Before I start, it’s worth noting that I was the target audience for the new generation of Doom games, starting with Doom (2016). The aim was simple: bring a beloved franchise into the hands of gamers too young to experience the classic era of FPS. Whilst I had family that were lucky enough to experience Doom back when it all started, I was not so lucky. Thus, it fell on Doom (2016) to bring me into the franchise that helped start it all, and it did so with ease.
Moving forward to 2020, id Software releases Doom Eternal; a blend of new ideas and features from all previous titles following on from the success of Doom (2016). Featuring a longer, more story-driven campaign of around 30-40 hours and an all-new multiplayer mode, the ultra-violent shooter marks the return of the Doomslayer as he continues to punish Hell’s demons for their existence.
Set some time after the events of Doom (2016), you start onboard the aptly-named Fortress of Doom, listening to radio reports of Earth’s inhabitants as the invasion of Earth is underway (mirroring the events of Doom II). From there, you begin your quest which lasts the entire game – kill everything you can get your hands on.
It’s immediately noticeable how fast both your character and the game move, in comparison to the cover shooter FPS games that we are so used to. In Eternal, there is no cover. As the in-game tips say; stay on the move or suffer the consequences. A dash is introduced to help you stay more than one step ahead, and it proves vital as the game progresses.
The levels are designed to be open and free to explore, with vast arenas that require lightning-fast reflexes and constant traversal to conquer the array of demons that want you dead.
Exploration does pay off. The game contains a vast treasure trove of secrets, ranging from the vital (Sentinel Crystals and Batteries, Praetor Suit Tokens – more on upgrades later), to the joyful (collectible toys, vinyl music tracks and cheats for replaying levels once you are past them). There is also Secret Encounters, where the player must kill the demons that spawn within a certain time limit, and Slayer Gates; a challenging encounter that requires a mastery of the techniques within the game.
Luckily, you are armed and dangerous. A various assortment of old and new weapons are at your disposal, with each weapon and its modifications serving a purpose. Each weapon has certain strengths against particular demons, making you cycle through all weapons to use them in the right situations. Add in the new shoulder-mounted grenade and ice bomb launcher, the flamethrower (Flame Belch) and the Blood Punch – a bone-shattering melee attack that can be upgraded to cause a huge shockwave – and you can live out the ultimate power fantasy of saving Earth and looking badass whilst doing so.
Near the end of campaign, you unlock the cherry on top; the Crucible. The Crucible is a glowing energy sword with limited charges that is a one-hit-kill on any demon (except the Marauder). Leaving the enemy in clean cut halves or thirds is incredibly satisfying, unless you accidentally use a charge on a small imp and watch in horror as the Tyrant you aimed for is still towering over you.
Upgrades get increasingly more important as the game progresses, which makes exploration more than worth your time. The more you go off the beaten track, the easier it gets to unlock health, armour, ammo and equipment upgrades essential to your survival. Runes from Doom (2016) also make a return here, with a choice of three on the go from a maximum of nine. These abilities, such as slowing down time whilst aiming mid-air or being able to gain a speed boost after Glory Kill’s can give you the extra edge on your hellish enemies.
Glory Kills return to give you a health boost and a small breather whilst you watch the Doomslayer remove limbs, smash heads and use the demons weapons against them. There are a variety of different Glory Kills, ranging from downright brutal to hilariously goofy. The different Glory Kills are achieved by performing the action from a certain direction after shooting a certain area on the demon. This is made even better by what the developers call Destructible Demons. Every demon has a fully destructible body that will lose skin and bone on the areas where they take damage. Taking this even further, certain demons have weapons that can destroyed, lowering their threat level.
An example of this is the Arachnotron’s cannon. Shooting this with a Precision Bolt or Sticky Bomb will destroy the cannon, resulting in the metallic spider using a shorter ranged attack. Every enemy has a detailed entry in the Codex which contains a list of strengths and weaknesses, which is very useful to read if you are new to the game or coming back to the game after a break.
Once you get a few levels in and you start mastering the ‘Doom Dance’ (as game Hugo Martin describes it), the game becomes a blissful rotation of shooting, Glory Killing for health, Flame Belching for armour and chainsawing for ammo. By the end of the game, you will know exactly how to handle each situation the game throws at you, and it rewards you for this. You feel powerful. You can walk out of an arena of heavy and super heavy demons and feel like you conquered it with the force of a truck and the elegance of a ballet dancer, and that’s what I love about it.
