Updated: Feb 3
In 2016 Id Sofware launched the 4th game in the Doom franchise to both critical and commercial success. The gaming dynasty that had been responsible for launching an entire video game sub-industry had returned to show everyone how it was done and the result was a perfect reboot; a game with lush visuals, cutting edge gameplay that simultaneously improved every facet (well maybe not multiplayer) while retaining what made the previous games so good.
While it is highly unlikely that you’re reading this and unfamiliar with the Doom franchise and its legacy, for the handful of gamers who may not be familiar with the series, the game is a first-person shooter that sees the player control a space marine – who is simply referred to as ‘Doom Guy’ and ‘Doom Slayer’ - as he battles the forces of Hell.
To expand on the above, Doom Eternal is set two years after the events of Doom (2016) and Earth has been overrun by demonic forces resulting in 60% of the planet's population being wiped out. What remains of humanity has either fled Earth or have banded together as part of ARC, a resistance movement initially formed to stop the invasion but have gone into hiding after suffering heavy losses. The Doom Slayer, having previously been betrayed and teleported away by Dr. Samuel Hayden, returns with a new arsenal of weapons and a satellite fortress as he seeks to quell the demonic invasion ….
While all the entries in the series have the same basic premise – killing demons and stopping the forces of hell – the minutiae and depth of the story has never been a particularly memorable element of the games to date. However, in Eternal there is a definite effort to put a greater focus on developing the narrative, characters and in particular the back story /lore in regard to the ‘Doom Slayer’ (and the relationship to the original ‘Doom Guy’). While the excellent gameplay has and always will be the main draw for many, gamers will be happy that the narrative and characters also get the additional attention that many will appreciate – especially as it doesn’t come at the expense of the gameplay...
When Id returned to the drawing board to conjure up the anticipated and expected sequel to their reboot it would have been easy to simply regurgitate the same gameplay mechanics and gunplay as they had been refined to near perfection. However, this is Id and their games have been the gold standard when it comes to first person shooters for over 25 years, so they were never going to rest on their laurels. With games like Titanfall 2 really pushing the envelope they knew they had to up the ante and the results are, as expected, phenomenal and you’ll be unsurprised to know that the lightning paced, frenetic, super violent gameplay the series is known for is present in Doom Eternal.
However, this time round the team have built on the existing fast traversal system of its predecessor. Therefore, players can now climb walls, spring off poles and use certain mechanics to negotiate chasms and vast distances aerially and akin to the earlier games the developers have reintroduced a more exploratory and puzzle solving element.
While the new platforming mechanics add further depth to the gameplay, these sections can be very frustrating as a dash in the slight wrong direction, and you will miss your intended target and plummet to your death. However, thankfully the game is kind enough to respawn you just before that specific platforming section, simply minus some energy and doesn’t force you to redo huge sections of potentially nerve shredding combat.
It’s not only the gameplay that has seen some additions; Id (software) have upped the ante with regards to the variation in levels and level design too and the game spans multiple planets and varying landscapes/terrains which includes the Doom Slayer’s awesome orbiting gothic home base, the Fortress of Doom.
All the classic weapons you all know and love make an appearance but this time they have brought a friend, the Crucible Sword - an immensely powerful energy blade weapon. However, like the BFG, due to its power, the ‘ammo’ for the sword is sparse and therefore it needs to be used wisely.
While the arsenal is (almost) the same as the reboot, Id has made a few tweaks. In the case of the plasma rifle, it has had an aesthetic overhaul which makes it look closer to the original 1993 iteration – which is a nice nod. Furthermore, the super shotgun – one of the games truly iconic weapons – has also been updated with the addition of a grappling hook that can be fired into enemies and used to pull yourself towards the target. In addition to unleashing some awesome carnage, if used cleverly, it can also be used to traverse the world as demons become disposable hook points! Just when you thought the king of all guns couldn’t get any better...
Similar to its gameplay, Doom has always been renowned for its graphics and visual fidelity. From the groundbreaking, faux 3D of Doom to the horror aesthetics and atmosphere of Doom 3 the games have always been pushing the boundaries of what shooters can achieve... Doom Eternal continues this trend with a slick looking game that cranks the gore levels, violence and speed to 11 while retaining a solid frame rate throughout … even on a stock PS4.
Variety in the levels, locations and colour palettes (no longer just swathe of red) is a breath of fresh air and the change in direction the franchise needed at this point. In addition, the levels are more ambitious in scope and look which many veterans of the series will surely appreciate.
Furthermore, this entry's foray into hell feels like a much bigger deal in this game. Rather than simply ‘another’ area it does truly feel like the final destination for the souls of the damned. The design team has created a Hellish, infernal aesthetic that is a step up from previous games which is a blend of Dante, John Martin (and his depictions of Pandemonium) and Clive Barker that is visually far more impressive and epic in scope.
Similar to its predecessor the game can be very challenging in places. However, this time round the difficulty has been upped - possibly in response to videos of some players completing the 2016 reboot on ‘Ultra Nightmare’ mode using only the pistol – as the hordes of enemies seem greater, more numerous and their attack patterns less predictable.
However, players need not stress – too much – as the developers have seen fit, like many a game, to include several difficulty settings to offset the steep challenge curve some players may experience. That said, even on the most forgiving mode it will pose a challenge for those not versed in fast paced shooters and is therefore far from the most accessible game on the market.
In addition to the variable difficulty setting the developers have added a perk (which will be welcomed by some) whereby if you die repeatedly on the same boss you are able to equip Sentinel Armour (think Invincibility Leaf/White Tanooki Suit in Super Mario 3D Land) which enables you to absorb considerably more damage. While this makes progression easier – and hopefully reducing the number of players that might abandon the game when they cannot beat a certain boss – some players might feel the armour is too powerful as it arguably drops the difficulty level too much.
The music in the 2016 game was incredible – simple. It transcended the game and became a breakout success in its own right with Mick Gordon’s score being released across different media in various iterations. Like all great scores, the music incapsulated the feel of the game perfectly. Since its release the music has been analysed, appreciated, and discussed endlessly in a multitude of blog posts, articles and YouTube videos. Mick Gordon himself even gave an hour long GDC presentation discussing the writing process and the pressure he felt crafting the score for a huge franchise that already is synonymous with iconic and memorable music.
Therefore, when Eternal was announced it was given, and a necessity, that Mick Gordon would return to score the sequel.
Similar to the 2016 game, the score Mick Gordon's has managed to conjure up for Eternal is both memorable and pulse pounding. In a similar vein to his previous work, the score is an awesome blend of downtuned guitars, industrial beats and distorted electronic soundscapes that perfectly encapsulates the thrill of the on-screen action.
However, that said, the music does not seem to be as prominent in the mix as it did in the reboot and therefore unfortunately the brilliance of Mick Gordon's work may pass some players by.
In a game that is so well made, crafted and acclaimed, it speaks volumes that the music has become so revered and heralded. However, similar to the game, this is an awesome piece of work but perhaps lacks some of the freshness of its predecessor.
While they platforming can feel a tad frustrating at times there is still nothing quite as exhilarating as Doom in full flight as you shoot, slash, burn and glory kill your way through the hordes of hell. You truly feel like the unstoppable killing machine the game narrative consistently paints you to be.
It is an excellent sequel that continues to refine the already sublime, near perfect gunplay that simultaneously beefs up the narrative and sets the scene for what should be a superb third entry. While it may not have the ‘fresh’ feeling of the 2016 reboot it is an excellent entry in this legendary game series that simply seemingly cannot disappoint.
Ultimately, it an incredibly well-made sequel to an excellent reboot.