'Doom Eternal': Game Review

Courtesy of Bethesda
A ballet of bullets and entrails.

Satisfying gunplay and a wide variety of demons to eviscerate can't elevate this follow-up to the level of its revolutionary 2016 predecessor.

"Rip and tear until it is done."

That's not just a quote from the Doom Slayer himself, but the very mantra of developer id Software and publisher Bethesda's latest trip to hell, Doom Eternal. From start to finish, this polished, ultraviolent shooter is a veritable ballet of bullets and entrails. It's bigger, badder and more boisterous in every way than its predecessor, 2016's successful reboot of the franchise. 

Doom Eternal feels more like an encore than the complete reinvention of the series that 2016 brought to eager gamers. While it introduces a wealth of new mechanics and resurrects some exciting demons from the hallowed halls of classic Doom, the game ultimately is another entry with more of the same, rather than another innovative riff on the seminal PC classic. The gunplay is satisfying and the gore is gratuitous, but in the end, this second helping doesn't sate the appetite quite as much as the first course.

This game doesn't waste its time getting to the meat of the meal, however. Players are thrust right into the ashes of a burning Earth, a planet practically crawling with demons of all shapes and sizes, and it's time for the Doom Slayer to slide in and clean house. Almost immediately, the accompanying heavy metal soundtrack swells around you as you equip yourself with the Combat Shotgun (your new basic weapon) and go to kicking demon butt and chewing bubble gum. As always, you're all out of gum.

The Doom Slayer is all in this go-round, and that means trading a slower, steadier build-up to ease players into the action in favor of balls-to-the-wall action that forces you to stay on your toes at all times, which can make certain sections feel rushed. When everything's out to get you, from Imps to Pain Elementals at every turn, some of the sturdier and more challenging enemies begin to feel a little less impressive.

That's not to say id Software didn't have the foresight to sprinkle in some new mechanics, weapons and monsters to alleviate a bit of the sameness that can occasionally arise from Doom Eternal's frantic pace. For instance, in addition to simply cutting into every single enemy that assaults you like a hot knife through butter, you'll also have to engage in a decent amount of platforming this time around.

While platforming does add some verticality to the game, it's not always particularly engaging. It's certainly a cool addition at first: You'll swing around from bar to bar and across platforms to reach new heights. As such, the mechanic can occasionally let you open up new places to explore. But because the game is so linear in terms of where you can go at any given time, it quickly becomes evident that there's only one "true" path to get where you need to go,

Because of this, it's less entertaining to zip around through the air, since that's exactly what you're "supposed" to do. Without offering more agency to go where you want, how you want, the game ends up feeling less open-ended and detailed than its predecessor. The other new additions, such as the Super Shotgun's Meat Hook, are rather lukewarm, as well. The aptly-named Meat Hook allows you to grapple onto enemies to pull yourself over to them and start wailing away on them, but it doesn't feel like the most useful tool in your arsenal when compared to the wide array of weapons you can dispatch enemies with instead.

With that said, Doom Eternal does shine brightest during its knock-down, drag-out combat. The game feels its best when it leaves you to your own devices to absolutely shred the enemies that stand in your way. The series will always excel in this very aspect, and that’s what it should stick to. 

That's not to say there isn't more to do, however. While the kills and the gory interactions make for a satisfying enough traipse through demon guts, id Software has measured that there's plenty of content to entice players to make more than one run through the game. Thanks to the new Fast Travel mechanic, you can go on a hunt for Cheat Codes, fun toys based off of the game's enemies (and even the Doom Slayer) and Slayer Gates. There are also a series of weekly challenges to complete that can be put toward your seasonal experience level, as well as fun unlockables to customize your Doom Slayer in both single-player and multiplayer modes.

Unfortunately, the game's strengths don't quite carry over to the multiplayer modes currently available. Oddly enough, there's no option to play a Death Match against other players. Battlemode was not available during the prerelease period over the review time frame, and it is instead slated to debut at launch, but the mere thought of excluding such an iconic set piece from Doom's history seemed like a massive oversight to begin with.

With this in mind — as well as some of the other shortcomings — it's hard to recommend Doom Eternal over the fantastic 2016 reboot. Sure, there's plenty of guts flying around and it's always satisfying to rip a cacodemon's eyeball in the cruelest way possible, but unsavory platforming elements, the act of pushing players to enjoy the game a "certain" way and some of its other omissions make for a flawed experience.

In the end, Doom Eternal is a tasty morsel on its own, but it's flavored with a somewhat unappealing aftertaste. It hasn't yet reached the fine gourmet flare of its predecessor. Perhaps it's time to take it back to the kitchen in favor of a bit of aging and seasoning. Right now, it's bordering on bland.

This game was reviewed on PlayStation 4.