March 17, 2020
As we're seemingly living through the end of days, DOOM Eternal couldn't be more timely. Only, the threat that's facing Earth isn't a nasty disease but total annihilation at the hands (claws?) of demons from the depths of Hell. Yep, that sounds like DOOM, alright. There is hope for the world, of course, as the formidable Doom Slayer is back, and this time around he's brought along a bevy of new tricks with which to fight the evil minions of the underworld. And DOOM Eternal goes big. Really big. So big that it eclipses 2016's DOOM with an unrelenting intensity that will have your brain vibrating with excitement.
Almost everything about DOOM Eternal is turned right up to 11, be it the weapons that pack real heft, the sheer number of hellspawn you'll find yourself up against, or the scale and scope of each mission. From the very first moments, the action comes thick and fast, barely letting up, save for instances where you'll be engaged in a spot of platforming. While extended platforming sections don't sound particularly appealing for a game like DOOM Eternal, they're deployed at exactly the right moments, breaking up the relentless guns and gore with a little bit of traversal.
It might sound like tonal whiplash – and when we previewed DOOM Eternal, we were somewhat concerned about the platforming sections – but, taken as a whole, the ratio between shooting and traversal bits is perfectly pitched. As great as ripping and tearing is, there are times when it can be a bit overwhelming, and the game's platform-jumping segments successfully grant a little bit of time and space to calm down before the next relentless onslaught of demon-shredding ultra-violence comes along.
Naturally, wanton demon slaughter is the main event, and the primary reason anyone plays DOOM. In that respect, Eternal delivers in spades, drip-feeding you new weapons with which to ply your bloody trade, ensuring there's always a new death-dealing tool in your arsenal to master. Weapon mods and mastery boosts vary each weapon even more, so you can keep on mixing things up and determine your ideal killer loadout. How developer id Software has managed to cram so much into DOOM Eternal is beyond belief, the number of options at your disposal at any one time guaranteeing that the minute-to-minute action remains fresh from beginning to end.
DOOM 2016's core gameplay loop has been expanded, so while Glory Kills grant health and chainsaw executions spew colourful ammo pick-ups from carcasses like a big pinata, the new flame belch sets enemies alight, spilling armour. Glory Kills, too, are numerous and unreservedly brutal, making 2016 DOOM look like a Queensbury rules boxing match by comparison. Skulls are crushed, eyeballs pulled from their sockets, spines torn from backs, heads severed, arm bones snapped, appendages torn from bodies and used to bludgeon – truly, id Software has let, well, its id run wild, and the resulting gore is eye-watering. It's also supremely, horribly gratifying.
Level design is fantastic, too, making for a wonderfully well-paced experience that proves utterly enthralling for its entire 15-20 hour duration. Secrets are tucked away in all corners of each mission, encouraging you to use the Doom Slayer's double jump, dash, climbing and wall-smashing abilities to unearth hidden collectible demon toys, records that reward legacy tracks from previous DOOM scores, extra lives, cheat code floppy disks, codex pages (even the story and accompanying lore is fantastic), praetor suit points, and sentinel batteries that can be used to unlock doors to valuable items in the game's hub area, the 'Fortress of Doom'.
Six Slayer Gates peppered throughout the campaign offer super-intense, self-contained challenges to overcome in exchange for an Empyrean Key that unlocks a very special weapon, while secret encounters offer time-based trials to beat. The wealth of content stuffed into each of DOOM Eternal's thirteen levels is impressive, while additional options, like the arcade-style Extra Life Mode (lose all of your lives and it's game over) add plenty of replay value. Throw the online multiplayer Battlemode into the mix, and Eternal is the complete package.
There are frustrations, like encounters with the Marauder, which happen all too often. The most challenging enemy, the Marauder is a massive pain in the arse, able to zip around the screen far too quickly, deflecting projectiles with his shield while sending a spectral wolf to gnaw at your face. He's a git, and I hate him. Missing leaps from platform to platform, from wall to monkey bars or whatever can also be annoying, though only ever a minor setback. These are very small niggles, however, in what is otherwise a ludicrously enjoyable and constantly thrilling shooter, which not only looks flawless but runs at a buttery smooth 60-frames per second.
At time of writing, Battlemode is unavailable until the servers go live on launch day, but if id can translate Eternal's robust shooter mayhem to multiplayer (a trick it didn't quite pull off in the previous game), we could be in for a treat. An asymmetrical 2v1 mode in which one player assumes the role of Doom Slayer taking on two player-controlled demons, Battlemode certainly sounds more interesting and novel than a run-of-the-mill deathmatch mode, so here's hoping it can be as compelling as the game's awesome single-player campaign.
A formidable sequel, DOOM Eternal takes its forebear's template, and goes bigger and better in every department, delivering buckets of blood and gunplay that's unparalleled in variety and pure gratification. It might be hard to imagine how id could have possibly outdone 2016's DOOM, but the developer has managed it with DOOM Eternal, delivering the most beautifully badass first-person shooter there is, or perhaps ever has been.
Mick Gordon's metal score ensures you're constantly on-edge during DOOM Eternal's noisier moments, while things are dialled down when required. The squelch of cleaved, crack of bones, and the 'pop' sound when you pull out a Cacodemon's eye are all perfect.
Nothing short of miraculous, DOOM Eternal looks completely astonishing, even if it makes your console whirr like it's about to take off. Environments are epic in scope and the game's destructible demonic hordes are not only drenched in detail, but also just begging to have big chunks blasted out of them.
Ferocious, fast, and frantic, DOOM Eternal plays like a dream. It's FPS nirvana, revelling in stomach-turning nastiness with everything from the chainsaw to the hellish Crucible sword; a big blood punch that batters multiple enemies; the formidable Super Shotgun with its meathook; and the iconic, almighty BFG9000. What's not to love?
A weighty campaign brimming with replay value and secrets to track down, DOOM Eternal's single-player alone would be more than enough. That there's the 2v1 multiplayer Battlemode is simply the icing on a very delectable cake. Polished and impeccably well-presented, Eternal is a sequel that outstrips its predecessor.
A very good set of trophies that mostly cover the single-player campaign and its collectibles. There's a smattering of objectives connected to the multiplayer Battlemode, encouraging you to have a dabble online. Beating Extra Life Mode with ten extra lives left over might be a bit of a tall order, though.
A proper thrill-ride, DOOM Eternal is the sequel to DOOM 2016 that we wanted, and then some. Going to hell has never been so damn heavenly.