(Reviewed on Xbox One by Games of DAYNE)
With almost 30 years of blood, guts and mythology behind it, the DOOM series is back with DOOM Eternal. Offering a campaign with unrelenting, breakneck pacing and demonic carnage, as well as an intimate yet chaotic BATTLEMODE featuring one Slayer up against two Demon players, DOOM Eternal is the most action packed entry to the first person shooter series to date.
The campaign takes place two years after the series rebooted in excellent fashion back in 2016. Putting players once again in the demonic skull crushing boots of the Doom Slayer, also known as Doomguy, the primary narrative arc requires the heavily overrun Earth to be saved from the clutches of eternal darkness. Featuring flashbacks and glimpses into the overall mythology of the series, these cinematic moments are the only time the player gets the opportunity to take a breather from the chaotic pace of the gameplay. Each of the 13 missions largely requires the player to eliminate all of the enemies in the area before a blocked path is opened for progression. A few scenarios require keys or other items of interest to be found and interacted with but for the most part the player is tasked with killing unrelenting waves of enemies throughout the 12-15 hour campaign.
The gameplay itself combines first person shooting and platforming elements. The dash and double jump abilities offer advantageous control of the battlefield, allowing for quick evasions and repositioning around enemies to capitalise on their weak points that cause significantly more damage. When an enemy has sustained a certain level of damage they begin to glow, signalling that a gruesome Glory Kill can be performed. Glory Kills are violent executions that vary depending on the enemy type and the position it is executed from. Killing enemies results in health, armour and/or ammo to drop in small quantities. A chainsaw can be used for melee kills, although it requires fuel to use. Lower class enemies can be killed with one bar of fuel, while larger enemies require 3 bars of fuel. The first bar of fuel automatically regenerates but the second and third can only be filled by finding fuel.
Littered amidst the combat areas are health and armour pickups, ammo for the various weapon types and power-ups that give the player boosts such as increased damage, speed and temporary invincibility for example. Awareness of which of these are available and their locations can be critical to survival and management of when to use them is just as important. There are nearly a dozen weapons that can be acquired throughout the campaign to be switched between easily and with the exception of one, they can all be upgraded. Mod bots can be found throughout the missions and when interacted with they allow for a mod to be unlocked for any acquired weapon. The Combat Shotgun for instance can have an explosive shot or alternatively, become an automatic weapon by holding LT when fired. These mods can significantly impact the damage output and can make the bigger, stronger enemies more manageable. These mods can be further upgraded by allocating weapon points, 10 of which can be unlocked within each mission. Fully upgrading a mod will allow for its Mastery to be unlocked by completing a specific challenge. Alternatively, Weapon Mastery Tokens can be found and applied to bypass the Mastery challenge. Runes can also be found that provide abilities, three of which can be equipped at any time and they include the likes of being able to slow down time while jumping, perform Glory Kills quicker and perform them from further away. They can make a great difference to combat encounters and can be switched easily from the menu screen.
Other pickups hidden throughout the world are an assortment of collectible types including albums, toys and codex entries. Apart from the latter that provides insight or brief tidbits into the overall mythology, their purpose is non existent outside of Achievement requirements. Sentinel batteries can also be found and their use is solely in the Fortress of Doom, a ship that acts as the hub between missions. This area has a number of barriers that can only be opened by inserting two of these sentinel batteries, rewarding the player with one of the various collectibles or weapon/suit upgrades. Suit upgrades offer quicker cooldowns for some abilities such as dash, wider damage for the grenades or reduced damage from barrel explosions for example. Additionally, suits can also be found here for use in the asymmetric multiplayer BATTLEMODE.
Some sections of the missions require platforming to progress, such as double jumping or dashing to platforms, jumping to climbable walls and spring boarding off them to other surfaces or horizontal bars to propel the player further. Most of these are simple but there are handfuls that may frustrate initially. These breaks in the pace fail to add to the experience and if anything, ultimately feel tedious more than a meaningful addition to the gameplay.
