It could be argued that the DOOM Slayer is a god. He slices through the forces of the demonic realm like a hot knife through butter that is then fired out of a cannon at a brick wall. But players will quickly learn that he is mortal too. He is susceptible to succumbing to the demons should he ever slow down or falter. He can indeed die. It’s this balance that id Software manages to strike with almost perfect precision in DOOM Eternal. The DOOM Slayer is mega-powerful, and that power gets put in the player’s hands with an ever-increasing arsenal of weaponry and abilities that mince (and perforate, and explode, and mash, and rip, and tear, etc.) demon meat.
What DOOM Eternal does perfectly is slowly offers the player this growing arsenal at a pace that never feels overwhelming. You begin with a few simple weapons, and as you progress through the game’s campaign, more options open up to you. Some are just handed to you, like new weaponry options at certain story junctures, while others are your choice, like weapon mods that give alternate powerful abilities to those familiar weapons. Players will get plenty of new encounters after each upgrade to learn how to incorporate the added ways to kill demons into their battle strategy.
While battles may seem like pure chaos, there’s actually a tactical precision to managing resources. Cutting an enemy down with the chainsaw drops ammo for your guns. Getting a Glory Kill (a special melee kill when a demon is near death) drops health. Torching them with the flamethrower provides armor pickups. Certain enemies are more susceptible to damage from specific weapons or abilities, so blindly firing everything you’ve got is a surefire way to run out of resources you may need later in the fight. But death is a good lesson in resource management too. Perhaps you died because you didn’t have a grenade available for a quick Cacodemon kill. Maybe you failed to snipe the Mancubus’ arm cannon flamethrowers. Missed that Glory Kill that could have given the health you needed? What about grabbing the chainsaw fuel to ensure you had enough ammo to finish the fight?
Failure to succeed in battle is sometimes an inevitability. You may take down one wave with handy precision, only to find the next wave bringing overwhelming odds after you already used some of your most powerful stuff. It brings back that tactical on-the-fly decision making, knowing in the next fight that you should perhaps save some ammo for a certain weapon or use the chainsaw to replenish some of your ammo stores. In every encounter, the power is in your meaty slayer-y hands to manage the resources of the fight in realtime.
DOOM Eternal Review – High-Flying DOOM-Slaying Action
DOOM Eternal takes away many of the barricades to play that traditional first-person shooters have though. You’ll rarely need to reload (at least manually. Certain powerful mods and abilities have cooldowns). There’s almost always something immediately available to do damage to that demon in front of you. The goal of DOOM Eternal’s battles is to keep things constantly moving, and it accomplishes this well. The easiest way to fail in DOOM Eternal is to stop. Whether that’s to stop moving, stop shooting, or stop punching, you should always be doing something. That’s what maintains the power fantasy in the face of relentless and seemingly impossible to overcome demon hordes.
It’s also got crazy fast movement, maintaining the classic arena shooter feel from the DOOM of old. How id managed to balance both the immense weight and muscular heaviness of the DOOM Slayer and his arsenal while simultaneously making the game one of the fastest-aced modern shooters out there is beyond me. Somehow it accomplishes both. It feels weighty. It feels agile. It recaptures the classes feel, but never ends up feeling “dated.”
You want story? There’s a story, and it’s a surprisingly intriguing one for a game that’s largely “the demon realm has invaded earth, so uhhh, kill them.” That said, the story never gets in the way if you don’t care for it much. DOOM Eternal is just as enjoyable if you simply bombard your way through encounters, but players looking for a little bit of lore to enhance the experience will find a rich backstory scattered throughout the game in lore codex entries, environmental storytelling, and even just the campaign of the game itself.
Outside of battles, DOOM Eternal features some pretty extensive level exploration with a bunch of really fun secrets to find. Once again, these secrets call back to the classics: a crack in a breakable wall leading to a secret room with a collectible. A hidden vent unlocking a cheat code. Out-of-the-way alternate battle encounters that reward players with additional skills and points to empower the Slayer further. It was addicting to find them all, yet never crossed into the realm of being frustratingly distracting from the main event like many modern games tend to do with collectibles and secrets. Everything ties in to and enhances the main experience rather than feeling ancillary and unnecessary.
DOOM Eternal Review – Live-Service Slaying
DOOM Eternal also manages to weave in a live-service element. Now, I know what you’re thinking. DOOM Eternal has a battle pass? Why does such a great single-player experience have to incorporate something from battle royale and other live-service games? Worry not. The progression is purely a layer on top of the game, not something integral to it. That said, it does offer a pretty compelling reason to aim for specific challenges and earn experience through replaying the game. In some ways, it’s the perfect adaptation of the live-service model for what amounts to a modern reimagining of a classic experience. I never felt like it got in the way of the slaying, but it always managed to enhance the experience as even just playing through the campaign earned me cool new customizations.
There’s also a pretty interesting community element to this part of the game, letting you use other players as “boosters” where you get a portion of the XP they earn while playing. So if you have friends who plan to play a lot, it’s best to slot them in early so that you can get that bonus XP without even lifting a meaty DOOM-slaying finger.
Which finally brings us to Battlemode, DOOM Eternal’s proper online component. Battlemode pits two players as demons against a single player-controller Slayer. With the demons able to summon helper demon hordes and use abilities, and the Slayer essentially able to use his arsenal from the campaign, Battlemode effectively becomes a PVP version of DOOM Eternal’s campaign encounters. Playing as the Slayer is pretty tough when the demons are no longer AI-controlled, and being a demon in the face of the Slayer’s overwhelming power is also quite difficult. Each requires very different strategies of play in order to overwhelm and defeat the other team, and new players are already quite good at it. Maybe I’m just bad.
The biggest difficulty I found with Battlemode was lack of actionable feedback about where attacks and damage were coming from. It often became a frenzied game of spinning in circles trying to even find where the damage was coming from. Perhaps with more playtime I’ll learn to handle it better, but right off the bat, it’s certainly not my preferred PVP and ends up just feeling like a chaotic deluge from all sides.
In terms of ancillary components, Battlemode feels like the most”tacked on” element of DOOM Eternal, even if it’s still an engaging and integrated part of the overall experience. Fortunately, if you’d rather not face off against real people, you don’t have to. DOOM Eternal’s single-player campaign manages to stand firmly on its own without needing Battlemode to feel like a complete package. But for anyone looking for a quick fun distraction, the quick skirmishes in Battlemode are a great way to test your prowess against the most difficult challenge of them all: other real players.
DOOM Eternal is simply a really good game. It provides players with a brutal and extreme power fantasy while also presenting a challenge, a tightrope act of balancing that few games can ever accomplish with a masterful hand. There’s an almost tactical feel to the encounters as you manage health, shields, ammo, and movement around the arena, yet those tactics never slow the pace of gameplay. It’s got a solid single-player campaign that somehow weaves in engaging live-service elements that serve to enhance the experience instead of ever distracting from it. id Software lovingly recaptures the spirit of classic DOOM while making a game that feels perfectly at home at the tail end of this console generation.
DOOM Eternal review copy provided by publisher. Reviewed on a launch PS4. For more information, please read our Review Policy.