Id Software surprised the world a few years back with its reboot of Doom (2016). A game featuring a protagonist (the Doom Slayer) who didn’t care about anything aside from ripping and tearing through demons, pushing away dialogue, and using hands as key cards before ripping them off of the dead. Unlike 1995’s Doom II, which was very much an extension of 1993’s Doom, Doom Eternal feels like a complete remix of old and new gameplay mechanics, lore, and feel. While the game is a marvel, I have a few minor bugbears that made the experience feel a little tarnished.
You start the game with a pist—nope. This is the first time where you start off with the bread and butter of Doom gameplay: the combat shotgun. Id Software have decided that the pistol was largely redundant, which I agree, and started off with one of the primary weapons of the series that you’ll be using. Very quickly, throughout the first couple of missions, you also receive your double jump, chainsaw, shoulder-mounted grenade launcher/flamethrower, and dash ability. Doom quickly gives you all the essential gear you need to manoeuvre quickly around, as well as gain armour and ammo.
The new feature of the shoulder-mounted flamethrower, which damages enemies over time while drip-feeding you armour, is a welcome addition; contrasting the incredibly scarce nature of ammo for all the weapons that you come across. I understand the reasoning for making ammo so scarce, to force you to cycle between weapons consistently and to make the chainsaw necessary; however it leaves much to be desired when you spend a considerable amount of time looking for small enemies (like Imps and Zombiemen) to fill up your ammo belt by belting them with a chainsaw. The reason for this is, unless you’re collecting and hoarding fuel for your chainsaw, you are usually only left with 1/3 bars of fuel, limiting you to cutting down only weaker enemies. This often left me fruitlessly hacking at a careless Prowler, as they are basically Imps that can teleport; however, while imps only require 1/3 fuel to saw through, the Prowlers require more. So, the first thing that I did when gaining collectable upgrades was focus on the ammo upgrades. This alleviated the pain of the issue, but it didn’t entirely go away.
This is part of the reason why I feel the “push forward” mentality is lacking in Doom Eternal. I would often be overwhelmed due to the sheer amount of enemies, different styles of enemies, or lack of ammo; and spent just as much time running away to gather myself from the tenseness I felt from lacking power in a fight. Granted I was playing on Ultra-Violence (the second hardest difficulty, not counting the one-life mode of Ultra-Nightmare), however I felt that the difficulty was more in the vein of the Nightmare of the previous titles. The game’s slow and smooth difficulty curve serves it well over the first two thirds of the game; however I found myself consistently overwhelmed in the last third, and felt that it surpassed my abilities to continue “pushing forward”.
In earlier combat arenas, I would keep moving around and through enemies, focusing on taking out the guns of big-weaponed enemies to limit their ability to take me out. Once vulnerable, I would rush in for a glory kill with my arm-extended blade and then continue moving through to my next enemy of choice, occasionally stopping by the nearest Imp or Zombieman for ammo and armour along the way. As the game progresses, enemies like the Marauder, Baron of Hell. and Doom Hunter pop up quite frequently with other enemies, causing you to shift tactics and fall back. The Marauder particularly is an enemy that requires 100% of your attention. His attacks are unpredictably inconsistent, and you are very limited in the ways that you can damage him. You can only attack him when in a close-to-mid range, in a tiny window when his eyes shine green before an attack. That, or you can cheese it by shooting remote detonated rockets in his vicinity to chip away health. I found there was little I could do with him when in a fight with others, and whenever he entered the game I would always let out a groan; a sizeable amount of disdain from this enemy which I didn’t have with any of the others. I felt that he would have been more enjoyable to fight if his shield didn’t make him invulnerable.
That being said, with Doom Eternal‘s lack of generic difficulty achievements, and the ability to swap difficulty on the fly, I would still suggest starting with Ultra-Violence and not feeling ashamed if you feel the need to bring the difficulty down. Despite hitting that wall on the last third of the game, I did brave through it with the assistance of Sentinel Armour twice throughout my playthrough. Basically, if you’re having difficulty in a certain area and seem to be dying a lot, the game will present you with the option of Sentinel Armor, which is basically a “get out of jail free” card, giving you reduced damage for the rest of the level.
I quite enjoyed the wall climbing, button shooting, and swinging and jumping puzzles, as it relieved me from the high tension combat. Collecting upgrades by accidentally punching Sentinel Ghosts before taking their Praetor Suit Tokens; finding floating batteries to unlock parts of the Slayer’s floating Doom Castle; and finding toys, music, and cheat codes through hovering secret question marks placed just out of reach. The visual design choice on the power ups and secrets are something I wasn’t too keen on: bright neon floating power-ups. I feel it was a further departure from the immersiveness of Doom (2016), which I understand had some bright hovering power-ups itself, but was still less arcade-y than its successor, unless you’re playing the arcade mode of course. I feel like the power-ups would have been better placed in the world as demonic objects, and the secrets as visible representations of the items you collect. A picky design gripe, I’m sure, but one I couldn’t help but notice.
After finishing the game, I decided to go through it again on Hurt Me Plenty with a cheat code or two that I found through secret areas, to finish the other secret area’s that I didn’t get the first time around. That’s when all the gripes seemed to just wash away. Not having to worry about ammo, I still felt the need to take out certain enemies using certain weapons, knowing their patterns and abilities. I was able to “push forward” and through where I previously wasn’t able to, though I’m still not entirely sure if that’s a testament to learning the ins and outs from playing on a harder difficulty or not. Regardless, the want to jump back into a game and continue for a 100% completion rate immediately after my first playthrough is something that I rarely ever have; showing that, despite the minor yet noticeable gripes I had with the game, I still had a copious amount of fun in my first run, and continued to do so in the second.
The games maps show a substantial amount of variety: between the hell-encrusted Earth, exploded Mars, a Super Gore Nest, an ice-capped cultist base, a…alright, I’m just listing all the places in the game now. But it goes to show the extensive amount of variety and the sheer no-holding-back creativity that the artists and designers put into the world.
The music is very much in the same vein as the previous Doom game and Mick Gordon has done it justice with a very heavy mix of Cybermetal, Hell Metal, Thrash Metal, and Cyberpunk genres. There were a few songs I recognised as old Doom II songs redone. I was also thoroughly impressed with the music at the Hell Citadel at the end of the level “Hell on Earth”. The deep throaty viking chants were a nice added touch.
Doom Eternal was a game I truly hoped to be the masterpiece that Doom (2016) was and, while I do have my fair share of gripes with it, I’d say it got pretty close. While it’s not my favourite of the series, it is definitely a noteworthy one that I thoroughly appreciate and would definitely play again when I’m feeling the itch for Doom…just…on a lower difficulty…and with unlimited ammo.