2016’s Doom was a breath of fresh air.
Fast, gory, deafeningly loud and unapologetically old-school, id’s soft reboot of its famous series was the shot in the arm we didn’t know the FPS genre needed. And if follow-up Doom Eternal was just more of that, another hundred-mile-an-hour playable metal album, we’d probably be alright with it.
Anyone who enjoyed creatively slaughtering demons in the previous game will be happy to learn that there are twice as many of them this time round, not to mention a host of new weapons to shoot them with. And boy does all the carnage look pretty.
The fact that our meaty-hands on session with what must be pretty close to the final build of the game didn’t feel like nearly enough time can only be a good thing.
Hell on earth
You’re almost certainly not coming to Doom Eternal for a compelling narrative, but id wants you to know that it’s there if you want it.
The basic setup is this: the diabolical forces of Hell have moved on from Mars and are now launching an invasion of Earth. Once again you step into the demon scum-stomping boots of the voiceless Slayer, as you begin a cross-dimensional mission to save humanity through excessively violent means. It’s Doom, then.
Again, you can pay no attention to the story whatsoever if you seek only the remarkably refined bloodshed, but a comprehensive codex is packed with additional lore and descriptions of each new enemy type you encounter. And as the story unfolds, we’ll apparently learn more about how the Doom Slayer ended up on his rather unique career path.
As you’d expect, 2151’s Earth isn’t in the best shape. What’s left of the ruinous terrain stands precariously atop spitting pools of lava and the sky is painted a fittingly hellish red. How the Slayer is going to clear this mess up is anyone’s guess.
Run and gun = loads of fun
Doom Eternal thinks other FPS games are wimps. Crouching? Cover? Regenerating health? Standing still for even half a second? Bah, babyish ideas. No, Doom is all about constant movement and getting right up in the deformed faces of your hideous enemies.
Health and ammo packs are dotted around levels, but you’ll get far more of both by killing demons. Unloading on them earns you medikits, while ammunition is restored by pulling out your chainsaw for a gruesome melee kill that never gets old. Nor do the series’ trademark flesh-shredding Glory Kills, which you can trigger after inflicting enough damage that the demon begins to flash. Rack up enough and you can unleash an even more spectacular attack that’ll waste multiple demons at once.
New to Doom Eternal is the Flame Belch, a shoulder-mounted flamethrower that allows you to BBQ the demon onslaught as you fire. Doing this gets you additional armour shards, essential for taking on the game’s bigger beasts, many of which have weak points that you need to target before finishing them off.
This will all sound familiar to seasoned Doom Slayers, but if you’re coming in cold it does take a bit of time to get used to the unique flow of the game. And while it’s not a tactical experience in the traditional sense - no sniper towers here - you really have to think about the order in which you’re attacking the various enemy hordes to get rewards when you need them most, as well as learning to ignore the instinct to hide when the game indictates that you’re about to drop dead.
Keep moving, keep killing (in any way your current loadout permits) and Doom Eternal soon transforms into a grotesque but incredibly satisfying ballet.
Aim for the everything
Of course, the addictively frenetic run ‘n’ gun gameplay loop would only remain that way for so long if your arsenal was lacking. But id was never going to let us down in that department.
Our hands-on session only included the opening missions of the game, so we only sampled a small taste of the weaponry at the Doom Slayer’s disposal. But even the first few guns are brilliantly entertaining to wield. It’s not long before you unlock a mod for your shotgun that fires off sticky grenades, perfect for depositing in the drooling mouth of an airborne Cacodemon. The plasma cannon, meanwhile, boasts a secondary fire that melts demons on the spot. Sadly we didn’t get far enough to unlock the Meathook alt, a grappling hook that pulls you towards demons for a point blank execution. But it’s in there.
Runes upgrade your abilities, allowing you to perform Glory Kills more quickly or slow time as you drop down to a demon platform, lining up a perfect shot before your boots touch the concrete.
Large-scale battles take place in multi-floored arenas, where you have to face seemingly relentless swarms of repetitive enemy types before moving on, so getting to know every weapon in your possession curbs any monotony.
It’s-a me, Doom Slayer
Doom Eternal’s improved combat is complemented by the new traversal options. You can now double jump, dash twice in the air, vault fiery monkey bars and cling to walls.
The game’s levels are all designed with verticality in mind, allowing for some surprisingly challenging platforming sections. Don’t go in expecting Uncharted-esque wall climbing, but there’s plenty of rockface scaling and leaps of faith between all the gunplay. In fact, we probably died less at the claws of the Hell than we did from mistiming a jump.
id is determined that its new game never sags or becomes tedious, and the Slayer’s more acrobatic moveset definitely helps with gameplay variety.
Doom Eternal initial verdict
Doom Eternal doesn’t look or feel like a drastically different game to 2016’s triumphant return, but when there’s nothing else quite like it, that really doesn’t matter.
More Glory Kills, better weapons and new moves are enough to make it feel like a worthy sequel, and if we get to find out a bit more about how our death-dealing hero got here along the way, then great.
With games being delayed on what feels like a daily basis at the moment, rest assured that this one is just around the corner.