Does Doom Eternal Deserve The Best Shooter Of 2020 Award?

Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Hellscape Remodeling Simulation Using Guns & Grit

Some people say that having too much of a good thing can instil nausea & repetition, like how you can’t eat too much chocolate cake or Famous Amos cookies. Clearly these people need to try out Doom Eternal, because it’s shoving a lot of good things from the first Doom with jacked-up and improved bells and whistles.

The crazy thing is that the sequel to the rebooted first-person shooter franchise does not come off as incredibly excessive. It’s like as if the company behind making the game is disciplined enough to not bloat it with so much while keeping true to the formula that worked back in 2016.

Guns Akimbo

Doom (2016) was a heckuva surprise from id Software: an arcade shooter where your Doomguy/DoomSlayer runs amuck with the speed of a jackrabbit murdering Hell’s demons on a Mars outpost with shotguns, rocket launchers, and Gore Kills that replenishes his health whenever he staggers an enemy. It came with multiplayer, but nobody cared: the 8-hour adrenaline-pumping campaign mode was where it truly mattered. Given its development hell, I’m surprised it turned out the way it did.

In Doom Eternal, you still do the same thing. Except you get to travel through different dimensions and areas with impressive id Software-crafted vistas and hellscapes. And you get new movement options and weapons. And a streamlined equipment system so that you’re using everything at your disposal. And the game is an extra 4 to 5 hours longer. And you also have platforming and puzzle-solving segments to break the monotony of the shooting bits.

Somehow or other, all of these additions don’t come off as bloated padding unless you really, REALLY can’t stand anything getting in-between your arena shooting. And even so, the intensity and challenge dished out in the action portions will thrill you to no end.

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Levels like the Super Gore Nest enclosed sections to the monkey bars littered in the castle wall-laden arenas are purposefully added so you can make use against the relenting AI demon horde. And there’s a lot to keep track off. Apart from mainstays like the Imp and floating Cacodemon, there are some noteworthy enemy additions.

The Pain Elemental is a big-bodied Lost Soul chucker that will hound you to no end from the skies. The Doom Hunter flies around slowly shooting missiles at you on its tank appendage. The Whiplash demon slithers so fast and hits so hard it resorts to hit-and-run tactics; you’ll need a lock-on mod to get this guy off your back.

Doom 2’s Arch-Vile also makes a comeback most vilified, with its resurrection ability and flame wall/flame carpet attacks making your battles intense. The Marauder? Yeah, I’ll get to that jerkwad later.

Speed Kills. Gear Too…

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Thankfully, the upgrades system can make your fights more manageable on any of the settings. Need that lock-on for your Rocket Launcher? You got it! Need a wide horizontal-hitting add-on for your Arbalest against groups of foes? That works. Need to add flames to your Super Shotgun meathook grapple? Just complete the gun’s mastery challenge and it’s yours.

Speaking of fire, the game adds in a few twists and turns to the core experience. Because ammo and armour pickups on the ground get rarer with each passing stage, you have some tools to keep your health and ammo in check: the Chainsaw and the Flame Belcher. While the former was from the 2016 Doom and was a reliable way to get ammo from fodder enemies, the Chainsaw by default now regenerates up to one bar of fuel automatically so that you’re not caught with your pants down without ammo most of the time.

The Flame Belcher is the game’s alternate way of padding yourself up with armour. Once you set enemies on fire with it, you can shoot them to get armour pieces. Trust me; you’ll need to practice this against big groups and on instinct if you want to survive the harder difficulties. Armour is scarce, but you’ll need it as that layer of protection will go down quicker than usual.

You’ll also have access to your grenades that come in two flavours: damage-dealing frag and move-freezing ice. And your melee gets an upgrade with the Blood Punch; Gore Kill enough enemies to build up its meter, then launch a shockwave-inducing punch that generates more health and murders everything around its radius. Later in the game, you’ll get a significant limited one-hit kill weapon called the Crucible Blade that will help in the later segments where big-bodied Barons of Hell and Doom Hunters are the norm.

With the aforementioned baddies attacking you from all angles, you’ll need to use and master all of these tools of destruction to get ahead. Coupled with your newfound acrobatics (double-jump and air dashes ala Mega Man X series), each battle arena becomes a playground for you to get creative.

I never had much fun unloading super shotgun blasts and meat hook grapples onto arachnotrons and imps, while following up my keepaway game against Hell Knights and Prowlers with lock-on rockets and mini-missiles from my heavy machine gun. Levels-wise, you have your monkey bar and teleporter-laden crawlspaces to your open-air vertical-savvy stages where you need to keep in the air unless you like getting killed by ground hazards.

For the most parts, you need to juggle your tactics and adapt on the fly whenever you’re fighting the demon hordes in the game’s varied locales. You’ll be tested, but you’ll feel damn good overcoming your challenges, sorting out the correct weapon(s) for the situation, and playing the game the right way.

