Doom Eternal Review

Bethesda+Softworks

Bethesda Softworks

Ethan Schmidt, Contributing Reporter

Almost four years ago, iD Software released its reboot of the iconic Doom series. Doom (2016) set new standards for the first-person shooter genre with its gameplay that featured speedy, fluid character movement and a huge arsenal of weapons to carry around. Additionally, Doom (2016) set new technical standards with its iD Tech 6 game engine, which allowed for the game to run on older PC hardware, yet still look good. It also featured a soundtrack from Mick Gordon to bang your head to, and a story that boldly held an apathetic attitude towards itself.

With the release of Doom Eternal, however, iD Software has managed to create a follow-up that surpasses their masterpiece in almost every way, once again setting the bar for the first-person shooter genre.

The sequel to Doom (2016) certainly improves its already fun and satisfying gameplay, making distinct changes to fine-tune the already excellent gameplay loop. For one, the usual starting pistol is now gone. The choice here is a smart one. Even in the original Doom from 1993, the pistol would always become useless after the first levels, and, in terms of character development, it never made sense for the macho Doom Slayer to flex an arsenal of large, powerful weapons while also clinging to a tiny, useless pistol.

Of course, Eternal adds more gameplay features than it takes away. The new “Blood Punch” power-up further entices players to use the “Glory Kill” mechanic established in the 2016 reboot, allowing the Doom Slayer to deliver a powerful punch to demons, sometimes instantly killing them. The addition of fire weapons allows for the player to burn demons, causing them to drop copious amounts of armor packs. While Eternal’s predecessor already featured smooth and fast movement around the environments, the new Dash ability allows for even faster and agile movement, and provides for more engaging platforming sections.

Most interestingly, though, the game limits the player’s ammo capacity, a design choice that I never thought would work in a Doom game. In previous games, players would infrequently need to worry about their ammo use, but now, players must keep an eye on their ammo inventory while in the midst of a hectic battle. Thankfully, the developers have made sure that ammo is easily obtainable: The chainsaw still holds a spot in the Doom Slayer’s arsenal, which causes ammo to spew out of a demon’s torso upon a killing blow.

All of these creative additions provide for thrilling and challenging encounters with Hell’s army, which are all stringed together in a 20-hour campaign—the main attraction of Doom Eternal. While the single-player campaign follows its predecessor’s barebones storytelling style, inviting players to read collectible codexes that explain more details of the story, Eternal’s campaign features a handful of cinematic cutscenes that progress the story. (If you’re like me and want to get straight to the gameplay, you can skip these cutscenes.)

The campaign shifts its focus from Mars to Earth: Three Hell Priests are leading a complete invasion of Earth, and it’s up to you to stop them. The premise here is all the context that you’ll really need to enjoy the game, but if you wish to know more about the lore behind the universe of Doom, those interesting background details are available to read about in the codexes.

This approach to storytelling in a video game is one that I love. Not only does this structure still allow for an intriguing story to be told in a video game, it also allows for fluid replay, never forcing players to sit through cutscenes that they’ve already seen before. Additionally, the technique caters to all players’ tastes. If they’re playing solely to rip and tear some demons apart, that play style is satisfied. If they’re playing to experience a thrilling story, those demands are also met.

Bethesda Softworks

The demands of all gaming consoles and PCs are met as well. iD Software is using Doom Eternal to show off their new iD Tech 7 Game Engine, whose previous engines have been famous for providing stunning visuals on powerful hardware, while also providing decent visuals on anemic hardware. iD Tech 7 lives up to its name, as Doom Eternal provided my mid-range gaming laptop with a steady 60 FPS frame rate on medium settings at a 1600×900 dynamic resolution.

 Speaking of which, the inclusion of a dynamic resolution setting is quite welcome. It’s a feature that I wish more PC game developers would implement. The setting allows for the rendering resolution to automatically lower when the hardware becomes overburdened, thus allowing for a steady frame rate—essential for fast-paced shooters of this caliber.

Eternal also sports a reworked multiplayer system called “Battlemode.” Gone are the classic deathmatch and team deathmatch modes, now replaced by a 2v1 game, pitting two demons against the Doom Slayer. The players compete in small arena-like maps, each holding their own unique abilities. The Doom Slayer, who carries the same arsenal of weapons from the single-player campaign, acts as the most nimble character on the map, while each of the other 5 playable demons carry their own set of unique weapons and powers.

 The opposing sides will battle each other in an arena filled with a bunch of additional AI-controlled demons. The Doom Slayer must kill both user-controlled demons in order to win a round—and he must act fast after killing the first one, as that one can respawn if the second demon isn’t killed in 20 seconds. The two-person team of demons, of course, have to work together in taking down the Doom Slayer to win a round. The first team to win three rounds wins the match.

While the mode can certainly provide for some fun and exciting matches, the player count leads to some matchmaking issues. Because the game requires specifically three people to play, if one person drops out of the match, the other two players are automatically kicked out of the lobby, and they have to go find new matches. I felt like I was spending the majority of my time in Battlemode looking for matches, rather than actually playing them.

The lack of other modes certainly doesn’t solve this problem. The developers of the game have boldly proclaimed in interviews that they’ve exclusively stuck to Battlemode for multiplayer because the more standard modes used in the 2016 reboot’s multiplayer were outdated. While I appreciate the effort to experiment with a new mode of multiplayer, I would’ve also liked to see the inclusion of those standard modes to give a greater variety of multiplayer matches.

That’s really my only complaint with Doom Eternal, though. In every other aspect of this game, iD Software has outdone themselves, crafting a sequel that does exactly what a sequel should do: It builds off of its predecessor’s strengths, bringing a whole new and exciting experience to players that feels only a little familiar. Its multiplayer may be lacking in some modes, but that’s easily overlooked when this package includes a campaign that has now set some high standards in the first-person shooter genre for years to come.

 

PC Hardware:

CPU: Intel i7-8750H

GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti

RAM: 16 GB DDR4

SSD: Intel 1TB 660p Series