With most video games now heading down the battle royale route (yeah, we know you’re all busy playing Warzone right now) but it’s time you put down your M4 and pick up the Super Shotgun, because DOOM Eternal is here and it’s a blood-soaked barrel of laughs.
Bethesda are releasing the Demon-slaying shooter on March 20 –ironically on the same day as the hilariously polar-opposite Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch– but Digital Spy have been punching Hell’s spawn and haven’t put our controller down since.
If your ideal game involves a new dungeon-crawler that will have you laughing maniacally with blood dropping from the end of your chainsaw as you clear your way through the high priests of hell on your mission to save Earth, then DOOM Eternal is will make that a reality.
We have spent a good few days working our way through this game and, while there’s a few technical demons to slay when it comes to mechanics and resource management, this could already be one of our favourite games of the year.
SHOP NOW DOOM Eternal on Xbox One
We’re going to need guns. Lots of guns
We know that all you care about when it comes to a DOOM sequel is that the guns feel realistic and you get a satisfying *splat* when you blow off a demon’s forehead, and we can confirm this is the case for Eternal.
Placed in the comforting solidarity of the Praetor suit, The Slayer has a long list of weaponry to help take on Hell’s army, and every single one of them is a blast to use, especially when paired up with the expansive, if not a little complicated, upgrade system.
Throughout the game, you’ll find stations to add mods to your guns, adding a unique dynamic to the damage you can do. For instance, transform your shotgun into a sticky-grenade-launcher with just the click of a button, or your machine gun into a homing-missile rifle to help take out big groups of enemies.
The best upgrade hands-down is the meat-hook on the classic Super Shotgun – hello, old friend, we’ve missed you– which lets you propel yourself across the map into the bloody embrace of a demon so you can blow their brains out at close-range.
You have to keep moving in DOOM to ensure your survival. The entire game is one, long progression of big set-piece fights, where an open arena is chock-full of horrifying enemies who will brutally hunt you down to pull your guts out, and you will need every ounce of your dodging and dipping skills to keep your health bar up.
Which brings us onto our first issue with DOOM, which is how difficult it is to manage your resources, be that your ammo, your armour or your health.
Hell, it’s even difficult to manage space. The claustrophobia of the arena design and how the demons swarm around the area can be electrifying and tense in all the best ways, but frustratingly difficult and complicated in the worst ways.
You are capped at a specific amount of bullets per gun – though you can upgrade your ammo limit with upgrades as you progress, rather than increasing your health. Otherwise the only way to top your ammo is mowing down enemies with your trusty chainsaw.
You can only use your chainsaw if you have enough fuel (which is another resource you need to manage), and you’ll need to find opportunities in the madness of the combat to get in and get that kill.
If you’re low on health and armour, belch out a plume of fire and ignited enemies will bleed armour packs instead, which again doesn’t make any sense, but hey, we are shooting demons on Earth here, what more do you want?
This can make for tense and tactical fights where you’re on your last few bullets and about to die, frantically forcing you to put yourself at risk to top your ammo back up. But it can also make for increasingly frustrating battles that can result in you endlessly bashing your head against the wall as you attempt to manage your battles better.
We played the game on the second-hardest difficulty – we don’t mean to brag – and have a good grasp on first person shooters, but we frequently reached points where we couldn’t clutch that final kill and were sent packing back to the beginning.
This might be fine if you’re into that kind of punishment, but we fear it might turn gamers off, who enjoy the fast-paced, frantic action, but draw the line at split-second missteps costing you another attempt.
Having said that, the slight pauses between battles allows you some breathing space and a quick platforming puzzle or two will help you mentally prepare for the absolute walloping you’re about to receive in the next arena.
The short-lived panic of wildly racing around arenas to avoid incoming fire, with your last bullet sitting lonely and impotent in your gun chamber, is quickly replaced with huge relief when you pull of a frankly incredible shot you didn’t think would actually work.
That feeling quickly becomes an addiction, and soon you’ll be itching to unlock the skills that make your kills more violent, more outlandish, and more rewarding.
Secure a kill with a swift uppercut to the jaw and you’re rewarded with a heavy bass rift that sends shiver down your spine, a speed boost to get to your next kill quickly, and a little health pack to top you up – the whole premise of this new DOOM is to get a close as you can physically bare to the spawn of Hell and simply rip them to shreds. And we dig it.
One of the other new systems you’ll have to learn to manage and maintain is the expansive progression system, that stretches from individual weapon skills, to your armour powers, and passive abilities.
There is an awful lot to take in at a very early point in the game, and you’ll quickly start collecting points that you have no idea what to do with and how it will actually benefit you.
The menu is full of text and is all rather complicated for a game that basically boils down to look at things and shoot them until they are dead.
If you can get your head around this small dissertation of notes and upgrade menus, then you can see real benefits to weapons and armour, and even secure runes to give you triple jump (vital), make your glory kills faster, or transform your body into a bullet magnet to pick up fallen resources from further away.
And if you’re really struggling with the difficulty increase, just quietly change the difficulty to the lowest option and go on the hunt for cheat codes, which are scattered across the levels and easily highlighted on the map (like almost every other collectible).
The cheats themselves don’t impact progression and you can turn them on and still play through the whole game (SlayerGates not included), without losing save points.
One will emit a plume of confetti upon securing a kill. Another ‘QuakeCon Mode’ will spawn a cheering, invisible audience who will shower you with adulation or disgust depending on how you’re performing at the time, which is a nice ego boost if nothing else.
Doom Eternal: Final Verdict
DOOM Eternal gives you limited resources and places you in front of hordes of enemies that get harder to manage and expects you to surmount them with sheer skill alone.
There is no hand-holding, no assistance in the battle for survival, and death is always just a second or two away if you aren’t careful and quick on the trigger.
But for all its unloving and unforgiving combat, DOOM just *LOVES YOU* when you string together some jumps and dashes and just eviscerate the landscape leaving nothing but blood and gunpowder.
This is a return to an action-packed, fun, simple shooter that requires you to be good at killing things in creative ways and staying alive for as long as you can.
Its frantic, over-the-top and about as silly as a game can possibly be, but never have we quite felt the satisfaction of finishing a game, putting down our controller and unashamedly laughing, cackling even, to ourselves at the sheer violence we have just delivered to the monsters of Hell.
Lock and load, Demon Slayers. DOOM Eternal is about the best shooter we have ever played.
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