A bloody good time…
Battlemode will not be weighed into this review as I primarily focused on the single-player aspect of Doom Eternal.
2016’s reboot of the 1993 FPS innovator, DOOM, was a revitalizing breath of fresh air in a stagnant, overpopulated genre that was quickly overstaying its welcome. In the crowded era of the military FPS genre, with a heavy reliance on realism, cover, and the general avoidance of residual movement, DOOM’s frantic and visceral nature juxtaposed the status quo, accentuating many elements that fostered the genre in the first place. While its 2020 sequel, Doom Eternal, does not share the original’s level of nuance and innovative status, it further refines all established elements to a T, resulting in a blissful gameplay experiencing that is technically proficient and superior. Doom Eternal is a melodic ballet of visceral violence and is constantly put in motion; each enemy encounter acts as an intricate battle of chess as specific weapon and ability combinations are heavily recommended to exploit enemy weaknesses and enhance player sustainability, creating a pivotal back and forth dynamic that is constantly engaging and rewarding. The exquisitely responsive and fluid first-person gunplay is complimented with some of the best level design and enemy variety in the FPS genre. Stages are dynamically constructed and mirror the whimsical nature of 3D platformers such as Banjo-Kazooie, Spyro the Dragon or Ratchet & Clank. Whether it be the surprisingly robust level of exploration or the impeccably satisfying combat, each element incorporates are profound level of problem solving, further cementing Doom Eternal’s adaptive quality. While the heavier emphasis on exploration, problem solving, and rewarding progression elevates the overall pacing to a notable level of improvement, Doom Eternal unfortunately carries a few shortcomings that also stifled its predecessor. Its repetitive framework eventually creeps in during the later levels and the apathetically weak narrative leaves much to be desired. Despite the conspicuous repetition and minor disappointments – Doom Eternal is still one of the most gratifying and engaging gameplay experiences of the generation, and its pristine level of atmospheric immersion and the bombastically infectious metal soundtrack further compliment its proficient status.
Doom Eternal continues the rampant onslaught of everyone’s famous Doom Guy, eradicating every ounce of a demonic presence and essentially preventing Hell’s consumption of Earth. The amount of depth found here is exceptionally shallow, with the narrative’s existence only serving as a conduit to propel the gameplay forward. There is an impressive amount of lore and environmental storytelling present in Doom Eternal, it is just not presented or told in a compelling manner. Collectible Codec entries can be discovered throughout the brilliant design of Doom Eternal’s impeccable missions; these entries provide a nice window into the layered history of this established universe – however they are rendered to the factual structure of your textbook Wikipedia entry, providing a bevy of insight but lacking in any personality. The astounding environments are a marvel to behold with each landscape, structure, and colossal corpse telling a narrative of its own, exemplifying a profound sense of history and lore – the remnants of an epic battle are conspicuously detailed around every corner. The exquisite use of pathetic fallacy compliments the decrepit aura masterfully crafted in Doom Eternal, exuding a grotesque sense of immersion. The excellent soundtrack composed by Mike Gordon hits violently hard, delivering a bombastic symphony of aggression and brutality. The heavy guitar riffs and infectious melodies resonate profusely with Doom Eternal’s frantic and chaotic nature. The soundtrack from the 2016 reboot was admittedly more memorable but Mike Gordon’s work in the sequel gets the job done nicely. Doom Eternal ran exceptionally well on my 2019 Razer Blade 15 – which housed a Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU and an i7-8750H CPU. I was able to easily push above 100fps on Ultra-Nightmare settings in majority of instances. There were a few notable frame drops and performance issues towards the end game, typically when an absurd amount of demons would flood the screen. However, its minor discrepancies do not detract from a near-perfect technical performance that is an absolute pleasure to play.
