When the original Doom came out in 1993, it shocked the world with its speed, violence and engaging feedback loop. Of course, the game is rightly regarded as one of the best of all time, but those three key elements are perhaps what it was best known for. After struggling to innovate on the franchise following the turn of the millennium, developer iD Software returned to these core principles in Doom (2016) to great success. Just four years later, Doom Eternal is faster, more violent, and more engaging than its 2016 predecessor, and is potentially the best game in the series so far.
Years have passed since the events of Doom (2016) and the demons have taken over the Earth. It’s up to you, the Doom Slayer, to hunt down the remaining hell priests and liberate humanity. Rip and tear until it is done.
Each of the incredibly popular features from Doom (2016) return and have been refined here. Balancing your pools of health, armour and ammo has become a puzzle in itself. If you need health, line up some glory kills. Ammo? Use the chainsaw. And armour? Use the flame belch. A double dash and improved mobility allows you to cross the combat arenas in mere seconds – but you’ll have to move fast in order to survive, as enemies here are more accurate and more deadly this time. Luckily these enemies, whilst increasing in numbers, have been balanced with clear strengths and weaknesses which encourages frequent weapon switching to manage encounters. Plus, you have Mick Gordon’s pulsating metal score to push you on which is just as good as it was before.
However, the game’s ideal play-style of weapon switching, balancing abilities and moving frequently are heavily punished if deviated from. If you try to play Doom Eternal how you would play any other first-person-shooter you will be punished, even on lower difficulties. Luckily, the game is designed in such a way that the difficulty curve is never too high.
The pacing is also better this time. The game contains 13 levels and runs just slightly longer than its 2016 predecessor, but some satisfying and occasionally challenging platforming sections and simple puzzles do a better job at bridging the gaps between combat arenas than the key card hunting of Doom (2016). Each of these levels are visually distinct, contain a good amount of enemy types and flow nicely together. The first couple are perhaps the weakest, but by the time you’ve unlocked all of your demon killing tools, the game starts to put you to the test.
Whereas Doom (2016) started with the Doom Slayer literally pushing the story away, Doom Eternal has more confidence in its story, with a more complicated plot and denser lore to explore (if that interests you). However, it remains almost entirely optional, as the core loop of arena combat, platforming and exploring the environment is more than enough to keep most entertained. Plus, the great self-aware comedy remains, with the ultra violence and bombastic specticle always undercut with slapstick humour and gags.
Exploration leads to multiple different types of items that upgrade different abilities, which sees you grow more powerful and unlock new strategies at a constant rate. Plus, not only are secrets back, they are more rewarding than ever to find. The inclusion of cheat codes, one-ups and character skins give plenty of replay value.
Visually, Doom Eternal isn’t afraid to be a video game. The heads up display is brighter and blockier – more reminiscent of an arcade. The character design aims to strike the perfect balance of looking like the original monsters from Doom and Doom 2 and following the photo-realistic versions from the 2016 reboot.
However, the multiplayer is by far the weakest element. In this mode, two players control different types of demons and one player controls the Doom Slayer. Choosing to ditch deathmatch and instead go for a 2 vs 1 mode may seem like a good idea, but in theory it is unbalanced, slow and lacks any sort of thrill that the campaign contains.
Nevertheless, Doom Eternal remains a perfectly paced punch of adrenaline and action made by a developer on the top of their game.