Doom Eternal’s blend of speed-laced shooting, mad dash defensive plays, and tight controls/weapons-switching is tweaked to perfection by id Software. Truly, no other shooter this year, or even last year, can top this frenetic jolt of gore-making ecstasy.

A Heckuva Package?

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This awesomesauce of shooter heaven is topped with a plethora of secrets and extra challenges, along with some goofy nonsensical lore that thankfully doesn’t get in your face. Find Slayer Keys to destroy secret Slayer Rooms to get one of the six special keys to unlock a pretty neat turbo plasma gun called the Unmakyr.

Finished the game but want to see some over-the-top nonsense? Then find a cheat code disk in the game, then activate it to see how crazy the game can get with unlimited Onslaught powerup mode or having a QuakeCon crowd cheer your cool moves! Or shift the game’s UI and perspective so that it’s classic Doom; weapon at the centre and all that. Need a challenge? Then play the Master levels to fight brand new enemy spawns in familiar arenas and playgrounds.

Aesthetics-wise, I must say: Doom Eternal is f***ing gorgeous. Hellscapes like the ruined cities of Earth and planes of Hell itself are damnation-filled eye candy, but the game’s other ethereal locations should be lauded for their detail and design.

From ancient castles to space stations close next to Mars, the Doomguy road tour is one crazy roadtrip accompanied with the most metal gaming soundtrack Mick Gordon has produced.

Part tribute to Doom 2‘s OST, part new ballads of guitar-shredding, part deep metal choirs, topped with awesome gun sounds and hell screams. All of this culminates to the composer & audio engineer’s best work to date.

Some Fixing Needed On This Paved Hell Road

Only a couple of gripes sour the otherwise sublime shooter experience. One: the addition of the Marauder. You see, he basically nullifies all your attacks and doesn’t let you hit it unless it flashes green to do a mid-ranged axe attack. He’s a defensive powerhouse; a turtler. His attacks come out wicked fast and his shield is always up; no exceptions.

You can only damage him in that green-flashing quick window. In a game where you blaze through and be on the move killing and trying to gain health and ammo, he’s the literal wall that blocks your progress. Oh, and he does take quite a lot of hits to boot.

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When I fought him as a boss, he’s manageable because bosses are supposed to test your reflexes & endurance. When he starts appearing as a regular big enemy later in the game, he becomes the sole reason I sacrifice all my extra lives just to extinguish him. Now imagine having other annoying bads like the Whiplash demons and Cyber-Knights while he’s chucking red plasma in your face. Those aforementioned demons are bad enough as it is.

In fighting game terms, you’re fighting A.I-controlled Guile in original Street Fighter 2. Any seasoned arcade player can tell you how much of a nightmare that is. And I’m just playing on the regular difficulty. God forbid if I’m replaying Doom: Eternal in Ultra Nightmare and dealing with this idiot with all the other demons in play.

My advice to id Software when they’re getting the eventual complaints about the Marauder? Just lower his health for all the difficulties and give a slower telegraph for his red plasma attack. His defense game is already OP as it is.

Second: there’s only one multiplayer mode available, and it’s an asymmetrical 2v1 mode where two players who use demons fight against a Doom Slayer, weapons and all. I wish I could tell you how promising this mode is, but at this point in time, it’s hard to find players to fight against. It could be Bethesda’s network issues, but until that’s sorted this week, we’ll have to grade the rest of the game.

On that note, I’m pretty disappointed that there’s no pure old-school deathmatch mode involving groups of Doom Slayers killing each other for points or last man standing status. For a series that prides itself with revolutionizing fast-paced multiplayer shooting, id Software dropped the ball here.

Eternally Yours To Play

Doom Eternal

In an attempt to expand its universe like how Universal did with the Fast & Furious series, id Software never forget why people played Doom back in 2016 in the first place: because you want to play an arcade shooter that’s challenging, fast, frenetic, and fun. Doom: Eternal hits all of these pillars and then some.

After playing this sequel, it’s really hard to go back to any other arcade-like shooter. Heck, it’s really hard to go back to ANY single-player campaign shooter. Doom Eternal raised the bar to unfair heights, at least from a gameplay standpoint.

Presentation and execution-wise, this is as metal & awesomely goofy as it can get with an R rating plastered all over its spilling guts and gallons of bloodletting. And personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And to answer the headline on this love letter to id Software’s latest? Undoubtedly.

Pros

  • Great arena shooter gameplay with loads of challenges.
  • New & meaningful arsenal & movement additions.
  • Great level design, puzzles & all.
  • Loads of bonuses & secrets to uncover.
  • Looks & sounds stellar.

Cons

  • Marauders are game-breakers.
  • Multiplayer offerings are slim…
  • …assuming you can even find people to play with.

FINAL SCORE: 90/100

Author: Mr Toffee

Jonathan "Mr Toffee" Leo is a writer, editor, & all-around video game words guy for 9 years, give or take. He also did some story for games like Chain Chronicle and some podcasting on the side. Likes: bacon, Metallica, jogging. Hates: raccoons, oblivion.

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