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DOOM Eternal(PC): Review

The quintessential FPS experience is back

Introduction

The original Doom has always been the quintessential FPS experience ever since it came out, capturing the gaming world by storm and introducing a new standard for First Person Shooters. Fast-paced visceral fun, with a game that knows it’s a game and makes full use of it. The 2016 version managed to recapture that essence for the modern audiences, and it hit all the right buttons, after going through a period of developmental hell. This marked it’s glorious return back to the roots of its vision, revitalising it after Doom 3 which is a good game in itself but changed the approach to that of a horror game.

Doom Eternal takes all this learning, and all the things that worked in Doom 2016, and takes it one step further. In doing so, there are a few debatable choices made, namely with respect to the story and stylistic choices, but the large majority of it screams perfect.

We’re dropped right back into the mighty Slayer’s boots as it picks up after the cliffhanging ending of the previous game, albeit skipping over certain sections and letting assumptions and codex entries fill it in. He’s angrier, has a bigger arsenal and, has a face? Director Hugo Martin has gone with the third person cutscene approach in certain sections, including the very beginning. Personally, this helps add depth to the character, as his origin is also heavily explored throughout this game. This may rub some long time fans wrong as he’s supposed to be the embodiment of the actual player, a nameless faceless voiceless character. But then again, the original DOOM did have the face portrait after all. And in this case, adds character and it flies.

Story

The Doom series is well-known for having a bare-bones story. There are demons: Rip and tear. Doom 2016 expanded on this in an interesting way: Codex entries. If you wanted to dig deeper into the story, you could always pause the chaos to do a bit of reading. This was completely optional and those who just wanted a continuous flow of action didn’t need to do so. Pretty much all the important details were played out in cutscenes and objective markers. I for one barely touched the codex entry on my first playthrough.

With Doom Eternal, the developers have strived to create an intricate universe, bigger than any Doom game before. The method of execution is interesting though. As mentioned before, third-person cutscenes help add more story elements to sections. But the majority of the story is still told through those codex entries. This is fine until you realise the story plays a much bigger role in this game. Should you choose to ignore these entries, you will most likely find yourself scratching your head in confusion. If you’re like me who’s interested and okay with reading lengthy Codex entries, the story is very compelling, albeit convoluted at first glance. There are dozens of new names to take in with plenty of intricate lore and world-building, helping retcon certain elements of the DoomSlayer as well. Even upon patient reading, you can’t help but feel the itch for action, because after all, that’s what Doom games are known for. The problem with this approach is that for a person who’s in it for the gameplay, this lore will feel more tedious than fun, especially with its complexity and text delivery. There is an entire mission where you just pick up codex entries and you could take up to an entire hour just reading through the mission. And you can’t skip these without consequences unlike the previous games because you won’t understand the happenings of the missions. This is completely up to personal preferences and if you choose to invest the time in reading, the story is indeed well crafted and kudos must be given to the writers. If on the other hand the heavily worded complex lore reading for hours hurts your head and you’d rather have the action, which is completely fine, the gameplay actually suffers with you not knowing on what’s happening.

The delivery could have definitely been better than just text entries, maybe add in a few more cutscenes since there’s already a few going on. But that would then stutter the gameplay as well. It is an interesting dilemma entirely hinged on your playstyle. But overall, could have been delivered better.

Characters

DoomSlayer – The mean machine with his suit has an upgraded arsenal. This is the first time we get to see his face right off the bat, and the story also dives deep into his past. For long time players of DOOM, there is a very interesting and game-changing revelation at the middle of the game, and you’ll either hate it or love it. Further [SPOILER] he actually speaks, and this may either be jarring or exciting based on your interpretation of the character. [SPOILER END] Other than that he’s your standard DoomSlayer same as before, and shows an almost rebellious character in certain situations, which is enhanced to actually be funny in the meta-sense. He also has a playful side such as when you pick up a Toy featuring him. He also has pain-grunts, a feature that existed in the 1993 Doom. This can be turned off through the options menu if you wish.

Samuel Hayden – The partner from the previous game is back. There are some very consequential character reveals which go about for him. I shall leave it for you to discover.

VEGA – The sentient AI from the previous game is back, and acts as the personal assistant to DoomSlayer, almost akin to JARVIS from Iron-Man. Most codex entries are compiled by VEGA, mission objectives and portals are set by VEGA, even the weapon mods are provided by it. Without VEGA this game would have had a hard time defining the flow of the story and the DoomSlayer would be a lost man. The developers have used VEGA as a deus ex machina to set up objectives and other reveals. There is also a big revelation for VEGA at the end of the game which might come as a surprise. Again, I’ll leave it for you to find.

