It seems like an eternity since I got my hands on a playable demo of Doom Eternal back at QuakeCon in July 2019. Yet not even Coronavirus can delay the game’s release any longer – in fact some retailers released it a day early. Finally it’s here and I could not be more excited.
So, here’s the situation. 60% of the Earth has been overwhelmed by the demon hordes. A few hundred thousand humans have escaped with questionable survival expectations. Three Hell Priests, led by Khan Maykr, are overseeing the invasion of the Earth. And as luck would have it, you arrive to kick some demon backside.
The beauty of Doom has always been based in its simplicity; run and gun to survive. Stand still and you’re dead. However, doing simply that won’t save you anymore. Doom Eternal demands more from you, namely to take a tactical approach to your slaying, carefully choosing how to take down the demons depending on if you’re low on armor, health, ammo or all three.
You’ll be using your weapons and chainsaw more purposely than ever, in order to refill your ammo and health as you need to. Your chainsaw will award ammo and other goodies when used to execute a kill. Glory Kills are back, denoted by when a weakened demon starts to flash, and these – when executed successfully – will award health. They are more brutal and visceral than ever, and vary depending on the angle you approach the enemy. I guarantee some will have you wincing and grinning at the same time, as The Slayer shows no mercy towards the demon hordes.
However it doesn’t end there. The “flame belcher” is new to Doom Eternal. This shoulder mounted flamethrower, when used to dispatch demons, will cause armor shards to drop. Once set alight, simply kill the demon for a final burst of armor pieces. Using all weapons to top up on all three resources is a skill you will need to master if you’re to stand a chance against the waves of demons aiming to put an end to your slaying.
I’m happy to say the pleasing gameplay mix of running, gunning and finding secrets is certainly in place with Eternal. You’ll be searching for cute little figures of various in-game characters, as well as floppy discs and other goodies. The floppy discs are in fact cheat codes, and these are new to Doom Eternal. These can be used when you replay a level from the “Mission Select” menu, and will provide buffs such as infinite lives or ammo. They don’t stunt your progression in terms of stats, but will help you when you go back to collect items you have missed, amongst other things.
Progression, once again, is something which heavily features in Doom Eternal. You can upgrade your abilities and gear in numerous different ways as you play through the campaign. There are all sorts to collect and each secret really is worth hunting down. But if you miss something you won’t need to panic, because at the end of the mission you’ll unlock fast travel, which will allow you to quickly nip back and collect anything you may have left behind.
Doom Eternal has a good, solid narrative to back up the relentless demon slaughtering. The enemies gradually get bigger and tougher, with some genuinely challenging battles in place no matter what difficulty you are playing on. The tougher demons will take a more tactical approach to defeat, whereas some can just be ploughed through with the right weapon. This lends a nice sense of balance to the action, and prevents it from being too easy or too frustratingly difficult.
Weapon mods are back too. The little faithful UAC bots will appear from time to time, and allow you to choose a weapon mod to unlock. Each mission has several types of demon encounters, some are routine, others are secret and the final type is the Slayer Gate, which you must find a key to enter. As you complete each battle – some are so difficult you may want to return with better weapons at a later date – you unlock weapon points to beef up your arsenal. Further to this, once you’ve fully modded your weapon you can earn mastery for an extra special boost, by completing a further challenge with that specific weapon.
You’ll also discover Sentinel Crystals hidden within glowing blue plinths, which will allow you to upgrade your max health, ammo and armor. As you choose which attribute to increase, you will access further boosts that require two crystals each to unlock.
Next up are Runes, which will grant you really useful abilities such as being able to slow down time whilst in mid-air, or perform glory kills from a greater distance. There are nine of these to unlock, but you can only have three active at any one time. Choose wisely.
Finally, Praetor Tokens return, and are once again used to unlock the Doom Slayer suit’s full range of abilities. These span a range of useful attributes, from exploration to upgrading your frag grenade. As I’m sure you’re starting to realise, there’s lots to collect and lots of choice in how and when you upgrade. Most importantly of all however is when you do you’ll be itching to try your new skills out in combat, and each one adds a little something extra. It always feels oh so satisfying.
Death, as ever, is a constant threat in Doom Eternal though. Thankfully there are 1UPs dotted around each mission, usually in hard to reach spots. A 1UP means if you run out of health you’ll instantly resurrect, and they stack which proves very useful when facing full on battles.
If you open up your options menu by hitting the view button, you’ll find your Map, Codex, Arsenal and Challenges tabs. The Map is very similar to the first Doom, but is especially useful for ensuring you find the many, many secrets and items scattered about. The Codex should be familiar too. This is essentially an e-book of lore for all things Doom related. You can view and spend points in your Arsenal tab, and see how to earn mastery for each modded weapon.
