Doom Eternal | Backlog Review

The first time that I had ever played a Doom game was with the 2016 reboot, and I loved every moment of it. The fast-paced metal music combined with the glory kill mechanic and traditional run and gun gameplay of the franchise all lent themselves to a very cohesive experience. It left a strong impression on me, and I obtained all of the original achievements within a week. 

But I haven’t played Doom since, so when Doom Eternal was announced, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Unfortunately, it was released right in the timeframe where playing big AAA games became impossible for me. So now’s my chance to see if this follow-up can achieve the same level of guts and glory as the 2016 Doom did for me all those years ago. 

Doom Eternal

Hell Have no Fiery Like Doomguy

What hit me immediately was that this Doom had a lot more story being presented directly to us compared to the last game. What kind of struck me as a nice change of pace in the 2016 game was how it put gameplay and mechanics first and created a very thin plot to keep the action going. There wasn’t much to pay attention to because the cutscenes were so short and talked about a lot of stuff I didn’t understand. 

Doom Eternal, though delivers much longer cutscenes and expands its lore considerably in comparison. Not only does Eternal connect to 2016 Doom, but it connects to the original games in the series as it remarks on the “classic” armor in a scene. I’m sure I missed some nuances being referenced to those games, but that was what was the most explicit. 

At the start of Eternal, Doomguy has been fighting the good fight and trying to rid the Earth of all the demons that have infested it. From my perspective, I didn’t really see a point because it already looked like the Earth was lost and Humanity was done for, but later we learn that there are secret bases where people are carrying out the resistance. 

You can’t blame me because the entire world looks to be bathed in fire and death. This makes for some really bleak and yet beautiful skyboxes, but it did nothing to fill me with any hope that people still existed in this hellscape. 

It turns out that the demons have wiped out 60 percent of Humanity. Doomguy’s mission is to rid the demon scourge by eliminating the Icon of Sin and the curator of that Icon, Khan Maykr. 

What I liked most about this story was in the second half of the game, we get to see flashbacks where Doomguy sees his training and stay with the Sentinels. It helped to explain a little about the character, but his ingrained hatred of the demons seems to have been in his DNA as he was introduced to them screaming about murdering. Doomguy is nothing but consistent. 

It took me a little bit in the beginning to get a grasp on what was happening, but once I did, I was having a pretty enjoyable time with the story. It felt a lot like some popcorn movie that I would turn on on a Friday night with some drinks. Low intellectual stakes but lots of violence and epic entrances. 

Doom Eternal

A Surprisingly Slow First Half

Based on what I remembered about Doom (2016), I was expecting to come out the gate ripping and tearing to the beat of the metal soundtrack, but it didn’t quite happen that way. Eternal has a much larger arsenal than the last game, but it is doled out over the entire game. You won’t be back up to the same level of compatibility until about a third into the game.

I really felt that each encounter was a slow grind a lot of the time since I was using the same weapons for so much of the time. Luckily, it doesn’t last that long and does eventually improve. 

On top of all the same style of weapons from the previous game, Eternal includes a bunch of new abilities and weapons that have different functions in the game, such as the bloodpunch that does critical damage and sends out a radius of damage to other enemies. As well as a freeze grenade that can help stop demons in their tracks, allowing for a quick breather. 

These additional assets can really help out in a pinch if you can properly include them in your playstyle. I had trouble remembering that I had the flamethrower because it didn’t do much damage and its main point was to make enemies drop armor. I’d rather be focusing on keeping the damage up and changing my glory kills as best as I could manage. 

There are the typical upgrades to weapons that can be switched on the fly and perks that can be equipped that help to make combat both easier and faster. I totally forgot for most of the game that the sawed-off had a special, but once I did, I was whipping around the maps coming in like a more hardcore version of Indiana Jones.

This might sound all well and good so far besides the small starting sandbox, but Eternal includes something else that I thought I was going to enjoy at first: platforming. I do enjoy platforming, but Eternal’s biggest sin is that it brings its nonstop action to a complete stop as you wonder where the hell you are supposed to go next. I didn’t want to explore this world looking for toys and secrets, but I found a number of them because I had no idea where I was supposed to go next. 

It was actually getting to the point where the game felt like a slog because after I finished a particularly tough battle where I only had a few weapons that I didn’t really like, I would be stuck wandering around trying to figure out where to go. Luckily, Eternal feels like it does an about-face in the second half.

Doom Eternal

Saved in the Second Half 

I was so close to shelving this game to finish another game that I am not very happy with (also Bethesda published, take a guess), but once I beat the Mars Core, everything changed for me. I finally had an expanded arsenal where switching weapons on the fly made encounters more much enjoyable. 

The story also began to come together for me (which is probably more on me than on the game itself, but I think it’s important to point out here). The Slayer’s past, including his accomplishments and connection to the original games, all come to light here, and I was intrigued. It really brought me to care a little bit more about the action going on, whereas the first half felt like I was just killing demons on a defeated Earth. 

Finally, the enemies themselves become so much more varied here. Thinking back, I’m surprised at how many different types of enemies there were, and some even have multiple variants within their types, like the mancubus or the cacodemon.

This is where the Doom I loved comes back (for the most part) because as the enemies spawn, you are doing two things: You are learning the map’s various levels and quirks to make your own route to survive and thinking what order you should approach the enemies. 

Are you going to focus on the much weaker and agile enemies like the imps? Or are you going to get rid of the heavier enemies first, which could result in more heavy enemies spawning and taking their place?  At this point, it becomes a puzzle, and since Eternal doesn’t give you much ammo, you are going to need to be at the top of your game. The last thing you want is to be left with only a chainsaw with no fuel and no weak enemies to use it on. 

The boss battles are also some of the best that I have seen in a first-person shooter. Initially, the boss battles are introductory battles to some of the more difficult enemies you’ll face throughout your playtime, but they seemed more difficult in these battles. I’m not sure if they scaled them up or if I was just playing that badly but the first time I met these enemies seemed much more difficult. 

The later bosses can be both challenging and fun, which is great. Though probably the easiest boss in the game, I will probably remember my battle against the Icon of Sin for a while. I just really liked the sense of scale and the constant onslaught of enemies throughout it. 

Finally, my biggest issue with the game that was never resolved is that the game’s music doesn’t feel as much of a part of the gameplay as it did in the previous entry. The soundtrack not only sounded weak in comparison, but it seemed quieter, and it didn’t seem to match the flow of battle as well. 

In Doom (2016), I often felt like I was almost playing a rhythm game as the heavy guitar rifts matched my flow around the map. It felt so satisfying, but Eternal never had a moment like that. It’s a big disappointment because that really was my favorite aspect from the last one. 

Doom Eternal is a really fun addition to the franchise that introduces a lot more lore and expands the universe. The combat additions such as upgrades, new weapons like grenades and the flamethrower, and enemy variety make the game feel like a much more diverse experience than the previous entry. However, poor pacing with platforming sections, enemy escalation, and sandbox expansion make it slog to get to the good stuff later in the game. Plus, it’s a lot less fun to rip and tear without a solid metal soundtrack to back it up. 7.5/10

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