'DOOM Eternal' preview: Unapologetic, high-octane video game junk food
We played the game's first three hours. It rocks.
Almost 27 years after the original DOOM pioneered the first-person shooter genre, id Software continues its blood-soaked march through hell. DOOM Eternal will release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia on March 20 after a four-month delay and continue where the 2016 reboot left off.
Bethesda Softworks first announced the title at E3 2018, and everything we’ve seen since has made it clear DOOM Eternal won’t stray from its predecessors. Instead, the upcoming game is a homage to a recent classic — fine-tuning and refining a time-tested recipe for the heart-thumping first-person shooter.
Bethesda and its subsidiary, id Software, let Inverse demo the first three hours of DOOM Eternal's single-player campaign on a PC. Despite the graphic improvements, I couldn’t help but think how similar it looked compared to DOOM (2016), but that’s because id isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel.
The story is essentially optional. Many of the same demons from previous games are present, and you still have to blast through swarms of monsters scrounging for supplies. On the surface, not much has changed, but it’s the nuanced tweaks that make DOOM Eternal shine.
At its core, DOOM Eternal is still high-octane, video game junk food. Three hours of gameplay felt like taking just a few bites out of a juicy burger. I left the demo hungry for more.
DOOM Eternal is unapologetically illogical
DOOM's story and characters have always taken a backseat to gameplay. DOOM Eternal isn’t any different. Game director Hugo Martin tells Inverse the title “embraces being a video game” and not an interactive movie — like The Last of Us — and nothing exemplifies that better than the game’s polished platforming.
I had to make split-second decisions about where to jump, find a monkey bar to swing from, and collect dash-reset tokens to traverse certain obstacles. Martin wants the game to be a "Mario meets DOOM" experience, and his vision shined through in the mid-fight acrobatics I found myself pulling off after I got a hang for DOOM Eternal's mechanics.
“It’s illogical in the Nintendo sense of the word,” said Martin. “You’re picking up air dashes and dodging fire wheels. We have to really steer into that stuff, because that’s what makes our brand unique. Other people have super-realistic stories or hyper-immersive worlds. That’s not really what we do.”
The game is built to make you feel like a total badass once you master its mechanics, which made me appreciate the absurdity of DOOM Eternal's opening hours.
Endless fan service, secrets, and Easter eggs
DOOM Eternal is rife with secrets and unlockable hat tips to the long-running franchise. Between battles, I found collectible plushies in obscured chambers, excerpts that provide insight on the game’s story, and tucked-away Easter eggs that reference other Bethesda games.
I found a hidden Dopefish from the early '90s platformer Commander Keen in Goodbye, Galaxy during my demo. Martin promised there are a lot more, plus monthly cosmetics that can be unlocked by how much you play.
Don’t worry, there won’t be any microtransactions or loot boxes. Different skins for series protagonist Doom Slayer will become available by amassing enough experience and completing seasonal challenges in DOOM Eternal's single or multiplayer modes.
The cosmetics, collectibles, and Easter eggs are optional and can be totally ignored if you want to just power through the campaign. But it was hard to disregard the allure of discovering what each area I played through was hiding.
DOOM Eternal feels great, but some pieces are missing
DOOM Eternal fully engrossed me in its hellish environments and brutal combat. Satisfying combat ensured that each fight felt different by forcing me to routinely cycle through all of my weapons depending on the supplies I needed.
The enemies I faced were diverse and had different weaknesses I could exploit to defeat them. This created a flow to my combat strategy, where I stunned and dodged past weaker enemies as I chipped away at the strongest ones first. The single player is undeniably gratifying, but it’s not the only thing gamers are expecting on March 20.
Bethesda and id have promised an “Invasion” mode where players can join someone else’s single-player campaign and fight against them as demons. This will be key to ensure players keep playing DOOM Eternal after they’ve completed the story, especially since the franchise has a rocky history with multiplayer.
The multiplayer mode in DOOM (2016) was partially outsourced to Texas-based developer Certain Affinity and it was a bit of a miss. Id is keeping DOOM Eternal's multiplayer in-house this time, which could prove to be beneficial, but the company didn’t make the mode available at the demo or answer any questions about it besides that it would be included in a free update after launch.
DOOM Eternal's core campaign looked to be in great shape, but will Invasion Mode be enough to keep gamers invested and coming back for monthly challenges?
That’s impossible to say at the moment, but what’s certain is that I’ll be playing the single-player mode through at least once.
DOOM Eternal will release for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia on March 20. A version for the Nintendo Switch will be released at a later date.