Hidden areas in each missions are home to a number of the various collectibles, extra lives and general pickups but special Slayer Keys can be found which open a Slayer Gate, sending the Slayer into an arena type mission that is essentially a mini-horde mode, requiring elimination of every enemy before being awarded an Empyrean key. Collecting all 6 of these keys in the increasingly difficult Slayer Gates will unlock the Unmaykr, the most powerful weapon in the game.
Enemy variety is great, with distinct looks, movement patterns and attacks, every enemy is a threat which varying levels of difficulty. On a few occasions enemies will be glowing red and an on-screen prompt will identify that a Buff Totem is nearby. Until it is destroyed, enemies will be stronger, faster and respawn indefinitely, urging the player to find and destroy it as quickly as possible. At key moments throughout the campaign there are boss fights against new demon types and each are pretty difficult to manage as regular enemies are typically spawning simultaneously. As with previous DOOM games, once a boss has been defeated, that boss enemy type then begins to appear as a regular enemy in the rotation of enemy spawns. By the end of the campaign there are some situations where every single enemy variant throughout the entire campaign is present and attacking simultaneously, resulting in some incredibly difficult and frustrating encounters.
Mission Challenges are added in the third mission, offering suit upgrades as rewards for meeting certain conditions and upon completing all three, a Sentinel Battery will be awarded for use in the Fortress of Doom. These are rewarding optional distractions that are worth going out of the way for to be able to better prepare for the tougher battles late in the game.
From the Fortress of Doom and the main menu Mission Select is available to replay previously completed levels to find and collect anything missed during the initial playthrough. All progress and unlocks carry over, so this is a great option for maximising suit and weapon upgrades if the player finds themselves struggling with their current position in the story. This is fully accessible upon completion of the campaign too making it very simple for completionists.
An alternative way to experience the campaign mode is to play it in Extra Lives mode. This playthrough requires more care as upon depletion of all lives, the game will end and have to be started over from scratch. Extra lives are found throughout the levels in rather generous quantity but the added pressure of losing all progress if they are all spent makes this mode a little more challenging. It is otherwise exactly the same as the base campaign.
The asymmetric BATTLEMODE multiplayer is rather limited in its scope but still very much contains the chaotic pace and action of its single player campaign counterpart. The two Demon players are supported by AI demons to destroy the Slayer player in a best of 3 series. When a player Demon is defeated, they will respawn unless the other Demon is defeated before they are able to do, thus awarding the Slayer the victory for the round. The Slayer only needs to be killed once for a point to be awarded to the Demons. At the end of each round, each player is able to select a perk to be applied. These perks can help shift the tide in each round and are a fun addition to an otherwise pretty standard multiplayer experience. All 5 of the playable Demons, as well as the as the Slayer, can be customised through progression and completing milestones, a list of which is available in the menu. Weapon skins, character skins, poses, intro animations are just a few of the customisable aspects that allow the player to personalise their BATTLEMODE characters. It is a little disappointing that this depth is not represented in a more diverse array of multiplayer options.
The excessive violence rules this one out for the kids to play or watch, completely deserving of the R18+ rating it has been assigned. This one can be paused at any time during the campaign but obviously not during the BATTLEMODE.
An incredibly gritty and blood soaked world is brought to life with amazing visual detail. The environment is amazingly lit and alive, whether taking place on Earth, Hell or anywhere in between, DOOM Eternal looks amazing. Accompanied by appropriately ominous and sinister overtures that progressively transform into the wildly popular heavy metal soundtrack fans have come to love, the music itself often represents the situation at hand, increasing in volume and intensity as the combat does. Hell on earth has never looked or sounded more satisfying.
ID have developed their best DOOM to date, solidifying why the franchise has remained so popular for nearly three decades. It’s bigger, better and bolder in every way. For fans and newcomers alike, DOOM Eternal is an enjoyable, action packed experience that is gruesomely satisfying.
+ Fast paced gameplay
+ Incredible visuals
+ Satisfying Glory Kills
– Platforming grows tedious
– Multiplayer lacking in depth and variety
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