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Doom Eternal: A Brutal Delight

Credit: Bethesda/id Software

What do you know, you can improve on perfection.

The original Doom was released the same year I was born, so obviously, I missed that bandwagon by a country mile. By the time I was into shooters, Doom seemed more like a quaint relic than the juggernaut of Deathmatching it once was. It was for this reason I originally passed when the series rebooted in 2016, but on the urgings of a writer whose work I enjoy, I gave the game a shot. To say it completely decimated my expectations would be a massive understatement. 2016’s Doom was not only a fantastic game period, it was one of the most fun experiences I had with a shooter in a long time. Honestly, it was so good, I was a little concerned that Doom Eternal would be a cheap rehash to cash in on the series’ newly invigorated reputation. Well, I can tell you with certainty that Eternal is not a cheap rehash; it is an expensive refinement.

Credit: Bethesda/id Software

After the infamous Doom Slayer was teleported off to parts unknown at the end of the previous game, the UAC pretty much dropped all pretenses of being anything except a force of pure evil, and promptly opened the doors for the bad place’s armies to invade the Earth. Over half of the human population has been completely wiped out, and demons have set up shop all over the world, filling everything with lava, red lightning, bloody mush, and all that other stuff demons like. Thankfully, the Slayer finally returns, complete with awesome space fortress (don’t ask me where he got it), and sets about doing the one thing he is definitively good at: ripping and tearing.

Eternal continues using the traditional level-based structure with small arenas playing host to multiple skirmishes against demons. The first thing you’ll likely notice is a scarcity of ammunition. Your guns don’t hold a lot of ammo to start, and while there are ammo pickups on the ground, they are far less plentiful than in the previous game. Luckily, one of your first weapons is the infamous chainsaw, which yields ammo of every type when you introduce a demon to its pointy end. The chainsaw, along with the returning Glory Kill system that yields health for special takedowns, offers a more resource-centric style of gameplay. When a foe is weak, you need to make a snap decision on whether you need ammo or health, and you gotta keep moving while you do it or you’ll get your head blown off. The pace gets pretty frenetic, but never to the point where you lose track of the fight, which is perfect.

Credit: Bethesda/id Software

Speaking of movement, the levels have an increased emphasis on platforming between skirmishes. The Slayer can double jump, air dash, and climb up certain walls. The platforming is pretty tight, especially for a first-person game, aided by the fact that you’ll usually clamber up onto ledges automatically. It’s pretty fun to explore around, and the boys at id know it, which is why, in Doom tradition, there’s plenty of nifty hidden collectibles to find.

Actually, there’s a lot of collectibles to find in general, not just hidden stuff. You get mods to give your weapons new functions, weapon points to upgrade those functions, Praetor points to upgrade your suit, batteries to unlock more stuff in the Slayer’s space fortress, and more. If I had to nitpick a single element of this game, it’s that there’s maybe a little bit too much stuff, but you don’t need to get all of it to beat the game, and anything you do find will provide some kind of tangible benefit, unlike some sandbox games that are full of busywork for busywork’s sake.

Credit: Bethesda/id Software

The campaign is the main draw, but there’s also an online battle mode where two player-controlled demons battle against a player-controlled Slayer. While the lack of a traditional deathmatch mode is a little disappointing, I have to say I was surprised by how fun the asymmetric design is here. The demons need to use teamwork and summoned minions to overwhelm the Slayer with numbers and tactics, while the Slayer, well, does what the Slayer does. It’s pretty entertaining no matter which role you get.

It would take far too long to list everything I love about this game. It’s got an awesome metal aestehtic, the music slaps, the story beats, while few, are actually kind of interesting, and besides everything, it’s just fun. That was the main takeaway I had from 2016’s Doom; that before anything else, a shooter should be fun, and Doom Eternal is so much fun. It’s exhilarating, it’s messy, it’s a heavy metal album cover come to life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.