Ever since Bethesda Softworks resurrected DOOM for the masses back in 2016, fans knew a sequel like DOOM Eternal was inevitable. The first original game in twelve years brought the franchise back to where it needed to be. One man on a mission to destroy every demon in his path and seal every gate from Hell back up. It doesn't matter what kind of player you are, that first entry was intense. It was a wake-up call for anyone making a first-person shooter as it kicked the genre in the face and reminded people who was in charge for a long time. Didn't hurt at all that it had a cohesive story you wanted to see play out to the end, missions that didn't lose luster no matter how many times you died, and a soundtrack that left you sweating in your chair. That's a tall order to fill for a sequel. Thankfully, Bethesda sent us a review copy for us to dive into and see whether or not they were up to the challenge.
DOOM Eternal picks up two years later from the events of the 2016 game. We won't get into spoiler territory about the previous one, we'll leave that up to you to go check out for yourself. But in the here-and-now of the sequel, the forces of Hell have begun their invasion of Earth. Playing as the DOOM Slayer, you charge into the middle of the fray to stop their progress, killing one of three Hell Priests right out of the gate while the other two are taken into hiding. Your mission becomes quite clear from the start, which is to save Earth and push the forces back, then take the fight to Hell itself and put an end to what's happening. Or at the very least, make them think twice about invading your home ever again.
So let's start off with the familiar. If you played the 2016 DOOM, you're already three steps ahead of your average gamer because most of the controls, actions, and situations are the same. This is not a game you need to relearn, nor is it a complicated one for new players to grasp. The opening tutorial level will give you everything you need when you need it. In short, everything is back. It's pretty much like riding a bicycle. A blood-and-gore covered bicycle. That being said, they do incorporate a lot of new moves and abilities for you to do. Your standard array of weapons have returned, along with some new toys for you to play with like the Flame Belcher that attaches to your armor and allows you to spray an enemy in bright red flames. The chainsaw has been given an upgrade that, when used on a glory kill, will produce resources like ammo and armor. So you're getting the best of both worlds with tried and true weapons along with some new hotness to try out.
Gameplay-wise, there's a lot of pieces being connected into one single game here. First, old enemies that weren't included in the first game have been brought back from the archives and given a modern look. Two good examples of this are the Archvile and the Zombieman, both here as challenging foes as well as cannon fodder. But this isn't a game made of just waves of enemies to slow you down. No no no! The game now has a bit of an AI that studies how you move and will act accordingly, putting up different attacks and defenses depending on what you did before in certain areas. Like to jump around? Enemies will become a bit quicker and show up in unexpected places. Love to group people up for a massive grenade? They'll spread out. You now have to put some thought and planning into what you're doing or you'll end up getting more comfortable with restarting at checkpoints. Which are few and far between.
Speaking of blasts from the past, not only have the brought back enemies from DOOM II into this one (like the Pain Elemental you see above), but weapons as well such as the Super Shotgun. Back in the day, this was the clear-all gun. In DOOM Eternal, this version does the damage but also comes with a chain grappling hook where you Batman zoom into the enemy for a glory shot. The BFG-9000 also got a bit of an upgrade, but you know what? We're gonna save that reveal for you to check out because words don't do it justice. As with the first game, you can make upgrades to your guns and armor when you run into Mod Bots. You can also find upgrade points scattered in every level, not to mention secrets in the form of old floppy disks, vinyl records, and collectible figures. In the 2016 game, you collected DOOM Slayer figurines. This time around, you're collecting versions of enemies in the game. As you collect those items, they'll be added to your home base, which is what I would imagine a hardcore DOOM fan would decorate their home as if the had the cash. You get little secrets here like being able to see old art, listen to soundtracks, and get cheat codes to use in levels you already beat.
As far as the multiplayer aspect or the same goes, that's where things get interesting but tricky. Battlemode puts one player as the DOOM Slayer against two other players who get to choose which enemies they'd like to be. From there, it's just a straight-up deathmatch between the two parties. If you think a 2-v-1 fight is unfair… you'd be right! More often than I care to admit, most of the time I played as the Slayer, I got my trash handed to me. While as one of the two enemies, I nearly won 100% of my matches. It is a really fun mode, but right now as of the initial release, it feels unbalanced. Nothing a patch or two couldn't fix, but definitely surprising. Beyond that, the other big thing to note from the game is the soundtrack. If you do not feel your skin get goosebumps and your blood pump from just the opening menu music, you might want to check for a pulse. Mick Gordon basically made the soundtrack Hell wished it had. It is immersive, it is intense, it is enthralling. If you're a metal, grunge, thrash, or cyberpunk fan, this is a must-listen on its own.
DOOM Eternal did the one thing I was afraid it couldn't do: capitalize on the first game. Even with the delays and the unsure nature people had going into it for months after it was announced, this is the best we could have hoped for. Sure, it's got some flaws, like the fact you have to spend about an hour reading most of the story instead of experiencing it. Or the fact that some of the bosses are just cruel and force you to de multiple times to get it right. I'm not going to say this is a perfect game. But what I will say is those flaws are easy to overlook when compared to what the devs accomplished here. This is the best first-person shooter of the year. It gave me an adrenalin boost, it gave me nostalgia, it gave me a story and a sense of accomplishment. It tested my skills and melted my brain at the same time. How often can you truly say that about a game? If you love this genre at all, this is a game you need to experience. And if you think you're the greatest player of all time, by all means, step up to DOOM Eternal and prove it in Ultra-Nightmare mode.