Doom Eternal is finally here! id Softwares last outing, Doom 2016 was a soft reboot to the series, their aim there to make a shooter for the modern day in the vein of the 1995 classic in terms of gameplay, its story being almost an alternate retelling twist on the original’s story. This means no reloads, a variety of weapons and large enemy selection as well as interesting, open levels with secrets to be found and of course challenging combat. For the most part, 2016 succeeded, falling flat in some in minor places like being able almost solely use the super shotgun as a crutch in combat, something that has been rectified in Eternal, now being a lot more punishing this time around with even the lowly Zombie Soldier ready to turn you into Doom Slayer patte.

Doom Eternal sets out with more or less the same goals of 2016, doubling down on all of those original goals and elements.  Not just content to stop there, id have focused more on the lore, creating a Doom universe but it is the player’s choice on how deep they delve into this as all cut scenes are skippable! Skins, you say? Yes skins, don’t worry although there is a season pass, all this is free and there is no in-game cosmetic store, hopefully stopping that way. You earn XP simply by playing, some items like a gold slayer skin being unlocked after completing the game on one of its tougher difficulties also earning skins for demons as well things like intro animations and podiums. These all are for Eternals new offering for multiplayer in the form of Battlemode – an asymmetric, competitive 2v1 mode seeing 2 demons face off against one doom slayer. But what makes this more than a Doom 2016 2.0?

“You may not want to as you can customize your slayers appearance this time around and all cut scenes are rendered in game meaning you get to see your chosen skin.”

Doom Eternal has a story. It has a very good, if not ridiculous over the top story, with Id Software setting out to turn Doom into its own universe this time around. Depending on who you ask in the Doom Community this is either a good or bad thing. Doom Eternal kicks off two years since we last saw our ever enraged protagonist, the Doom Slayer, return to Earth in the same vein as the classic Doom 2: Hell on Earth, which has cleverly been invoked in re-designs of enemies and item pickups seemingly more in line with the original classic games. From small blue health vials to returning green-haired zombie soldiers and even the hated Archvile, Doom Eternal is full of secrets and little references from the Doom franchise itself and other Id titles like Quake.

Some of these secrets include floppy disk cheat codes themselves including references like IDKFA to the Vinyl records which you can find in levels (each with an appropriate black metal cover art with music from Doom 1&2, Commander Keen and even Quake 2 to name a few) which then get placed around the Fortress of Doom where you can play them as you roam around.  Mick Gordon has also returned to compose again for Doom Eternal with a great mix of subtle, ambient music with references to Doom’s past soundtracks even hearing Dooms end of episode music in there, but when the combat kicks in the tone instantly switches to heavy aggressive guitars, synth and percussion giving the feeling of being in the bloodiest mosh pit you’ve ever seen. The Fortress of Doom, a sort of hub world between levels which has other goodies to unlock through the use of sentinel batteries. This includes weapon and rune upgrades, a big part of Doom Eternal’s combat and some awesome cosmetic suit unlocks like the 2016’s Dooms praetor suit and some others secrets I would rather not spoil. You can tell Id is still a studio that has a great passion for games despite the long history of Id.

“Slayer gates provide a harsher challenge to really get your Adrenaline going, which after completion grants access to keys to eventually unlock the returning Unmaker weapon from Doom64.”

With 60% of the Earth consumed by hell, you must track down and kill the three hell priests. This quickly goes to hell as it were, with “heaven” or a specifically an ancient race called the Maykr getting involved somehow connected to The Doom Slayers past. As the Slayer you find yourself dimension-hopping, making the universe of Doom expansively large, not only in the scope but the grander scale of the levels seeing you traverse once monuments of pride, now long besieged crumbling cities of the Knight Sentinels.  To the Slayer jumping to and from fragments blown out of Mars, fighting demons all the way. The lore and story of Doom Eternal leading you to eventually uncover parts of the Slayers past, as you work to stopping the consumption of Earth (there’s a lot of great world-building to be found in the lore pages which are presented in a codex to be found throughout the game) setting up Doom truly to be its own universe akin to franchises like Fallout although more akin to the brutality of 40k mixed with the over the top cheesiness of HE-MAN in Doom’s case.

“Doom Eternals levels are much more open and large and varied compared to 2016, featuring more platforming even secrets of a lot more demons to be killed but you will be rewarded meaningfully with upgrades for seeing everything.”

The first half of the game features the most cutscenes, all of which are skippable as well as the lore logs for those who prefer less story in their Doom, Doom Eternal like 2016 stays out of the player’s way for the most part with the story. It offers some great fan service in parts and is enjoyable serving its purpose giving you a reason to rip and tear! Jumping into all the extended lore codex which are presented well and offer lots of context and information on what’s going on around you, they are surprisingly deep although this may be a turn off to some as it isn’t presented in game. Eternal offers at least 20+ hours in single-player alone with everything to find and extra challenging combat encounters like slayer gates. Sure all that sounds lovely but what about combat? Well, they certainly didn’t forget about that! Doom Eternal is something akin to what installing the Project Brutality mod for means for Doom 2; more demons, smarter and more aggressive A.I. and more gore. Emphasis on prioritizing threats and managing resources makes the game harder, I played the game on ultra-violence for both my playthroughs, playing with the pace of something like Titanfall you often find yourself juggling ammo, armor and health often on your rampage.

“Glory kills are a lot more Visceral this time around, as the Slayer is now equipped with a Predator-esque wrist mounted Doom Blade.”

