Hell on Earth
Some time has passed since the Doom Slayer's adventure on Mars where he was rudely awoken from his slumber in the middle of a demonic invasion. Although the Slayer managed to thwart Olivia Pierce's plans, the victory was only temporary - it seems that humanity has foolishly continued their research into Argent energy in his absence. Faced with the prospect of literal Hell on Earth, humanity cries out for help, and the Slayer is there to answer the call. Armed with new gadgets of both alien and human origin and sporting his very own Fortress of Doom, the Slayer watches over Earth with a hateful glint in his eye. He thirsts for vengeance, and the time is now... are you ready to raze hell?
Rip and Tear
With a quick introduction to the plot out of the way, DOOM Eternal throws you right into the thick of things by dropping you off at your nearest cultist gathering. Your mission? Slay the three Hell Priests, stop the invasion and come back home before dinner time - easy! I began taking in the environments and it quickly became apparent that Earth is not in the best of shape. Some 60% of the world's population has been decimated and it seemed that the dimensional merge was progressing swimmingly judging by the blend of gothic and futuristic architecture that surrounded me. I began dispatching the familiar zombies and imps and was happy with what I saw - yup, it's DOOM. Returning players will be satisfied with Eternal's combat - it's everything they've enjoyed in DOOM 2016 and then some, with enough twists to keep things interesting. It's still the same frantic run-and-gun game you remember, however the meta has evolved significantly and requires some skill and practice to master. For starters, the combat shotgun has replaced the somewhat useless pistol - this, combined with the new aesthetic, immediately felt like a nod towards the classic Quake as opposed to the original DOOM. I didn't mind it one bit - it enables you to truly devastate your foes from the moment you start, which is well-within the spirit of the series. It's the perfect atmosphere to slay some demons, especially when accompanied by the fantastic soundtrack by Mick Gordon and the meaty sounds of gunfire.
Besides your typical arsenal of shotguns, rifles et cetera the Slayer has access to three gadgets - the chainsaw, a retractable DOOM blade and the equipment launcher. All of these devices are central to the new concepts in combat. Starting with the DOOM blade, it replaces the standard punch and allows you to launch into Glory Kills - powerful, gory finishers which execute staggered enemies and wrench some health pick-ups out of their pummeled corpses. Is there anything more satisfying than plunging your blade into an enemy and splitting them right half in two? I think not. Although initially somewhat underpowered, progressing through the game unlocks its Blood Punch ability - after filling up your Blood meter via Glory Kills you can unleash a powerful punch which decimates enemies around you, often times in one fell swoop. Your second melee gadget, the chainsaw, is limited to three charges, but it allows you to instakill most demons. As an added bonus, a chainsawed enemy turns into a geyser of ammunition and health pick-ups ripe for the taking. The amount of fuel used is dependent on the size and strength of the targeted demon, so if you want to use it on the bigger ones, you have to be on a constant lookout for fuel canisters. Finally, the equipment launcher, reminiscent in shape and size to the Predator's shoulder plasma cannon, is used to launch frag grenades, ice bombs, and most importantly, functions as a flame belch. It enables you to either set your enemies on fire, freeze them or blow them up. These effects have a variety of benefits - enemies that are on fire gradually shed armor pick-ups, frozen enemies stand still and explosions dispatch large groups of demons all at once, allowing you to quickly clear crowded corridors so that you to focus on the bigger baddies. All of these mechanics play off of each other, making engagements in DOOM Eternal far more strategic than in DOOM 2016. You can't just run around the place like a headless chicken - you have to maximize the utility of your arsenal and consistently use the belch, the chainsaw and your fists to stay well-stocked in health, ammo and armor. Items on maps are sparse and if you're not thinking during combat, you're basically doomed - it's slay or be slain. Inactivity on the battlefield or clutching those fuel canisters for dear life instead of using all of your available resources properly means certain death, so don't leave your ammunition just sitting there waiting for a rainy day - that day is now, and the game will punish for playing too conservatively or defensively.
One thing I immediately noticed about DOOM Eternal is the change in level design - the game is much more vertical, with larger maps more reminiscent of the original DOOM than those of DOOM 2016. The previous game often times felt like a journey from point A to B with battles on small arenas in-between, and although Eternal still encloses you in areas until you cleanse the demonic infestation, you are given significantly much more freedom. You're not just walking from one Gore Nest to the next and triggering battles - engagements feel much more organic, with demons minding their own demonic business or infighting until you come along. And yet, it is in this new-found freedom and verticality that I found my first gripe with the game - the platforming. That's right - in addition to ripping and tearing the Doom Slayer now engages in Mirror's Edge, Tomb Raider-style platforming, complete with climbing, box-pushing, dashing through air, double-jumping and pole vaulting. Now, this might be an acquired taste and perhaps I'm biased, but these mechanics felt out of place in a game that used to be all about murdering hordes of demons. The platforming sections simply take far too long and spoil the broth. The amount of time you spend soaring through the air or climbing walls is significant, and although the mechanics are well-polished and fun, they do detract from the overall experience at times. Of course I fully understand that the game needed to give the player some respite in-between the enormous battles, but it already has cutscenes for that - the emphasis on platforming was a little too excessive, and in certain sections I lost more health to pitfalls than I did to the horde, all while getting lost trying to find the next obviously climbable wall. I couldn't help but feel that I shouldn't be climbing walls at all - I'm the Doom Slayer, I should be smashing through them. On the bright side, you get an opportunity to do that too.