The Doom series is known for its challenge and this is no different here. Doom Eternal is hard, even on the low difficulties. If you are new to the game, sticking to I’m Too Young to Die or Hurt Me Plenty – easy and medium respectively – carries no shame. If you like a challenge, Ultra Violence and Nightmare are there to knock you down a peg or two. In Nightmare, demons pack immense strength and will happily tear through your health and armour at any time.
But what if Nightmare just isn’t enough to satisfy your need for punishing difficulty? Enter Ultra Nightmare. As it was in Doom (2016), Ultra Nightmare retains the insane Nightmare difficulty but with one horrible change: one death ends your entire campaign. Yes, dying on Ultra Nightmare will set you back to the start of the first mission, with all your progress reset and nothing but a marker to mark the scars of your loss. This difficulty is reserved for the upper echelon of players, and is by no means a small feat. Even the developers themselves were unable to beat it when they introduced it.
The difficulty is an area which I could see newer players getting put off by, which is why I believe id added the arcade-style extra lives to get you straight back into the action. There were unsurprisingly numerous articles and reviews detailing just how ruthless the game could be, with one particular demon taking the stage as the annoyance for reviewer and player alike; the Marauder.
As you enter the first encounter with the Marauder towards the final half of the game, it’s immediately clear how much this fight is designed to test you. Made for the purpose of using all your techniques learnt so far, the Marauder can only be attacked as it goes to melee attack you, meaning your timing has to be impeccable. Failing this will result in the Marauder blocking the shot with a shield, and ultimately spawning a wolf spirit to join in the hunt. Add that to the multiple attacks from all ranges and a colossal damage output (especially on the harder difficulties), and you have yourself the most hated but also the most respected demon in the game.
This extreme love/hate relationship was the backbone of a lot of discussion surrounding the initial release, with it being an off putting inclusion for some players. By the end however, it becomes nothing more than muscle memory, with several encounters before the credits roll. A quick weapon change mid-shot provides a longer attack window, which has now been taken advantage of by skilled players, leading to one burst kills that leave the Marauder in pieces within seconds.
What about the rest of the demons? Well, a lot of them are redesigned or updated from previous games, including fan favourites such as the Pinky and the Cacodemon. Don’t let this fool you though, there are a handful of new demons introduced into the grotesque and violent ensemble of Hell’s finest creatures, which all add new barriers (metaphorically and physically) to the Doomslayer’s success. No demon feels out of place or imbalanced, as every single enemy has its own balance of strengths and weaknesses.
The story itself is a much more in depth and intricate tale than the previous games, with Doom (2016) alluding to only a tiny amount of the lore that gets fleshed out here. Eternal moves beyond the small scale maps to breathe new life into the backdrops of Earth, Mars and Hell. You will venture across glorious cities from the Sentinel home world of Sentinel Prime, holding the key to the Slayer’s origins. You are taken on an incredible journey through the new Doom universe, resulting in the near-certain destruction of a Heaven-like realm run by corrupt angels leading you to the big boss of the game. The Icon of Sin returns as the last chance of humanitarian extinction destined to save a broken race from their inevitable fate.
It’s safe to say this story had me hooked start to finish, and I can only pray the expansions continue this tale of intergalactic war with the same excellence that it did here. Whilst the story is amazing to see, it’s also awe inspiring to read. The amount of detail the writers have put into the Codex, detailing events when time began up until the story’s events blows my mind, and it earns the right to be read over and over. I spent a great deal of time reading through the lore, excitedly finding more as each mission progressed.
The previously mentioned vistas are also an absolute sight to behold. Each level is meticulously crafted with love and care, and every aspect of the game is well-polished and a pleasure to look at, even the gore and chunks that fly off of the demons The game is simply stunning, running comfortably at 60 FPS and upscaled to 4K on Stadia. Doom Eternal is a great proving ground for Stadia and a fine example of the capability of the platform. Respawn and load times are slim, meaning you are in the action nice and quickly. Overall with Stadia’s power and id’s mostly flawless optimisation, you have a title deserving of it’s Game of the Year nominations.
They say beauty is only skin deep, but Doom Eternal also sounds just as good. Each weapon carries its own futuristic and heavy sound, whilst the demons make a wide variety of noises and sounds as they spawn in and shortly move around before they are once again removed from existence. And I couldn’t review Doom and not mention the soundtrack. Fan favourite Mick Gordon returns (though sadly for the last time) with a wickedly evil and heavy composition containing synthesised chainsaws, heavy guitar riffs and a demonic choir. The incredibly popular BFG Division received a 2020 refresh and stands alongside, in my opinion, one of, if not the greatest selection of songs a soundtrack has ever been blessed with. An unholy collection of aggressive metal songs powers you through the campaign (and the multiplayer) right up until the credits start.
