The daddy of all first person shooters returns for another trip to Hell, as GameCentral plays 20 minutes of Bethesda’s new sequel.
It is incredible to think that a game as iconic and influential as Doom has never had a proper sequel. 1994’s Doom II was little more than an expansion pack, barely distinguishable from its predecessor, while both 2004’s Doom 3 and 2016’s Doom were basically remakes of the original. At first glance Doom Eternal doesn’t seem to be radically different either, with most of the new additions seeming like needless complications. But they’re not – they’re part of what seems certain to be the best Doom game since the 90s.
We have to admit that the hands-on demo we played did not give a good first impression. Not only was it set on one of the moons of Mars – a location revisited far too many times in the previous games – but it was preceded by a lengthy tutorial that you wouldn’t have thought necessary for such a seemingly straightforward first person shooter. But while the basics are exactly the same as the 2016 reboot there’s now a host of additional features that seem both overwhelming in terms of numbers and underwhelming in terms of function.
The central idea is that while there is still ammo, health, and so on lying around as usual it is the demons themselves which are your most important resource. Chainsaw one to death and it’ll spew ammo, use a new shoulder-mounted flamethrower on them and they’ll spit out armour, glory kill them (perform a Mortal Kombat style melee finishing move when they’re almost dead) and they’ll give up health power-ups, and keep doing more glory kills and you’ll activate a powered-up rage mode.
If your eyes are already boggling at having to remember that don’t worry, you’ll forget it the second you start the game proper and then slowly get into the flow of it as you continue playing. There are a lot of other details to remember too (all helpfully pointed out by not-too-intrusive onscreen tips), including the fact that many large demons have weak points that you can target, which often prove to be the sci-fi weapons they have welded to their bodies.
To add to the mix you also have sticky bombs you can fling at demons and the ability to detonate rockets before they hit something, which is useful for getting enemies that are using cover or are just out of sight. And then there are weapon mods that add further options, such as the super shotgun with a Mortal Kombat style meathook which you can use to grab enemies and pull yourself towards them.
We’re worried that all sounds like unnecessary complication on paper but in practice the amount of options and tactical depth is hugely impressive, and enjoyable. It makes Doom feel almost like a fighting game, with anyone able to manage the basic point and shoot gameplay but more experienced players able to use the more nuanced controls to their advantage.
In terms of structure the game still seems very similar to the 2016 game, with moments of intense action punctuated by surprising quietness as you wonder where you’re supposed to go and how you’re going to get there. It’s very odd pacing and while you can argue it’s similar to the original games it does feel strange to go from such exhilarating, death-defying action one minute to being slightly bored and confused the next.
Perhaps that’s secretly the reason the combat feel so good, but either way it’s still not much of an impedance to your enjoyment and as wary as we were about the new wall-climbing techniques, that almost turn the game into a full 3D platformer, the contrast with the high-intensity shooting action certainly avoids any accusations of the game being one note.
We’ll be honest and say we didn’t enjoy Doom 2016 as much as some when it first came out. The core gunplay was excellent, but we were disappointed by how little it had moved on from the original games and how relatively uninspired the art design and visuals were. The look of Doom Eternal is largely the same but there’s a lot more new demons than before, including everything from weird gargoyles to horrible snake things that come out of the ground.
Although they weren’t in the gameplay demo the trailers also seem to feature some sort of angelic faction, which appears to offer some interesting architectural diversity. Although whether the game has sections set on Earth or not we’re still not entirely clear.
Developer id Software describe Doom as a ‘power fantasy combat puzzler’ and that seems entirely accurate. How to update a game as simple in premise and story as Doom is always a problem and by essentially being a remake Doom 2016 didn’t really address the issue head on. Doom Eternal does though and it while it’s been a hell of a long time coming this is the sequel we’ve always wanted.
Formats: PC (previewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Stadia
Developer: id Software
Release Date: 22nd November 2019
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