Doom (2016) revitalized the “boomer shooter”. It honored the no-nonsense approach to how action games used to be, and the striking vision of demonic forces that were brought to life from the insane soundtrack.
It stood tall among its contemporaries, with some of the crunchiest arsenal in an FPS. Just how could Doom (2016) ever be topped? The answer was for the boys at Id Software to double down on everything possible.
Doom Eternal goes out of its way to try to out do its predecessor. While it does deliver the same brand of intense shooting and frantic mobility, it does also get bogged down with even more of the weaker qualities of Doom (2016).
Developer: Id Software
Producer: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia
Release Date: March 20, 2020
Doom Eternal is not like most first-person shooters. The combat is designed so tightly and meticulously around how to savagely mutilate monsters in so many different ways.
In some ways, Eternal has more in common with Devil May Cry than it does with any other shooter. The only thing missing is a style rating after encounters. The game designers seemingly have taken some cues from the kind of games that Platinum makes, in an attempt to keep Doom modern and relevant.
From enemies having certain weaknesses to specific weapons or attacks; the attention given to the variety can be overwhelming. After a few hours getting acquainted with the wide range of abilities, it does eventually become second nature.
The Hell walker can inflict his ravenous hatred on demons in so many ways, and the game pushes you to constantly improvise due to an absurdly low ammo count. Sometimes there are just not enough bullets to go around for all the hellspawn swarming around you.
Combat becomes a constant tug of war with health, armor, and ammo- since killing enemies a certain way is how the Doom guy can get his resources back. Need ammo? Rev up the chainsaw, and cutting a boy will net you back some bullets in a pinch.
The flamethrower is a new addition, and other than just giving the little devils a taste of home, it is how you can regain some armor back. There is no real logical explanation how setting a naked Hell Knight on fire makes him bleed pieces of armor to tape onto yourself, but it does add a layer of thought during skirmishes.
Enemies have been given more attention to be made even more threatening. Aside from just having more of them, the bigger monsters have weakness to exploit.
Sometimes while dashing around like a headless chicken with a gatling gun, the landscape becomes a deluge of enemy fire raining in all directions. This is what happens if you are careless enough to not surgically depart an Arachnotron from his turret.
You might have to kill him later, and focus on a Whiplash that has been harassing you. This is the kind of panicky action to expect during the campaign.
Doom as a franchise has always lived and died by its arsenal, and Eternal delivers. The standard shotgun is now the standard side arm reserved for pistols. The simple old-timey Super Shotgun proves that tradition conquers modernity, and is still one of the most devastating weapons.
The hookshot attachment adds a bit of extra utility to the signature double-barrel, allowing the Slayer to make a quick getaway right into some hapless Cacodemon’s cranium. It is a satisfying addition that further expands the range expression a player has when fighting.
The only disappointing addition is the Crucible laser sword. It functions basically like the chainsaw, and runs on charges rather than being a reliable melee weapon. Since the Doom Marine’s punches have been nerfed since Doom (2016), it would have been fun to have a more substantial form of close range combat in the form of the sword.
There was a lot of upgrading in Doom (2016), so much so it was annoying. Doom Eternal takes it even further by having even more. There are upgrades for upgrades now, and while this might please RPG fans, this kind of tinkering in menus is very un-Doom.
There are so many different kinds of tokens to collect now ,and each kind can only be used with in certain ways. There are crystals that add perks, there are coins for suit perks, there are upgradeable mods for guns (which also need a separate upgrade). Even earning experience points has to be managed by taking different challenges.
It is way too much to have to keep track of, while also engaging in some of the most harrowing battles with unspeakable abominations and navigate complex structures. It feels tacked on and unnecessary in a game that is already dense with so much to manage.
Level design is consistent with the previous installment. Layouts are long and winding, with hidden areas and secrets to discover. Being able to climb and air-dash allows the designers to craft some highly imaginative stages that further calls attention to how much more video-gamey Eternal is.
