A Brilliantly Brutal Best-Of-The-Year
Doom Eternal is a bloody good game. It’s a violent, gory, adrenaline-soaked descent into the hellish depths of your nightmare but it does so with such finesse and style that it’s easy to forget how well-designed and complex this game actually is. Between the 12 hour campaign, the plethora of collectables and the evolving combat that organically adds layers of challenge over time, Doom Eternal is hands down one of the best first person shooters of 2020 and, dare I say, a top contender for game of the year.
Doom has always been a series that’s put gameplay before story but its rebooted effort back in 2016 did a pretty good job to add a loose narrative to keep things purposeful and push you along to the next set piece. Eternal takes this idea and runs with it, taking place 2 years after the events that gripped the end of the previous game.
Earth has been completely overwhelmed. The fragments of humanity have formed a futile resistance group to try and stop the creatures and all hopes of salvation now rest with you, the Doom Slayer. Fronting the first wave of resistance to try and reclaim Earth, maintaining some semblance of normality, Eternal throws you head-first into the action as you try to save the world.
It’s all pretty formulaic stuff and the 12 different chapters take you on the usual fetch quests and killing campaign you’d expect from a game like this. iD Software smartly keep the exposition to a minimum too, with a lot of the lore and in-depth story elements reserved for the different pickups you can grab through the levels which go into surprising detail about everything that’s happening around you.
While there are cut-scenes and the main crux of the story is showcased through cut-scenes and in-game audio narration, if you intend to learn all the ins and outs of the different races and their history, be prepared to read a lot.
Of course, Doom Eternal is not that sort of game and the great thing with this follow-up is just how clear the vision is here to make a fun and rewarding shooter first and add everything else in afterwards. The story here is just enough to give you clear motivation to keep playing but it’s the evolving environment, challenging combat sections and clever platforming that keeps things feeling fresh and interesting.
If you played the 2016 game then the formula here is very much more of the same. Each level is designed to add challenging combat arenas dotted throughout the levels, with gorgeous backdrops overlooking the different locations on and off Earth. Instead of just hopping from one location to the next like the 2016 game however, Doom Eternal sees you jump between portals via your ship, the Fortress Of Doom, which serves as a hub area between missions.
As you progress through the game, the different levels of customization open up and along with that, both the range of enemies you encounter and the weapons you unlock along the way keep things poised in a fine balance between challenge and progression. It’s this balance that ultimately makes Eternal such a good game, with those later levels just as difficult and tough as the early skirmishes were with a limited arsenal.
As can be expected, the customization screens can feel a bit overwhelming early on and the UI does take some getting used to as you navigate through the exhaustive list of things you can unlock and customize. It’s recommended to explore the different (and admittedly gorgeously rendered) levels to find at least some of these collectables as they can really help you in the later levels.
The suit upgrades range from immunity to barrel explosions across to a clearer auto-map that shows where collectables are while the weapon points can be used to add extra upgrades to each gun you unlock. The different runes dotted across the levels then add buffs to your core stats like health and armour while the sentinel batteries can be used within the Fortress Of Doom for extra goodies and further unlockable gear. Eternal eases you into these different unlockables through the early hours of the game nicely and after a while, all of this tinkering becomes second nature as you slowly but surely become a lean, mean, hell-beast killing machine.
To prevent you ever becoming too complacent or over-powered with the abilities and goodies you unlock along the way, Eternal throws down the gauntlet and doubles its efforts from 2016’s game to deliver an impressive roster of hellish beasts to tackle. From the familiar classics like the zombies and pinkys, through to the cybernetically enhanced bosses, Eternal keeps things fresh and exciting right the way through the game, keeping you on edge and drenching those adrenaline-soaked combat encounters with a lot of frantic energy.
Aesthetically, Eternal looks absolutely stunning. The backgrounds are incredibly detailed and show off some breathtaking detail with giant behemoths snarling at one another in the distance or tentacled leviathans snaking around ruinous skyscrapers to name a few. The colours are consistent, with each level doing well to keep things visually striking, yet unique enough that the levels don’t blur together and feel too repetitive.
The level-design plays into this too, with secrets littered all over the place and clever platforming sections that add wall jumps, double dash and jump sections along with some dreaded water elements. For a first person shooter like Doom, the idea of platforming feels very alien but it works surprisingly well here. Although there are a few times where it’s not initially clear to begin with where you’re supposed to jump from or to, after a bit of trial and error it does become easier.
When you’re finished with the campaign, Doom rewards your play-time with cheat codes, different audio tracks and plenty of replayability in the tank for the main campaign if you intend to head back in and collect everything. If you’ve had enough of that, the game also features a challenging and rewarding multiplayer element called Battlemode to proceedings too. Unfortunately my multiplayer skills are about as competent as one of those lowly zombies at the start of the campaign level, but there’s a lot of fun to be had here, with enough modes and skills to make for a good time-sink in its own right.
Doom Eternal is quite simply a fantastic game. It’s one of those rare instances of a title managing to nail every single element to perfection and doing so in a way without ever sacrificing the integrity or vision of the original game. Doom Eternal is a polished, crisp, visually pleasing trip into Hell but that journey is made all the more satisfying by just how well designed everything is. There’s no reason for you not to indulge and try out those cheat codes, or try and collect all those bits of lore – this is a game that rewards your patience and adds value to replaying levels. It’s a refined, polished, fast-paced shooter that rightfully places Doom Eternal at the top of the FPS pedestal for 2020.
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Verdict - 9/10