DOOM Eternal full review

The E3 and QuakeCon demo for DOOM Eternal states its intentions pretty early on: as a skyscraper-sized gun fires into the sky, a computerised voice intones dramatically that the ‘BFG 10,000’ is active.

It’s a pledge that this sequel to 2016’s DOOM revival is going to be bigger, better, and generally sillier in every respect - no mean feat, since that was one of the biggest, best, and silliest games in years.

Now confirmed for a 22 November release date across PS4, Xbox One, PC, and even Nintendo Switch, DOOM Eternal sees you once again step into the oh-so-rugged boots of the Doom Slayer, with an army of Hell’s loveliest there for you to shoot, punch, flamethrower, grenade, chainsaw (and more).

The core DOOM mechanics are here, most importantly the various systems that reward aggressive gameplay. While you’ll find pickups for health, armour, and ammo dotted around the map, the most reliable way to top them up is simply by charging up to a demon and doing your worst.

As before you'll want to whittle their health down before a gory melee Glory Kill to earn health and break out your trusty chainsaw to somehow generate ammo (!?!) - though this has now mercifully been mapped to a single keypress, rather than forcing you to switch to the chainsaw before using it, in one of a few small quality of life changes that add up. New to the sequel is the ability to toast demons so that they drop armour shards, using an over-the-shoulder flamethrower called the 'Flame Belch'.

If that wasn't enough, Glory Kills now serve a secondary purpose: they fill up the Blood Punch meter, letting you unleash a new melee attack which essentially lets loose an explosive wave of energy when you land a blow. As before, it means that every time things get dicey you have to fight the instinct to retreat and instead just hurl yourself forward. Violence, as ever, is the answer.

The combat itself is essentially unchanged, but Bethesda has somehow found a way to make the game even faster thanks to a few new movement options. In addition to the double jump there's now a double dash - which shoots you a few feet forward, either in mid-air or on the ground - as well as posts you can swing from, and select walls you can grab onto to climb up.

All this stuff comes into play during the sporadic platforming traversal sections, but it's also filtered through to the core combat, with chances to climb, swing, and dash about in almost every fight, making things even faster and more frenetic before. New weapon mods like the meat hook help too - this Super Shotgun addition grapples onto enemies and drags you towards them so you can make the most of the gun's devastating short-range damage.

Many of those enemies will feel familiar - Possessed, Hell Knights, Cacodemons, and more - but there are new additions too, and from what I've seen they're very much of a piece with the existing canon. Classics have been tweaked too: the Baron of Hell now comes equipped with a pair of flaming swords, making it more than a match for me up close, forcing me onto the defensive and really demanding careful movement in a way that few other DOOM enemies have before. 

1-Ups are another new (if old) addition. Dotted around the levels, these will give you the chance to respawn immediately, at full health, if you die, rather than forcing you to load at the last checkpoint. They feel like a welcome lifeline in the game's toughest fights, as well as a knowing nod to the series' retro roots.

if there’s a complaint to be had it’s that the layering of more and more mechanics pulls the game away from the aggressive simplicity that makes it so great. New weapons, mods, and special attacks are great in isolation, but taken as a whole it feels like there’s a little too much to think about and plan at any given moment, in a game that should really thrive on instinct rather than intellect.

Still, that’s from a brief 45 minutes with a section of the game intended to show off as much as possible, and I suspect the full game will introduce mechanics a little more gracefully and let them worm their way into your subconscious.

The final release should also diversify the settings a tad. The demo focused on jumping through a sci-fi research installation and some floating platforms above Mars, which is basically the same ol’, same ol’ from a DOOM perspective. Trailers show fighting across a ruined Earth and even a journey into Heaven though, so hopefully the final game is going to broaden the scope a little.

Early verdict

From what I’ve played so far, DOOM Eternal is basically DOOM, But Faster. The thing is, that’s a really good thing, because DOOM is bloody brilliant. Literally.

No doubt the final game will feature a few more surprises, and will delve deeper into the lore, but Bethesda has smartly decided to keep the core gameplay loop fundamentally the same: keep running forward, keep shooting, keep punching, keep chainsawing, and everything will be OK.

In times like these, that’s the kind of certainty we need.