Doom Eternal Hands-On: A Side-Splitting Shooter

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While I’m sitting in the waiting area, obviously very excited to get my hands on Doom Eternal, I can’t help but feel somewhat pessimistic about the experience. On the one hand, I’m fairly confident that Eternal will be an exceedingly well-made game, id Software has yet to let me down. Yet on the other, I’m painfully aware of the huge “Bethesda” sign lit up above my head, a seemingly harsh reminder of their recent transgressions.

Bethesda hasn’t exactly had the greatest couple years as many of their releases have been hounded by critical failure despite and while titles like Fallout 76, Rage 2 and Wolfenstein: Youngblood were not outright commercial failures, I think most players have lost the candle they once held for the publisher. So despite my unabashed adoration for the 2016 Doom, I have to say I’m slightly apprehensive.

Oh, the lady’s calling me to go and play. Back in a bit.

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Well, that’s what I get for being a Negative Nancy.

I played an hour of Doom: Eternal and honestly it felt like five minutes. id Software has taken the foundation laid by Doom 2016 and built so much on top of it it almost feels like a different game entirely. Everything I loved about Doom 2016 (God, I hate reboot names) has been cranked up by a factor of 10 with the developers clearly zoning in on what drove fans crazy in their previous entry.

The level design has exploded outwards, making for arenas that aren’t only vertically diverse but horizontally spacious. The chance to fall to your death is far greater as floors seem to be in short supply during a demon outbreak, but you’ll be able to combat this with horizontal dashes that are sharp and satisfying, recharging at a rate that makes them both powerful and fair, offering players both an escape from danger and opportunities to outmanoeuvre Hell Barons in ways never before seen in Doom.

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The movement system and level design are definitely the aspects that stood out most to me during my time with Doom Eternal, but what I was genuinely surprised by was how strategic the game was. Look, you could argue that all Doom games have some level of tactics players need to incorporate to solve the combat puzzles thrown at them, but most of Doom’s systems required managing health and ammo during a fight, often having to break away from the fray to find armour or a health pack to reinvigorate a bruised and bloodied Doom Guy. It’s something that I’ve always felt goes against the frenetic nature of Doom and while you’re not as powerless as protagonists seen in more contemporary shooters, having to run and heal up does ruin the power fantasy somewhat. Doom Eternal solves that problem…with resource generation.

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Rather than fleeing from demons and searching for some stray blue bottles of magic healing liquid, you’re encouraged to keep pushing into the fight with a move set that’s built to keep you killing. Doom 2016 introduced the mechanic of Glory Kills, flashy finishers that allowed for a small health boost when disposing of an enemy. This is still present in Eternal, and just as violent as ever, but it’s brought some friends to the party. The shoulder-mounted flame thrower allows you to generate armour on successful kills, the chainsaw nets ammo and even pulling off enough Glory Kills allows for an area of effect attack to deal with crowds. What started as a flashy way to just barely scrape by has turned into fully flung resource management and while that might sound like the antithesis of Doom…it works way better than you’d think.

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Suddenly, combat has even more options. Melee attacks aren’t just thrown out, they’re saved for big groups. Push ahead and take the damage to your health as you try and scorch as many demons as you can, trying to make a profit on your armour. id Software has given you everything you need to stay alive yourself instead of scrounge for resources in an attempt to stay alive. I wouldn’t be surprised if skilled players needn’t pick up a single bundle of health throughout the entire game. You’re generating your own resources by playing well, which makes you play better, which generates more resources. It’s both an addictive and beautifully self-fulfilling cycle.

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Let me end this off with an anecdote. Arriving in the merchandise hall, I discovered a stall selling game soundtracks on vinyl. I collect records, so it was cool to see some great OSTs represented there. They had the Doom 2016 soundtrack and despite how much I love that game’s music, it was just a little too pricey. Right after Doom Eternal, I was so sold that I immediately went and bought that LP. id Software has convinced me that they are the pillar that Bethesda has rested its weary head upon and despite the pressure placed on them they’ve been able to stand firm against the seemingly endless wave of disappointment of the last few releases.

I genuinely cannot wait.

Last Updated: August 21, 2019

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