Narrative shortcomings set aside, Doom Eternal is a masterclass in FPS game design, implementing elements that do not necessarily reinvent the wheel, but enhance and refine its core structure and level of flexibility. Combat is exquisitely precise and responsive, with the flow of movement reaching a level of eloquence that is exceptionally gratifying. Doom Guy’s vast arsenal of weaponry is diverse, satisfying, and visceral, with each weapon adding a layer of depth and perspective to this robust combat system. Weapon unlocks are paced efficiently and are tied directly to the campaign’s progression. Each weapon has 2 modifications that can be selected on the fly, which drastically change their functionality. From a mod that allows an assault rifle to fire a barrage of micro missiles to a mod that essentially changes a shotgun into a full-auto chain gun, modifications offer an impressive level gameplay variance and flexibility, encouraging players to identify which mods are best suited for the situation at hand. Weapons and their modifications also come with an excellent array of upgrades and unique combat challenges which further enhance established modifications to a mastery level. The Super Shotgun quickly became one of my favourite video game weapons of all-time, given the implementation of its grappling hook. It is an absolute powerhouse on its own right, but the additional ability to hook onto an enemy, propel yourself forward and finish them off with a devastating blast to the face is unbelievably satisfying and caters to Doom Eternal’s established nature of seamless mobility. Along with the expansive arsenal of weapons, Doom Eternal also has a substantial list of different enemy demons, some of which require a specific strategy or use of a particular weapon to eliminate. This level of consciousness and deliberation creates an engaging dynamic that requires the player to consistently adapt to the combat situation. Doom Eternal is a game that not only encourages consistent movement but demands it to ensure survival. In a definite spiral of brutality, you will consistently run out of ammo and run low on health and armor, chaotically scampering across the battleground trying to scavenge whatever resource is available. You can perform a glory kill to brutally execute your enemy in an illustrious gory fashion, rewarding you with a plentiful amount of health pick ups. Using your flame belch will ignite the area in front of you, and enemies damaged or killed while ignited will drop a bevy of armor pick ups. Lastly you can use your delectable chainsaw to grotesquely slice your enemies in two, which will reward you with a bountiful helping of ammunition. You are constantly rewarded for confronting your enemies in these stressful and dire scenarios and using the correct ability or equipment at the right time will increase your rate of survival. This sense of chaotic mobility allows Doom Eternal’s combat to feel like an elegant dance of sorts. Complimenting the frantic and seamless movement of the combat is the addition of a dash mechanic which further accentuates Doom Eternal’s agile sense of fluidity and verticality. While the moment to moment gameplay is arguably the best in the genre, an aura of fatigue eventually creeps in as Doom Eternal continues to throw wave after wave of enemies towards you, even including previously defeated bosses into the mix. The Marauder demon was not fun to fight against as a boss and it continues to not be fun for the umpteenth time in the normal hodgepodge of demon encounters. The boss fights in general were underwhelming and not particularly memorable as well. By the later levels, the prolonged battles dragged on and ultimately overstayed their welcome. It is undeniably disappointing that an efficiently paced campaign decides to drop all notable sense of quality towards its end game, throwing everything at you in such an abrupt and jarring manner.
What sets Doom Eternal apart from the genre’s populace is its heavy emphasis on exploration and platforming. Incorporating the brilliant formula fostered in the 3D platforming genre, Doom Eternal’s aforementioned level of mobility and verticality translates perfectly into an FPS with a strong reliance on traversal. The previously mentioned dash ability does wonders for traversing the sprawling environments and being used in tandem with its double jump and wall climbing system, movement carries a pristine level of momentum and fluidity, transcending into an elegant ballet in motion. This responsive traversal system allows you to explore every nook and cranny with ease and uncover the exceptional number of secrets hidden throughout each mission. Make no mistake, Doom Eternal is just as much a collect-a-thon as it is a first-person shooter. Hidden collectibles are sprinkled across the open plains of Doom Eternal’s excellent level design, encouraging the player to always venture off the beaten path. Collectibles are almost always visible to the naked eye but the manner of attaining them requires a tantalizing level of problem solving – using the environments in combination with your double jump, wall climbing, and dashing abilities to reach a secret collectible constantly evoked a welcomed sense of insight and euphoria. Luckily, the collectibles themselves offer significant value in return – while some only serve a legitimate collecting purpose, such as figurines and soundtrack vinyl’s, a plethora of collectible upgrades are also attainable through exploration. Weapon modifications, praetor suit tokens, sentinel crystals, extra lives (1-ups), ability runes, and other beneficial goodies increase the proficiency of your current abilities, providing the necessary tools and level of sustainability to improve your probability of survival. Additional combat challenges are also tied to Doom Eternal’s explorative DNA, with players having to uncover hidden paths or locations that lead to these optional challenges. These challenges are laced with restrictive time-limits or exceptional difficulty spikes but reward players with additional weapon upgrade points. On top of the rewarding nature of Doom Eternal’s exploration, these segments also act as an excellent pallet cleanser to the visceral combat, enhancing the overall flow of progression and pacing. Each exploration element is profoundly deliberate and never fails to deliver on its rewarding premise.
Doom Eternal never reaches the meteoric heights in reinvention as its 2016 predecessor, but it never had to. Doom Eternal is ultimately the better game given its pristine level of polish and brilliant execution. Its first-person combat is visceral, violent, responsive, and so exquisitely satisfying and the level of insight and complexity found in each battle is an astounding achievement. Despite some repetitive tendencies and questionable enemy encounters, mechanically Doom Eternal is arguably the most refined and proficient first-person shooter of the generation. Its true genius, however, lies in its surprisingly robust platforming and exploration system, incorporating established gameplay elements into a creative foundation that feels novel and relevant for the DOOM series. The sprawling level design compliments both the combat and explorative segments impeccably, harmonizing the two gameplay elements into a proficiently paced experience. Unfortunately, its predecessor’s weak narrative exposition seeps into the structure of Doom Eternal, acting as tedious fodder that drives the gameplay forward. Setting minute tribulations aside, Doom Eternal is one of the most satisfying and rewarding gameplay experiences I’ve had all year. 2016’s DOOM is the more important and iconic game of the two, but Doom Eternal improves on almost every aspect of its predecessor, resulting in a more proficient and definitive experience.