The original DOOM focused on one idea: turning players into a ruthless killing machine. Today, the FPS classic remains as an addicting, impressive shoot ‘em up, so one can safely say that the game accomplished this initial goal and then some. The foundation that id Software laid in 1993 set up a Beatles-esque legacy for future iterations of the studio to live up to and, for a long time, it did not. 2016’s DOOM saw a spark of hope that id found itself again, but the real test came with its sequel, DOOM Eternal.
Like an untamed beast hungry for the next blood-ridden kill, DOOM Eternal does not just cement id as one of the industry’s standout developers—it reclaims its rightful place as one of the all-time greats. The game has blemishes, sure, but that does not stop how relentlessly satisfying and fulfilling it is as a simulation showing what living as a hyper-intelligent, unchained beast would be like.
Coming to DOOM Eternal for the story? Well, that is (mostly) too bad. The Doom Slayer’s triumphant return sees him traveling worlds and dimensions, stomping out Hell Priests, and ridding Earth of demons galore. Just as in DOOM, this sequel does its best to just let players sink into its fully realized version of hell, so the story does not go much deeper than offering a foundation with some really great fan service moments. Though, a codex does provide some background for those curious.
However, the game has a globe-trotting feeling that was left out of the previous entry, adding a bit of environmental spice. No individual location feels the same, a fact that is only heightened by DOOM Eternal’s art direction. The visuals in general could be a bit stronger, at least on the standard PlayStation 4, but the locals and the detail they are given are enough to make jaws drop clean off. This is thanks in part to the sense of scale, which rivals that of the excellent God of War. The experience is strangely cinematic, which is definitely a good thing. Of course, checking out the scenery is hardly the focus of any DOOM game.
DOOM Eternal taps into an animal instinct that has maybe never been touched before in games, as each encounter yields a strange mixture of thoughtless gore and calculated rampage. Here is the breakdown: gameplay has been streamlined but also made more complex. Each of the Doom Slayer’s abilities has the potential to reward the player with health, ammunition, shields, etc. Need extra life points? Focus on whittling demons down for a gore-tastic Glory Kill. If the Doom Slayer’s ammo is running thin, just rip and tear with the chainsaw for some instant bullets (and gratification).
These elements were largely present in DOOM, but here, keeping an eye on each resource is necessary for survival. If you are dying a lot, chances are you are forgetting to utilize the flamethrower or grenade at your disposal. DOOM Eternal does what its predecessor did but takes the arcadey portions and elevates them to the nth degree. This comes with real challenges, demon weak points that add a whole new layer of strategy (especially considering the bevy of unique enemy types that show up even in the game’s final moments), and better gunplay overall. The weapon selection leaves no stone unturned, too, so Earth and the Doom Slayer’s fate is always in your hands regardless of the situation. Extra lives are another new feature that give players a crutch to fall back on if a particular fight gets too heated. The result is gameplay with an ever-satisfying feedback loop. The long-short? DOOM Eternal’s combat is brilliantly complex, so much so that id has set a new bar for FPS gameplay.
Subtlety is not in DOOM Eternal’s vocabulary, but that does not mean id is not willing to let players breathe from the intense action populating the game. In between or even during shootouts with hell’s minions, players have the option to scour the doomed landscapes for collectibles and upgrades. Brittle walls can hide precious materials to enhance the Doom Slayer’s agile Praetor suit with anything from mobility upgrades to grenade boosts to map complements. That is not to say the game does not start out by putting immense power and agility in the hands of the player, just that players will learn to become more of a monster as they progress. Players can also find toy collectibles that resemble the game’s many varied enemies, some really nice vinyl art, and so much more. Not to mention the hidden time-attack battles and challenging Slayer Gates that also require extra exploring. The notion that DOOM Eternal’s world can be easily navigated with a new-and-much-improved map is really just the icing on the hellish cake.
Sadly, DOOM Eternal’s explorative side is not quite as polished as its tooth-and-nail gameplay. Clipping through walls that should break a fall is annoying enough but is even worse when players will inevitably find themselves looking for hidden goodies. Too many times would I find myself falling to my death when trying to jump to a platform that looks completely safe to land on. Invisible walls are abundant in some areas and a non-issue in others. With exploration serving as one of the game’s most enjoyable tension breakers, that so much time is spent punishing curious players is a shame. While we are on the topic, I should also mention that the game crashed twice during the campaign. To be clear, these moments technical difficulties and unclear platforming were few and far between but still managed to stick out, nonetheless.
Missteps cannot hide DOOM Eternal’s massive amount of value, though. The game took around 25 to 30 hours to beat on my first playthrough, and that is without searching every nook and cranny for collectibles. Replay value is enhanced even further thanks to collectible cheat codes that can be used without penalty upon mission revisiting, making sure to add some flavor to those hoping to nail down all of the achievements. Upon completing missions, players also have the opportunity to visit the Doom Slayer’s Fortress of Doom hub world. Here, players can unlock even more items, such as some really creative costumes and upgrades, as well as check out what collectibles they have already acquired. The Fortress of Doom has more personality than so many other video game hub worlds, especially when considering the Doom Slayer’s room, which is packed to the brim with references and fun memorabilia. As of the time of this review, DOOM Eternal’s multiplayer servers have yet to go live, so the value will surely continue to grow as id unwraps the game’s first year of content.
DOOM Eternal may sound like it has some flaws worth talking about, but it is not quite that simple. A chunk adding up to maybe 10 hours of this game is worth the asking price of USD$60, let alone three times that much content. id has crafted an FPS masterpiece fitted with enough content to satisfy DOOM fans but still leave them wanting more—DOOM Eternal is a single player’s dream. id managed to, once again, draw from the classic entries that built its name, but this time, the product is so much more than just a love letter. Though some patches fixing a few of the technical issues could launch the game into legendary status, that does not make what the team has produced any less of a monumental release. DOOM Eternal is as much of a benchmark in design for id and Bethesda as it is the entire genre of FPS games as a whole.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4. Also available on PC, Stadia, and Xbox One. Coming to Nintendo Switch in 2020.