|Platforms||PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||March 19, 2020|
Only a small minority of creatives can claim to strike lighting twice in the same place. Few games have enjoyed the attention that the DOOM franchise has garnered since 1993. Though D00M3 was a great game, it did not impress like its contemporaries F.E.A.R. and Half-Life 2. However, DOOM 2016 was both a return to form and a revolution in the genre. Rather than persist with the survival-horror theme D00M3 presented, DOOM 2016 reprised the gameplay style of trapping players in a room with a seemingly impossible number of enemies; some would say that the game traps enemies with a seemingly impossible-to-kill Doomguy. Four years later, id Software attempts to strike lightning thrice with a modernized version of the 1994 sequel, DOOM II: Hell on Earth. After all, the principal objective in the subject of this review, DOOM Eternal, is to prevent hell from consuming Earth.
Doom Eternal is so identical to DOOM 2016 that the only additional content concern I have to add is that in the Cultist Base level, during pauses in the action, introduces a chant called the “Call of Hell” that made me momentarily wonder if I should press on while playing the game. I do not know what devil-worshiping music sounds like, but if I had to imagine, it would be something like that specific ambient track.
I highly recommend Tyler Hammel’s article on the irreverence of the Doom Slayer.
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Given the excellence that is the DOOM franchise, let alone its 2016 iteration, I considered DOOM Eternal an instant-purchase-and-play. After all, DOOM 2016 is at its best when it achieves flow. “Rip and Tear” is as much an imperative as it is a marketing catchphrase. Enemies sprint and attack with relentless aggression, a formidable assault compelling players to respond with dexterity and violence. DOOM 2016, then, is a bodacious blitz of gunplay.
DOOM Eternal achieves flow most of the time. It is still functionally DOOM, but it errs by introducing gameplay mechanics decelerating the action. Players should prepare themselves for several segments dedicated specifically to platforming. I appreciate the return of the double-jump, as it is useful for situations like propelling myself over a charging pinky demon to access its vulnerable backside. I also like the addition of the (double) dash, which is useful for evading revenant missiles. Unwelcome is the grabbing and climbing wall mechanic. While I understand id Software’s desire to increase DOOM Eternal‘s verticality, bounce pads have been in their games since Quake III Arena; I like to keep my climbing limited to action/adventure games like Uncharted and Tomb Raider, not in an FPS that I expect to move at breakneck speed like DOOM. Reprieves from the action for exploration and exposition are welcome, but some segments overstay their welcome.
Inevitably, tightly-manufactured platforming in a foreign genre may result in unwanted consequences. Unforgivable is a specific jump where the only way to make the gap is to use a slow-motion mechanic that I had never needed to use. When developers provide gamers with over a half-dozen u[grade options, but design a puzzle where only one option is the solution without prior conditioning, that is not a good look.
I did not appreciate the solution to this puzzle at all.
In this way, DOOM Eternal is what a game looks like in a marriage between great additions and what I would call overdevelopment. For example, I love the quality-of-life video hints that disclose details like sniping mancubi‘ arm cannons as a weak point, or using the new shoulder-mounted grenade launcher to OHKO a cacodemon. Because the glory kill mechanic returns as the most efficient way to maintain health—dare I say the only way to survive—I like to use it with the new flame belch that immolates fodder enemies like zombies, making them drop armor pickups. The chainsaw returns, and instead of exhausting of several “pips” units of the weapon to OHKO a tough enemy like a hell knight, it is best used to replenish ammunition, because I ran out often, even after finding what are called Sentinel Crystals to upgrade how many munitions I could carry at one time (or health or armor).
Frequently depleting my ammunition was frustrating, but not nearly as dreadful as the platforming sections, and certainly not as vexing as fighting a new enemy and the worst inclusion in the game, the marauder. This foe breaks the cardinal rule of DOOM, which is rip and tear, or put another way, “shoot at everything living until it is dead.” The marauder cannot be dispatached with sheer firepower alone.
