Review: Doom Eternal Rips Away Simplicity, Tears at My Patience

Screenshot: Doom Eternal Ah, Doom.  It’s a game series that popularized, and basically invented the first person shooter genre. When 2016’s Doom came along, I wasn’t sure if it was a reboot of the series, a continuation, or something else entirely—but I did know it was Doom, and it was fast, violent, and glorious. When Doom Eternal was announced, I thought it couldn’t go wrong. Mick Gordon was even getting metal singers together for a promising new soundtrack. Doom Eternal just had to give us more of what made 2016’s so great, but instead of doing that, they tacked on a bunch of shit that is cool in practice, but makes Doom Eternal a little less satisfying to get into. Like 2016’s Doom, you’re thrown right into it. Earth has been taken over by the forces of hell, and you have to kill all of the hell priests to stop the invasion. The first mission sets you after the first of three hell priests right away. So I sat down, ready to rip and tear—finally controlling the Doom Slayer again after a few years. It feels great, looks great and… what the hell is this? Okay, it’s just a short tutorial; they have to teach me a few things. I get it. And then there’s another tutorial, that’s fine we’ll get past this and… another tutorial. At this point, all I really wanted was to just run around and kill demons. By the time the first hell priest’s head was removed from his body, I had to suffer through so many tutorials I lost count. And sadly, that’s just the first wave of tutorials in the first level. Most games would ease the player into such mechanics, but Doom Eternal gives you almost all the toys in the toy box at once. Screenshot: Doom Eternal 2016’s Doom was like humming a pop song. With all of the added considerations, Doom Eternal feels like trying to hum a Mozart symphony with full instrumentation. There are, eventually, at least four buttons dedicated just to melee. Then there’s the shoulder gun, dedicated grenade button, grenade switch button, weapon mode switch, and so on and so on. And while the added complexity could have just been a way to give try-hards and min-maxers more options as they tear their way through Nightmare difficulty, you’re forced to juggle these new mechanics just to get by. Even with health and armor upgrades, the Slayer is incredibly squishy, and dies easily.  This all just muddies a formula that was gloriously simple. Instead of “rip and tear” you have to burn for armor, rip, shoot weak points, tear for health, and chainsaw for ammo.  Ugh. But underneath all of these new mechanics, there is still a great Doom game hiding. At least, action-wise, it’s on point. I absolutely love the addition of weakpoints on demons (even if it does add yet another layer of complication) and the graphical addition of demons getting torn up as you fire at them is done very well. Sometimes it even serves as a visual clue to which demons in the horde you’re currently fighting are the ones who will be ready for a glory kill soon. Screenshot: Doom Eternal And while Doom 2016 had most of your encounters as arena battles, Doom Eternal more often has enemies during exploration and level traversal, something I don’t recall being as common in Doom 2016. One of my favorite things about Doom 2016 was its simple story: the Doom Slayer is this force of nature that hell could barely contain, and when humans mess up and open the gates of hell, the Doom Slayer is there to kill whatever comes out. Doom Eternal’s story is a little more complicated, but it does answer a lot of questions. I love some of the lore additions to Doom Eternal. It’s pretty much confirmed that the original Doomguy is our Doom Slayer. And there are even some Doom 3 connections hinted at, and with the word “transdimensional” being thrown around, that isn’t too surprising. And while I appreciate the glimpses into Doomguy’s life, there is almost too much of it. Where Doom 2016 left some things open to interpretation, Doom Eternal goes out of its way to confirm them. I have mixed feelings about this—while I enjoyed confirming my head canon, it was almost too much information at once. The mystery in Doom 2016 made you feel like an unstoppable force thrust into another conflict with demons, while Doom Eternal tells you exactly who you are, how you got there, and what it means. It all ends up feeling a little bit, well, wacky. Screenshot: Doom Eternal There are so many things that are off-putting about Doom Eternal—from “mortally challenged” in reference to the demons, to the UAC’s holographic announcer being usurped from demonic forces. I guess I’d rather have some tongue-in-cheek than ultra-serious grim dark, but much of the presentation goes beyond tongue-in-cheek into a cartoonish caricature of what’s actually cool, making the whole thing feel like a satire than an earnest effort  to represent this world and its lore. George Miller managed to have a heavy metal guitarist with an instrument that shot flames and still made Fury Road feel somewhat grounded—and he did that by just letting the ridiculous exist in that world. Doom Eternal’s propensity to overexplain makes you focus too much on the ridiculous, and everything suffers for it. Multiplayer has changed a bit in Doom Eternal. Gone is deathmatch, now replaced with a battle mode. It’s an interesting twist on asymmetrical multiplayer. One player will play as the Slayer, while two others will play as demons. Each demon has their own abilities and attacks, and as a demon, you can summon other enemies into the world to help in your fight against the Doom Slayer. If the Doom Slayer kills both demons within a short time of each other, he or she wins the round. If the demons manage to defeat the Doom Slayer, they win the round—best of four (or first to three wins). Screenshot: Doom Eternal From a presentation point of view, Doom Eternal is impressive. It looks great, and runs great. Everything looks bulkier than it should, but the performance to visual ratio is phenomenal. Mick Gordon’s score is phenomenal, and while the heavy metal choir wasn’t as original sounding as I’d hoped (check out some of the stuff by Heilung for a similar sound with less metal) the music of Doom Eternal is nonetheless great. Doom Eternal is jam packed with secrets and collectibles, and insanely hard difficulty modes that are just begging you to give it another go. There are the Funko-esque toys to find, as well as album covers—which are displayed at your home base, and can be selected to play music from previous Doom soundtracks. That’s not even mentioning the amount of references and callbacks hidden around the Slayer’s pad. Screenshot: Doom Eternal Doom Eternal is a bit of a mixed bag for me. It’s fun, no doubt. But even after mastering the myriad of new mechanics, playing it feels like a chore. I’ll usually play through a game on its default difficulty for story and review purposes, and then I’ll up the difficulty for a fun challenge on subsequent playthroughs. I don’t think I’ll be coming back to Doom Eternal. Even all of its neat collectibles and secrets aren’t enough to get me back. And that’s too bad, because underneath all of the bloat, there’s a damn good Doom game. Doom Eternal is available now on Windows, PlayStation4, Xbox One, and coming soon to Nintendo Switch.       If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more.  
Picture of the author
Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.