Doom Eternal is the long-desired follow-up to 2016’s reboot of the franchise. In a move not common for ground-up remakes, Bethesda left the core game alone; many remakes these days try to simplify things or change them for the modern gamer. 2016’s Doom was different; it didn’t change any core concepts and it was clear that it was a super-charged gory love letter to the originals; Doom Eternal is a bit more of a departure, but maintains much of the same elements. While the game is excellent, some of the changes / introductions feel out of place and feel more like Bethesda trying to push the game in new directions at the expense of the adrenaline pumping goodness that made Doom (2016) so special.
I understand that games often need to evolve in order to stay relevant; see the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises. Both have had to change their formulas in order to maintain their dominance in the industry (and those changes aren’t necessarily welcome either). Doom Eternal is no exception to the idea of relevancy and in a really, really weird move, Bethesda has managed to turn Doom into an extraordinarily wicked adrenaline dump that’s broken up by bizarre puzzles and platforming. There were times that it felt more like a first person Tomb Raider game (specifically the 2013 reboot’s tomb puzzles) or an Uncharted game than a Doom game (folks I know liken it more to Metroid Prime puzzles, but given my stance on Nintendo and how horrible of a company they are, I haven’t played those games so I can’t comment on them).
While Doom has always had puzzles and platforming, it was always simple with some basic backtracking and it never broke the pacing of the game. With Doom Eternal I have found that you’ll be in an adrenaline driven fury as you’re shoving your double-barrel shotty into the throat of a nasty demon only to have it come to a grinding halt as you’re trying to find some obscure switch or key or you have to go rock-climbing to some off-the-beaten-path location. It’s jarring and detracts from what makes Doom so special.
Where it really excels is in making you feel like you should be feared; you’re the friggin’ Doomslayer for heaven’s sake, you should be feared (and not wandering around a level with your thumb up your butt as you’re trying to solve some asinine puzzle). From the get-go you’re a beefy, green, demon-killing machine and it’s so smooth, so righteous, and so gory. Little things like the eyeball that pops out of the giant floating mouths when you do a Glory Kill on it are so satisfying that it can’t help but bring a smile to your face. Even cooler is if you’re doing it right, you can glory kill your way through difficult parts of the level.
I found that spraying splash damage with the rocket launcher, then using the grapple effect of the double-barrel, plus the slow-motion rune can see your zooming around the field of battle like some brutal reincarnation of The Flash. However, that can all come to a screeching halt relatively quickly … because of the damn junk laying around. I was comparing the levels in Doom and Doom Eternal because I was getting frustrated at getting stuck and dying regularly in Doom Eternal whereas my Doom playthrough was far more fluid.
In an effort to make the levels seem more interesting, Bethesda’s thrown in all sorts of doodads and props in the levels and they litter the floor and it’s very easy to get stuck on them. Doom has always been about circle-strafing and weaving throughout the enemy’s fireballs or plasma bursts, but Doom Eternal turns into a slugfest of who can out-tank the other. I don’t even want to get started on the Marauder things with shields that make them impervious to the BFG (seriously, it’s the only unit in the game that I found can survive a BFG shot … with exactly zero damage).
Doom Eternal is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but it no longer feels like a Doom Game for the entirety of its lengthy campaign; instead it feels like a weird hybrid and though there are key elements of a classic Doom game in there, the things that were added or expanded upon (or straight up removed … I miss the pistol!) take more away from the experience than add to it. That said, the few bugs encountered, while annoying, are easily addressed with a reload of the previous checkpoint and with the fast pace of action, most restarts only take a minute or two to get through.