power with the games’ combat, but even with only a few peppered in the boss battles slaughter the fun and are the only reason I haven’t started a new playthrough yet. When I say the final boss is exhausting, it’s due to the length and incessant additional enemies spawning, not due to difficulty. That said, whether on higher difficulties to test if your Doom 4 or mobile shooting skills are sharp or lower difficulties to go for that sheer power trip, Doom Eternal is still a great, fun and worthwhile campaign.