Doom 2016 was, without a doubt, the absolute best AAA shooter released last decade, although there were some indie titles that were just as good. Bringing back the frantic run and gun gameplay of the old classics and doing away with notions of cover and aiming down sights, it was a refinement of everything that made old school shooters great during their heyday without the sometimes dated qualities that can make them tough to go back to. It presented players with fast, fluid, and hyper gory combat against the seemingly endless hordes of hell, all set to an awesome metal soundtrack. It was a hit, loved by pretty much anyone who played it, including me.
In other words, Doom Eternal has some big shoes to fill. I’m happy to say that after spending a few hours with the sequel, it’s living up to its predecessor’s reputation.
I’m being honest when I say that I’m not quite sure exactly how long after the first game this takes place, and that’s because, like the first game, there are some brief moments of exposition before you’re running around busting heads. But essentially, the Doom Slayer now has a ship that he’s using to go around and hunt down some demonic dudes that may have once been human but are not a major source of the otherworldly occupation of Earth. There’s no mention of the previous game’s Samuel Hayden yet, or how he betrayed the Doom Slayer and seemingly went off to do further research. It’s a bit jarring, to say the least. Additionally, much like the first game, there is a frankly shocking amount of codex information for players to dive into if they want, with world-building more detailed than a game of this type might need. Still, it lets the developers pack in more story info if you want it.
Plus, if you’re like 99% of other players, you’re not in this for the story. You’re in it to bunny hop your way through the hordes of Hell and completely annihilate anything that gets in your way. At first I was worried because the game opened on a cut scene. The scene was over quick, and soon Doomguy had picked up his shotgun, and I was running around an arena jumping up ledges, blasting away at demons and turning them into hamburger.
The combat has seen a few small tweaks and there are some cool new moves at your disposal, but it’s largely unchanged from the previous installment. That’s fine, though, because it retains the positively glorious gore and sheer visceral thrill that comes with just skating by with the skin of your teeth and ripping a Cacodemon’s eye from its socket. For those not in the know, the game places its emphasis on movement, with Doomguy flying around arenas much quicker than your average FPS character. You immediately have a double jump, allowing for easy, smooth moves even early in the game like where I’m at now.
You have a limited amount of ammo for your weapons at your disposal, which is admittedly annoying early on when you only have the shotgun. It isn’t long before you get an assault rifle and plasma gun, though, and it’s incredible how much more freeing it is even having just a fraction of the game’s arsenal at your disposal. The limited ammo forces you to make use of every tool at your disposal, which means even now I’m switching between the shotgun, and two automatics I have every firefight, and each one is still an absolute blast to use. Not only is the sound design for each one just spectacular, but enemies now take visible damage, which means when you blast an undead marine in the chest, his skin comes flying off in wonderous chunks, exposing the skeleton beneath. Most enemies show damage like this, which only makes the combat feel better than it already did. In a game all about shooting things, it’s important for your arsenal to feel responsive and satisfying, and Doom Eternal is certainly both.
So far, I’ve encountered a few new things that help round out the first game’s already extensive arsenal. For instance, where the chainsaw is designed to be a one-hit kill move that makes enemies drop tons of ammo (useful for when you’re low), there’s now an equivalent for armor in the form of the shoulder-mounted Flame Belcher. Not only is it solid for doing DPS with crowds, but enemies taking damage from the flames will drop armor pieces, handy when you’re running low. I’ve also encountered a mid-air dash, which is fantastic for compensating if you miss a jump, and I just unlocked an ice grenade that does exactly what it says on the tin.
Also returning are the aptly named Glory Kills. When an enemy is weak enough, you can close in for a quick melee animation that sees you ruining a demon’s day in all kinds of awesome and creative ways. After just a few hours, I’ve seen about 40 different animations, each one more painful and wonderful than the last. Not only is it yet another great piece of brutality the game gives to the player, but it serves a few gameplay functions as well; it allows you a few precious seconds to breathe if you’re feeling overwhelmed and it gives you some nice health boosts as well.
There’s no regenerating health here. Doom Eternal is unapologetic in its desire to stick to elements of past FPS’s. Enemies drop health frequently enough on the normal difficulty that you should never have too much trouble getting a boost when you need it. Honestly, regenerating health wouldn’t work for this type of game. Modern military shooters are all about waiting behind cover for a good opening to pop off a few rounds, offering players the opportunity to take a breather from the action. In Doom Eternal when you’re in combat, you’re in combat. Enemies are some of the most doggedly aggressive I’ve seen, with them pursuing you no matter where you go. It forces you to start annihilating them with extreme prejudice since you don’t want to die from their attacks and their attacks have probably already taken off half your health bar. It’s a wonderful cycle of constant movement, ammo management, and knowing when to use powerful items like the chainsaw or Flame Belcher as the situation calls for it, all while performing immensely satisfying Glory Kills.
Doom Eternal is, ultimately, more of what made the 2016 installment so damn great. More arenas to slaughter demons in, more combat options with lots of cool new additions (and I’m sure there’ll be more to come), more lore information, more movement options, and even more rewards for exploration such as super challenging hidden arenas and fully viewable 3D toys of in-game enemies. If you (for some totally unknowable reason) didn’t like the previous installment, this one won’t do anything to change your mind. But if you’re like literally anybody who played the first and are yearning for more fast-paced, brutal action, in the few hours I’ve spent with it, Doom Eternal is everything you could want from a modern AAA shooter.