DOOM Eternal is everything a DOOM sequel should be and then some. It expands on the already excellent combat from 2016’s DOOM and delivers on the gratuitous, gore-filled rage fantasy we’ve come to expect in bucketloads. Though it’s not without its small shortcomings, DOOM Eternal is fanservice done the best way: it stays true to the core of the franchise while adding a plethora of very-welcomed additions to the formula.
Taking place soon after the conclusion of 2016’s DOOM, Eternal has the Doom Slayer fighting demonic hordes on a demon-ravaged Earth. The general story is super easy to follow, but there’s a treasure-trove of codex entries to help flesh-out the universe for die-hard fans and perfectionists. Complexities aside – the story is simple, so say it with us: Rip and tear until it is done.
Speaking of ripping and tearing – you will get to do plenty of that during the game’s comfortable 15-20hr campaign. The combat here is addictive, beautifully grotesque and fast – really, really fast. Playing on hard (or Ultra-Violence as the game calls it) was tough as nails, the difficulty does not mess around or spare you a second to breathe. Intense fights will require on-the-fly planning and clever meter-management to come out alive.
What makes Eternal’s combat so compelling is that it forces you to face adversity head on, there’s no running away and waiting for a Cooldown timer in this game. All of the Slayer’s resources can be extracted by creatively mutilating your foes, most of which require close proximity. Need more armour? Belch your foes with a flamethrower so they drop armour over time. Running low on health? Get nice and personal for a brutal glory kill. Got no ammo? Get creative with a chainsaw for a quick refill.
Even better, Eternal adds weak-points to demons, so smart players can mow down rooms with scary efficiency. For example, Revenant’s: jetpack-equipped demons who fly around arenas, will require you to snipe their turbines to bring them down to the floor. Cacodemon’s: floating, cycloptic creatures, will eat a grenade if thrown into their mouth, setting you up for an easy glory kill. These weak-points incentivise adaptable play – cycling through the Slayer’s entire arsenal to optimally dispatch the hordes.
Eternal also adds the deadly Blood Punch, and new mobility options in the form of dashes to the Slayer’s capabilities. Dashing will become a second nature of play, as quickly ducking in and out of fire is essential to staying on top, and the Blood Punch is a powerful melee attack that can be used to shred armour off of stronger enemies.
Boss fights are a little mixed. Some bosses are tonnes of fun and feel like real tests of skill. Others, though, are a slow grind that force you to play reactively instead of proactively – bringing the pace to a crawl. There’s nothing like slamming the brakes on the action to take you out of the fun. Even so, late-game levels will see players dashing around in claustrophobic, vertically intuitive rooms at light-speed, swapping between all their weapons and equipment, creating quick, spontaneous plans, prioritising stronger demons, and getting absolutely drenched in blood and guts while doing it. It’s beautiful.
The sound design is equally as cathartic and crunchy as the combat. The Heavy Assault Rifle sounds weighty as it knocks chunks of flesh off enemies, and the Slayer’s retractable arm-blade swings through foes with a visceral whoosh or snikt. Demon’s bones break and twist with a powerful snap that never gets old. Mick Gordon returns as composer following his iconic work on DOOM 2016, and it’s still the perfect soundtrack to rip and tear to.
Lastly, the engine works beautifully for this game’s fast pace. Particle effects fly around the room in ludicrous quantities, and the game consistently holds 60 frames per second running at 4K. After DMC V and now Eternal, there’s no excuse for a game to look worse than this and not run at 60 buttery-smooth frames a second. There’s some small texture pop-in here and there, but nothing game-breaking. But when models are fully textured, they’re great. Everything’s not perfect though, the game is a bit buggy at times. In my playthrough, I got stuck in walls about twice, the game failed to register that a room was cleared, and I was subsequently stuck in it, I cancelled a teleport animation by swinging on a pole and got trapped once again, and my game crashed in the FINAL LEVEL! Most of these could be fixed with a quick checkpoint reload, but they did put a slight damper on the experience.
DOOM Eternal, despite some mixed boss battles and semi-serious bugs, is an excellent sequel, and easily one of the best first-person shooters from the last decade. Eternal will have you gripping your controller like a vice during the blood-pumping, white-knuckle fights, and taking the deepest sighs of relief after coming out on top against the insane odds. Utterly compelling and difficult to put down, the game’s campaign keeps you twitchy and on your toes throughout every single second of it. If you like fast-paced action games and litres of rage-filled adrenaline shot straight into your heart, you will love Doom Eternal.