Also available on PlayStation 4, Switch (release date TBD as of writing), and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 04/04/2020 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Doom 2016 is, in my opinion, the best game in the entire Doom series, so when the follow-up, Doom Eternal, got announced, I was more than a little excited. The fast-paced goregasm balls-to-the-wall action that the 2016 reboot offered with the promise of more lore and 4K visuals (okay, technically 1800p on Xbox One X, but close enough for console) had me positively salivating. When Doom Eternal finally dropped, what we got made some changes that has the fanbase kind of divided over which game is better, 2016 or Eternal, but is nonetheless an absolute masterpiece.
The timeline can be more than a little confusing for Doom, but given how much world-building Doom Eternal does, something that the 2016 game started putting some real emphasis on, it’s worth mentioning. For the most part, the games’ releases are the order in which the timeline takes place minus Doom 3 which is almost certainly a parallel timeline. There’s some debate over whether 2016 (and, thus, Doom Eternal) is another separate timeline or connected to the original timeline just 100 years in the future. Given how Doom 64 ends and how Doom 2016 starts, I say that 2016 takes place 100 years after 64, and that’s backed up by some of the lore elements explored in Doom eternal. Or you could just disregard the story and massacre demons. Normally story is a core part of the experience in my opinion, but with Doom, I tend to make an exception for folks given how damn satisfying the combat is.
I’ve seen a lot of folks including close friends of mine say that Doom Eternal is the absolute peak of the series if not the best FPS game ever made. While I don’t quite heap that much praise on it, it is an absolutely phenomenal game. The visuals, obviously, are unbelievable on Xbox One X, so I can only imagine how impressive they’d be on max PC settings. The combat, as I’ve mentioned, is also extraordinarily fun and addicting. It’s very different from your standard FPS, though, and that can take some getting used to. There’s no aiming down the sights, there’s no reloading, there’s no crouch, there’s no stealth, there’s no cover system. You rush forward, guns blazing, chainsaw roaring, and zip from enemy to enemy to finish them off with a glory kills so brutal that some could put Mortal Kombat to shame. That actually brings my only major complaint with the game – the Marauders.
These are new enemies introduced in Eternal. The Marauders definitely introduce some serious challenge to the game, but it’s an addition that acts as a detriment to the game in my opinion. Unlike most enemies where the basic strategy is “throw an enormous amount of firepower while avoiding attacks,” the Marauder is an extremely defensive enemy. If you’re too close, he blasts you with a shotgun. If you’re too far, he throws red energy blades at you. If you’re at a perfect Goldilocks distance, his eyes will glow green just before he rushes at you for a melee attack. When his eyes are glowing green is the only time you can deal damage (preferably with the Super Shotgun); attacking him any other time will cause him to automatically raise a red energy shield, blocking all damage. Throughout all this, he repeatedly spawns a glowing orange ethereal wolf to attack you. The wolf only takes a couple of shots to disperse, but the Marauder will keep respawning it throughout your fight. If it’s just you and the Marauder, it’s really annoying but doable; if it’s you, the Marauder, and other demons, you’re in for a fight tougher than most boss battles depending on what demons are there and how many. The biggest problem that I have with the Marauders is that they just break the flow of the gameplay. 95% of the game is frantic, intense, fast-paced action, but the Marauder completely negates that, requiring you instead to take a slow and methodical approach of just waiting for an opening before getting off a shot or two. I loved almost all of Doom Eternal, but those Marauders were, in my opinion, distinctly NOT fun at all.
One of the things I love about Doom Eternal is the upgrades and collectibles (including secret unlockable cheat codes that you can activate when replaying a previously cleared mission). Each weapon except the Super Shotgun and BFG-9000 has to weapon mods that can be unlocked, and each of these mods have two or three upgrades that can be unlocked. If you unlock every upgrade for a mod, you can complete a challenge to unlock a “master upgrade” for that mod. Likewise, your suit has five categories each with a handful of upgrades to unlock. Some of these suit upgrades are directly combat related, like faster grenade cooldown or freezing enemies longer with ice grenades, whereas some are more passive upgrades, like a wider area of auto-map fill-in or faster ledge grabbing. There are also upgrades you can get with Sentinel crystals which will let you upgrade your max health, max armor, or max ammo a few times as well as giving a few other bonuses depending on what specific upgrades you choose. Lastly, there are runes to unlock that can change your gameplay experience. You can have three runes active at a time, and they provide upgrades like doing a glory kill from farther away, having a chance to survive a death blow once, etc. All of these various upgrades and options really allow you to mold the game to suit your preferred playstyle in a way that a lot of games don’t allow.
Doom Eternal may not technically be perfect in my book, but it’s pretty damn close. Take out the Marauders, and it would pretty much be a perfect shooter in my opinion. It’s also hard as balls; as a long-time champion of playing games on Bitch Mode because I’m a busy adult with too many other games I want to play, I feel only minimal shame in admitting that I played this game on the lowest difficulty and still got my ass handed to me a few times. Granted, a huge part of that is because I suck at video games (despite how many I play), but this game’s overall challenge is legitimately a lot higher than Doom 2016. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but man, it really drives home the hectic insanity of the combat. If you like Doom, shooters in general, or just gore for the sake of gore, you owe it to yourself to play this game. Play it on PC if you’re a graphics whore. Play on PS4 or Xbox One if you’re a regular gamer. Play it on Switch once it comes out if you’re a cool kid like me. Whatever you do, though, play it. It’s fantastic.