DOOM Eternal Review: Ripping and Tearing Through a Must-Play FPS

There’s a certain feeling some shooting games can offer that’s worth chasing the first time [...]

There's a certain feeling some shooting games can offer that's worth chasing the first time you experience it. It's a feeling of being hyper-focused and full of adrenaline while you run-and-gun your way through a level, typically with sheer chaos unfolding around you as everything falls apart within your character's field of view and threats close in from all sides. It's the type of feeling that makes you sit back after beating a level to take a breather before continuing because you feel exhausted and realize you haven't blinked in a while. Now imagine that someone flipped a switch so that experience is always on and forgot to turn it off. That's DOOM Eternal.

You can get that feeling from across the spectrum of DOOM Eternal's various and comprehensive difficulties, but it's felt the strongest the higher you go. For the sake of this review, DOOM Eternal was completed on Nightmare mode, the highest of the four core difficulties. With no prior DOOM experience outside of spending maybe an hour max in past games in the franchise, DOOM Eternal on that setting proved to be an immensely rewarding, mostly fair, and relentless trip through an FPS paradise.

DOOM Eternal wastes no time wading into the carnage. By this point, Bethesda and id Software can bank on the fact that DOOM players probably know what they're getting into, so you're basically tossed right into the shotgun blasts and Glory Kills as you're taught the basics. It's a refreshing pace to experience DOOM Eternal at by putting the carnage just a few steps away from the start menu.

Keeping in line with the way the tutorial progresses, DOOM Eternal layers mechanics and enemy encounters on in a surprisingly gentle way compared to how the rest of the game plays out. As you're introduced to the robust weapon wheel the Doom Slayer boasts, you find the weapons have situational uses and are better suited for certain encounters. Guides and pop-ups will suggest options for what to use and when, but it's up to players to remember those strategies in the heat of battle. It moves DOOM away from a Super Shotgun slaughterfest and more towards a rock-paper-scissors game of what works best in the situation players find themselves in. Powerful enemies and bosses that once towered over players become common enemies as players improve to create a visible and tangible way of showcasing improved skills and progress.

Once you get your footing with how DOOM Eternal works, you're treated to a frantic, relentless, and unforgiving experience. Players get momentary reprieves to regain their composure and stock up on supplies through treasure hunting or solving puzzles, but you never really feel at ease while playing. The hellish demons can materializes in a burst of energy at any time to turn an exploration into an ambush calling for quick responses and even faster reflexes to adapt to the situation. You may know when a fight is coming because the game loads players up with resources and shows an open arena area on the map, but that only does so much to prepare for what's to come.

The arenas are meticulously crafted and generous to give players avenues to exercise their strengths and get out of tough situations when possible. A tremendous degree of verticality exists in these arenas to grant players momentary pauses from the combat while they search for some chainsaw or Glory Kill fodder to get back into the match. Dying in DOOM Eternal happens frequently and is almost always the fault of the player, though the arenas can sometimes play against player's interests. Walls stick out a bit further than they appear to at times to where players bump into them enough to mess up a jump while ledges sometimes don't trigger a grab when players expect them to. It's a frustrating way to die when you make it so far into a fight to end up feeling cheated, but you'll probably be dying so much that you'll forget that feeling in another life or two.

DOOM Eternal's collectibles also provide a much-needed break from the relentless combat while appealing to the classic feeling of searching every cavern and structure for secrets and treasures. Collecting various prizes sometimes has an impact on gameplay through challenges and unlocking progression items in a way that integrates it naturally into the game instead of making you feel like you're playing two different missions. These collectibles can always be recovered after a fight as well, so you never feel like you have to compromise between saving your life or picking up a codex page.

Despite its rewarding nature, there feels like there's something lost when playing on the highest (and perhaps higher overall) difficulty options. The enemies are plenty varied, but instead of being a game of "avoid this attack by doing this move," it becomes a game of "avoid literally everything all the time" since everything can and will kill you. The story similarly feels the weight of Nightmare mode. Stories take a backseat to action in DOOM Eternal, and the codex pages will explain much of what you need to know, but the difficulty at times turns the cutscenes and story moments into vehicles for the next big fight. Replaying several levels on lower difficulties has already created opportunities for clearer perspectives on the narrative compared to the blindered experience of Nightmare mode, so if you're into digesting DOOM Eternal'snarrative, consider going on a codex hunt or revisiting the story after completion.

The focus of this review has been on the game's campaign, but after a few games of Battlemode, DOOM Eternal's multiplayer component, it's clear the game boasts something special in that field. The 2v1 format creates the unique opportunity to play as the demons you spend forever slaying, and while you can hop into it at anytime, you'll have a greater advantage doing so after playing the campaign for a while since you'll be familiar with the Slayer's arsenal. Time will tell how well that mode is supported, but for now, it's an excellent addition to DOOM Eternal and the perfect break from the game's campaign.

DOOM Eternal exceeded expectations, both where difficulty and enjoyment are concerned, and while not without its faults, it feels like a must-play game for FPS players. It knows exactly how hard it is but doesn't shame players for choosing whatever difficulty they want, and with how many collectibles there are to amass, it offers a surprising degree of replayability. DOOM Eternal hooks players after their first Glory Kill and constantly finds ways to keep them invested and will probably keep doing so long after your first playthrough.

Rating: 4 out of 5

DOOM Eternal is now available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC platforms. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.