Oh boy, here we go. It’s taken me an incredibly long time to get around to writing this review, partly due to my many conflicted feelings about DOOM Eternal’s design decisions and partly because of the immense frustration this game had left me in after I finished it. Perhaps it’s my own fault for doing my first playthrough on Ultra-Violence, the 2nd hardest difficulty option behind Nightmare. Not quite “normal” but also not quite the most challenging experience possible. I had already heard from multiple sources that DOOM Eternal was more difficult than most recent FPS games, though with my limited knowledge of the franchise and recent experience playing through DOOM 2016, I figured it was simply because the game filled every inch of its runtime with endless hordes of demons to slaughter. But man, how wrong I was…
I don’t want to say DOOM Eternal is a bad game, because it’s not, but I also can’t seem to wrap my head around why people seem to love it so goddamn much. It’s certainly birthed a Dark Souls-esque “git gud” following, and I’m sure the extreme difficulty in certain places has something to do with that, but it’s also a game that feels very confused and somewhat directionless. Almost immediately, the player is thrust into what feels like the final act of a story we haven’t even seen (not that the story ever mattered much in DOOM). However, unlike the previous games, the premise laid out by DOOM Eternal’s main campaign is far more elaborate, with an immense amount of new lore, characters, and events unfolding at every turn. Unfortunately, despite the amount of time and effort that has been put into selling you this story, it’s generally a pretty bad one. The writing, in particular, has some of the most cliche, embarrassing, and overused tropes I’ve ever seen, so much so that it borders on self-parody. And while you might think that that’s an intentional choice on behalf of the creators, the sheer amount of times the game stops the action and forces its exposition down your throat may eventually convince you otherwise.
DOOM Eternal is primarily weighed down by two things: combat pacing and unnecessary mechanics. DOOM 2016 already had its own issues with pacing, though that was primarily due to the fact that certain sections felt far too long and far too repetitive to hold the player’s attention. In Eternal, things are slightly different in that the combat is great fun until it suddenly stops and forces you to do a bunch of random platforming via a handful of wonky, awkward, and sometimes unfinished mechanics. The sheer number of times I found myself saying “can we please go back to shooting stuff now” in a DOOM game felt like an absolute crime after the first few hours. Especially since the game took me a little over 16 hours in total to complete: nearly double the length of DOOM 2016. Whether you’re trapped in a pseudo-cutscene during a level, forced into awkwardly climbing up and down walls for 10 minutes, or (god forbid) stuck swimming in a shallow pool of water, the game is absolutely bloated with filler content. However, once you break through these boring, annoying, unfun sequences, you’re rewarded with the actual meat of the game: DOOM Eternal’s combat. And for me, it’s a mixed bag.
On the one hand, I appreciate the added complexity with each weapon and attachment having a specific function against certain enemy types, forcing you to quickly swap between your guns in order to kill your foes before they overwhelm you. On the other hand, it’s annoying as hell. The fact that certain enemies are only vulnerable to certain types of weapon attachments feels pretty arbitrary sometimes, and can be especially frustrating during the more frantic sequences of the game (of which there are many). Why does shooting the Mancubus’s arms with a single scoped rifle shot destroy its guns but blasting them repeatedly in close range with a shotgun doesn’t? Why does firing a grenade into a Cacodemon’s mouth cause it to make a funny gulp sound and instantly become vulnerable but shooting a missile into its gaping maw barely does anything?
Again, this may have something to do with the difficulty I was playing on. Some of my friends who also played the game had watched me play through certain sequences and often commented that my weapons seemed especially ineffective when compared to their normal mode playthroughs. This difficulty was only further exacerbated by the fact that ammo is suddenly an immensely scarce resource, with most weapons only containing enough firepower for 5-6 seconds worth of usage before they run completely dry. This is likely due to the fact that the game wants you to constantly bounce between your chainsaw, blood punch, and other new armor abilities, though thanks to the removal of the pistol, I found myself soft-locked at least twice by running out of ammo before killing the last demon, leaving me completely unable to kill the creature and progress. This became less of an issue as I unlocked better perks and abilities but still, worth noting that this “low ammo” design decision has definitely had some major consequences for reckless players who don’t stick to the game’s strict combat regimen.
In terms of the stuff I actually liked, DOOM Eternal still has some of the most incredibly satisfying weapons and kill animations of any game, ever. Seriously, I wish there was a mode where I could play through the entire game only using the Super Shotgun, though of course with all of these new enemy changes, that likely wouldn’t be as fun as I imagine. The soundtrack is also perfect and remains one of the most badass OSTs ever released for a video game, even if there was a lot of drama surrounding the “official” Mick Gordon versions. There are more bosses in the game this time around, though they are mostly forgettable, with the exception of the final boss of course. Though that’s primarily due to the fact that the entire fight is complete sensory overload, with deafening screeches and electronic blasts screaming over the sound of dark guitar riffs as uncountable projectiles are flung at you from every direction. At least there was some actual strategy involved towards taking the bosses down, even if two of them felt buggy and generally unfun to fight against.
Overall, I’d say that DOOM Eternal is a weaker game when compared to DOOM 2016, but it’s still decent. It sadly reminds me much of Hotline Miami 2: a bloated, sprawling mess of a sequel that focuses extremely heavily on story at the expense of level design and leans far too heavily into the “frustrating is fun” design philosophy. There’s no question that DOOM Eternal is a fun game, and I honestly think I would have had a much better time on the normal difficulty for my first playthrough. However, I was convinced by all the memes and videos surrounding the release that it was this balls-to-the-wall shooter packed with millions of enemies around every corner, and I wanted to challenge myself. Instead, what I found was a game weighed down by a crappy story, wonky platforming, and a terrible “hub world” system that I could honestly rant about for hours. If you enjoy first-person platformers and precision shooters that feel more like an elaborate puzzle game than a traditional FPS, then you’ll probably love DOOM Eternal. If you were expecting constant action and the ability to beat the game using whatever weapons you want, you might end up disappointed like me.
6/10 – Above Average