Review: Doom Eternal is Demon Killing at its Fastest, Smartest, and Goriest

Screenshot: Doom Eternal Doom 2016 holds a special place in my heart; it was the subject of the first article I ever wrote for Third Coast Review, which you can find here, and was also my favorite game of 2016. I’ll admit, I was worried about Doom Eternal. Would the increased focus on resource management bog down the fast action that is the Doom series’ bread and butter? Would the Battlemode multiplayer just be a tacked-on afterthought? The answer to both of these is a resounding “No”. Doom Eternal isn’t just a great game; it isn’t even one of the best shooters I’ve ever played. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played, period. Doom Eternal is a first person shooter, and the sequel to 2016’s Doom. Picking up some time after the end of Doom, the Doom Slayer is now faced with an Earth nearly completely taken over by the forces of Hell. Now he has to travel across the universe and between dimensions in order to stop the demonic hordes from enveloping the Earth, and maybe gib a few demons along the way. At its core, Doom Eternal is still a fast-paced FPS. There’s no reloading, you're always sprinting, you have a double jump, and you can carry every weapon at once. But Doom Eternal is so much more than a mindless shooter; you can’t just turn your brain off and expect to do well.  Doom Eternal gives you a weapon and a tool for every situation, but it’s up to you utilize them effectively. Screenshot: Doom Eternal One of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard about Doom 2016 is that you can go through the game carried by only two or three weapons. Guns like the Heavy Assault Rifle and Combat Shotgun are made entirely obsolete by the Chaingun and Super Shotgun, and the Rocket Launcher has so much ammo and causes so little self damage that you can fire it at point-blank range without worrying. You didn’t have to change weapons to adapt to the situation; every encounter could be solved by spamming the Super Shotgun and Rocket Launcher at even the mightiest hellspawn until they were reduced to a fine red paste. But Doom Eternal has introduced a boatload of new mechanics which really force you to think on your feet. One of the biggest additions to Eternal are enemy weak points. Some heavier demons have parts - guns, turrets, etc. - which can be targeted to decrease their effectiveness in combat. Arachnotrons can have their plasma turret blown off, forcing them to lob slow-moving, weaker projectiles. Revenants can have their back-mounted rocket launchers blown off, completely removing their ranged capabilities and forcing them into melee combat. You might think that means you just need to target those areas, but there's more to it than that. Some weapons and weapons mods are more effective than others at removing weak points; the Heavy Cannons Precision Shot and the Combat Shotguns Sticky Bomb Launcher are your best options when it comes to removing weak points. This system by itself makes Doom Eternal far more dynamic than its predecessor; you have to be constantly surveying your surroundings, and choosing the right weapon for the right enemy or situation. It can be overwhelming at first, juggling your eight weapons (especially on console), judging which one is best for the current situation, all the while constantly being on the move in order to avoid getting hit, but once you master it, it makes you feel like a genius. Screenshot: Doom Eternal As I mentioned previously, one of the problems that Doom 2016 had was that you could basically go through the entire game using only a couple of weapons. You could carry a lot of each ammo type, and you could use any weapon for basically any encounter; you didn’t really need to pick and choose. While this did mean you could use whatever weapons you wanted, it also meant that sometimes it could get a bit boring. There wasn’t any incentive to use guns like the heavy assault rifle, combat shotgun, and pistol beyond the early levels. Doom Eternal has done a lot to rectify this. First off, the previously mentioned weak points, with weapons like the combat shotgun and heavy assault rifle being two of the best weapons for dealing with them; and secondly, you carry significantly less of each ammo type - 24 shotgun shells instead of 60 in Doom 2016, 13 rockets instead of 35 - which forces you to switch between weapons. Those numbers I just mentioned are with max ammo capacity increased, so at the beginning of the game you can only hold 16 shotgun shells. This means that that you are forced to switch between weapons in order to avoid running out of ammo mid fight. This does make the early levels kind of brutal, because you don’t have many weapons or much ammo, but there’s a solution to this: the chainsaw. The chainsaw in Doom Eternal causes any demon you kill with it to burst open with ammo like a bullet piñata, and it regenerates one pip of fuel automatically, which is the exact amount you need to kill one of the fodder demons -soldiers, imps, zombies - who are found in every fight in the game, meaning that you always have a way to get ammo during a fight. Additionally, the new flame belch - a shoulder mounted flamethrower that sets demons on fire and makes them drop armor - and the return of glory kills means that you always have a source of health and armor.  