Hell on Earth.
From the moment the Doom Slayer enters a Hell-ravaged Earth, DOOM Eternal is a primal scream of unbridled rage and immense catharsis, a car roaring down the freeway, the speedometer pushed to the redline, that absolutely will not stop until it has either destroyed everything in its path or been destroyed. Its rage is pure and primal and elegant, and it will not be contained, or controlled, or stopped. Its rage is beautiful and expressive; playing DOOM is an exercise in player agency that few games attempt and fewer still get right. It is art as performance and choice, the joy of creation in destruction. It is, put simply, a Hell of a time.
Eternal picks up sometime after 2016’s DOOM. Things have gotten worse since the demonic outbreak on Mars. This time, the demons have come to Earth. Humanity is fighting, but they’re divided. The UAC, once again partially responsible for everything quite literally going to Hell, has embraced the demonic horde, calling for all people to submit to the “mortally challenged” (demon is considered an offensive term). There is resistance, but the forces of Hell are limitless, and every vanquished human is used to feed the forces of evil. Things look pretty bad.
"The reality is that if you’ve played 2016’s DOOM, you have a pretty good idea of how DOOM Eternal works. The basics are the same: you move through big, multi-layered environments killing demons, solving environmental puzzles, and finding hidden collectibles."
As if on cue, the Doom Slayer leaps into action from the Fortress of Doom, a floating satellite that’s a combination of the Justice League’s orbital Watchtower and the Batcave. His journey takes him from Earth to Hell and other planets and places besides. The result is one of the best single-player shooters ever made, and one that is simultaneously a celebration of all things DOOM, and a story that simultaneously celebrates the franchise’s history while expanding it. But enough about that for now. Let’s talk about how DOOM Eternal plays.
The reality is that if you’ve played 2016’s DOOM, you have a pretty good idea of how DOOM Eternal works. The basics are the same: you move through big, multi-layered environments killing demons, solving environmental puzzles, and finding hidden collectibles. Many of the systems of the previous game return as well. Dealing significant damage to demons will put them into a stagger state, allowing you to perform a Glory Kill, an execution animation that kills the staggered demon and rewards health. In the same vein, killing an enemy with the chainsaw provides ammo for your weapons. New to the party are changes to the DOOM Slayer’s equipment. Previously, using equipment like a grenade meant you had to briefly stop using your weapons so you could, y’know, throw the grenade. That’s no longer the case.
Now, equipment fires from the Slayer’s shoulder-mounted launcher, which means you can shoot your guns and your equipment at the same time. You also have new equipment to play with. The most important of these is the Flame Belch, a flamethrower that causes enemies to drop armor shards as they burn. Damaging them while they burn causes them to drop more armor shards, with the most coming from killing them during this period. The other is the Ice Bomb, which freezes enemies in place.
" The double-jump from DOOM returns off the bat, but the bigger change is the dash. Your favorite silent demon slayer has two of them, and they can be used both on the ground and in the air."
The other big change is the updates to the Doom Slayer’s movement. The double-jump from DOOM returns off the bat, but the bigger change is the dash. Your favorite silent demon slayer has two of them, and they can be used both on the ground and in the air. The addition means that there’s also a lot more platforming than there used to be. You can even swing on metal bars in the environment. All of this gives you a lot of mobility and the ability to create whatever you need – health, armor, ammo – on the fly. The downside is that this ability means fewer items on the map and that your guns can carry less ammo that they could in 2016. DOOM’s shotgun could carry fifty rounds. After every upgrade, Eternal’s can carry 24. You have everything you need for any fight, but you’ll have to plan effectively and react on the fly if you want to stay alive.
