There’s a theory in music, called second album syndrome. Basically boiling down to your sophomore effort as a band never being as good as the debut album which put your name on the map, it’s a rule that fortunately isn’t absolute. It’s also a law that could have applied to DOOM, because Id Software’s 2016 reimagining of the first-person shooter which made the genre mainstream in the 1990s, was simply too good on release.
Righteous fury and action, mixed with some of the chunkiest weapons and stomach-churning action ever committed to a widescreen TV at the time, DOOM set a bar that no other game has surpassed let alone reached in the years since it revved its chainsaw of carnage and went to work. DOOM Eternal doesn’t just reach the same glorious heights, it takes the bar and shoves it through the nearest Cacodemon’s head as it simply doubles down on everything that made the 2016 game so magnificent and amplifies the experience with a gung-ho attitude.
DOOM Eternal is a massive pulsating stiff cock of calibrated chaos, resplendent in its many metal piercings and able to deliver a moneyshot that’ll have you reaching for a cigarette in the afterglow. DOOM Eternal makes its mark from the second it begins with a barebones plot on landing that gets straight to work: Earth is absolutely buggered, having been ravaged by a horde of demons from a realm beyond mortal ken, billions of souls harvested in the process to power a starving world of angels and demons.
When the armies of man have fallen, when our technology has proven ineffectual in the face of extinction and death is inevitable, the only force of nature in existence that can turn the tide of battle is an undying warrior who carries with him a steel-barrelled sword of vengeance. From the first few minutes of DOOM Eternal, you can already feel just how slick and smooth this sequel is to handle.
The Doom Slayer himself has picked up a few upgrades along the way, new systems within which to rip and tear a bloody path across all of creation. DOOM 2016 feels like a sluggish Mancubus in comparison, as DOOM Eternal enhances the feeling of speed and power that the Doom Slayer uses to deadly effect throughout his campaign of horror. You’re not just running faster than ever, you’re dodging at the very last second, parrying the firepower of hell with a discharge of plasma fire and then switching to a super shotgun that chainhooks into a demon and propels you into optimum firing range.
The Doom Slayer now also has access to infinite grenades and a shoulder-mounted flamethrower, tools that all play into a subtle new game of rock-paper-scissors with the resources that fuel the unholy rage of the universe’s most dominant lifeform. Glory kills reward health orbs, belching out hot flames from your Praetor suit armour will set demons up to drop shards of armour, a quick swipe of the chainsaw drops ammo (there’ll always be at least one pip of fuel to keep this system alive) and tossing a grenade can hasten the process up.
You take all of those factors, blend them together and then you spread them across the new levels which have an increased scale of verticality and that’s when DOOM Eternal goes from vivid violence to an outright vulgar display of power. It’s this combination of gameplay mechanics, gruelling gauntlets and a constant shift between weapons that combine to create the DOOM Eternal full-course meal.
A constant drive forward, flexing your muscles and using every weapon in your arsenal to cut a bloody swathe through anything that stands in your way. Science fiction cosmic horror tales of punching that’ll make other games despair when DOOM Eternal brings a firehose to a digital dick-measuring contest! By Odin’s beard is DOOM Eternal good at making you feel like a badass.
While the Doom Slayer has gotten a beefy upgrade and can still further enhance his core abilities and arsenal with various upgrades strewn across each map, the armies of hell haven’t been shirking their training either. There’s a new emphasis on weakpoints and vulnerability with every type of demon that you face, with big bulging Cacodemons greedily swallowing any grenades you toss at them to Pinkies (Zort!) being only vulnerable in their stupidly soft hindquarters after they’ve introduced more brain damage to their faces with a nearby wall.
They may have weak spots to be exploited, but Hell knows how to unite its various hordes together to give you a proper challenge and it’s not unusual for them to absolutely tear you a new one when they get their act together. New totems will also buff demons to run like a Benny Hill gag at full speed towards you until you destroy it, resulting in a fast-paced combination of guts and glory that had me washing several T-shirts within a single day due to the amount of sweat I was producing.
Special mention also needs to go to composer Mick Gordon, whose work on DOOM Eternal walks a tightrope of angelic perfection and demonic shreds of the axe. It is as atmospheric as you could possibly imagine, a face-melting collection of the sickest guitar riffs ever committed to a video game and balanced by a choir of death metal that’ll have you tapping a hole in your floor and seeing a doctor next week for whiplash from all the headbanging you’ll endure from a soundtrack that’ll you be streaming long after the end credits have rolled.
Where DOOM Eternal does falter somewhat, is when it shifts from action to navigation. While map design is leagues better than 2016’s often-confusing layout and temperamental compass that would lead you into a corner before it’d point the right way towards impregnating a demon’s face with your fist, it’s the platforming sections that don’t always hit the mark.
When done properly, DOOM Eternal’s combination of speed, power and double-jumps across bottomless chasms makes you feel like a Spider-Man who’d been bitten by an irradiated Hulk, as you leap across pitfalls and hazards pulled straight from the Contra handbook for level design. The problem here, is that the margin for error can be ridiculously thin at time, death coming from an errant boost or landing a scooch too close to the edge and thus killing that throbbing momentum you’ve been nursing.
Likewise, DOOM Eternal’s fights can get claustrophobic at times when you’re backed into a corner, leading to some cheap deaths along the way or watching several of your bonus lives gobbled up in the process. If you’re looking for story, don’t expect too much to be spoonfed to you as DOOM Eternal instead locks its narrative content behind collectible codices of information that are scattered throughout each level, resulting in some serious reading time if you want to know what really happened to the Doom Slayer, his kin and his adopted homeworld where he saw guts (huge guts!) spill out from a demon’s belly.
And yet those flaws don’t derail a game which is so pitch-perfect at its true goal of wanting to create the defining white-knuckle ride of the decade. DOOM Eternal’s positives so far outweigh its negatives that the scale might as well be a trebuchet when the weight is added, flinging those complaints into the hellhole of Mars.
The game looks brutally beautiful, the weapons on offer are a smorgasbord of devastation and there’s always something to do. From the Doom Slayer’s castle of pain that orbits the planet to the levels which are littered with hidden gems, trinkets and cheat codes, DOOM Eternal wants you to keep grinding in the most enjoyable way possible.
With a campaign that lasts just shy of 14 hours on average (with plenty of faffing about on my side to GET ALL THE THINGS), it’s Battlemode where DOOM Eternal wants to continue its fight. Taking a few hints from DOOM 2016’s multiplayer that spectacularly failed in it bid to create an arena of slayers, Battlemode makes for a far more intriguing idea wherein two demons take on one fully-kitted Doom Slayer in a fight to the finish.
It’s a pure and vicious battle for supremacy, one wherein the brutality of a single player is balanced against a pair of demons who have to use cunning and guile to achieve victory. The days for a verdict on Battlemode are too early right now, but as of this moment it’s an idea which I can’t wait to really sink my fangs into in the weeks to come.
Last Updated: March 17, 2020