It may be a bit distracting seeing fire wind-mills out of Bowser’s castle, but the trade off is some elaborate platforming, and more engaging challenges. Eternal is much less serious than its predecessor, and relishes opportunities to have as much fan-service as possible.
A bit more restraint would have been appreciated. The developers let a lot of the outside world memes seep into narrative, and now somethings will forever be inseparable.
“Doom Guy”, was a fan nick-name given to the protagonist of the Doom games. It was never clear if he was always the same character, what his motivations were, or if the 2016 game had any connection to the much older titles. Everything was kept vague, and the enigmatic protagonist was made all the more interesting as a result.
In Eternal, the narrative explicitly expresses that “Doom Guy” is what a lot of people know him as. What was once an amusing in-joke has been made official now, and robs a lot of the mystique the character has.
Depicting him the third-person in cutscenes is not even remotely an issue. The Doom man acts like you would expect; constantly glaring, and evoking an aura of tranquil fury. The real groaners are when you explore his quarters, and are constantly seeing visual gags that feel like something out of a Borderlands game.
It feels cheap to only get shallow references to Doom‘s pop-culture, instead of meaningful additions. “Hey, remember Daisy? Look, here’s Daisy the rabbit!”, is something that could have been done tastefully, but Eternal really rams down the pet rabbit joke too many times.
Connecting the narrative to Doom 64 and the comic books is a bit of a mixed bag in its execution. At first some of these revelations are admittedly jaw-dropping, but when you stop for a minute to think about it, things begin to unravel and stop making sense.
There is also a matter of a trite prophecy of the Doom Slayer, which further demystifies the protagonist. The Doom guy used to be Micheal Myers for devils, a boogie man for the satanic, and now he has been lionized to be something more- and less interesting. This is the result of the outside world influence the writers of Doom Eternal; the meta made canon.
Thankfully, Doom Eternal‘s narrative is optional, and can easily be ignored. One or two things that can’t be ignored is how the game looks and sounds. The last entry looked incredible, and things here are upped further by having more distinct locations and enemy types.
The spectrum of environmental flavors span a huge spread. You get dank dungeons that look like something out of Quake, to the flame and brimstone of hell on earth; things are more diverse than just a sci-fi cyber nightmare.
The Doom man gets to explore medieval looking cathedrals, a juicy gore nest, and even a realized UAC station. The assorted locations is utterly generous and how a single level can often be more than one location, making a single stage feel like something out of Metroid Prime.
With some much room to explore, Id Software had to fill all the areas with things to find. Doom Eternal succeeds in ensuring that adventurous gamers will find all kinds of weird and interesting collectibles. The Funko-Pop! figures of enemies are duds, but the real secrets you want to find are the hidden cheat codes for level replays, and sentinel batteries.
Why would anyone want to go out of their way to seek out batteries? To power up more of Doom man’s orbiting hub stage. There are rooms through out his domain that are locked, and sentinel batteries are the only way to open them up. This leads to upgrades, and most importantly: cosmetic skins.
Naturally, the one you wanna get is classic 1993 style Doom guy if you want to relive the days of the boomer shooter. Turn on some Slayer, grab an energy drink, and set the hud to “classic” for an authentic 90s experience.
Mick Gordon returns to compose the angriest sounding music ever made. It is hard to imagine these new Doom games without his panache for deep sounding bass and crunchy riffs. The music perfectly captures the raw, smoldering wrath that is constantly pulsing through the veins of the protagonist.
Even the heightened sound effects have a delightful punch that sound like the sound artist smashed every keystroke with a sledge hammer. There is not one aspect in the auditory department that does not feel like it was not taken to 11.
Doom Eternal is a huge and generous package. It is an incredible hardcore action game that is great despite its superfluous RPG upgrading systems. The annoying self-aware memes can be ignored, and if you don’t care for Doom guy depicted in third person cutscenes, they are easily skipped. Doom Eternal lives up to its name in proving that it is going to be here for a long time.
Doom Eternal was reviewed on Xbox One X using a personal copy. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.