It’s hard to follow up near-perfection, but the gory magic is still real.

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  • There are a bunch more enemy types, and they will overwhelm you.
  • The Doom Slayer player character is a mix between a cultist messiah and your standard space marine, as exemplified by this marked helmet.
  • The developers of the game sought to have an entirely different art kit for each level, in contrast to the 2016 game which kept things streamlined.
  • Many of the enemies return from older Doom games. This guy’s arm cannons can be shot off one by one.
  • Earth has been decimated, and it makes a neat-looking backdrop for the carnage.
  • If you’re this close to this guy, you’re too close.
  • The new flame thrower not only damages enemies over timeit also causes them to drop armor in spades. It becomes a critical part of your combat flow.
  • Recognize this weapon from Doom 2?
  • There’s a new sword weapon, but we didn’t get to try it in our time with the game.
  • If you throw a grenade in this flying enemy’s mouth, it will create a Glory Kill opportunity in short order.
  • This is another of the new, tougher enemies. This one was introduced pretty early on.
  • Some of the map design might remind you of games like Unreal Tournament and the Quake series.
  • When multiple large enemies encroach at once, you’re in serious trouble.
  • Some of the most exotic environments, like this one, are clearly later in the game, as we didn’t see them in our demo time.
  • Things are not going well for the solar system. That’s about all you need to know story-wise.
  • Some of the tougher enemies return from 2016, like this charger demon on the left.
  • There’s an even greater emphasis on melee combat than before, as demonstrated by this enemy.
  • The ruined Earth cities are particularly striking environments.
  • This giant enemy is a boss, Shadow of the Colussus style.
  • Others, like this one, mark a radical departure from the look of Doom (2016).
  • This guy will ruin your day.
  • Hope you like hyper-violence!
  • …seriously, hyper-violence.
  • Hyper-violencegetting the idea?

The portals open, the metal music starts, and the chainsaw revs up. There’s something about that moment that, repeated as many times as it was throughout Doom (2016), never got old for me. But Doom Eternal is coming from the point of view that this setup did, in fact, get old, and the way to keep it fresh is to add a lot of new stuff. So much new stuff.
Publisher Bethesda Softworks hosted a 3-hour preview of Doom Eternal for press in Los Angeles this week. I came into the event right off my first playthrough of its immediate predecessor on Nightmare difficulty (I did better than I feared, though I still died a lot!) and amped up by watching an entertaining live speedrun at Awesome Games Done Quick earlier this month. I was ultra-eager to get a taste of the sequel to one of my favorite shooters in years.I was pleased to find that the frenetic, in-your-face, always-moving combat of the 2016 reboot was still here in full force, as was the tendency of the music to amp up as enemy portals appear in your immediate surroundings. I was surprised, though, to find that much of the pacing and narrative of Doom (2016) have been dropped in the name of pure, video game-y carnage.
Doom (2016) had swagger a-plenty. The whole experience was a big middle finger to some other modern shooters bogged down in self-serious storylines, laborious mechanical bloat, elements from other genres, and so on. Every part of the 2016 game, from the gunplay to the tight cutscenes and surprisingly clever writing, created a unified experience. But the sequel de-emphasizes the last Doom’s sharp narrative design, immersive environments, and subtle character-building moments (like dismissively punching away a robot that just gave the Doom Slayer a valuable upgrade).
Doom Eternal minimizes everything but the gunplay (and the platforming, oddly), but it greatly expands the player’s kit to produce more varied fights. Even though it doesn’t raise the 12-simultaneous-demon cap from the first game’s encounters, it’s still fun as hell.
Rip and tear (and hook and slice and jump and…)
Doom Eternal needs no time at all to establish its premise and beam you into battle: the world has been overrun by demons, and you are the ultimate warrior sworn by fate to stop them. Traveling to various points on Earth from your orbiting fortress of upgrades and other amenities, you massacre the evil that already massacred humanity. That’s the entire narrative, reallynow on to the slaying.
Eternal’s level design is more streamlined than that of the 2016 reboot. You won’t spend as much time analyzing your automap to identify the locations of the best secrets or routes. Instead, you mostly move from one big combat arena in the ruins of Earth to the next.
The core combat formula is unchanged. Doom Eternal mostly demands that you keep moving as fast as possible while killing demons as fast as possible by methods as varied as possible. Resources like ammo, health, and armor are very limited, but you are given tools to replenish them multiple times in each fight, always by killing a demon in a different way than you did a second ago.
This gameplay loop sees you improvising a frantic path around the room, prioritizing targets and justice-delivery methods to maximize your resources and minimize your risk until all the waves of enemies are finished and you’re ready to move on to the next arena, where it all happens again with a new twist or two.It’s fantastic, and if you liked it in the previous game, you’ll like it just as much in this one. The main difference is the sheer number of new tools at your disposal for killing a wider variety of demons and maintaining a steady flow of critical resources.
My favorite new tool is the flame breather, which not only coats enemies in a damage-over-time effect but makes them drop small armor recovery items like candy from a piñata. Why do flaming enemies drop armor? Does that even make any sense? Well, it makes at least as much sense as enemies dropping extra health when you melee killed them with your bare hands in the last Doom, or dropping ammo when you sliced them in half with a chainsaw, for that matter. Less thinking, more slaying.
There are expanded melee attack options, including a powerful multi-target punching move. There are also new weapons and an almost overwhelming number of new platforming tools and maneuvers.
I was surprised to find how prominent platforming is in Doom Eternal. There was some first-person platforming in Doom (2016), sure, but it was always just a moment here and there to add some variety. Doom Eternal has lengthy, complex platforming sequences combining a plethora of mechanics like bars to swing on, climbable walls, mid-air power-ups that you have to touch to keep your momentum going across a gap, and so on.
Last time around this was all pretty solid, as that sort of thing goes. It’s really hard to get first-person platforming right; for every Titanfall 2 or Mirror’s Edge, there are quite a few first-person jumping games that make me want to throw the controller at my TV. This is closer to the good stuff than the bad, but it doesn’t add anything to the conversation or update the first-person jumping concept the way the last Doom did for first-person gun carnage.
There are a few other examples where I felt like adding something new detracted from Doom Eternal. That includes one that Martin told me was his favorite: the ability to knock powerful weapons and components away from major enemies from afar via critical hits with a scoped weapon. Said Martin:
You can quick-scope in Doom Eternal… if I have my reticle in the right area, and I quick-scope to take out a piece, it feels really good to do that. So I would say eliminating weak points with the [scope] for me is a meta-game that I think we just nailed… I just feel like John Wick, I’m like this sharpshooter flying through the world, disabling enemies’ primary attacks from across the arena.
Part of what made Doom (2016) so good was that the player’s toolkit funneled said player into tense, close-range combat and prevented any of the methodical, slow-paced camping or sniping that is so common in military shooters. But in Doom Eternal, I sometimes felt the best way to approach fights was to get far away and kill the enemies by cheesily sniping down their most dangerous weapons from safety. Not very Doom, if you ask me.There’s a greater emphasis in Eternal on singularly powerful enemy types that require more thought-out strategies to take down. And since the toolkit is so large and there’s so much going on, the learning curve is a little harsher than it was in 2016. But as Martin was eager to point out in our interview, “What is challenging in the beginning becomes easy in the middle, and effortless at the end.”
While I don’t think the new game is quite as tight at this as its predecessor, it’s still masterfully executed for the most part, and it’s buckets of fun. This game has a lot of ideas, and most of them are big successes. But there are also some intangibles worth discussing beyond the gunplay and the gameplay loop.
Listing image by Bethesda