Life is Temporary, but DOOM is Eternal
This simple game loop of slaying and jumping to slay some more is very addictive, and what further adds to the formula are all the secrets scattered across the map - a trademark of the series. There's a whole lot to find, from upgrades to your weapons and suit to collectibles like vinyl records of in-game music, floppy disks with cheat codes, collectible figurines and more. In addition, maps also feature optional activities in the form of mission-specific challenges, hidden timed challenges triggered by removing hearts of Gore Nests and, finally, Slayer Gates - special arenas which require a Slayer Key to enter and reward you with... something very special, provided you can find them all. Needless to say, you will be replaying maps a lot to find what you've missed before, and I have good news - you can do so easily by using Fast Travel from the deck of your Fortress of Doom. Cherry on the cake? You get to keep all of your weapons and skill points, so previously challenging sections will now be a breeze. Revenge! Revisiting the levels as a grossly overpowered angel of death is a lot of fun, and well-worth the effort, since every single upgrade point counts, as there are upgrades galore.
Do you like your combat shotgun? Sure, but you'd like it more if it had an underbarrel sticky bomb launcher, right? Y'know what'd make it even better? If it could fire five bombs instead of three! Each weapon has two swappable mods available, and each mod has two upgrade paths. These mods can also be mastered by completing a special challenge, so the path to maxing out your favourite weapons is pretty long. Your suit has an entire wheel of upgrades too, from ones affecting basic suit functions to modifications to your equipment. But wait, there's more! The Slayer himself can be upgraded too, gaining the ability to magnetically attract loot, convert excess pick ups into blood and more. Upgrades, upgrades, upgrades... too many upgrades. It's hard to keep track of them all and at times it really feels like progression could've been streamlined a bit.
Once the campaign is done and dusted, you'd think that'd be it, but no - DOOM Eternal also features a multiplayer component unlike what you'll see in most shooters. Battlemode is an interesting three-player mode where two players take the roles of demons and one player plays as a Slayer. The demons, in addition to their innate abilities, also have the option to summon more of their brethren, as well as temporarily freeze the Slayer's ability to pick up items. The rules are fairly simple - if the demons manage to kill the Doom Slayer, they win the round, but if they are both slain, the round goes to the Slayer. This setup allows for setting up engagements very much similar to the campaign's arenas and is an interesting take on the otherwise tired genre. In addition to Battlemode, DOOM Eternal is also getting an Invasion mode in the future - a mode where players will be able to, well, "invade" their friend's campaign, Dark Souls-style. Although currently unavailable, Invasion is coming soon in a free update, and I can't wait to try it. What's sadly missing is the classic Deathmatch, which seems like a weird choice as it's pretty much a staple of the genre. There's also no co-op campaign, which would've been a no brainer - four-Slayer co-op would've been a blast. Multiplayer is another portion of DOOM Eternal where the developers tried to do things differently so much that they somewhat harmed the end product, but to be fair, it's the campaign that's the highlight here. On the bright side it seems that they're intending to periodically update the Multiplayer, adding new maps in subsequent seasons, as well as a Battle Pass-like progression system where gaining experience throughout the season rewards the player with various cosmetics. It's clear that the developer didn't intend for this game to be a "one and done" experience and focused a lot on increasing its longevity, both in familiar and in novel ways. Sadly, they've omitted the Snap Map editor this time around, but given the sheer scale and nature of the levels I can see how implementing user-generated content would've been demanding to implement.
Until it is Done
So, in conclusion, is DOOM Eternal worth your time? Yes, absolutely. Although the platforming can be a chore and the game is a little more story-oriented compared to its predecessor, its refined gunplay is second to none. I've had a blast with the title, even though it is rough around the edges. The great interplay between your weaponry and equipment and the frantic pace of the game kept me on the edge of my seat, occasionally swearing at the screen. In those brief moments of rage I was the Slayer, and I clutched my controller tightly as I sliced through the hordes like the reaper's scythe. While the shooter genre isn't exactly a rarity, few games have the look and feel of DOOM, and even fewer have the level of polish on display in Eternal. The game delivers precisely what it says on the tin, and with further expansions on the way, I'm confident that I'll be coming back for more. If a classic first-person shooter with some modern quality of life improvements is what you're looking for, you've found it - now rip and tear, until it is done!