You are not ready for DOOM Eternal.
After 2016’s reboot of DOOM launched to critical acclaim (we gave it a perfect score), id Software could have just churned out an expansion pack of sorts, stuck the number 2 on the end and we’d have, quite frankly, been happy. Instead, however, it’s been brave. It’s messed with the formula, expanded upon it, and not released it until it was ready. The resulting game, DOOM Eternal, is something rather special indeed.
The first thing you notice about DOOM Eternal when you begin to play is its stunning looks. Playing on Xbox One X for review, we were amazed by the detail of textures, the clarity of the image, and the realism of the effects. It’s made us wonder just what next-gen games will look like; if they’re a considerable step up from what’s already on display here, our minds are going to be blown. It helps that DOOM Eternal has brilliant art direction, too; across the game’s 20-odd hour campaign you’ll visit a wide range of beautiful environments (yes, even Hell. Kind of) and kill a staggering assortment of demons.
Like 2016’s DOOM though, it’s the gameplay that makes DOOM Eternal so engrossing. Once again you’re in for a fast-paced, bloody romp, skirting your way around arenas while using an assortment of weaponry to put down the forces of hell – but you never feel like you’re retreading old ground. DOOM Eternal doesn’t feel like DOOM 1.5. DOOM Eternal is assuredly a fully-fledged sequel, and one with all the DLC already included at that.
The levels themselves are a large part of this. Each and every single one of DOOM Eternal‘s levels feels like two or three levels from a comparable game. They’re huge. No longer are they claustrophobic, either. Most of DOOM Eternal‘s maps feel open and airy. You have room to manoeuvre, which is important given your new traversal techniques, and they have an awe-inspiring sense of scale. You might approach the edge of a cliff, for example, and spot an Arachnotron fighting with other demons far off in the distance. Attract its attention by firing some potshots and it might even try and have a crack at you.
“…the most challenging, content-rich and feature-packed first-person shooter in years”
Packed with more secrets than ever, exploration plays quite a large role in DOOM Eternal. Whole some of the game’s new traversal techniques are helpful in combat, such as being able to swing on monkey bars and use the Super Shotgun’s grappling hook, your newfound ability to cling to and climb certain walls is generally only used in moments of downtime. Between each battle it’s a good idea to look around to look for coins, crystals or runes that can enhance your abilities, or cheats that can be activated when replaying missions via Mission Select. Most missions have numerous secret encounters for you to discover, too, and some even have ultra-hard encounters locked behind Slayer Gates.
You can return to levels to plunder everything they have at a later date if you wish, even with cheats enabled (they only lock out Slayer Gates), but the new fast travel feature means you can warp back to numerous points in a level just before it ends to sweep things up at your convenience. So, chances are you’ll have got most of DOOM Eternal‘s upgrades and collectibles by the time you’ve finished its campaign, unless you’ve ploughed on without a care for them. And more fool you, because only by exploring will you be able to unlock your full arsenal, which is enjoyably extensive.
“Stand still for even a second during combat in DOOM Eternal and you’re in for a world of pain”
Everything from the combat shotgun to the BFG makes a return, with almost every weapon also having two alternative modes that you can unlock with weapon mods. Every mod can be further improved with weapon points, too, eventually opening up a mastery challenge to unleash its full potential. But the weapons you can hold are only part of the fun; you have a shoulder-mounted grenade launcher launcher that can either decimate or freeze your enemies, and your chainsaw can once again be used to open up weaker demons like Pinatas, spilling forth ammo. Add into the mix a flamethrower that makes enemies drop ammo shards, a powerful Blood Punch attack, and some more surprises, and your options are vast.
You almost have too many options in DOOM Eternal, to be honest. It’s easy to forget that you have a grenade launcher mounted to your shoulder when there are so many weapons at your disposal and you’re glory killing demons left, right and centre. There’s also the fact that most battles are complete chaos. It’s astounding the number of enemies DOOM Eternal throws at you at times. It’s often like playing Diablo in first-person, only instead of standing your ground and fighting your way out you need to use your Mirror’s Edge-like traversal abilities to give yourself some space and find an opening. Stand still for even a second during combat in DOOM Eternal and you’re in for a world of pain.
Where DOOM 2016 was quite an easy ride on normal difficulty setting, DOOM Eternal kicked our backsides repeatedly. Thankfully there’s a new life system that allows you to keep on going during the most intense fights providing you’ve been able to save a few up, and the difficulty can be changed at any time. If a boss is proving particularly tricky, the game even has a Sentinel Armour system, boosting your survivability if you’ve died numerous times. It’s not available on the hardest difficulty settings though.
Everything adds up to make DOOM Eternal the most challenging, content-rich and feature-packed first-person shooter in years. You’ll move through missions thinking “surely this is the last” only to progress onto the next. And that’s not to say that DOOM Eternal outstays its welcome, because it doesn’t; pretty much every moment of it is a joy, whether you’re battling demons or traversing from one area to another. In today’s age of expansion packs and season passes, it’s rare to play a game that gives so much.
“As the credits rolled after a final boss fight to remember, all we had in our minds was ‘that was epic'”
There’s plenty of replayability, too. We haven’t been able to try Battlemode yet as the servers aren’t live, but there’s that. And DOOM Eternal features weekly challenges as well as a levelling system, awarding new cosmetic items for progressing and acquiring experience. Want to play through the game wearing the Classic Doom Guy outfit? You can if you want, you just need to unlock it. Throw in a whole heap of cheats that will make returning to previously completed levels a laugh and remixed Master Levels that will be released periodically, and you have a game that you’ll want to return to.
It isn’t perfect – one or two platforming sections can be a little frustrating, and encounter difficulty varies a lot – but to call DOOM Eternal anything other than phenomenal would be blasphemous. It makes DOOM 2016 feel like a trial run – a warm up to the main event, and that’s what a sequel should do. DOOM Eternal has bigger environments, a wider variety of demons, and more combat options. Its battles are more hectic, more challenging, and ultimately more rewarding. As the credits rolled after a final boss fight to remember, all we had in our minds was “that was epic”. And that’s exactly what DOOM Eternal is: epic.
DOOM Eternal is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. A Switch version is launching at a later date. We reviewed the game on Xbox One X with code provided by the publisher.
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