Doom Eternal, after its delay late last year, is finally here. Does it keep the momentum going that the 2016 reboot of the franchise started?
Few names in gaming are as iconic as Doom – a name surrounded with the legacy of having kickstarted a genre, social controversy and the reputations of some of the most recognizable developers in the industry. While the player base is scattered across a few different franchises these days, anticipation was still high for Doom Eternal, after a strong comeback in 2016.
Now that it’s here, I’m happy to say it exceeded my expectations – which were mostly based on hands on sessions during trade shows last year. In those shorter sessions, Eternal felt a lot like ‘more (2016) Doom’, and while that’s not a bad thing it wasn’t until this week that I started to truly appreciate all the nuances and changes that had been made. In the end, they’re all changes for the better.
This isn’t just a better Doom, there’s also more Doom – Eternal’s campaign is about twice as long as the previous one, and depending on how you go about tackling it there’s more to the story as well. There’s a narrative that ties together different factions and threats to a degree that it almost feels too complex for a game that’s always been about the carnage first and the story later, but if you’re invested in the lore there’s a lot here. That’s especially true if you go hunting for collectibles, which unveil a wealth of information about the world and the history of the Doomslayer.
On the surface, Doom’s mechanics from 2016 are still intact – stagger an enemy for a chance to (glory) kill or maim them, which results in health and ammo drops. Doom Eternal makes them a far more integral part of the gameplay though, since temporary power-ups are no longer plentiful and you thus need to rely on the health and ammo drops you ‘create’ yourself. While that doesn’t sound like a big change, it fundamentally changes the way you go into battle, since now you have to pick through all of the dangers in an arena and pick out who to go for first in order to have enough ammo and health left for the rest of the bunch. Almost dance-like in how you choreograph your attacks, this is only part of the game-changer that is Doom Eternal.
Another major element is that mobility, which was already a big part of Doom in 2016, has been revised to play an even bigger role. The previous game didn’t let you stand still and scope out enemies from afar either, but this time around you’re constantly using abilities like a mid-air double dash as well as various environmental elements that let you launch yourself upwards or swing away (or into) danger. You can also double-jump this time, which makes for even more verticality in what are usually relatively open and multi-layered arenas.
Then of course there are new weapons, which include the ability to now set enemies on fire and makes them gradually drop armor as they keep walking across the scene while drenched in flames. You can also do the opposite and freeze them in place, which makes them convenient targets if you have access to a nice explosive or which can give you a temporary reprieve as you focus on bigger enemies. There’s an even bigger selection of them this time around, and it takes time to figure out which enemies are best suited to the various tactics you have at your disposal.
While the core gameplay loop keeps repeating itself, even though it’s massively entertaining, there’s a risk of it dragging in a 10+ hour campaign (my playthrough lasted 14 hours). iD’s done a great job of making sure this doesn’t happen, because for the first 60 per cent of the game you almost constantly get access to new weapons (and thus battle tactics) and new abilities that help you with a constantly evolving roster of enemies and bosses. There are a few puzzles to solve here and there as well, which mostly act as pleasant breaks in between the carnage – rare moments to catch your breath.
Combine all that with rock solid frame rates and gorgeous graphics and Doom Eternal is a winner. I absolutely adored last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign for its narrative drama and execution, but iD’s new shooter gets the adrenaline pumping like no other shooter before it. The puzzles and the narrative aren’t the greatest out there, but the gunplay is absolutely top class.