Finally, there’s the new Blood Punch mechanic, a super powerful melee attack, which you charge by executing glory kills. This creates an incredibly satisfying combat loop of using the right weapon or mod for the right situation. Probably my favorite part about Doom Eternal is just how mobile the Slayer is: you start the game with double jump already unlocked, then you unlock the dash ability (very similar to that used in the Shadow Warrior reboot series or Rage 2), and then finally the Super Shotgun which now comes equipped with a meat hook, allowing you to grapple onto enemies and fling yourself around the arena. Once mastered, you become a lethal version of Spider-Man, using demons to catapult yourself around the combat space to get ammo, health, or quickly get yourself to a staggered demon to glory kill them. One thing I’ve seen players and reviewers alike mention is that Doom Eternal can feel overly complicated and particularly punishing, and at least in the early game--I can see this. Doom Eternal is much harder than Doom 2016 in the beginning. You have very little health, armor, and ammo; demons are much more aggressive, and will now attempt to cut you off while you’re moving around the arena. The chainsaw can no longer kill heavy demons like the Baron of Hell and Cyber Mancubus, and power ups like Berserk (melee is a one hit kill) and Onslaught (Quad Damage) are much more scarce and can’t be made to last longer through the use of upgrades. It’s brutal at first, even on Ultra-Violence - the second hardest difficulty - but once you really start to get a hang of managing ammo, health, and the combat loop, Doom Eternal just clicks like few, if any, other games I’ve played. Some may say “this isn’t Doom. Doom doesn’t have dashing and grappling hooks and poles to swing off of”. All I can say to that is: it does now, and it’s the most fun I’ve had with a first-person shooter since Doom 2016. Screenshot: Doom Eternal There is a caveat to all of this, and it’s a big one. Doom Eternal crashes A LOT. I went through my first full play through of Doom Eternal without a hitch; the frame rate dipped a couple of times when I killed a particularly large group of fodder demons, but that was it. Once I beat the game and was going back through missions using the Mission Select, that’s when the crashing started. As of April 4th, I can’t even load into anything beyond the third level; the level will load, I’ll be given a prompt to press A to start the level, and bam, game crashes. I can’t even get through the first level now--once I pick up the yellow key card the game crashes. The Master Level version of Cultist Base - which you had to pre-order to receive - suffers from this as well; the second you collect the first key card the game crashes. This means that, for all intents and purposes, Doom Eternal is nearly  unplayable for me. I’ve tried everything: power cycling the console, uninstalling and reinstalling the game. If this was a game that I didn’t love, I wouldn’t care that much; but I adore Doom Eternal, and being unable to get through most of the game is really disappointing. The only possible solution I’ve found is to create an entirely new save file and start the game all over again. This isn’t a problem exclusive to me either; I’ve seen many other people on Steam forums, Bethesda’s forums, and the Doom and id Software Twitter accounts, all having problems with the game crashing. Doom Eternal is an amazing game, and I couldn’t recommend it more. But the amount that it crashes is unacceptable for a triple AAA title, and that is no exaggeration. If a game is unplayable because it crashes before you load into the level, on nearly every level of the game? That’s unacceptable. So I’d say wait. If id Software introduces a patch that fixes all these crashes, I will sing their praises, but until then, I’d be cautious.       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.  
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James Brod

James Brod recently graduated from Dominican University, with a degree in political science. Ironically, he had previously considered majoring in journalism, but didn’t want to write for a living. Funny how things turn out, isn’t it? You can find him wandering the northwest suburbs, or on Twitter at @JamesBrod12.