Doom 2016 reminded me that single-player focused shooters still had a place in the world of mainstream gaming. In fact, I enjoyed 2016's reboot so much that I went back and played through the original 1993 release and its subsequent sequels, which not only made me a true believer and fan of the legendary series but also set up some big expectations for Doom Eternal.
My first hour or so with Doom Eternal made me quickly realize that the game was just as good as Doom 2016, but much broader in scope, thanks to more significant and open-ended maps that incentivized exploration and thinking outside the box. Yet, even still, after coming off of Doom and Doom II, I wasn't entirely convinced that Doom Eternal could live up to classic Doom in any better capacity than what Doom 2016 had already achieved. Thankfully, around the three-hour mark, Doom Eternal went from successfully recapturing what made Doom 2016 so much fun, to an experience that is genuinely worthy of the Doom moniker.
Doom 2016 featured narrow corridors that often opened up into larger, more expansive layouts, which for the most part, did a great job in modernizing the claustrophobic feel of the original two games, with even hints of Doom 3's foreboding atmosphere. Doom Eternal keeps those same elements found in 2016 and raises it to a new level, bringing with it larger maps that feel more reminiscent of old school arena shooters with visuals that pay homage to the pulpy, comic book look of classic Doom.
As Doom Eternal is the second game of a rebooted franchise, the title appropriately borrows elements from Doom II in its enemy and weapon designs. Doom 2016 had fun weapons that for the most part, did an apt job in giving the player a sense of escalating power, but in my opinion, failed to properly capture the look of the weapons found in the original games. Doom Eternal's arsenal of arms not only look like they were ripped straight out of the 90s, but they also feel the part, thanks to the inclusion of the classic weapon pose and bob feature baked into the game (something that was added to Doom 2016 in a later patch).
Enemies, too feel like they are true-approximations of classic Doom demons, notably the addition of the zombie soldier enemy type that evokes a similar look to the soldiers found within the pixilated walls of Doom I & II.
The weapons themselves feel punchy and weighty, with every weapon in the game feeling like they belong, giving each new unlock a real sense of utility that many other modern shooters seem to ignore. Doom Eternal features a fleshed-out weapon upgrade system, requiring the player to find tokens hidden all over the various levels of the game. However, in order to fully level up any given weapon, the player must find special keys that unlock challenge arenas that are also hidden within each level of Doom Eternal. Upgrade tokens for both weapons and armour are plentiful, along with secrets and collectables that litter the game world.
Collectables and secrets include everything from the aforementioned upgrade tokens and keys, super-deformed toys based on the various characters' designs of the game, to even unlockable tracks that look like life-sized vinyl records, complete with unique album art.
Cheat codes, something that seems to be absent in the era of modern gaming are also present within Doom Eternal and take the form of secret floppy disks that ooze with charm, embellishing the retro feel of the game. Power-ups such as extra lives, blue potions and armour pickups, all with designs evocative of classic Doom nicely round out Doom Eternal's wealth of available items.
I mentioned that Doom Eternal feels closer to classic Doom, and this is done through levels of escalation that quickly begin to seem overwhelming at first, but thanks to Doom Eternal's evolution of the glory kill system found in Doom 2016, high-level encounters within the game become these tense but doable dances with death that feel just as intense as classic Doom.
In addition to the glory kill system found in Doom 2016, Eternal adds a tertiary weapons system for the Doom Slayer, which grants the player the ability to set enemies on fire briefly, causing them to shed armour in a manner similar to when they are staggered. Coupled with the chainsaw, players now have three distinct ways in dealing damage, with each replenishing either health, ammo, or armour, giving a simple but deep level of strategy in each and every encounter present in the game.
Other new weapons include the addition of grenades, which can be used on their own, or with an upgraded shotgun configuration (helpful to take out cacodemons efficiently). The grenades themselves include your standard frag grenade and an ice grenade, which may not sound that interesting, but in a game like Doom, anything that slows down the onslaught of demons can mean the difference between life and death.
Levels in Doom Eternal, as mentioned above, feel much larger and denser than Doom 2016, this is mainly due to an emphasis being placed on platforming and the ability to climb and parkour around the map in ways not possible in Doom games of the past. Carefully timed jumps, hidden alcoves and grab bars to swing over gives Doom Eternal an adventure game feel that helps break up the intense encounters of each level, while also crafting a unique identity for the game. Despite its increased visual fidelity and complex level design, Doom Eternal, like Doom 2016 runs great on PlayStation Pro hardware, with only a few stutters here and there in the opening chapters of the game (something very minor but still worth mentioning).
The gameplay of Doom Eternal doesn't hold your hand, there is a ramp-up in difficulty, but the title quickly expects the player to just go and cause mayhem. In other words, if you want to survive, run and gun, just like how Doom should be. Finally, Doom Eternal does feature a story, one that is actually fairly well-realized with great voice acting and distinct characters, but all of it is optional and is instead there for those who want to experience it. Doom Eternal's campaign is relatively long, clocking in around 15 hours, but thanks to the secrets and collectables, I can see myself returning to the game fairly often. It will be interesting to see how Doom Eternal matures as each level feels very open-ended in how encounters are handled, giving the opportunity for experimentation and replays. The world might be going to hell, but at least Doom Eternal is here to help us get ready.