I imagine the planning meeting for Doom: Eternal went something like this, with the following notes scribbled on id Software’s whiteboard: “Keep everything that works.” “Add new multiplayer mode.” “Let’s have a grapple hook… no…. let’s call it a Meathook!” “Taco Tuesday this week?” “Ooh, let’s add wall-climbing and double-dash abilities.”
And in big bold letters, at the top of the whiteboard with many underlines beneath it, would read “Ultimate Power Fantasy.”
I’m speculating, of course. But with my brief hands-on time at E3 2019, and with the deeper gameplay look during Bethesda’s E3 Press Conference, it seems clear that the team has not missed a beat on what made Doom (2016) such a surprise hit. In fact, I think it’s safe to say they’ve upped their game by a considerable amount. It still feels powerful to play as the Doom Slayer and the world still looks like the ultimate marriage between gothic bloody horror and sci-fi pulp. It’s just… more… Doom. Like, a lot more. And that’s exactly what we wanted.
This time out, Earth is on the brink of being absolutely overrun by demons and you’re being put in the brutal position of sending them back to Hell. And thanks to a variety of new powers, abilities, and weapons this task seems perfectly manageable.
Leaving the tight corridors and confines of the installation on Mars behind, Doom: Eternal appears to be sending you outside more often, if this brief time with the game is anything to go by. This time around the levels feel much more spread out and open, encouraging use of the big changes in how you move through the world: wall-climbing, double-dashes, and of course the Meathook.
The climbable walls are lighter colored rock, making them stand out as you plan your navigation through the world. And when combined with mid-air dashes and double-jumps, you appear to have a lot of freedom in how you want to get from point A to point B, not to mention new and creative ways to inflict and avoid damage. Like dashing to avoid rockets or double jumping around larger enemies to hit them from behind.
The Meathook feels like a perfect evolution of Doom’s style of gameplay that encourages fast, fluid, old-school FPS combat, and the hook allows you to keep the speed and brutality moving at a brisk pace. Being able to grapple to an enemy feels great thanks to it being tied to the super shotgun, ensuring that once you reach your destination, you can fire off a powerful shot right into the enemy’s face.
Speaking of being up close, you have a few new melee kills as well like the Flame Belch, a shoulder-mounted flamethrower that sets enemies ablaze. Best part of the belch is while your foe is standing there on fire, they’ll “bleed” health and armor shards for you to collect. And the enemies themselves still look great, with their mix of machine-infused bodies and the return of some classics like the floating cacodemons. There’s also some new damage modeling on the demons that start to expose their innards as you continue to bring the pain.
Multiplayer features will also return – more of which will be shared at this year’s QuakeCon (which is being branded as DoomCon this year) – but it’s being developed internally this time at id Software and one of the new modes revealed at E3 this year was Battlemode, a 2 vs. 1 feature in which two players will play as super-powered demons and the other as a lone Slayer, allowing for a mix of strategy: brute strength versus agility. We’ll be looking forward to learning more about this feature in the coming months.
Doom: Eternal appears be checking all the necessary boxes for a bigger, bolder, and more badass sequel to one of our favorite first-person shooters. We can’t wait to go back to Hell.