Doom is one of those rare franchises that has successfully reinvented itself. While Doom 3 tried to take the franchise into more of a horror direction, it was clear that fans wanted the “run and gun” thrills of the first two games.
That’s exactly what we got with the 2016 DOOM game. It combined fast action, brutal fatalities, and a killer soundtrack into an unforgettable experience. Now, its sequel DOOM Eternal is here to move this franchise forward.
Ultimately, DOOM Eternal is a successful sequel. Some changes are better than others, but the core experience still offers the visceral (and eviscerating) thrills of the original game, making this a must-play action game.
Story has always been an afterthought for the DOOM franchise. You’re a soldier and you’re fighting demons from hell. Everything beyond that is just window dressing.
That’s why it’s a little disappointing that DOOM Eternal is a more story-driven game. After you brutally shoot and slash your way through a frantic level, your reward is usually just watching your character witness boring exposition from boring characters.
If that’s not exciting enough, you can read every codex entry to discover a mythology featuring hell, aliens, and religion. Is it ambitious? Sure. But it’s pretty much the last thing I wanted from my fun “mindless shooting” game.
Then again, DOOM Eternal is much less mindless than its predecessor.
Both Guts and Glory
The core experience of DOOM remains the same: you kill the demons before they kill you. When an enemy is sufficiently weakened, you can perform a “glory kill.” These are fatalities seemingly inspired by the Brutal Doom mod, and such kills provide health bonuses.
Between the health bonuses and the fact that you are invincible during a glory kill, these moves aren’t just for show. They are one of the only ways that you can stay alive as you fight horde after horde of demons.
In addition to glory kills, you need to master using the chainsaw. And while it provides its own gory fun, it leads to one of the more annoying things about DOOM Eternal: resource management.
The 2016 DOOM included a kind of safety blanket in the form of the pistol. That pistol never ran out of ammo, which meant you could still shoot your way out of every sticky situation. And it usually wasn’t too long before you’d find more ammo for your stronger weapons.
In DOOM Eternal, that pistol is gone. No more endless ammo. On top of that, ammo is a lot more scarce in this game than its predecessor. Your only hope is to master the use of the chainsaw.
Chainsaw kills yield ammo drops in the same way that glory kills yield health drops. While you need to find fuel to use the chainsaw on bigger enemies, it regenerates enough for you to use it on smaller foes.
In some cases, that means you may need to keep imps and zombies around while you fight a bigger enemy. When you need more ammo, you can always chainsaw the little guys and get back in the main fight.
Keeping little guys around as ammo dumps is just one of many ways that fighting in this game is more complex than in the original.
Make no mistake: simply running and gunning is no longer enough in DOOM Eternal. The game often changes things up by throwing out dangerous foes with specific weakspots and vulnerabilities. The earliest example of this is the Arachnotron.
To fight this heavy demon, you must first shoot out its powerful cannon. That means slowing down and finding the perfect shot (maybe by using your new ability to climb certain areas). This is pretty much the opposite of your previous frenzied running. And what happens when you shoot that cannon out? The demon changes its fighting style, trying to charge at you instead of shoot you. Just like that, you’re back to running and gunning.
This is basically DOOM Eternal in a nutshell. Despite some sprawling landscapes, fighting feels like a more condensed arena shooter. And you must be willing to change up your playstyle several times in a single fight if you want to make it to the end of each stage.
Too Many Options
Every sequel feels the need to do everything bigger and better than the previous game. With DOOM Eternal, though, players soon discover there is such a thing as too many options.
Upgrading your weapons is like an RPG unto itself. You’re forced to balance weapons points, weapons mods, mod upgrades, and mastery upgrades. And that’s just for the weapons! There are similar upgrades available for your suit. And there are also hidden runes, gameplay challenges, and assorted secrets to keep you busy.
While options are nice, the truth is that managing all of this really takes you out of the energetic gameplay. Combat sometimes feels the same way. Having a variety of grenades and alternate weapons modes is fine, but it can make the already-dizzying combat sometimes feel overwhelming.
It doesn’t detract from the overall experience, but all of these added options and complexities seem to go against the refreshingly simplistic gameplay philosophy of the 2016 game.
Fun Replay Value
As you might expect, DOOM Eternal isn’t a very long game. Most players can soldier through the narrative in about 15 hours. Fortunately, the title packs a lot of replay value.
First, there are those aforementioned secrets, challenges, and codex entries. If you like to explore every inch of the game and connect every story dot, there is plenty to keep you busy.
Second, there are unlockable cheats you can find throughout the game. Some of these hearken back to the original games and offer players things like all weapons and infinite ammo. Others are simply there for fun, like cheats that give you a cheering audience or make confetti shoot out of your fallen enemies.
Finally, there is always the multiplayer. Like the first game, though, this is probably the worst feature.
When it comes to multiplayer, this franchise just can’t win. The 2016 DOOM multiplayer was mostly just a DOOM version of the multiplayer from games like Halo. Deathmatch and King of the Hill style games were fun, but nothing we hadn’t seen before. And the experience points system for upgrades was more frustrating than enticing.
In DOOM Eternal, all of that gets thrown out of the window. Instead, the multiplayer Battlemode is about one player controlling the DOOM guy and two others controlling demons. It’s a neat idea, but it grows stale after a while.
There will be a future mode that allows players to control demons and “invade” someone else’s campaign mode. While this sounds neat, it’s downright puzzling that they didn’t just take the time to refine a more traditional deathmatch.
Is DOOM Eternal worth your time? Absolutely. Really, the only marks against it are the disappointing multiplayer and the seemingly-endless options.
At the core of this, though, is a thrilling campaign with action that you can’t find anywhere else. And with additional content planned for future release, this is a great game that will only get better over time.