I finally, finally finished playing Doom Eternal a couple of days ago. I took my sweet time with it. I savored every minute of it. And by “savored,” I also mean that I stressed my brain out trying to find every collectible and complete every time trial.
Now that I’ve finished the game, it is time to tell you, my Above Average readers, my thoughts on it. It’s time to go into the good, the bad, and the ugly of Doom Eternal with a deep-dive review.
Side note: This game is not ugly. I just wanted to type out “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Just in case you’re not in the mood to read a lengthy review, I’ll tell you my base impression. Doom Eternal is high-octane fun, definitely engaging to the millionth degree. The only things holding it back are a few story decisions (but who plays Doom for the story anyways) and a couple of odd gameplay inclusions.
Anywaysies, let’s rev up our chainsaws and pop out our flame belcher! It’s time for a Below Average review of Doom Eternal!
Doom Eternal takes place after the events of Doom (2016). A demonic invasion is taking place on Earth as soon as the game starts. The Doom Slayer (or Doomguy as he is colloquially known) preps himself for battle in his Fortress of Doom.
Side note: It remains unclear how he got this floating fortress in space or what happened directly after Samuel Hayden teleported him away after the first game.
What follows is a rampage. The Doom Slayer needs to take down three Hell Priests in order to stop the invasion on Earth. Once that is complete, the Slayer can focus his attention on the Khan Maykr, a highly-advanced being who is responsible for Hell’s forces taking over countless worlds in her quest to use “Hell energy” to sustain her race.
Annnnnd that’s pretty much it for plot.
I don’t know if this counts as spoilers, but the Doom Slayer accomplishes every single one of his goals. He stops the invasion by killing the Hell Priests, he defeats the Khan Maykr, and then he goes along on his merry way.
It’s a straightforward story, and I appreciate that. However, things are muddied up a tad thanks to a plethora of Codex entries. See, throughout the game, one of the items you can find and collect are these Codex pages, texts that extend your knowledge of Doom lore.
You learn about Hell’s hierarchy, the rise of the Maykr society, the fall of Argent D’Nur. It’s a bunch of cool stuff, and a lot of it is interesting. However, it can get a bit confusing, especially when coupled with the Codex entries from the first game.
For example, in the first game, Argent energy was said to come directly from Elemental Wraiths trapped in Hell. The Wraiths’ souls made a Well that stores this hellish energy, and that’s what insane and idiotic human scientists were trying to tap into as a resource.
Doom Eternal complicates the process a bit. According to new Codex entries, Argent Energy is made using energy from Sentinels and the power of tortured souls in Hell, and it is then purified by the Elemental Wraiths due to Maykr technology.
Yeah, me too.
It’s a minor grievance though. I’m not playing Doom Eternal for the story.
My bigger story gripe actually deals with how the game handles the Slayer himself.
In the first game, players were never removed from the Slayer’s perspective. You stayed in first-person mode no matter what, always looking through the eyes of Doomguy. When he opened a door, you saw his hands appear in front of you to lift it. When he picked up a new gun, you saw him hold it up to his/your eyes to inspect.
Doom Eternal makes the dubious choice of pulling players out of Doomguy’s shoes. On occasion, there will be a cutscene, and the “camera” will float out of the Doom Slayer’s eyes and instead hover around him cinematically so you can see his body from a more remote perspective.
I’m personally not a fan of this.
Call me old school, but I liked the immersion of being the Doom Slayer from Doom (2016). I liked feeling like his actions were my actions. In Doom Eternal, I felt like I was buddy-buddy with the Doomguy instead of being him.
And to add insult to injury, they actually have the Doomguy speak at one point.
I did not like that one bit. I’m not going to grab a torch and pitchfork about it, but it definitely took me out of the game to hear the Slayer suddenyl growl “Rip and tear” in a totally contrived fashion.
My final thoughts on the story would be a low-key appreciation for the multiple locations it took us to. It often felt like we (the Doom Slayer and I) were going all over the place in a short time span. That dizzy variety of places, while befuddling my grasp on plot points and objectives, did give me some great arenas.
Which leads me to my next section…
Doom (2016) had fairly bland environments. You were either on Hell or Mars, and both locations were always tinted either shades of red or shades of grey.
Doom Eternal blows its predecessor out of the water when it comes to environments.
You’ve got the devastated landscapes of Earth during the demonic invasion. You’ve got the garish colors of Urdak, the Maykrs’ home world. The fiery environs of Hell are dangerous and mesmerizing. Even the somber nature of the Sentinels’ realm stands out from the crowd.
Plus, each of these locations offers up great arenas. Since mobility is prized in Doom Eternal, the maps have to be designed to allow a greater rein of movement. There are bars to swing from, lifts to propel you into the air, and ledges you can clamber onto. These mini-arenas are all superb.
In between arenas, there are quiet moments where players can explore the area for secrets. Cheat codes, collectible figurines, and music albums to hang around your Fortress of Doom are scattered throughout Doom Eternal, and looking for them is half the fun of the game.
