Rip and tear. Those three simple words have been the driving force behind the Doom franchise for nearly 30 years. Since the very beginning of the iconic FPS series, you weren’t destroying demons because of a complicated betrayal or a shocking narrative impetus, you were simply doing it because it was fun. The act of unloading a plasma rifle into a cacodemon or launching a rocket at hordes of imps was pure bliss and utterly satisfying, and it’s that laser-focus on tight and rewarding gameplay that made the original Doom such an iconic and influential game.
The 2016 reimagining of Doom kept that energy, delivering a seven hour campaign focused on shredding hordes of demons. There was a hint of a method to the madness of that first game, though. Every weapon at your disposal had a use, and the synergy between your guns and fists created a methodical loop that went above mindless run-and-gun action. With more tools, more guns, and more enemies, Doom Eternal cranks the second-to-second mental gymnastics up to eleven, keeping your hands and your head on their proverbial toes for over twenty hours of delightful, bullet ballet action.
Within five minutes of starting Doom Eternal, you’re reintroduced to the most basic elements that permeate all of the combat encounters in this fast-paced shooter – this game’s “thirty seconds of fun”, if you will. Shoot an enemy just enough and they will be staggered, letting you dash in for a Glory Kill to recover health. Alternatively, you can shred right through an enemy with your chainsaw to recover pools of ammo. In the 2016 game, these Glory Kills were easy to trigger and long to sit through, sometimes awkwardly slowing down the action. Doom Eternal keeps you moving at all times, with it not only being much easier to accidentally kill a staggered enemy, but with new equipment options that make the Glory Kill just one of the many rewarding options in your demon shredding arsenal.
The new equipment launcher, for example, gives you a trio of slowly recharging projectiles that add new layers to the action. Flame Belch will set enemies on fire, which then drop oodles of armour whenever they’re shot, Ice Bomb will freeze demons solid in place for a short time, and the self-explanatory Grenade Launcher is the perfect explosive, after-dinner mint to a horde of freshly frozen beasts. It quickly becomes apparent that the basic “fodder” class enemies like zombies and imps aren’t really targets for mindless slaughter anymore, they’re vital sources of health, ammo, and armour. Being smart about when and how you dispose of them is just one layer of the exquisite cake when it comes to combat in Doom Eternal.
Along with eight primary weapons and a variety of special equipment is a massive bestiary of devastating enemies who each have their own unique weaknesses and immunities. You’ll need to use Ice Bombs to take down a Whiplash, while shield-producing Carcass demons are weak to the Plasma Rifle and Dread Knights fall prey to the Chaingun. It’s simple enough to change a weapon as needed, but the fun of Doom Eternal is that you’ll constantly be switching your weapons. Combat encounters throw hordes of varied enemies at you and trying to stick with one favorite gun or failing to produce resources for yourself with Glory Kills and Flame Belches can spell a swift defeat. I found myself struggling through battles in the middle portion of the game, because I wasn’t using Flame Belch as often as I could and hadn’t used the Grenade Launcher in conjunction with Ice Bombs. As soon as I rectified those mistakes, I found myself shredding through demons delightfully.
Another vital aspect of Doom Eternal that feeds into the cacophony of bullet-blasting bliss is the significantly enhanced maneuverability options in the game. In the previous game, you could run and you could jump. End of list. Doom Eternal upgrades the Doomslayer from a slow machine of death to a graceful and swift deliverer of destruction. You can now double jump, as well as dash twice in mid-air, and using these abilities in conjunction with the various swinging poles scattered around arenas gives you an easy way to get up, over and around enemies as you secure your next target and escape near-death. If you want to get extra fancy, you can use the chain-bound meathook of your Super Shotgun to swing off of enemies and build momentum to send you flying across the arena in an instant.
Doom Eternal engages every button on the controller in a way no other shooter has. In tandem, these chaotic combat encounters turn into puzzles of death as I swiftly plot and execute combinations of attacks and abilities in order to shred through small enemies, wear down larger foes, and keep myself in check with abilities that double as crowd control and resource-suppliers. Every single brain cell I possess is engaged fully with Doom Eternal when I play it, and the result is mind-boggling, hyper-stylish scenes of carnage that could be scripted moments of cutscenes in any other game. In the previous Doom game, power-ups that gave you quadruple damage or hyper-speed were plentiful. In Doom Eternal, I could count the number of power-ups I ran into with barely two hands. Power-ups are no longer necessary when your toolset is already so daunting and powerful.
While Doom Eternal is almost three times as long as the 2016 reboot, I never felt any kind of drag or numbing repetition thanks to its excellent pacing. New weapons and upgrade tokens are consistently dolled out to you through the first half of the game, easing you into realising your full potential and giving you new abilities to unlock or buffs to your ammo, health, and armour that keep you growing as the enemies grow. The variety of activities on offer also helps keep things fresh, with plentiful platforming puzzles drizzled throughout the quieter moments of the campaign and smartly designed boss encounters that test you and your reflexes in brand new ways. While it wasn’t available during the review period, a 1 vs 2 Battlemode will also be included in the game, alongside event and challenge systems to earn new character skins or profile icons.
There’s also a wealth of collectibles and side-content to discover and explore. Exploring corners of the world will unearth adorable toy collectibles, music from previous id games, or a floppy disk cheat code collection that eventually unlocks a playable version of the original Doom. Alternatively, you can engage with timed Secret Encounters that give you mere seconds to dispose of a unique collection of enemies, ultra-challenging Slayer Gate battles that throw everything and the demon’s kitchen sink at you in unique combat arenas, or visit the Ripatorium in your home base of the Fortress of Doom to endlessly lay into waves of various demons.
You aren’t just shooting demons for the sake of it, though. While the game is designed around giving you a variety of playgrounds to rip and tear in, Doom Eternal has a surprisingly interesting and detailed lore that will give you as much as you want to get. If you’re purely concerned with running and gunning, Doom Eternal keeps cutscenes and dialogue brief, while still delivering some entertaining bombshells that add to the gravitas of your situation. Fans of the previous game and the series as a whole will be thrilled by the story beats of the campaign, but diving into the various collectible codex entries gives an astoundingly in-depth look at the life and times of the Doomslayer that will easily live up to your expectations.
There’s a wild, blood-and-brimstone fueled aesthetic to the world of Doom Eternal that brings all of this together. While the crimson-reds of Mars and Hell and the face-melting music of the first game return in full force, there’s much more variety in the locales you visit that adds a gorgeous new index of much-needed colour to the action. The music will twist and warp with each new world you visit, too, as choirs of heavy-metal screamers or warped electronic sounds tinge the iconic, eye-widening and blood-pumping music of the game. Soaking all of this in at a crisp 60fps, even on the base PS4 is a blessing, and the sheer crispness and quality of the visuals are a downright miracle.