The marauder reduces the pacing of DOOM into a waltz. This is because it possess a shield that deflects all incoming player attacks, including the legendary BFG 9000. When too close, he uses shotgun for pushback; if too far, he uses a laser-like attack to strike from range; at middle distance the marauder’s eyes flash green—as though if he were a boss from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!—before slashing with his axe. During this time, the game instructs players to shoot him with the double-shotgun, but which attack the marauder uses is not always consistent, prolonging the bout. This enemy type has no business in a DOOM Eternal, and I am livid that a Demon’s Souls-like enemy is in my FPS. Its existence thoroughly contradicts what DOOM represents as a franchise.
Every encounter a maurader dispells the emersive enchantment of DOOM Eternal to such a degree, that I am awakened to further aspects of the game’s overdevelopment. While alternate upgrade options for every weapon in DOOM 2016 was novel, they return in DOOM Eternal as RPG-like acquisitions. The developers at id must have been compelled to incentivize players to take a break from the action to seek out hidden secrets with the allure of increased strength. FOMO is a MOFO, yet there are so upgrades that I cannot help but to wonder if this game approaches the collectathon aspect platforming genres. To put things plainly, these upgrades now feel like filler.
Offsetting DOOM Eternal‘s questionable features is…the lore. Yes, this game hosts an unexpectedly sensical narrative outlining the legacy of the Doomguy, who apparently hails from a long line “paladins” who have been at war with hell for who knows how long. However, the player-controlled character is unique, for he is the Doom Slayer, touched by the seraphs of Urdak, or the game’s version of heaven. Albeit its simplicity, it is effective, especially when paired with the game’s visuals; one needs a good reason to ask players to walk through the hallowed halls of the Sentinels.
And wow, John Carmack’s protégés have been putting in some serious work in regards to graphics! The upgrade from DOOM 2016 registers immediately with the additional colors that an Earth-based invasion provides, contrasting with the dim gloom of the mars campaign. All future games seeking to illustrate what “hell on Earth” looks like should take note of this Diablo III-style approach of contrasting the celestial with the demonic.
Every enemy has recieved a makeover with an intense increase in textures. While I do not necessarily agree completely with some choices—the eyes of imps no longer glow horrifically, and the hell knight now has eyes, period—the updates are an overall eyegasm (cough). Seriously though, the best addition here is that enemies endure visible body damage; despite being flayed alive with gibs flying hither and dither from sustained wounds, the horrors of hell nevertheless pursue with reckless abandon.
Of course, Mick Gordon returns DOOM Eternal’s lead composer, and I did not think it would be possible, but he has outdone himself. Part of the reason why I am late in publishing this review is that the game’s main music track, “At Eternal’s Gate,” entranced me, to such a degree that I had to let the track cycle through every time I fired up the game. “Slayer Gates,” I think, is he equivalent of the previous title’s epic “BFG Division,” and it does not let up, especially when the vocals come in at 1:38. “The Only Thing They Fear is You” makes me want to hop into a mosh pit when it gets started at t 1:36. “Super Gore Nest,” “Hell on Earth,” “Gladiator,” and “Creatures of Nekravol” are all excellent tracks. Even ambient music like “Voices of Urdak” establish appropriate tones accordingly.
And if the OST does not blow folks away, the sound design will. I challenge anyone to perform a 1:1 test with firing weapons in DOOM 2016, which sound formidable in their own right, and do the same with weapons in DOOM Eternal. The “thump, thump, thump” of the heavy machine gun made it my weapon of choice here, though I also enjoyed the heft of rocket launcher, and the Scorpion from Mortal Kombat-like meat hook on the double-shotgun.
What is so frustrating about DOOM Eternal is that it is very much an improved game from DOOM 2016. I prefer its massive level layouts, breathtaking vistas, dash ability, frequent usage of the chainsaw, and blame belch incentives. But the combination of the heavy-handed platforming, requisite upgrades, and the abomination that is the marauder really holds this game back. I do not mind that id Software cut the pistol, and I wish that they had also reduced the re-acquisition of already-earned upgrades for weapons from the previous game. Rather than the ridiculous “challenge” that is the marauder, I would have liked to have seen more super gore nests, Slayer Gates, and master levels instead. Because of these factors, DOOM Eternal is a great game that could have been better.
The Bottom Line
DOOM Eternal puts forth almost too much effort toward surpassing the world-famous 2016 entry, resulting in a great game that could have been better.