The one downside to the environment is the platforming. In order to break up the constant stream of combat, developers decided to include light platforming mechanics.
These suck eggs.
Maybe it’s just me, but I loathed those weird gravity lift things on Urdak that would propel you through the air. They inconsistently launched you to sections of wall that you could “climb” on. And I could never get the timing exactly right the first time around. I either messed things up with an ill-timed double-jump, aimed my body right where it didn’t need to go, or plummeted to my death after failing to properly grab onto a wall.
I do not play Doom for platforming.
However, platforming brings me to my next point. See, all that jumping and climbing and launching is meant to space out how often players are dancing in an arena. You can’t have players in combat 24/7.
But combat is where Doom Eternal shines the most. It is near goddamn perfection.
It is utter bliss to be running around an arena tearing up demons. What was first presented to us in Doom (2016) has been fine-tuned in Doom Eternal. Every weapon on the weapon wheel has a purpose to take down a demon, and every demon has a weakness that can be exploited. Cacademons can swallow a grenade from your combat shotgun. Precision shots from your heavy assault rifle can eliminate a Mancubus’ arm cannons. A Whiplash can be frozen in place with an ice bomb.
In the first game, you picked your favorite weapon (cough cough Super Shotgun cough cough) and stuck with it. In Doom Eternal, you need to constantly switch out to weapons that can better help you deal with specific demonic threats.
And the demons are gorgeous visually.
I mean, they’re ugly as heck.
But they’re designed to be ugly beautifully.
Every time you shoot them, chunks of flesh are torn from their bodies, a more rewarding manner of visibly letting players know they’re doing damage than a health bar receding above their heads.
The only demons that have a health bar are the big bosses, the Gladiator, the Khan Maykr, and the Icon of Sin (kind of). Those are intense but fun fights that truly test your mettle as a gamer.
My one major gameplay gripe has to do with the Marauder.
I hate that guy.
The Marauder is an enemy type that pops up from time to time to ruin a player’s day. The big issue with him is that he operates kind of like a boss. You have to time when you attack him perfectly. His eyes will flash green right before he swipes at you, meaning you have to shoot him with a heavy duty weapon at that exact moment. He can zoom around you very quickly, utilizing a dash feature similar to the one you as the Slayer possess. However, if you try to crowd him, he pulls out a shotgun that deals a massive amount of damage in one shot. And if you try to get some distance on him, he sends a ghostly hound after you that nips at your heels until the Marauder can catch up to you.
So the Marauder forces you to stay midrange with him, doing this slow-paced gun battle as you wait for his eyes to flash green before you shoot.
This in itself isn’t a problem. However, it becomes a problem when they stick the Marauder in a regular arena situation with a bunch of other demon types around. You can’t do a one-on-one battle with him until after you’ve dealt with the other demons. The Marauder halts the otherwise seamless flow of combat present in Doom Eternal.
And don’t get me started on that time trial that includes a Marauder.
Side note: Time trials are brief timed encounters with a group of four or five demons. One of them involved a Marauder. Imma be honest, I cheesed that fight so hard. I glitched it out so I “won” the fight without having to fight him.
At its best, Doom Eternal is an intense ballet of gunplay, with players switching out between weapons and grenades to take down the endless onslaught of demons. It takes skill, which makes the game feel like a challenge to overcome.
If you’re not staying on your toes though, a fight can quickly devolve into a jumbled juggle as you try to keep an eye on your shields and health while also running around trying to take down demons with a low ammo count on all weapons.
In order to make players feel like a bad-ass even while they’re struggling with the intense gameplay, Doom Eternal has given us yet another pumping soundtrack.
I have never felt so alive and empowered as when I’m listening to Mick Gordon’s genius track while shooting down a horde of demons. He accomplishes in-game magic with his music.
I never thought metal and synth would be my thing, but it has slowly become one of my go-to sounds for feeling exhilarated. I feel unstoppable when listening to it. Even if I’m dying over and over and over again.
I would never say Doom Eternal is a bad game. It’s fantastic. However, it is most definitely not a relaxing game for me. My brain has to stay on high alert whenever I play it because it is one of the most intense gameplay experiences I’ve ever gone through. It’s a game I prep myself for, and I’ll drink a cup of coffee before I pick up a controller. That’s in stark contrast to the way I’ll play something like Super Mario Odyssey, slumped on my couch with a grin and a cup of tea.
And while I’m not fond of the changes made to the way the Doom Slayer is perceived, he remains one of my most favorite video game protagonists to play as. I’m not the best gamer. I’m below Below Average if I’m telling the truth. But Doomguy has always made me feel like a bad-ass, and that’s a sure sign a game can be tough and empowering at the same time.
I rate Doom Eternal a thrill-ride-through-Hell-that-is-a-gazillion-times-more-fun-than-it-sounds-and-it-already-sounds-hella-good.