Hands on: DOOM Eternal Review

id Software returns with the second entry in its lovingly grotesgue and wonderfully brutal reboot series of the beloved shooter.

First Impressions

If you aren't a fan of bloody, over-the-top violence and a wonderfully self aware meta-narrative, DOOM Eternal might not be for you. But as a hardcore follower of the series and lover of all things ridiculous, this is right up my street.

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £49.99
  • Developer: id Software
  • Genre: FPS
  • Release Date: March 20, 2020
  • Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Developers id Software’s 2016 reboot of DOOM treated its titular character like an unstoppable deity, a force to be feared by humans and demons alike, as this ancient force ripped and tore through any living thing that stood in his way.

For us, it was an insurmountable power fantasy of epic proportions, reaching such points of absurdity that it transcended parody. Yet it worked, with the mythology being perfectly aware of its own ludicrous foundations. It’s one of the reasons I love it so much, and why DOOM Eternal strikes an immediately resonant cord.

This is a direct continuation of past events, following our space marine as demons invade our planet and threaten to tear apart the universe as we know it. Having played a solid chunk of the upcoming sequel, I’m pleased to say it does everything I loved about the 2016 reboot and more.

I mean, the Super Shotgun has a grappling hook now, what’s not to love?

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DOOM Eternal Preview

I don’t think the spawn of satan are very happy to see you

My time with the E3 2019 demo of DOOM Eternal begins with me walking through the bridge of a crowded station, the crew taking eyes off monitors to watch in bamboozled horror as my daunting frame stepped through the room. You literally drag a man using the keycard attached to his neck to unlock a door, snatching a plasma rifle from a hesitant guard before stepping into the fray.

These opening moments set a fantastic precedent for the bloodbath that’s to follow, reminding you that there’s only a few things in this world that truly stand a chance against the seasoned marine. Denizens of hell have descended upon our planet, stepping through the cavernous portal unearthed in the last game’s conclusion. Humanity’s fate hangs in the balance, and it seems you’re the only person who can fix things.

While I didn’t play through a single cohesive level, I was flung through multiple standout moments in one stage that highlighted platformance, combat and a range of intriguing new abilities. Traversal has been enhanced dramatically, with double-jumps and mantling now complemented by a two-pronged dash and the ability to cling onto certain surfaces to reach increased heights.

Diving through the air can take a while to adjust to, and I found myself falling to my death multiple times before finding a decent cadence. But once you find a flow, it feels amazing and gels brilliantly with combat in a way I genuinely didn’t expect. On the edge of death you can briefly escape encounters by dashing away, desperately scrambling for health and ammunition before returning to the fight.

It feels like DOOM Eternal will tackle more diverse environment types, shifting between vast, outside spaces and confined shooting arenas where you never stop moving, constantly tearing through enemies and picking up resources to keep yourself alive. It all feels so, so good to play. The level I played took place amidst a fragmented Mars, the planet’s core shattered open as colossal pieces of debris float about the atmosphere. One moment has our lead character firing himself out of the BFG 10,000, purely so he can kick demonic ass.

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DOOM Eternal Preview

DOOM Eternal will take us to heaven, hell and everything in between

Glory kills have been overhauled to gel alongside DOOM Eternal’s faster, more deliberate pace. Executions can be performed on all demons on the verge of death, resulting in a lovingly grotesque animation as you tear off limbs and crush skulls into spines. They’re a ghoulish sight to behold, while also resulting in small pockets of health once used.

However, this isn’t the only version of glory kills anymore. Now, setting adversaries ablaze with your shoulder-mounted flamethrower will result in a shower of armour, shielding you from attacks for longer periods of time. The chainsaw also makes a return, showering you in ammunition after tearing through enemies. It feels more intuitive than before, now locked to a single button instead of acting as a singular weapon in your loadout. Aside from the flamethrower, you can now fire grenades from a cannon on your person, too. There’s so many new layers to combat that help it feel better than ever.

Speaking of intuitive, the weapons in DOOM Eternal feel amazing to use, and that goes for new additions like the plasma rifle and newly rejigged rocket launcher. Each firearm now has a dedicated secondary fire, which I found essential in forming a use strategy for each one. For example, the plasma rifle is capable of firing a constant stream of concentrated energy, automatically locking onto baddies as I jump about the stage trying to survive.

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DOOM Eternal Preview

The DOOM marine has lots and lots and lots and *deep breath* lots of guns

I assume weapons will once again be upgradeable with distinct attachments, and perhaps these secondary fire-modes will be obtained in the same manner. In addition to this, id Software has streamlined the process of obtaining health and armour upgrades, as they’re now randomly spread across the map, acting as hidden secrets for you to find. DOOM Eternal’s world is a puzzle in itself, so vast and brimming with potential for creative platforming.

You could argue that some of the combat arenas border on being too claustrophic for their own good. A particular session towards the demo’s climax had me dying multiple times purely because demons were surrounding me in a ludicriously tight space. Granted, I’m probably just a bit rubbish and wasn’t using the air, ground and all of my abilities to my advantage. The 2016 reboot had a welcome blend of vast, open spaces and tight corridors where you’d need to adapt on the fly to everything around you, and Eternal definitely follows the same beats.

There’s also now a life system, giving you a few opportunities to return to the fray during a difficult firefight once defeated. If you’re a purist who prefers an uncompromising challenge, the option to respawn is there, but I can’t help but welcome accessibility features like this. That, and I’d love to picture all the demons freaking out as you defy death before their very eyes.

First Impressions

If you aren’t a fan of bloody, over-the-top violence and a wonderfully self-aware meta-narrative, DOOM Eternal might not be for you. But as a hardcore fan of the series and lover of all things ridiculous, this is right up my street.

I’m yet to see DOOM Eternal’s new multiplayer modes in action, and I’m desperately hoping they improve upon the predecessor’s mediocre effort. As far as the solo campaign is concerned, this is shaping up to be 2019’s most bombastic shooter experience.

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