The scarcity of ammo (and items on the ground) plays into Eternal’s other big change: demon weak points. Exploiting these are essential if you want to survive. They vary from demon to demon: the Pinky, for instance, is an armored tank that’s nearly invincible from the front. Taking it out means getting behind it and shooting its tail. The Cacodemon, on the other hand, loves to eat, so your best bet is shooting a grenade into its mouth with the grenade launcher mod on your shotgun, which staggers it instantly. The Mancubus and Revenant have high powered weapons on their arms and shoulders which can be blown off, weakening their attacks. Those are just a few examples; fighting effectively means constantly managing everything: your ammo for the weapons you need to counter a demon’s weak points effectively, your health and armor, the cooldowns on your equipment, and how much fuel your chainsaw has. Acing a combat encounter means reacting on the fly, as you dance around levels, gauging threats and responding the best you can.
Thankfully, you’re more than well enough equipped for it. In addition to your equipment, you have access to the staple DOOM weapons: the shotgun, heavy cannon (machine gun), plasma rifle, rocket launcher, super shotgun, ballista (2016’s gauss cannon), chaingun, and of course, the crème de la crème of weapons, the BFG-9000. There’s no pistol in DOOM Eternal because we don’t need a stinkin’ pistol. It doesn’t kill demons fast enough. We’re heading straight to the big guns. And the game isn’t shy about giving them to you fast, either. By the time you’re halfway done with the campaign, you’ll have them all, and several upgrades for each.
"DOOM Eternal manages to keep you feeling like you’re working for your wins while making sure you feel powerful, too. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but id manages it almost effortlessly in a game that looks, sounds, feels, and runs exceptionally well, to boot."
A typical encounter looks like this: enter an arena, dodge under the Hell Knight that’s trying to land on top of your head your head, hit him with the super shotgun, then swap to the chain gun to finish him off. Flame Belch the group of zombies behind him, soften them up with the shotgun, and Glory Kill them. Move to a high platform to avoid the charging Pinky, and launch a grenade into the mouth of the Cacodemon above you so you can Glory Kill him. Use the scope on the heavy cannon to knock off a Revenant’s missile launchers, and then blast him with your ballista. Hit the Imp behind him with your rocket launcher, blast a Carcass (a new demon that creates energy shields and is generally annoying) with your plasma rifle, then use the energy you’ve built up from Glory Kills to deliver a Blood Fist (an incredibly powerful melee attack) to the Mancubus who’s been sneaking up behind you. Then chainsaw another zombie for ammo and keep going. It’s violent, intense, and cathartic, and DOOM Eternal manages to keep you feeling like you’re working for your wins while making sure you feel powerful, too. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but id manages it almost effortlessly in a game that looks, sounds, feels, and runs exceptionally well, to boot.
When you’re not fighting, you’ll be exploring, figuring out how to advance (usually by breaking something, finding a key, or platforming), and hunting for collectibles. DOOM Eternal does an excellent job of balancing combat with exploration, and the game knows when to throw hordes of demons at you and when to let you explore. Some levels find a nice balance, while others tend towards one or the other. One of my favorites was a level that I largely just walked through, hunting collectibles until I fought a boss. The game seems to know what you want when you want it, and the game’s excellent pacing makes it easy to play for extended periods, even if you’re just pinning down that last collectible or fulfilling optional mission objectives.
You’ll want to do it, too, because the optional stuff in DOOM Eternal is a joy. Collectibles run the gamut from Praetor points, special crystals, and runes that upgrade your suit to fun easter eggs like toys based on the game’s demons or vinyl records that allow you to listen to some of the greatest tunes from previous games in id’s storied library, including Quake, Wolfenstein 3D, and Commander Keen. There’s even cheat codes that you can activate when you replay levels, granting your infinite ammo, extra lives, all rune upgrades, and more. There are also in-level and weapon-specific challenges, as well as weekly challenges, to complete, which unlock new skins and other cosmetics, all of which carry over to the game’s multiplayer, which was not online at the time of this writing.
" By far the most interesting optional objectives are Slayer Gates. You have to find keys near the gates to unlock them, and once you do, you’ll be thrown into an incredibly difficult combat encounter in a special arena, often against demons you haven’t faced before. These are the most challenging parts of the game, and they’re an excellent example of what’s Eternal’s combat is at its most frantic."