The Hell Priests – Three Demon priests with an interesting history tying them to the Slayer himself, whom the Slayer now seeks to destroy to stop the Hell invasion on earth. They sound like your average smug mob bosses.

Khan Maykr – A mystical entity with connections to the Slayer as well. Friend or foe? Gives out certain plot elements and reveals.

Gameplay Elements

This is where the game truly shines, along with the incredible soundtrack composed by Mick Gordon(Doom-2016) which we’ll talk about in the next section. The developers have taken everything that worked from the previous game and enhanced it even further.

Combat and Exploration

Right as you drop into it, you’ll notice you start off with a shotgun and a chainsaw pickup. No flimsy pistols here. Then you realise this is possibly because the game is harder, more visceral, than the previous entry. The game features four standard difficulty levels ranging from “I’m too young to die” to “Nightmare”, along with the special “Ultra-Nightmare” and “Extra life” modes. These games are recommended to be played at a difficulty where you’re having fun. If you’re looking for a challenge, sure you can go for it, but if you find yourself visibly frustrated at the game and actually hoping you don’t get obliterated again, it’s for the best to lower the difficulty level. You’re supposed to feel the power of the DoomSlayer, not a mere mortal running away from the demons. This game is notably harder than the 2016 one, and there is a significant chance you might find yourself dropping the difficulty down as you progress. I challenged myself with the Ultra-Violence level, but midway through the game was forced to drop it down to Hurt Me Plenty. It was doable sure, but not worth it if you’re feeling more frustration than fun, which is what this game should be all about.

The movement now includes a double dash which is acquired during the game, in addition to the double jump, which aids in the platforming sections as discussed below. The combat is greatly enhanced with this added mobility as well.

The chainsaw pip now actually refuels automatically up to one bar and can be used instantly by pressing the bound button. This helps keep the combat way more fluid than the previous entry where you had to manually find fuel pickups and then equip the chainsaw before using it. You still need to find fuel in case you want to chainsaw the bigger Demons, but with the way the gameplay is crafted, you’ll find yourself chainsawing the “fodder” demons most of the time.

This is because Doom Eternal’s gameplay and combat loop is a satisfying blend of action and puzzle. You don’t get too many ammo pickups in the environment anymore, and chainsawing a Demon drops plenty of ammo refill. This combined with the refuelling chainsaw means it’s almost necessary to keep chainsawing the Demons whenever you notice your ammo lowering.

That is just the tip of the iceberg in the combat-puzzle. You’re also given a myriad of other new attachments. The Slayer now has a blade attachment which allows for a higher variety of Glory Kills, which is when you execute a finishing manoeuvre on a staggered demon to get additional health pickups. The Glory Kill animations have been enhanced, with the DoomSlayer now executing the particular kill based on which part of a demon you are looking at. This means you can choose to perform one from behind or the top, the arm or the leg and so on.

Then there’s the “Flame Belch”, a shoulder-mounted flame thrower which engulfs any enemies in the field of view with flames. The additional benefit to this is that flamed demons now drop armor pickups when on fire and especially when killed. The flame belch also recharges automatically.

Then we have the grenades which auto-fill – The “Frag Grenade” and the new “Ice Bomb”. The frag grenade blows up demons, the standard affair. The ice bomb, on the other hand, freezes the demons in place allowing you to execute special manoeuvres such as shooting vulnerable demons from behind.

The Slayer now also has what is called the “Blood Punch”, which is simply a much more devastating melee attack. It is interesting to note that with this addition, the normal melee attacks feel incredibly weak. The 2016 version could have you melee kill the smaller demons. In this one, that didn’t seem to work. The blood punch refills whenever Glory kills are performed and can be upgraded to drop health pickups as well.

If you thought that’s quite a mouthful of new arsenal, there’s more. The Super Shotgun now features a grappling hook, named the “Meathook” for certain reasons, and is my personal favorite weapon-combo in the entire game. With it, you can grapple far off demons and instantly pull yourself towards them as they remain staggered in place, finishing them off with a blast from the Super Shotgun or the Chainsaw. Couple this with the Double Jump and the Double Dash movement and you have an incredibly satisfying combat experience as you find yourself running, jumping, dashing, pole vaulting and grappling all over the arenas. Oh, and you can upgrade the meathook to make demons catch on fire as you grapple them, dropping armor in the process. Sweet.

