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Simply put, DOOM Eternal is a breathtakingly awesome shooter which both refreshed the FPS Genre but quite frankly kicked it right in the nuts and left every shooter fan eager for more. It is firmly in my top ten games of 2020 and perhaps even my favourite shooter experience of this generation of console gaming with just two weeks before the Series X│S and just over three weeks before the PS5 all launch. When it was announced that DOOM Eternal was going to feature two story expansions, I have to admit I was more than a little excited for them as someone who actually did like the more narrative element to Eternal which sought to bring a new continuity and story timeline to the entire DOOM series. The Ancient Gods Part 1 is the first of those expansions and boy was I not only ready to jump back into the world of DOOM Eternal but this DLC would remind me just how good it was.
This DLC picks up events right after the end of the main campaign to DOOM Eternal and on the main game menu actually sits as a separate option which like the base game, also has 3 individual save slots so you can switch between the expansions and the main campaign when you choose, very handy for those still wanting to clean up the collectables and secrets in either. At the end of the main campaign and after DOOM Guy has slayed the Khan Maykr, Earth is finally safe from the demon invasion but it also left an imbalance of power that threatens all of creation. The legions of Hell have razed the heavens, threatening to expand their control across dimensions. DOOM Guy must enlist the help of an old ally and fight his way back to Urdak to end the threat once and for all, it is time to grab a shotgun and get back to ripping and tearing until this new mission is done.
The Ancient Gods Part one adds three stages with DOOM Guy having to complete a certain task or objectives to clear that stage often with a challenging final sequence or boss level fight to overcome in order to clear the stage. Now this does have to be said from the start that this DLC absolutely assumes you have played and completed the main campaign because they have upped the difficulty quite a bit from what was already a challenging game no matter which difficulty you chose to play on. The reason for this is clear as you go into the DLC with all the weapons, their upgrades as well as all the Praetor suit upgrades all ready to be used. There is an expectation that the player is more than ready for the DLC challenge.
The reality is, the change in pace and difficulty is very welcome if you have finished the campaign but if you are for whatever reason, stepping into DOOM Eternal not having completed the base game than this is going to be quite a shock to the system. There are more enemies at one time that almost every encounter feels like a Slayer gate challenge and not just in numbers, but the DLC throws all the big enemy types at you from the beginning just to show the player that this DLC is not for the timid. These fights will test even the mightiest of DOOM Guys as they are longer and far more intense and the base game never made me bring up the weapon’s wheel as much as this DLC as I tried hard and fast to equip the best weapon to tackle whichever demon stepped up next to get stomped.
The stages you visit continue how visually stunning DOOM Eternal is and benefits from HDR enabled TVs and monitors. Starting off with an oil rig gave me flashbacks to exploring the UAC in DOOM 2016, every stage just looks incredible and every fight is satisfying, even the ones that kick your butt a little more than you will no doubt feel did a little too much. All the elements from the main campaign crossover to the DLC including secrets to find, extra life to gather and Slayer Gate challenges in fact everything that made Eternal just so bloody good have been continued with a focus on keeping those great things intact. Sadly, it also meant doubling down on the more annoying elements without making any attempt to improve them or fix them
Of course by this I mean the platforming and precise jumping sections that not only have returned but the very fact they chose not to improve any aspect of it feels more like the dev team decided to purposefully keep it in just to be a frustration but the problem with that is that it also brings with it another annoying aspect which is a real shame, forcing the speed to slow. By having every fight encounter feel like a war rather than a skirmish, when the platforming sections force you to start that section over and over because the precision requirement is often something the mechanic itself is unable to allow players to have, it forces you to stop and stopping is not what DOOM Eternal taught players to be.
Ever since DOOM 2016 and especially with DOOM Eternal, the one thing that made DOOM so different from any type of shooter from the original DOOM to Eternal, is how kinetic the game wants players to be. You are trained to always keep moving, to keep slaying demons and to keep moving forward to get that much needed ammo pack, health or armour pack and to never stop moving until the slaying is done. This DLC however often keeps you contained at times, forcing you to stop due to the sheer volume of enemies coming at you or the platforming sections which drop the pace down to a crawl. The very final boss fight of the DLC is where this problem came close to derailing the experience which up to that point had been satisfying even with the toughest battles just felt all of a sudden…cheap.
The frustration of that final boss encounter was only saved because of the twist at the end which I will absolutely not be spoiling in this review but heading into the 2nd expansion in 2021, I hope that feedback will lead to some refining of these negative elements because so much of this first part to The Ancient Gods DLC is a celebration of DOOM Eternal and it nearly, so very nearly manages to almost out do it by keeping the momentum of the base campaign and dialling up enough elements to 11 but sadly the frustrating elements so very quickly put the brakes on just when it needed to let the player feel like the badass Slayer they should.
The Ancient Gods Part 1 is more of what made the main game so much fun and a stand out game of 2020 but it does feel held back by its own stubbornness to stick to the frustrating problems which should and could be ironed out. The ending sets up something very special to come in 2021 and it did remind me just how brilliant DOOM Eternal is if you had perhaps put it down since release but as 2020 comes to a close and silly season is about to launch some heavy hitting games and new gen consoles, this DLC is a perfect “remember why you loved me” reminder for fans of DOOM.