When I first played DOOM as a ten year old kid, I couldn’t imagine it still being relevant twenty seven years later.
And yet here we are, in 2020, and DOOM Eternal is not only the most highly anticipated shooter of the year, but after spending some time with the campaign, I can confirm it’s one of the best this generation.
Just thinking about the game’s rip-roaring heavy metal soundtrack, hordes of enemies, killer arsenal set, and speedy action is making my heart pump. I love it!
DOOM Eternal takes what you loved about the 2016 reboot, and makes it louder, faster, more graphic, intense and involving. I can’t speak for the multiplayer yet – it wasn’t live when we played the game – but everything else is incredibly slick.
The game practically drops you into the action right away, once again putting you in the military boots of Slayer, armed with a shotgun and sets you on your way with a few grunts in tow.
Initially, there’s not much to teach you that you haven’t learned from years of first person shooters. Run, gun and try not to die. The complexities come later, but for now, Bethesda and ID just want you to feel comfortable. And they nail it, marvellously.
Even those familiar opening musical chords will resonate. It’s just like being back in a blood-soaked, burning hell-like home. You’ll want to get settled before getting knee-deep in the death.
You’ll get familiar faces like Cacodemons, Pinky, and Marauders coming at you in their own distinct ways, but all coming with a few new tricks. Some enemies you took for granted before are now some of the most ferocious in the game.
The biggest challenge is ammo and replenishing in the heat of battle. The game is generous, to a point, by providing armor shards, medipacks and shells, but the enemies are unrelenting. They’ll chase you around the map, get right up in your face, and even fly in from above just to make sure you’re cornered and surrounded.
Eventually, you’re going to run out of bullets and that’s when you’re forced to get up close and personal with the vintage chainsaw, dicing your enemy in half. DOOM Eternal is a game that rewards risk, and by taking a chance – sawing up your enemies – they drop a plethora of goodies to help keep you supplied.
But when you don’t have ammo, you’re vulnerable. Yes, you’ve also got a flamethrower to draw on and grenade in a pinch, but its the heavy firepower that’s going to save you. Rocket Launchers. Super Shotguns. Chainguns. You’ll need them to survive.
Each weapon has a real distinct style, every one playing differently to the next and being more effective against one thing than the other. Though Rocket Launchers eat through mostly everything, to be fair. Then to be at your best, you have to factor in enemy weakspots, which makes it easy to bring them down to a dazed state and set them up for a Glory Kill.
Yep, Glory Kills are back again from 2016 and they are more savage and crass than ever. Cracking bones to stab enemies in the brain, plucking out cacodemon eyeballs, then feeding it back to them. DOOM Eternal lives up to its billing as bloody and brutal, and it is beautiful.
But it’s also tough. I’m not going to lie to you, I struggled even on the ‘Hurt Me Plenty’ mode and got palpitations just thinking about playing this on Nightmare, let alone the game’s classic ‘three lives mode’. That’s just cruel…
The gameplay is fast and frenetic, there’s a real Quake-like feel to the action as you zip around hoovering up power-ups, blasting and one-shotting things in the face, and move seamlessly between one scene and the next. This feels distinctly iD Software and shows how they are very much still the masters of the genre.
But let’s not forget the game’s heavy soundtrack. This one is an absolute banger, with death metal choirs humming melancholy sermons as you explore the depths of depravity, causing goosebumps to stand up on end. Every guitar riff and drum beat fits the mood, and builds the tension. It’s as much a part of the action as everything else happening on screen.
DOOM Eternal is a surprisingly deep game, too, with secret rooms, special encounters, weapon mods, and armor enhancements. You can customise the experience to your liking, and find yourself spending over half hour exploring every nook and cranny of each level, still not finding everything it has to offer. There’s a real rich vein of content, no doubt, and the game is absolutely huge, even without the multiplayer.
But DOOM Eternal isn’t all glorious. You may have heard a little something about its platforming sections, a surprising inclusion considering the original game’s static motion. They’re … well … they’re hit and miss.
I like the idea of climbing in DOOM Eternal, it gives off some serious Tomb Raider vibes – something I never thought I’d say about a DOOM game – and think it actually adds a fun dimension to first-person gameplay. But, phew, some platforming sections are ugly. One false move and you’re dead. If you’re not angled in exactly the right position when in the air, you’ll fall. If you mistime just for a moment, it’s over.
There’s rarely a margin for error and frankly, it really breaks the game’s energetic flow at times. DOOM Eternal feels like it’s all about momentum and feeds off adrenaline, but when you’ve died ten times in the same spot, or feel a bit clueless if you’re actually going the right way, the game can feel like a little bit of a chore.
One can also argue there’s a little bit of monotony in some levels, the same enclosed, arena like sequences, fighting off the same enemies, literally skimming the lines of death time after time. Though you could also say that’s where the game is at its best.
But the epic boss battles, vast amounts of optional variety, and a surprisingly compelling story make this one of the best singleplayer campaigns I’ve seen in an FPS. DOOM Eternal goes hard and I’m already thinking about my next trip to monster city with the Slayer. I’m in love.
And we’ve just been told the multiplayer servers are now live, so I guess I’ll take my ‘skills’ online and see how we fare there. More on that soon!
DOOM Eternal releases March 20 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. A Switch release will follow
The Single Player Campaign was only available in time for this piece. Multiplayer coverage will follow.