Stepping aside from the campaign comes possibly the most divisive part of Doom Eternal: Battlemode. After the mediocre reception to Doom (2016)’s generic multiplayer, id went away and developed their own new gamemode. Battlemode is a 2 vs 1 onslaught, pitting two player controlled demons against one fully armed player controlled Slayer. The demons have been hugely buffed in comparison to their campaign equivalent to make sure they at least stand some chance against the Slayer.
Each round, the demons and the Slayer can choose one upgrade to help balance the odds and keep each team on their toes. Demons are able to spawn lesser demons as fodder in an attempt to swarm the Slayer and bring him down that way, whilst also being able to block the Slayer from gaining any loot for a short period of time. Using this effectively can make those rounds a lot shorter and make the Slayer a much easier target to dispatch. The Slayer keeps a fully upgraded arsenal, ready to obliterate the demons if used correctly. One of the final upgrades the Slayer can use is the BFG, a beloved energy weapon that can devastate even the strongest of demon within seconds.
This mode is a more tactical and strategic playing experience in comparison to the campaign, and offers a lot of fun and challenge if you stick to it and are prepared to take some losses to learn from mistakes. Unfortunately, it didn’t prove as popular as first thought, also gaining a mixed reception at release. I myself have enjoyed it, but it’s easy to see how a combination of regular multiplayer modes alongside Battlemode could have garnered a more positive reception. Nonetheless, Battlemode is well-developed and receives constant balancing updates to maintain a fair playing experience for demon and Slayer alike.
Doom Eternal features a very colourful UI, which can be changed using a number of preset options that change the colours throughout the menus and HUD. Whilst a simple feature, it was a very welcome one, as the vibrant colour scheme didn’t work for everyone. The game also comes with a number of graphical, audio and accessibility settings that allow for most if not all gamers to access the game in the different ways that might be required.
Alongside the multiplayer, Doom Eternal also has regular events that run, allowing for players to unlock cosmetic items to customise the Slayer and the hordes of Hell. These items, such as character and weapon skins, profile pictures and titles are all free to access simply by playing the campaign and multiplayer and gaining Event XP. The only DLC content available is the story expansions, which in my opinion are much more acceptable than microtransaction battle passes or loot boxes. The first story expansion, The Ancient Gods Part 1 was released in October this year, and makes for an excellent expansion upon the base game.
There are also a select number of missions that have been revamped to give an additional challenge. Known as Master Levels, they take existing campaign levels and add in bigger and stronger demons more regularly, adding to already hard difficulty of the game. All of these Master Levels are free to access, however the release of these levels has been slow due to the current worldwide situation.
Doom Eternal came at the perfect time for me. It became a saving grace as the lockdown first started here in the UK, but it also reignited my love for gaming. I had hit a particular dry spell going into 2020, but this was all it took for that dry spell to end. Once I had finished the campaign, I went back and played through some of the older Doom games that I was never lucky enough to experience at the time.
Doom Eternal honours its legacy well. The aim of the game has not changed since its birth in 1993, but the way it delivers that has evolved. The frantic pace and versatility combined with the chaotic violence and ever-increasing difficulty make this game hard to put down. The love poured into this game by the developers is easy to see, and it shines as a bold example of what happens when you take a team of people who take serious pride over what was loved in the past, and convert it into the present.
Watching an experienced player tear through Ultra Nightmare is a truly wonderful experience, almost as good as experiencing the game for yourself. Almost. Entering the madness and getting to grips with the Slayer’s technical arsenal gives off a huge feeling of power. It’s an experience like no other.
Whilst not for every player given the learning curve and early difficulty, Doom Eternal is a blood-fuelled crusade to finally rid the universe of the demonic threat, and a very enjoyable one at that. The multiplayer is enjoyable, however the wait time for games can be quite substantial from time to time. There are some occasional bugs which are ironed out quickly, but otherwise the game runs buttery smooth, especially on Stadia’s cloudware. If you are open to learning the mechanics of the game, you will thoroughly enjoy your time spent as the Slayer, and like me, will want to explore the games of the past to complete the story.
A masterfully crafted experience, it is the perfect love letter for Doom fans old and new. It earned my vote for Game of the Year in the Cloudy Game Awards, and honours its great-grandparents from the 90’s with pride. To paraphrase the final dialogue: my struggle with the Marauder was temporary, but Doom.. is Eternal.