Clearin's Doom Eternal Review

Doom Eternal takes the 2016 game and cranks it up to eleven. Everything good about the first game is in here, like the fast-paced gameplay, rewarding upgrades, the variety of weapons that all have their use and all feel viable even in the endgame.

Many of the things it adds do come with a downside though. While it can definitely make the original feel lacking in features, this one feels more like they didn’t put much thought into what should or shouldn’t be added and just threw in anything they could think of and just didn’t do any trimming to make them actually work properly.

I do like all the new combat options which complement the even more chaotic battles. The ice grenade and flame belch add a whole new layer to how you play the game and manage resources. The chainsaw is now much more utilised as an ammo refresh.

One of the things I mentioned above about adding things without properly sculpting it to fit the gameplay is the extra lives system. It makes sense to have them I guess to fit the more difficult game. The problem is that they don’t refresh either on death or reloading checkpoints. In other words, let’s say you get to a really tough encounter with 3 lives, but lose all your lives and die near the end, at that point you’ll respawn at the start of the battle with zero extra lives, meaning that the game was basically handing you extra lives to say “We acknowledge you may need this extra help to survive the 10 minute warzones all over the level, but if you die during one of them we expect you to somehow succeed the second time with even LESS lives”. Just seems like a crazy system.

They also added some extra strategic elements to many demons. Unfortunately this is another 50/50 feature because while it’s nice that some enemies have weak points that you can destroy, the gameplay just does not give you the breathing room required to properly aim at specific portions of an enemies weak spots. You’ll be overwhelmed in seconds if you try to aim at a manucbus’s arms to slightly lower his damage output rather than just unloading into his fat stomach which you can do much easier while avoiding the other 70 demons in the room. Some of them though, like shooting a grenade into the cacodemon to instantly stagger them, work well.

Then there’s the additional enemies. Many are great, many are annoying. The marauder completely changes the playstyle of the game and is near impossible to properly fight with the other demons in the room. The arch-vile is just a pain in the ass, being a bullet sponge, teleporter, area of denial-fire user, summoner and buff totem all in one.
It feels like for everything the game adds, it doesn’t take 2 steps back so to speak, but each step they take isn’t as finely tuned as it should be.

As for the story… I don’t like the way Doom handles story. 95% of it is told in collectable codex’s. Unfortunately these contain so much lore-specific terminology that it’s near impossible to read any of them without constant cross-referencing with the other (missable) codex’s. I kind of just gave up after a while because not only is it a huge pace-breaker to try to read these in the middle of a mission, but trying to piece anything together when half the words they use require the knowledge of something else you need to find became a chore. If you’re going to have this much backstory why not actually use it to tell the story, and if you’re not going to use it why bother making it up? It’s the worst case of telling and not showing I’ve ever seen.

Even the stages didn’t feel any different from before, despite the massively improved potential of being on Earth for some portions of this game. Hell, Mars and Earth all feel too similar to each other. It actually seemed like it’d go in the opposite direction at first, I seem to recall feeling like the first 3 levels had their own unique style, but then it devolved into fire and brimstone everywhere with random destroyed buildings or ruins.

I will say this though, the platforming never once bothered me. I actually found it kind of fun. There’s some other things that were a pure net positive for me too, like removing challenges for runes. I never liked how the original would force you to use specific runes to master them. Now you can just set what you want and go. I’m also a fan of the fact you can unlock cheat codes that let you both go on a power trip and make re-runs through stages to do missions and get collectibles much faster.

So throughout the entire campaign I was fighting with myself whether I preferred this version to the 2016 game. Half the time I’d feel the benefits of the new things, and half the time I’d feel the frustration.

Then I tried the multiplayer. Instead of any kind of fun, balanced standard FPS deathmatch multiplayer we have a single asymmetric gimmick mode.

Battlemode is basically the equivalent of coin smash in Smash Bros. It’s something that should be an extra, something that you see on a menu and go “huh, I wonder what this is?” then maybe play it a few times for the novelty then forget about it and go back to stock smash. Except now there is no stock smash. Or time smash. Or anything, there’s only coin battle.

How they went from a perfectly functional multiplayer mode in 2016 to this travesty is baffling. If you only care about single player, Doom Eternal is an improvement on the original even with some questionable additions, but if you count multiplayer then Eternal falls flat.

Reviewed on May 13, 2020