Finally, the Challenges keep the action varied, encouraging you to change up how you deal with the demon masses. Whether it’s simply using your chainsaw or taking advantage of the explosive scenery, some of the truest joys in Doom Eternal are the choices you have when it comes to slaying the demon hordes.
On the subject of demons, all your favourites return, and this time many come with specific weak points. These make some of the tougher enemies much easier to deal with, providing you have the right weapon and quick skills to pull it off. For example, if you fire a sticky bomb into the open mouth of a Cacodemon, you’ll immediately be able to go in for the glory kill. Handy.
When you complete a mission, the totting up of rewards and achievements is extremely satisfying. You’ll know exactly what I mean when you experience it, especially if you’ve played the original. Also, you’ll earn XP depending on how well you do, which will in turn unlock even more rewards, viewing these in your Fortress of Doom (more on that shortly).
As well as all the RPG-style upgrades you will find and earn, there are also plenty of customisation unlockables too. You’ll get new weapon skins, character suits and much more, which you can then use to kit out your Doom Slayer. These aren’t just limited to Doom Guy though – there’s loads to collect.
It’s fair to say that Doom Eternal looks brilliant. Not only do the demons look better than ever, but there’s something particularly satisfying about how they literally fall to pieces in front of you, depending on how you elect to take them out. There will be bits of demon flying everywhere, but extra care and attention has been given to ensure the full effect of your weapons is strikingly clear.
Doom Eternal takes you to all sorts of different locations and showcases contrasting landscapes; each looks bloody gorgeous. A minor personal criticism of the first game was the lack of variety of settings, due to it mostly being based on Mars or in Hell. Here, however, you’re exploring all sorts of different environments. One minute you’re in a dilapidated city on Earth, and the next you’re jumping through space, and the game is all the better for it.
Your base of operations, or Fortress of Doom, is where you will spend your time between missions. As you collect sentinel batteries and earn them through completing challenges, you’ll unlock more of the Fortresses’ secrets by using them to gain access to different vaults. In a neat touch, secret music tracks that you unlock are playable just by approaching their framed vinyl sleeve. This means you can explore your Fortress of Doom to some retro beats. Not only this, but you can also view all your collectables in a gallery-style menu, as they are nicely displayed on some stylish office shelving.
The soundtrack to Doom Eternal is exactly what you would expect. This doesn’t stop it from sounding great however. There is something of an irresistible match between heavy metal guitar thrashing and slaying demons to your heart’s content. Not only this, but the sound effects of demons, weapons and your environment all add up for a really immersive experience.
If the main game isn’t challenging enough for you, there is the option to play some “Master Levels”, which you will unlock as you play. These are remixes of certain missions, simply in terms of enemies. The missions are huge and well enough designed anyway, meaning through Master Levels all sorts of enemies can be accommodated. They’ll be bigger, badder, tougher and seemingly endless. Make no mistake, these are intensely difficult, more linear missions than those found in the regular campaign, and are definitely only for the bravehearted.
Of course, there is Doom Eternal’s party piece included too – Battlemode. This is a contest between The Slayer and a team of two Demons. The Slayer will need to be skilled to survive, whereas the Demons need to strategically work together to take The Slayer down.
As you may well expect, each demon plays very differently. You’ll be able to fine-tune your abilities and style of play before the battle begins. Boosts will also become available which can be added to players. These will speed up how quickly you earn cosmetic rewards. Players begin by “jockeying” for a start position for five seconds before anyone can attack. Once completed it’s time to raze hell!
Demons can summon support demons to attack The Slayer alongside using their own abilities. If one Demon player dies but the other is still alive and kicking, they will respawn at half health. The Slayer needs to eliminate both Demons within the time limit to win the round. Of course, The Slayer is much more nimble than the Demons, and has the advantage of being able to traverse the arena much more easily. The Slayer can also pick up loot from assist demons that have been, well, slayed. However, if you’re quick enough you can block the pickup and keep The Slayer under pressure. It’s really entertaining stuff.
After each round you can select an upgrade which mixes things up a little. If the action goes to a fourth and final round, you’ll be able to select a power upgrade, which will temporarily offer you a new ability.
There are tutorials available before you take people on competitively which cover each playable character as well as an overview of the mode itself. Also, you can set up private matches or just boldly head into a quick match battle. Finally, you can view your “Triumphs”, which are effectively achievements exclusive to Battlemode.
Battlemode is a cinematic, arena based bloodbath that’s loads of fun. It has plenty of options to keep the action varied, from abilities to playable characters. Amidst the frantic action I didn’t find too much time for tactics if I’m honest, but I didn’t really care much either.
Doom Eternal on Xbox One manages to be bigger, bloodier and somehow better than its predecessor. iD have built on their successful comeback from 2016, retaining what makes Doom great, whilst also subtly adding to it. Simply put, It’s the first must buy Xbox One game of 2020.