Each campaign level also features special timed challenges called Secret Encounters that require you to kill demons in a time limit. Those are fun (and can be very hard), but by far the most interesting optional objectives are Slayer Gates. You have to find keys near the gates to unlock them, and once you do, you’ll be thrown into an incredibly difficult combat encounter in a special arena, often against demons you haven’t faced before. These are the most challenging parts of the game, and they’re an excellent example of what’s Eternal’s combat is at its most frantic. Whether you choose to do all the optional stuff or not (this is now easier than ever thanks to the addition of fast travel, which unlocks near the end of levels), there’s a reason to find the stuff in question because many of them give you more options in combat or add to the game’s replayability.
When you’re not bashing demon skulls in, you’ll spend time in the Fortress of Doom. This place has it all? Upgrades you can buy with the Sentinel Batteries you find in missions? Check. A place to listen to your music and view your collectibles? Check. Costumes to purchase, including the armor from the original DOOM? Yep. A practice arena, so you can hone your skills against the demons? Sure thing. Easter eggs that will make DOOM fans super happy and that I won’t spoil? Of course. The Fortress of Doom is a nice break between levels, and it’s a fun place to spend time. It also has the probably unintended effect of making the Doom Slayer an enormous dweeb (seriously, who displays their toy collection next to their firearms?), but it’s a fun place to hang out nonetheless, and I was always excited to return and turn the stuff I’d found in the levels for more upgrades.
It’s also where the game conveys a lot of its story, which is surprisingly pretty good. While it’s initially unclear how you went from the end of 2016’s DOOM to the start of Eternal, the game does an admirable job of explaining itself if you just give it time and run with it. Admittedly, much of Eternal’s backstory is conveyed through codex entries that you find in the environment, and some of it devolves into the proper noun soup that too many games become when they try to be epic (I’m looking at you, Destiny), but the game does a pretty admirable job of telling you stuff in the game, too, whether through environmental cues or flashbacks. The plot also does a good job of expanding DOOM’s lore in ways I’m sure fans will enjoy.
"the bad guys aren’t really the demons. Yeah, Hell’s bad and all, but the demons are just a symptom. The real problem is the people who let them out."
The most impressive thing about DOOM Eternal’s plot, though, is the surprising amount of depth it has. This isn’t new: DOOM 3 and 2016’s DOOM took shots at specific targets, too. See, the bad guys aren’t really the demons. Yeah, Hell’s bad and all, but the demons are just a symptom. The real problem is the people who let them out. It’s the corporations more interested in profit than people, scientists whose quest for knowledge trump their ethics, and religions that mistake dogma for faith. It’s the HR lady at the UAC who tells you to use politically correct language while sacrificing the world to demons, the guards who talk about how they’d stop the DOOM Slayer only to cower when he shows up, the entities who seek power at the cost of others, and the people who rather maintain the status quo than do the right thing.
This story, as strange as it sounds to say, feels relevant these days, and it’s easy to understand the Doom Slayer’s rage. Tearing the demons apart feels good. It feels cathartic, and it’s fun to improve, playing with all the toys Eternal gives you to rip the demons of Hell to pieces. But that feeling, as good as it is, is temporary. It doesn’t solve the real problem. The people pulling the strings, the corporations who don’t care, the unethical people in it for power, they’ll just keep doing this over and over again while we’re distracting tearing the demons they create in half. DOOM Eternal knows that, and it knows what the next step is. Stopping with the demons isn’t enough. The rage has to continue, so they never come back. So grab your shotgun and step on the gas. Let that rage propel you and rip and tear, until it is done.
This game was reviewed on PS4.
A surprisingly deep story. It's beautiful, fluid, and sounds great. Incredible combat. Lots of upgrades to discover. Strong pacing and level design. The Fortress of Doom is a good place to relax between missions. Oodles of fan service.
The plot uses a lot of proper nouns that can be hard to follow. It's a bit hard to know exactly what's going on at first.
DOOM Eternal is a worthy sequel to a storied franchise, a celebration of all things DOOM, and one of the finest single-player first-person shooters ever made. Rip and tear, Slayers.