Doom Eternal – In the MOOD for DOOM

I’m on 3% health but I’ve never felt so alive. No ammo, no resources, no choice but to perform a Glory Kill. After a decisive stab, health spills out of the demon’s discarded head. I grabbed the health and turned around just in time to throw a grenade into a Cacodemon’s mouth, weaken an Arachotron with my super shotgun, chainsaw an imp for ammo, then turn back to the stunned Cacodemon and rip its eyeball out with my fist. If I ever stop moving during all this, I’m dead. DOOM is a game that doesn’t reward aggressive play, it requires it. The more ammo and health you lose, the more you’re going to get back.

Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal are such a culture shock from other modern shooters. When I picked up Eternal after playing some other FPS, I was blown back in my seat at how fast the running speed was. There’s no run button, because the default speed IS run. Why would you need any other speed? There’s no reloading here either, you gotta just grab some ammo during a fight and shove it in. Removing these two burdens frees up two buttons on the controller for cooler stuff.

You’ve got a chainsaw on the X button, flame belch with Y, an evasive dash with B, ice grenades on LB, a melee attack you can build up, and secondary weapon mods like grapple. Mixing and matching all these options makes for some incredibly fun dynamic gameplay in frantic battlefields. All of these have a cooldown until you can use them again, so it’s important to pick your battles. Who should you use the chainsaw on? What weapon should you use for each enemy? It’s a thrilling strategic fight for your life.

Doom Eternal introduces some controversial new enemies that require a bit more strategy. The Marauder has received a lot of rage online and caused some people to “review bomb” the game, but I would argue that’s exactly what makes it a successful Doom enemy. You thought this game was going to be easy? The Marauder changes the flow of combat by forcing you to stop and wait for a counter opportunity. You have to stand there within the perfect distance, and just wait for it to do a specific attack you can shoot down. I think it’s a fun little dance, but the fact you have to do this 8 or 9 times is maybe a bit much. The hardest part is balancing the Marauder counters with other enemies on the field, making sure you aren’t vulnerable at key moments. It still feels like they captured the core of Doom’s gameplay to me, just went a little overboard with its HP.

There’s also some new enemies that require very precise headshots which is a bit awkward when playing with sticks in the console version. Overall I think the enemy variety definitely improved the game. Some of the boss fights were absolutely amazing, both in terms of the spectacle and the gameplay interactions. You’ll be dashing around to evade, hitting weak points, farming ammo off minions, and using the stage obstacles to your advantage.

Nice place for a nap. The graphics are absolutely top-tier, but I’m not a fan of the blurry layer of heat the game insists on having at all times. This was also present in Doom 2016 so it’s either a stylistic choice, or just how the game engine works. Even when you turn motion blur and chromatic aberation off in the graphics menu, it still feels like you’re walking around in extremely high temperatures. I personally prefer the cleaner look of games like Borderlands than this smeared, purposefully blurry aesthetic that just makes it difficult to find secrets and doesn’t really provide a benefit. The most amazing graphical moments are seeing enemies close up when you rip them to pieces, or the grand events that sometimes happen in the background. It’s no doubt a spectacular looking game but the low image quality definitely taints it.

Doom Eternal is not just non-stop stress and adrenaline, there’s a more relaxing side to the game where you can explore at your own pace. There is a lot to explore in this game and curiosity will be rewarded by collectibles, challenges, upgrades and fun secrets. The environmental design is very fleshed out to make exploring so fun. You’ll often see a unique way to climb something, a pole you can grab off to the side, or a wall to smash.

Doom Eternal takes place on Earth in the year 2163 where demons have invaded from hell. It’s oddly refreshing to see this hilariously unrealistic depiction of the end-times, as if there are no current existential threats like climate change and war. If Earth is going to collapse, being invaded by demons is definitely the cooler option.

Besides the cool aesthetics of the setting, I found the story to be utter nonsense. You’ll collect mountains of lore about demonic leaders, factions and the story of hell, but it is hard to process. Rather than inciting any interest I found it pretentious and wordy. There’s just so many obscure names of groups and leaders and that it all blurs together, and it is hard to care about anything. I just want to rip and tear. Of course this lore is optional so it’s not a significant complaint, but there’s still the odd cutscene that just gets in the way and really adds nothing of substance. I think the biggest problem is that the game lacks any sense of mystery that would have you WANTING to read information in a game like Metroid Prime or Prey for example. Of course Doom should never try to feel like those games, but they DID try so it warrants criticism.

Last but not least I need to commend the music for making combat feel so incredible. The guitar riffs hit hard and deep, with a huge amount of depth to the mixing and compositions. You can feel your heart beating through the bass and your brain throbbing with the strategic riffs and chords. Unfortunately Mick Gordon and Bethesda had some “creative differences” so this will be his last Doom game, but all the more reason to rock out to it. Even when you’re not in the heat of combat, the strong ambience coats the game in a sense of purpose. The sound design extends from just melodies and chords to add in demonic sounds that makes it “sound” like the planet is hurting. There’s no other game that sounds like this, and it’s an incredible accomplishment.

Doom Eternal is an amazing game that continues to refine Doom’s combat with some hits and misses. You have more combat tools, more enemy variety and more interesting battlefields. This is negated by the fact that the pacing is a bit weird, and I found a lot more glitches in this game too. The whole game feels like you are trying to grab this wall and can’t miss. My experience was also hampered a bit by Bethesda’s horrible business decision on the title screen, which I already wrote about in detail here. I played the whole thing offline as a result, and had the game crash on me more than 10 times. Checkpoints are very generous, but it makes the game feel unpolished when combined with a few movement and combat glitches. That said, I admire the ambition of this game and the highs were extremely high with some of the best combat in the history of FPS.

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