Review: DOOM Eternal - Fire and fury

Published: 18:20, 17 March 2020
id Software
Key art for DOOM Eternal.
You know the old saying. If at first you don't succeed... chainsaw them in the face.

DOOM Eternal revels in chaos, indulging aggressive forward momentum and empowering you at every turn. The no frills, "does what it says on the tin" approach hearkens back to a simpler era, but with a smoothness and polish that helps deliver the goods.

Following the wildly successful 2016 reboot, Eternal has been cooking for a while, and after taking an extra few months to get its ducks in a row, id Software have delivered a confident, and surprisingly story driven, follow up. From the outset, you'll recognise the scale of their ambition; cutscenes offer more narrative context than ever before, and there's a renewed emphasis on verticality within each level that really pushes the boundaries of your expectation. 

The core DNA of what makes this series so special has absolutely been retained, with tight funnelling corridors pushing you inexorably forward that are very much present and accounted for. 

But there's also a sense they wanted to expand their horizons somewhat, especially in self contained combat areas that play out more like quick fire movement puzzles than some "boots on the ground" buzzword you'd expect from a typical shooter. Infact, movement and traversal have become an even greater focus of this new instalment. 

A new grappling hook provides an excuse for somehow even more gruesome execution animations, but also plays into this idea of momentum and always being light on your toes. Coupled with the fact that performing finishing moves still grants you a health pick up, you're definitely encouraged to bring the fight up close, while still allowing for smart navigation and flanking. 

id Software Fighting new and classic enemies in DOOM Eternal. Chuck a grenade in this ones mouth and... he won't be happy.

The gradual march toward new guns and equipment is a satisfying and rewarding loop that keeps you invested even when combat repetition slowly starts to creep in. 

You'll always be on the lookout for upgrade stations, and being able to select which abilities to enable first is a lovely touch. Weapon design and handling is frankly best in class, and the gamepad controls (we're playing on Xbox One X) are designed to be as intuitive as possible. 

Moment to moment engagements are frantic, and often devolve into a mad dash for ammo as supplies run dry (which happens more often than you think), but by the same notion also does a wonderful job of making you feel as bad ass as demonically possible. 

From a presentation standpoint, this is one of the most graphically impressive and smooth performance offerings we've seen to date. Absolutely no complaints in this area whatsoever. There have only been a coupling of stumbling blocks for us holding Eternal back. 

Level geometry is incredibly detailed, but we found ourselves getting stuck on certain pieces of scenery in the heat of the moment. Given the speed of combat, this had a tendency to break the flow at key inopportune moments. Although a fairly rare occurrence, it's something worth noting, particularly if you're planning to explore one of the four higher difficulty levels than "Normal". 

The sound design on the whole is impressive, but the soundtrack is often exceptionally overbearing. The metal influence totally fits the tone, but it's overused to the point where it becomes an annoyance. Some areas are intense enough without the need to be blasted at every turn; a less is more approach would have nicely complimented the action.

id Software Overlooking the chaos in DOOM Eternal. Centre Parks have really doubled down on their new hell themed getaways...

At the time of writing, we were unable to test online multiplayer servers for the new Battlemode competitive offering, which sees two players take on the role of demons against one fully decked out Slayer. There's also the Invasion mode due to be added sometime after launch, which allows for a Dark Souls / Left 4 Dead style drop in to other single player campaigns. 

Since multiplayer is being pitched as a key companion to the single player campaign, we're going to hold off on determining a final score. As things stand right now, we would likely award DOOM Eternal an 8/10. If the multiplayer manages to deliver on its premise, then that could easily be adjusted up to a 9.

DOOM Eternal launches March 20th, for PS4, Xbox One, and PC (with a Nintendo Switch version to follow). 

Review copy provided by Bethesda. 

Reviewed on Xbox One X.

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