The Doom Slayer has always been powerful, but now he’s armed to the teeth with a truckload of gear. He’s carrying eight firearms and can call upon an awesome new shoulder-mounted launcher with a vast array of ammo types. Ranged combat isn’t his only means of destruction, though. The Slayer also has a blade that extends from his arm to yank hearts out of chests, and when things get dire, he can once again whip out the Crucible, which is basically a one-hit lightsaber. The selection of weapons gives players the tools to approach combat from a number of new vectors and change course on the fly, resulting in a deep and strategic experience that kicks like a mule.
Given how many enemies stand in the Slayer’s way – not to mention the immense amounts of ammo needed to drop them – his weapons can be depleted in a flash, leaving him with nothing but a noisy chainsaw (which is also a blast to use, especially since it rewards him with ammo for every gun). The combat, as gory as it may be, is beautifully orchestrated, and once again embraces the “push forward” design, meaning you need to keep moving from enemy to enemy in order to survive. Slowing down or ducking behind cover will almost certainly bring death. Even as you dart across the battlefield, demons teleport to your location and you need to drop them quickly to advance to the next dance of death.
With its new additions, Doom Eternal is a far more challenging game than its predecessor. That being said, it feels fair and manageable given the firepower you now pack and the numerous ways you can regain slivers of health. Part of the difficulty increase comes from the introduction of new enemy types. While the threat delivered by the pain elemental doesn’t quite live up to its name, the archvile is a serious nuisance that must be dealt with immediately. He spawns enemies everywhere, protects himself with a fire shield, and has a thick hide that can soak up ammo. Most encounters, whether against foes old or new, put up a decent challenge and can be deadly if you are sloppy in your execution.
Many adversaries can take a beating, and you can now see it with your own eyes through awesome new cosmetic damage. Each shot picks away at their armor and flesh, and if they look like walking skeletons, they’re surely ready to meet the reaper. This is a fantastic way of showing mid-battle progress, and it looks great.
When a foe is about to fall, you see it flash orange or blue, meaning you can execute them with a glory kill. These finishers are as gruesome as they are comical – one demon may be ripped in two, whereas another may have its head smashed into its chest like a whack-a-mole. Glory kills once again serve the role of a much-needed three-second breather that allows players to think about their next move (and also gain a little health back).
Much like the 2016 game, the action runs smoothly and is all about pinpoint precision and exploiting enemy weaknesses. The controls are beautifully fashioned, allowing players to quickly switch weapons, toggle between their various firing modes, and dart across the battlefield like a high-flying trapeze.
The gunplay may be the bloody centerpiece, but it is accented by greatly enhanced environmental traversal. The player can double jump, dash, latch onto walls, swing from poles, and even use a meat hook (which is fired from the super shotgun) to latch onto an enemy and zoom to its location. Some of these actions are sewn into combat, but when the last demon hits the ground, you will likely be tasked to use them to traverse hazardous terrain – complete with the spinning fireball chains from the Mario games. These sections are excellently designed, and require precise timing and trajectories. The platforming element also comes into play to solve environmental puzzles – perhaps to open a door or reach a new area.
Some of these puzzles are flat-out silly and feel out of place in a game like Doom Eternal. The greatest killer in the cosmos apparently has to shoot buttons and push blocks to figure out how to open doors. To ensure players aren’t stumped for long, id even color-coded puzzle elements in glowing green, meaning you don’t really have to put too much brainpower into them. They are more of a nuisance than anything.
Doom Eternal is overflowing with secrets to unearth; some are fun collectibles, and others simply flesh out the lore. The most important secrets are upgrades, and there are plenty to track down. Mods once again give your weapons special abilities that you switch to on the fly. For instance, the combat shotgun can fire sticky bombs or turn into a fully automatic weapon. These mods are clever and give each tool of destruction a decidedly different feel. You can also track down tokens to upgrade these mods, again giving you plenty of reason to explore the linear levels fully.
The Slayer’s suit can be enhanced for both combat and cosmetic purposes, deepening the gameplay further. It even allows you to tweak the flow of play itself through runes. These powerful stones assist the player in everything from enhanced airborne movement control to slowing time at the brink of death, and much more. All of these upgrade systems make a huge difference.
On the multiplayer front, Doom Eternal is a huge step back for the entire series. You can’t deathmatch, make your own maps, and the only option available at launch is an asymmetrical 2v1 experience called Battlemode. It’s basically a game of cat and mouse between a human-controlled Slayer and two human-controlled demons. The Slayer, who has all of his gear from the campaign, is the cat. The battles are frantic, and playing as demons like the Revenant and Mancubus is amusing, but there isn’t much meat on this multiplayer experience’s bones, and it pales in comparison to the series’ other offerings.
From a combat standpoint, you couldn’t ask for much more from Doom Eternal. It roars with excitement, and just keeps getting bigger and better as it goes. Yes, it stumbles a little in puzzles, but players are frequently rewarded handsomely for making the efforts to crack them. Id Software made Doom relevant again with the 2016 game, and now the developer is clearly having fun showing players how wild this vision can get.