We also have the revered BFG-9000 from the previous games, which is now part of the weapon wheel instead of a dedicated button. And as before, one shot from it annihilates pretty much every demon in view. But there is something even better than the BFG-9000, the “Unmayker”.

The Unmaykr is capable of using the BFG ammo but instead of blowing it up in one shot, streams it into smaller BFG bullets which have a much higher accuracy. Unlocking this weapon requires certain keys to be picked up which is part of the exploration loop discussed further down.

Finally, we also have the Crucible, a sword, bound to its own button. You acquire this later in the game, and once you do, it acts as a one shot kill to pretty much any demon in the entire game, spare the bosses. Unfortunately it doesn’t recharge automatically and requires pickups to be found across the environments.

Those aside, the standard weapon arsenal from the 2016 game is back, but this time more so than ever, you will find yourself using almost every weapon based on the situation. This is thanks to a new “Weak-point” mechanic introduced to the game. Almost every demon has a certain weak-point which requires a certain weapon to get past and make easier to eliminate. Debatably, this mechanic can be annoyingly biased to the extent you are almost always forced to take out the weak-point. Trying to neutralize them normally as in the previous game, especially during the more intense encounters, can lead to great ammo wastage and damage taken. But when used efficiently, it becomes another part of the already existing action-puzzle game, something really unique.

For example, the Pulse Rifle is capable of blowing up shields held by demons, and the Cacodemon can be made to swallow a grenade to trigger a direct glory kill. In case you try to just shoot them though, you’ll find that they can tank quite a bit and can get surprisingly wasteful. You’ll find yourself always taking out the weak-points during encounters. Instead of an optional thing, the weak-point mechanic becomes an essential thing, which can be good or bad depending on your tastes.

The fun of the gameplay loop is not just limited to combat. The environments have been crafted as complementary mechanics to the combat itself. In addition to the thought-out arenas for each encounter, the traversal has also been upgraded. The developers wanted to spice up the periods of lull in between each encounter by adding additional platforming elements, taking cues from Prince of Persia. There’s the monkey bars the DoomSlayer can swing off of and climbable walls which can be attached to. This paired with the double jump and double dash mechanics, leads to some intricate platforming sections with obstacles such as fire or lava being placed in the way. Longer jumps also include a dash refill which must be picked up mid-air to get additional dashes. This can be initially frustrating as you try to figure out the mechanics of airtime and curse the Mario-like nature of it, but once mastered it turns into satisfying sections to connect two combat encounters.

These sections also feature toxic slimes, another mechanic from the 1993 Doom. You need to acquire a “Rad Suit” to be able to traverse these sections without taking damage. Instead of being timed, these suits contain a damage meter, and there exist pickups which heal the suit. A surprising addition was the swimming mechanic, which comes into play in a later level. This particular level is notoriously frustrating and can potentially leave a sour taste in your mouth due to its level design. You see, earlier in the game you are introduced to what are called “Buff Totems”, devices which enhance the strength and speed of the demons in an area, while also endlessly spawning them. To take out the demons, you’re required to find and melee this totem. That’s great. When you reach this particular level, however, good luck finding the buff totem. It’s something completely different, and after moving through the game being introduced to every demon with a splash screen explaining its weak-points and such, this time there is no mention of anything. I will keep the reveal a secret so you can revel in the frustration intended by the developers in this section.

It also features tiny buttons which need to be pressed, and the most obnoxiously hidden secrets, none of which is displayed on the map. Even the swimming mechanic is introduced only when you fall into the water by mistake as the objective marker never points to it. This is the only level which can be infuriating but is thankfully followed by some of the best levels in all of Doom, featuring gorgeous hellscapes and a surprising new destination.

Upgrades

To add on to this heavily, exploration plays a key part in upgrading your gear. Unlike games which need you to complete certain objectives to get upgrade points, Doom Eternal rewards exploration with upgrades. And if this sounds off-putting, you can rest easy knowing it has some of the best exploration sections attached to it. Once you acquire the upgrade to see every item in the level, which is highly recommended, you can scope out the environment to look for clearly visible cracks in walls which can be broken or other entryways. These secrets range from toys to highly useful upgrades. To further aid this search, the mechanic of fast travel is unlocked at the end of every level which allows you to travel back to any section of the level to try and acquire the secrets. You can also always return to a finished level from the mission select screen and it saves any upgrades you pick up, without having to actually complete the levels. I personally went for a completionist run and managed to acquire every secret item in the game, and it barely took any extra effort. You’ll most likely find yourself looking out for these secrets because the traversal to get to them and the upgrades themselves feel worth the effort, especially when you know the locations marked on your automap.

