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.
With ‘Hell On Earth’ feeling pretty fitting right now, you could argue that Doom Eternal isn’t the escapism you’re after. But of course, with its absolutely ridiculous commitment to ultraviolent excess, iDs sequel is about as effective a tonic as anything right now. Immaculately designed carnage with big-budget sensibilities.
THE QUICK AND THE DEAD
With the armour-clad Doom Slayer now charged with taking down the Hell Priests that have caused the pits of infernity to spill out onto our planet (yup, we didn’t know the story of Doom either), you won't be surprised to hear that Doom Eternal has a fair few demons to slay. Twice as many as before, if you want specifics. And much like its predecessor, the combat comes fast and extremely furious.
Much of the game’s lengthy campaign sees you battling hordes of demonic foes at lighting speed. Stand still and you’re dead, the loading screens warn you, and they’re right. Although, in all honesty, move around a lot and you’re probably dead too. Doom Eternal is not for the faint-hearted or the slow-reflexed, especially on its normal difficulty (this can be lowered at any time, in all fairness).
Combat tends to take place in specifically designed arenas that all have their own flow and rhythm, so you’ll be catapulting yourself from one end to the other, leaping between platforms and blasting enemies in a desperate effort just to survive a few more seconds.
It really is relentless, all cracking along at a blistering 60fps with no hitches, and seemingly running at a steady 4K on Xbox One X. Quite the sight to behold, even with all the torn sinew, shredded limbs and exposed entrails.
THE ONLY DEFENSE IS ATTACK
Doom Eternal’s litany of horrors likes to hurt you as much as possible, and there’s not much use trying to hide in a corner firing off pot-shots.
In order to survive, you have to go on the offensive. As well as being dangerous and thoroughly unpleasant, the game’s enemies are also banks of resources - as long as you know how to extract the good stuff from their savaged corpses. As in 2016’s Doom, staggered enemies can be finished off with a Glory Kill, executed with a click of the right stick, and will leave some crucial health pickups behind as they pass onto the next realm (presumably not hell - where do they go, exactly?)
That’s not all you can do either. After all, a Doom Slayer needs more than health when he’s trying to save Earth from a demonic invasion. You can blast enemies with fire before you slaughter them if you need armour, or cut them up with a chainsaw if you need ammo.
It’s the most manic form of resource management ever experienced in a game, but it gives the combat an incredible sense of kineticism. Not only are you trying to maintain accuracy and avoid incoming fire, you’re having to take split-second mental pictures of the battlefield so you can keep your resources topped up as you sprint around the place.
Can you avoid that Mancubus long enough to drop down, glory kill a stumbling zombie, and leap back up to higher ground, before it eviscerates you? Doom Eternal asks these types of questions approximately once every 0.8 seconds.
Despite the sheer relentlessness of the game’s combat, Doom Eternal does afford its players a bit of down time, and does so with platforming challenges.
A bit of a strange distraction, but id should be commended for executing surprisingly enjoyable 3D platform sections. Our Doom Slayer can now dash, double-jump, swing on monkey bars and cling onto certain surfaces, making for some interesting leaps and bounds across the environment (and in battle, of course).
These sections will likely prove divisive - they’re not as immaculately designed as the combat, and it’s frustrating to plunge to your death on a platform section when all you want to do is get back to the slaughter. However, there is some purpose to the platforming too. There is plenty to find in the far reaches of each level, from secret LPs featuring classic Doom tracks to extra lives and in-game currency. It pays to explore.
Strangely, you can take some downtime in your ship in between missions. Don’t expect a Mass Effect-style crew to chat to, though. It’s just you, a bunch of chambers that can be unlocked with the Sentinel Batteries found in levels (leading to further unlocks), and bizarrely, a demon prison where you can practise your best murdering techniques without fear of using up all your ammo and health.
It’s also a good place to examine the amount of customisation options that you have at your disposal. For a balls-to-the-wall action game, there are an unexpected number of different ways you can tweak your loadout, from weapon upgrades and suit-alterations, to runes which offer significant gameplay changes.
It’s a little overwhelming, perhaps unnecessarily so, but it does underpin the fact that even with all the madness, the blood and the carnage, this is a game that has been designed with a deep level of thought, intelligence and intricacy.
Doom Eternal verdict
An immensely well-designed and ferocious shooter that marries incredible production values with cathartic ultraviolence.
Those raised on the measured pace of Call Of Duty may struggle, but if you’re in the market for searing, pam-sweat inducing carnage, then Doom Eternal will more than satisfy your bloodlust.