's Games of the Year: DOOM Eternal

Every instrument and section in the orchestra has its place and they all work at the behest of the [...]

Every instrument and section in the orchestra has its place and they all work at the behest of the conductor to play a symphony for the crowd. In DOOM Eternal, you are the conductor and the musicians all at once, the instrument you're playing is violence, and your symphony is an extermination event. This game is the culmination of an entire franchise into one place, the apex of decades of bloodshed into one song with a chorus that rocks the heavens and a bridge that breaks the boundaries of the multiverse. It's no longer just a series called DOOM; this is the game that makes you DOOM incarnate.

With DOOM Eternal, id Software has taken the formula that was born perfect in 2016 and pushed its limits in every imaginable way. Faster, scarier, more blood, more mods, more boosts, a flaming grappling hook, ledges to flip on, bars to grab, and naturally more enemies to rip and tear. Though speed is more often associated with Quake and DOOM was more about pure destruction, the injection of this element into the DNA of the sequel gives it a major edge over the predecessor and makes what came before feel more like QUAINT (2016). The difference is staggering and a true achievement for the entire brand.

Though the narrative is always secondary to gameplay in DOOM titles, Eternal manages to strike a chord in surprising and fun ways with this sequel. Not only do we pick up the pieces from 2016's cliffhanger, but the game manages to build on the previous installment's clear lore and RoboCop influence by maintaining a niche Verhoeven sensibility in its storytelling. It sets up pillars of its world with a uniquely id spin that might look like support beams for the entire universe but are actually just bowling pins for you to knock down. Me against the world has never been more literal or satisfying.

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The carnage and slaughter at your fingertips is artistic in its execution as well. Bones used to impale their owners, eyeballs popped out with a single hand, spines and skulls ripped like the Predator, guts flying as if migrating for the winter—nothing is too sacred in DOOM Eternal that it can't get a fresh coat of red paint on it. In a world where the violence in video games is often trying to replicate reality, eclipsing that with the absurd and cartoonish gives it yet another stone to stand on above its competition. In the end it comes down to a major factor, even if there's a necessary level of mastery needed in DOOM Eternal the game is one thing at its core: fun.

Naturally, as with the previous game, DOOM Eternal is not just enhanced but is actively improved by the music provided by composer Mick Gordon. "BFG 10k," "Meathook," "The Only Thing They Fear is You," and "Gladiator Boss" are tracks that on their own would have put any metal band on the map, and that doesn't even scratch the surface on what this soundtrack has to offer. His ability to stylistically maintain the narrative flow of a level through his music is a major boon to your immersion into this world. Even "Prayer of the Diminished," a track that could be described as literally just "demonic chanting over spooky chords," is a bone-shattering addition to this musical canon. Gordon crushed it and frankly, the franchise will be poorer for not having him involved in future chapters as the recent kerfuffle between him and id made it clear their relationship was over.

DOOM Eternal Launch Trailer
(Photo: Bethesda)

Beyond the larger fun factor, the atmosphere made in its music, and the hilarious narrative that plays out in front of you, DOOM Eternal is worth talking about as one of the best of the year because of how fresh it feels. This isn't just a game that has managed to successfully reinvent itself within its own franchise; it's a game that by comparison to everything else in its subgenre stands alone. No other game in 2020 can say that DOOM Eternal is a copy of it, and by the time other games can copy this one, id will no doubt have found something even more unique to drop on the world.

There are likely some players who prefer the moody nature of 2016's DOOM over its sequel, but the ambition and "kitchen sink" attitude of this follow-up is what makes it a must-play and game-of-the-year contender. To some, playing video games is about the inherent power fantasy of what you're able to do in the title. Rather than a comic book or a movie where you get to watch or read it, games let you do it, and DOOM Eternal lets you literally bring the heavens down upon the Earth and drive a stake into the hearts of thousands of monsters. You're the beast from the abyss, the master of carnage and mayhem. You're doom, and no other game this year offers the same levels of satisfaction for its player.