Among the secrets there even exist cheat pickups which allow you to replay any mission with ridiculous cheats activated. For example, you could play through an entire level with infinite ammo, or with berserk mode throughout.

The upgrade options have also been enhanced to a great extent. You have the standard weapon upgrades which help you acquire new mods, then you have the mod upgrades to enhance the power of each individual mod. This requires the usage of weapon points which are gained by completing combat encounters throughout a level. Most of these encounters will be part of the mission, but most levels include what are known as “secret encounters” which can be activated to gain additional weapon points. These encounters are timed and require a strategy to complete. In the later levels, these encounters could also have mini-bosses you need to defeat within a certain time frame.

To take it one notch higher, certain levels also feature what is known as the “Slayer Gates”. These are really intense encounters which grant three weapon points and a special Empyrean Key which is used to unlock the Unmaykr weapon, which requires 6 of these. These encounters are some of the most intense sessions in the game and you’ll find enemies not yet seen and multiple bosses thrown in together. They’re not pulling any punches when they say it’s intense. You need to find a “Slayer Key”, usually in the vicinity of the gate, to unlock it.

Weapon mods also feature the “Mastery Challenge” which is unlocked whenever all features of a mod have been fully upgraded. Completing this challenge makes the mod even more powerful. Alternatively, you can find “Mastery Tokens” in the environments which enable you to bypass these challenges if you want to.

Next up is the suit upgrades which enhance your suit, ranging from environmental resistance to frag grenade upgrades. These require “Sentinel Suit Points” which are again gathered through exploration.

Then we have the Rune upgrades, which allow for customizability to accommodate your gameplay-style. Only three of these can be equipped at any given time, but they are very useful based on your needs. For example, I had a rune which slowed down time whenever I pressed the right click mid-air, allowing for some precision shots to the aforementioned enemy weak-points, and another which made them remain in the staggered state for much longer allowing for glory kills. You can combine any such runes to achieve useful combos.

And finally, to wrap up the upgrade section, we have the Sentinel Crystals. These help enhance the core abilities of the Slayer, namely maximum health, armor and ammo. Additionally, pairing any two of these upgrades grants a special bonus upgrade to other equipment leading to incentives for certain upgrades. For example, you could upgrade ammo and health to receive a bonus flame belch upgrade, or ammo and armor to receive a blood punch upgrade.

That’s the end of the Slayer upgrades, but the Slayer’s Fortress of Doom which is the ship where you get to relax between every mission, can also be upgraded. The whole ship has been intricately crafted with easter eggs for long time fans to find and locked sections which require “Sentinel Batteries” to be unlocked. You can find music albums throughout the missions which can then be played when here. To unlock the different sections of the ship, you need to collect the aforementioned Sentinel batteries. These are found around the environments as secrets. You can also complete what are called optional challenges in every mission to receive an extra battery on every level. These can include something easy as “blood punch three enemies”, or something difficult as “attain three different glory kills on the same demon”.

Once you have acquired these batteries though, you can unlock special suits, weapon points, Sentinel Suit Points, Crystals and more.

It’s pretty apparent by now that Doom Eternal features an incredible amount of upgrade options to suit every player’s need, and acquiring them is always an exciting prospect. Personally, I acquired every possible upgrade and it was satisfying to beat the end levels with the incredible power at hand. Note, it was still intense.

Extra Lives

This game also includes the old school “Extra Lives” mechanic. You can find these “Extra Life” pickups across the environments and once you have some on hand, getting killed revives you instantly consuming one extra life. Losing all extra lives makes you restart at the previous checkpoint. This is pretty useful in the intense sections, say the slayer gates, where dying would mean resetting the whole section- pretty infuriating if you’re almost done with the level only to be smacked dead by a tiny demon.

The developers have also thoughtfully added the mechanic of no resets if you just fall off a cliff. Unlike the previous game, if you fall off into the abyss by mistake, you’ll be teleported back to the top with some loss to your health. Run out of health by falling down though, and then it’ll be treated as a death, either using up an extra life or resetting you back to a previous checkpoint if you’ve run out of lives. These are especially useful during platforming sections as it would get frustrating to lose lives or reset progress because the Slayer misused the monkey bars.

