Is it strange to find the apocalypse beautiful? Maybe not when it comes to DOOM Eternal, follow-up to 2016’s reboot of the classic shooter – despite the armies of Hell having invaded Earth, ransacking the planet and leaving you – as the Doom Slayer – to take out legions of demons, developers id Software have crafted a staggeringly gorgeous game. In quiet moments, you’d be a fool not to stop and gaze out into the distance to take in the sheer scale and detail of the ruined world.
Quiet moments are a rarity though – DOOM Eternal is every bit as frenetic and adrenaline pumping as its predecessor. Playing through its story campaign is more likely to feel akin to battling through a 1980s metal album cover brought to life than it is anything offered by the slower, more tactical shooters that have come to dominate the genre. Bravado and blasting your way through enemies is actively rewarded; any attempt at stealth or patience punished by a swarm of unrelenting demons.
Like the 2016 outing, Eternal replenishes health and ammo depending on how you kill enemies. Deal enough damage and a foe will become stunned, allowing you to move in for a gory “glory kill”, forcing a drop of health power-ups, while chainsaw kills – again, extraordinarily graphic – chop them apart like a demonic piñata, revealing tasty ammo to keep your killstreak going. It’s a weirdly satisfying loop, and once you’re accustomed to the flow, you’ll find yourself barrelling through the hordes – a horde with twice the variety of the last game, with returning, new, and revamped enemies to destroy.
How you barrel through them enjoys a range of improvements too – individual parts of demons can be targeted and destroyed, allowing you to disable tougher enemies before going in for the kill, while certain returning weapons get improvements. The Super Shotgun, for instance, now boasts a ‘meat hook’, that can disembowel a foe as easily as it can serve as a grappling hook, helping you navigate the world in new ways.
The biggest improvement is in movement itself. For an absolute monolith of muscle carrying approximately 14 tonnes of heavy arms, the Doom Slayer moves surprisingly speedily. That agility is enhanced further by new moves such as wall climbing and even swinging from poles to reach new areas. It adds a shade of parkour manoeuvrability which, when combined with the combat loop, makes the game feel even more fluid. Making full use of the moveset brings rewards too – while the single-player campaign is reasonably linear, in keeping with DOOM‘s old-school maze shooter roots, there’s still plenty to be found by exploring off the beaten path. Hidden routes pepper each level, rewarding observant players with secret items, and helping fill a dossier with information about the world and its lore.
Unfortunately, the controls deviate slightly from what has become practically industry standard for first-person shooters. Here, weapons are switched with a tap of the right shoulder button, for instance, rather than the triangle/Y button, and the left trigger activates weapon mods – found scattered through the world and delivering a host of upgraded attributes – rather than focusing or aiming. For many players, this will be a fight against years of muscle memory from other shooters, and though not an insurmountable shift, it does make the earlier levels more annoying than they should be as you readjust.
Still, a minor gripe for what is otherwise a superlative shooter. DOOM Eternal improves on practically every area of its precursor, turning what was already a fantastic game into a must-have.