It’s going to take a lot to top the heavy metal masterpiece that was the single-player campaign of 2016’s Doom, but three hours of hands-on time with its follow-up would suggest that Doom Eternal
is rocking the right kind of riffs. Its environments are more open and densely packed with secrets, its enemy types more nuanced in their strengths and weaknesses, and its reworked combat loop is more cerebral but no less adrenaline-charged; consistently taxing your brain while still encouraging you to bang your head.
Doom Eternal (January 2019 Screenshots)
The previous Doom established a compelling rhythm to its core combat, masterfully accentuated by its bone-crushing soundtrack, but the mechanics of Doom Eternal’s demon-mulching have been tuned more sharply than the bottom string on returning composer Mick Gordon’s 9-string guitar. As they did in the previous game, the gore-tastic glory kills performed on a staggered enemy grant you health pickups, and chainsaw dismemberment gives you a guaranteed ammo drop – which is far more crucial this time around since you no longer have the safety net provided by the unlimited ammo of the previous game’s pistol. In addition, Doom Eternal gives you a third ability, the flame belch, that sets enemies alight and makes them shed precious shards of armour for a short period of time.
While each and every enemy-filled arena of Doom Eternal still features plenty of pickups littered in its corners, I found I rarely had to stop and scramble for them in the middle of a scrap. That is, as long as I consciously remained in lockstep with the 1-2-3 rhythm of the Doom Slayer’s core abilities in order to top up my health, armour and ammo at any given moment, keeping me in the constant motion of a ballet performed with bullets, blood, and blasted body parts.
By Demons Be Driven
Nailing that basic flow of combat isn’t enough to survive in Doom Eternal, though, since the bulk of its enemy types require a more unique and considered approach than the last game in order to overcome them. Every enemy will eventually capitulate into a mess of viscera if you pump enough rounds into it, but there are now certain shortcuts to success that become paramount when your resources remain so delicately poised in an ongoing balancing act.
The returning Revenant is deadlier than ever thanks to its shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, which can fire off a volley of homing missiles that can only be avoided with the dash button. However, the zoomed-in precision bolt mod for the assault rifle can be used to take out the rocket launchers from afar, reducing the Revenant to melee-only attacks that are less damaging and more comfortably avoided.Then there’s the iconic Cacodemon – which is once again a blobby bullet-sponge – but nail a single sticky bomb from the shotgun’s alternate fire into its gaping maw and you can instantly stun it before moving in for the kill. Meanwhile, the new Carcass enemy deploys an energy shield to protect both itself and any other enemies huddled behind them, but concentrated plasma rifle fire can ignite the shield to obliterate the very monsters it had been protecting. It’s these split-seconds of strategy that can tip the scales in your favour and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed, and it helps enormously that weapon and alternate-fire switching occurs, like everything in Doom Eternal, smoothly and at great speed.
Hell on Earth
The new traversal mechanics are similarly effortless. Doom Eternal features the kinds of climbable walls typically found in third-person adventure games like Uncharted and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which can be scaled in order to discover secrets off the main path. Such sections soon develop into full-on environmental puzzles, involving a combination of wall climbs, monkey bar swings, double-jumps and aerial dashes that demand a Mirror’s Edge-like level of timing and finesse, adding an extra dimension to level progression and exploration outside of the ongoing parade of ultra violence.
Beyond collectibles like character toys and soundtrack vinyls to seek out, Doom Eternal’s levels also harbour secret challenges and Slayer Gates to discover, suggesting that each area of the game will reward repeat visits as opposed to the more linear deathmarch of its predecessor. In between each level you return aboard the Fortress of Doom, which remains suspended in orbit above the Earth. This space vessel feels enormous, and you can unlock new sections of it as you progress through the game by finding sentinel batteries hidden in the levels. The first of these opens up a demon prison in the bowels of the ship dubbed the ‘Ripatorium’ where you can hone your combat skills against waves of its snarling inmates – minus the risk of losing ammo or extra lives.In addition to honing your skills, you can also upgrade them. In fact, there are numerous tools and abilities to tinker with in Doom Eternal, with separate progression unlocks for weapon-specific mods, upgrades to your Praetor suit, runes to enhance your movement and glory kills, and sentinel crystals to increase the limits of your health, armour and ammo, and trigger buffs for your flame belch and blood punch abilities. It’s a lot, certainly more than what was on offer in 2016’s Doom, and I’ll admit to feeling slightly paralysed by choice during my hands on – a bit like trying to decide what to watch in my Netflix queue – however this may have been purely down to the time pressure and my keenness to see as much of the game as I could within the time limit of my demo.
At any rate, it’s clear that Doom Eternal is a game designed to consistently keep you on the edge of your seat – much more so than last time around. And it does so through its thrilling and rewarding combat, its skill-testing traversal, and its ability to surprise, such as the moment late in my hands-on where I was able to establish a neural connection with a Revenant drone and use it to zip around the air above a field of enemies and annihilate them with a barrage of rockets. Will we be able to take control of other demonic breeds in the final game, such as the spider-like Arachnotron or the flamethrower-toting Mancubus? Hope springs Eternal.
Tristan Ogilvie is a video producer at IGN’s Sydney office. Unlike Mick Gordon, Tristan barely manages to cope with six strings. You can find him on Twitter.
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