Environment

The environmental design is equally gorgeous at most places in addition to being fun traversal and combat areas with secrets. There are giant titans in the background or huge planets in the distance. In one level featured in the trailer, there is a huge BFG firing in the background, with Mars visible in the sky, while you battle demons on the ground. It’s spectacular and gives a wonderous sense of scale.

Aesthetic Choices

There are certain aesthetic choices which are up for debate and personal taste. In contrast to the previous game, the arcadey game aesthetic has been enhanced for this game. Chainsawing demons reveals colourful ammo, the new weapons are floating pickups, hitting enemy weak-points makes it glow and destroying it creates an affirmative ping, head-shotting demons also provides a goofy pop sound. Now it is worth noting that the game is heavily customizable, and all these effects and much more can be turned off in the settings if you’re not a fan of that, and is hence not much of an issue. You can go as far as to remove the entire HUD and extra sounds if you want. Personally, I much like this addition as it feels in line with the spirit of the game. It knows it’s a game and doesn’t waste time adhering to realism where it isn’t needed. After all, this is how the Doom of 1993 was, floating weapon pickups and all. Being a homage to the original and capturing the fun spirit of that is admirable. As visceral as it is, it fully embraces the goofiness with some funny glory kills or the cartoony gulping noises made by the cacodemons whenever they swallow a grenade. Heck, even the post-credits scene has something really fun and goofy.

There are also sections where you get to control and play as the Demons, and this was confirmed by the developers much in advance. This is mainly for the multiplayer component of the game which allows you to play as demons (BattleMode) and even invade other players campaigns. The feature has currently been delayed and not implemented yet, perhaps with the pandemic messing with things. Regardless, the campaign features a small snippet of it and controlling a Demon is pretty fun with its own mechanics.

Replayability

With all of these features and the ability to choose any level at any difficulty once completed, the replayability element of this game is immense. You also get access to the “Master Levels”, normal levels previously completed enhanced with tougher encounters as a challenge. You can use any number of cheat codes to have fun with the completed missions while getting to keep any progress items such as the secrets. I for one found myself itching to try out the game and actually finish it on the Ultra-Violence difficulty.

This is one of those games where you learn the mechanics as you go through it, and when you restart the game, what once felt difficult feels much more trivial.

Audio Design

In something that rivals the entire game in goodness, and complements it even more, is the phenomenal soundtrack provided by returning composer Mick Gordon. After having won the best soundtrack for a video game back in 2016 for Doom at the Game Awards, Mick is back at it again to capture that throne. The heavy electronic bassy undertones and melodic synths and heavy guitars are mixed in perfectly with the demon-killing goodness. Sections of a soundtrack play depending on the intensity of the encounter, and the gameplay just wouldn’t feel the same were it not for the soundtrack. Unlike most games, the soundtrack in this game is essential to the gameplay. A choreographed mix of movement and combat accentuated with the tones of the music.

As for the other sounds, the guns pack a punch to them, each having a distinct sound to it. It’s not phenomenal to that extent, but more than enough to fuel the demon-killing. The shotgun feels especially good with a loud raw thump of each shot.

Bugs/Glitches

As far as bugs and glitches go, the main one I faced was the automap being very dim and difficult to see while using the HDR mode. The HDR mode in itself is wonderfully implemented to bring everything to greater life, but for some reason, anyone with an NVIDIA GPU running HDR will face the same issue. This is hopefully fixed in a future update.

Other glitches included some encounters where the enemies would spawn on the other side of a barrier meant to separate arenas, and since the barrier only opens up once they are killed, you would have to restart the checkpoint. The blood punch can sometimes be finicky and the monkey bars can sometimes launch you up without your knowledge during an encounter. These are few and far in between and do not affect the game in any way.

Boss Encounters

The boss fights are thought out but feel easy compared to the usual demon encounters. A notable feature is the inclusion of certain bosses as regular enemies as you progress through the game, sometimes many of them

together. The final boss fight is impressive and much bigger in scale than the 2016 one, but the way it is structured can get frustrating instead of fun, with certain actions in need of constant repetition.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, this game is successful in what it set out to be. A visceral, fast paced FPS game with some fun exploration and extremely satisfying combat.

Our Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

9/10

A masterclass in FPS game design.

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