We got the chance to go hands on with the recently delayed Doom Eternal during a press session at EGX 2019. Based on our time with the game, id Software have iterated in all the right areas, whilst preserving what worked from the 2016 reboot.
Tinkering with a beloved franchise is always a tricky proposition, particularly when you're dealing with one as revered as id Software's seminal effort. The greatest challenge facing any reboot or sequel is developers fixing what wasn't broken, or moving so far away from its original DNA that it's almost unrecognisable.
Thankfully, Doom's current gen iterations have retained everything that made the original PC classics such deliciously simple templates for how to deliver a satisfying FPS. Eternal continues that trend, evolving the mechanics just enough to prevent accusations of stagnation, whilst at the same time being exactly the kind of forward momentum shooter you're looking for.
Our demo takes place on familiar turf: a space station surrounded by hellish anomalies and demons aplenty. After a brief tutorial sequence, introducing the updated dash and wall climbing mechanics, a short first person cutscene sets the stage. The nondescript Doom Slayer returns once again, with some interesting new toys. The shotgun / grapple hook combo is easily the most eye catching.
Whether you're closing the gap on enemies, or traversing environmental hazards, it really enhances the flow of player movement, in a game already synonymous with a "push forward" mentality. You're also decked out with armour attachments, that include rockets and a flamethrower, to compliment your existing weapon wheel.
Given the amount of tools at your disposal, it's a shame that navigating the weapon wheel and switching abilities can be a tad cumbersome in the heat of battle. This is a minor nitpick, and will surely feel a lot slicker after an extended play time. The various melee executions return, with some absolutely brutal new animations that really encourage you to get up close and personal.
Given the greater variety of enemies (and their contrasting attack patterns), closing the gap and staying on the move is more critical than ever. It's a gameplay loop introduced in the original 2016 reboot, whereby executions drop health, and is very much present and accounted for.
That's probably the biggest takeaway from our time with Doom Eternal; this doesn't feel like a radical reinvention, but perhaps it doesn't need to be? New weapons, traversal mechanics, and enemy types are enough to keep the good times rolling, and there's no doubt that it stays true to its predecessor. At the same time, I don't think it will necessarily invite new fans into the fold.
The lack of sprint, relentless combat, and ultra violence are catering to a specific audience, seeking the thrills of an old school shooter with a modern visual palette. For better or worse, it is unapologetically 90's, and will, if nothing else, carve a place for itself amongst the grounded military shooters and loot centric titles ever present on digital storefronts.
Despite it's adherence to convention in certain areas, there can be no denying the quality of the presentation. Doom Eternal is absolutely stunning, with an enormous amount of environmental detail. It also runs like a dream, with a silky smooth framerate maintained throughout, despite the manic nature of most combat encounters.
The soundtrack is predictably an acquired taste, with a heavy metal infused score ever present and very much on brand. However, there can be no denying it fits with the action. On the whole, it's everything you'd expect, with some neat flourishes of creativity built onto a rock solid foundation.
Following its recent delay, Doom Eternal will now launch on March 20th 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, with a currently undated Switch port also aiming for release next year. We'd like to thank id Software and Bethesda for the opportunity to go hands on with the game.