Pickups which include your run of the mill health to ammo but also returning powerful pick ups like quad damage or haste are scarce especially late game when the game throws everything at you. This means you have to juggle health earned by glory kills, returning from 2016, seemingly even more brutal this time around which do not get old varying from demon to demon, armor earned by flame belching enemies, a nifty shoulder-mounted flamethrower and ammo earned by chainsawing different foes, requiring different amounts of fuel but this always charges to one point allowing you to get some ammo. This juggling is the core pillar of Doom Eternal’s combat but to add to the difficulty, there are also a lot more enemies this time around but also more variety.  All extra lethal, even when at close range, this time making even lowly zombies a hazard left unchecked, prowlers will teleport throwing projectiles and teleport’s behind you to slash you in the back. The resurrected and twisted by hell, fallen knight sentinels known as marauders first introduced as a mini-boss force you to change your approach to combat. Stay too far away he will throw his axe or release a spiritual hound to bite you, get too close and he will blast you with his super shotgun sometimes even using an energy shield to block damage, the key here is to play a medium-range waiting for the distinct audio clue and green flash of his eyes, blast him with your super to stagger him followed by a quick Ballista blast (Doom Eternal’s answer to 2016’s rail gun-like weapon the Gauss cannon). These guys are tough too, so its best to go toe to toe with them once you’ve dealt with everything else.

Another little mechanic is the ability to shoot chunks out of demons, while this is great visually taking it a step farther you can now aim for example at an Aracnatrons head-mounted turret and disable it, hampering its attacks and changing its attack behavior – this applies to a few different demons and is worth doing making them easier to deal with. Additionally Empowered demons or demons that have killed your friend at that point in there campaign have a chance of spawning too, and like the name suggests these being tougher prey to fell. Thankfully you get some new toys too to keep you one step ahead, you’re able to double jump from the get-go and later unlock a dash, coming in handy for platforming sections (which Eternal features a lot of) getting to pickups faster or avoiding damage as staying still for too long here will result in death. If this does happen though if you’ve been looking around your likely to have a 1-Up as a backup allowing you to continue right from the place of death with full health and a couple of seconds invulnerability only restarting at the checkpoint when out of lives.

Archviles return! Being able to teleport in reinforcements this time around! Even buffing them! Kill these hot-heads first.”

Along with the new movement making the classic on the ground strafing of Doom of old still just as important as you dodge imp fireballs, there is the added vertical elements in many areas even featuring monkey bars you can use to propel yourself to higher points in an combat arenas or in traversing the levels. Eternal sees the return of the rune system this time without the trials of 2016 you can pick up to three of these in total and unlock them by finding them in levels giving you some interesting perks like a speed boost after a glory kill or slowing down time when you press LT mid-air making demon body part targeting much easier. You also get frag grenades and the new ice bomb freezing enemies in place, as well as blood punch – a super punch which will pop groups of lowly demons like imps into showers of gore. All the classic weapons return too with some new ones giving you a total of 10 weapons by the end of the game, 7 of which have two unique mods to pick from, each with pros and cons to learn and master, some being more or less effective against different types of hell-spawn, just as they are designed to harass and hamper the player in different ways. The plasma guns microwave beam great for locking down fast harassing demons like the new speedy snake-like whiplash although it also does restrict your movement while in use. Eternal does a good job at explaining all this and provides good lore and tips in its enemy codex too.

The in game codex are great at providing just about any information you would need or want”

All these together make a game much more than the sum of its parts, a pleasure to play and a challenge to master, combat really gets you thinking and engaged always planning your next move. Which is refreshing to see an FPS focus on its challenge and revel in being an FPS alone by offering 6 difficulty modes. This can be adjusted as you play, which is welcomed, it’s clear they want you to master it too from the inclusion of challenges like slayer gates but also the “Master Levels” a nice reference in itself but these are harder remixed campaign levels featuring more frequent and tougher encounters. There are currently two of these on offer one through a pre-order, but Id has said they will continue to add these over time, although it is a shame they are not all there for launch for those looking for more of a challenge after finishing the main game, offering something fresh despite being levels you have played. Once all these are added and the two campaign DLCs on the way hopefully this shouldn’t be an issue come a year from now.

“The ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING! turret mod for the chain gun eviscerates through larger demons like hell knights like a hot knife through butter!”

The other thing on offer here is battlemode, 2 demon players (there are 5 to choose from currently with more playable demons and maps being added down the line for free) fighting a lone slayer fully equipped. Best of 3 rounds, each round allows the selection of a perk including things like the BFG, the Slayer must kill both Demons within 30 seconds to win a round or they will respawn. The demons playing their different abilities off of one another must work together to kill the Slayer. While fun and competitive I can see this becoming old quickly and seems to suffer sometimes from connection issues with some it may find a niche, and with the new work done on the movement, it’s a shame to not at least see Deathmatch mode. Although they will be adding invasion mode which will allow two demons to enter a Slayers single player game.

Doom Eternal also runs solidly except for the one crash I experience, it also has a ridiculous amount of UI and controller customization always a plus and only occasionally running into minor bugs with A.I behaving oddly like a Marauder not opening up for an attack on a time trial (although this was fixed with a checkpoint reload thankfully). If you’re a fan of Classic old school style shooters and Doom 2016, even the classic Doom titles is quite hard not to recommend. Bigger and badder than 2016, Eternal doesn’t pull any punches and in a lot of ways is a celebration of games and old school shooters with its many references and Easter eggs something a lot of games have seemed to forgotten in recent years. Its increased difficulty and expanded lore are definitely welcome and refreshing for a shooter in 2020 truly feeling like a complete package. Still if you aren’t a fan difficulty or a learning curve, and if you looking for a game with a story presented front and center this may not be the game for you . Although if you want a big “dumb” shooter that surprisingly has a decent amount of challenge and depth with a lot of content as it stands and  more on its way its hard not to recommend the bloodbath that is Doom Eternal.