Title: DOOM Eternal
Developer: id Software
Release Date: March 20, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Genre: Combat FPS
In 2016, players were taken to hell in DOOM. The experience itself pushed not only the series to new heights but also the first-person combat genre as a whole. Many wondered how developer id Software would meet expectations in the follow entry DOOM Eternal, including myself. Well, somehow, the team has done it again and taken us back to hell for another round of carnage, action, and a little bit of platforming.
DOOM Eternal takes place on Earth as Hell’s armies have pretty much taken over the entire planet. The DOOM Slayer watches it all from space as he is the one-man crew of the Fortress of DOOM. Throughout the game, new areas of the ship unlock, and new weapons are provided to you. While a safe haven, the Fortress of DOOM is very much its own level with secret areas and winding paths to explore. When you’re ready, it’s time to take a portal down to Earth to save humans from extinction.
As the DOOM Slayer, you are a one-man army, and developer id does everything they can to make you feel that way. Your arsenal is vast, and in this entry, you’ll need every bit of it. The game requires you to balance your approach of clearing out rooms of enemies. It’s not possible to just use one gun throughout the entire game anymore. You now have to be skilled at a range of weapons available.
DOOM Eternal never allows you to get too comfortable, and the moment you feel like you’ve seen everything, the game challenges you in a new way. In the first levels, you’ll approach large enemies in almost every room, but mostly by themselves. However, later down the line, these enemies will appear in groups hanging out in the same place. Regardless, the developers provide you with everything you need to get through these fights, even if that means you’ll die a couple of times.
There’s a flow within combat itself that you discover early on. Shooting enemies, exhausting your ammo, deciding whether to chainsaw an enemy for more ammo or glory kill one for health. This goes back to balance. There’s not always going to be mass amounts of ammo lying on the ground, but that’s not going to stop the enemies from coming. Learning how to utilize the tools provided is essential to surviving here.
But let me tell you, there’s nothing like getting that rhythm going and pulling off a perfectly placed grenade in a Cacodemon’s mouth, with a 180 rocket to an enemies face, followed by mini-rockets to a group of enemies on your left, end ended with glory killing the staggered cacodemon. It’s as if encounters are choreographed, but you look down at your controller and realize that you just used almost every button, and it felt like a reflex.
Upgrading is a considerable part of DOOM Eternal, and there are a few different areas that players can focus on. During gameplay, weapon points are earned and can be used to add additional bonuses to the attachments you’ve equipped to weapons. These attachments are found throughout levels and can be applied to your arsenal. The player’s Praetor Suit can also be upgraded using materials found in levels. These upgrades adjust cooldown speeds as well as improve your map for discovering secret areas.
Exploration is rewarded with upgrades, but this also ties into the new platforming mechanics within the game. Between arenas are areas where players need to use their traversal skills in new ways. Monkey bars, wall climbs, and double jumps create exciting moments within the level where you put your abilities to the test. Are they in your face? No. Are they challenging? Sometimes, yes. I would call these areas light puzzles with the more difficult traversal moments saved for secret areas.
What’s surprising is how seamless it all feels. Platforming isn’t something you’d associate with DOOM, and yet, it works. The game does a fantastic job of teaching you how to use these abilities in new ways and then, much like the combat, slowly ramps up the difficulty. These elements are also sprinkled around the arena to make fights a bit more exciting to move around.
The boss battles are a beast on their own, and the developers knew exactly what to do to test you. After dying several times against a boss, I finally beat it only to be then asked to beat two of them at the same time. The developers trust the player to learn and improve, and they throw you in the deep end. There was never a moment that I thought, “This isn’t fun.” and walked away. I was always pushing myself, using the mobility of the Slayer and his arsenal to get through these tough sections.
The game offers you a significant amount of options to customize your HUD. This allows you to make it as intricate or minimalistic as you wish. The layers of accessibility go even further, across the game’s difficulties. Furthermore, if you die several times, you are offered the chance to start the next life with a boost at no cost to the experience itself. Sure, the game is challenging at times, but the developers seem to want players across all experience levels to be able to enjoy it.
One thing I wish I could customize was the red screen that appears when you are close to death. It’s just a bit intrusive, and when playing on greater difficulties, one hit typically triggers this screen. If anything, I just wish I could have toned it down a bit. I should also add that some of the platforming parts are tough to navigate and require multiple tries to get through. I wish these areas were a bit more laid out, so I was left scratching my head for a couple of minutes, trying to figure out how to progress.
After completing the game, I attempted to do someone online matches, but they didn’t really carry the same appeal. The idea is that it’s 2 versus 1, but you really have to take some time to create a character who works for you because you won’t go in wholly upgraded like you were in the main game. You’ll either play as the Slayer or an Enemy. It’s fun for a bit, but I found myself back in the single-player campaign to look for missed secrets after a few matches.
I really need to mention this game’s soundtrack, which has a tendency to build-up right when you need it most. It becomes the fuel for the action, which makes it feel like you are playing a music video. The music’s tone flows naturally with the level design and really keeps the pace for all the surrounding action.
DOOM Eternal has raised the bar of the first-person combat genre and has done it in ways that only id could pull off. The developers took time constructing a game loop of carnage and mayhem while pushing the skills of the player and providing them with all the tools needed to survive. It comes down to great game design, and I’m so happy to have experienced it.
There’s a light at the end of all this death and destruction, but getting it isn’t easy. DOOM Eternal takes the player on a journey, and it’s one that I didn’t want to end. There’s no point in denying that this is a must-play title.
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