Doom Eternal is a video game about killing your outer demons. A follow up to 2016’s Game of the Year, Doom Eternal is, in every nearly every conceivable way, better than the first. Ripping and tearing hellspawn from other dimensions has rarely felt bad, but it’s never felt better than it does now in the long 4 years that has been 2020.
Eternal’s design is the stuff that deserves to be in design books in the future. All of the weapons you pick up feel like badass tools of destruction. They also all have a unique strength against particular monsters out in the world. The Mancubus’ weak spots are the cannons it has for hands. The easiest way to knock them off is with the precision shot of a Ballista or a modded Heavy Cannon. The Cacodemon has a huge mouth, just frothing to take a bite out of you. Maybe shove a frag grenade in it before it gets that chance.
All of this decision making happens in split second intervals thanks to how fast every combat scenario plays out. Now you – The Doom Slayer – jog, dash, and jump quicker than most of your enemies. But the little ways you skirmish from encounter to encounter are kept super engaging, thanks largely to the pick up system in play. Killing incapacitated enemies with a Glory Kill gives you health, rending them with the chainsaw drops ammo, burning them with the flame belcher drops armor. Every combat encounter is a means to an end, which is ultimately to refuel you for the next combat encounter.
Even then, gunplay is snappy. No reloading or pressing buttons to collect things like health and bullets. Melee and executions happen in short animations right in the thick of battle. Collectibles can even allow you to make all these things even more efficient. Enemies attack in legions, and are super aggressive, which forces you to keep moving to find optimal positions. The heavy metal soundtrack is the pulse pounding wardrum that keeps it all together.
Even in the face of all that, I’ve found that I’m most at zen playing this game at a snail’s pace.
My exact recollection isn’t clear, but Doom Eternal’s missions seem way longer than the previous Doom’s. These spaces are huge and teeming with nooks and crannies full of things to collect and secrets to find. With Eternal’s mission select system, returning to old missions to find these hidden secrets with new gear is encouraged, but I like the challenge of trying to find them all the first time.
It’s largely impossible, of course. Less so a few missions in, once you upgrade your Praetor Suit to reveal all of these various collectibles and challenges on your map. But sometimes, you miss a jump or step through a door and can’t turn back. You hate to see it.
My personal bane has been the combat challenges. These are special shrines that, when activated, start a timer and spawns a set of monsters tailor made to make your life incredibly difficult in the space you’re currently in. Beat them in the time frame given, and you are rewarded. Don’t, and the room is returned to the state of relative peace it was in before you started the challenge. The rub is that all the resources used stay spent. If you don’t have some sort of ammo or health source nearby, you could end up too crippled to realistically try again. I’ve wasted maybe a third of my current game time attempting anyway, to middling success.
Part of the motivation comes from how the combat design is just so good at making the player feel like they can overcome anything. There’s been at least one arena per mission so far that seems impossible when I first encounter it, only for me to eventually pass after a handful of times feeling like Hell’s Worst Nightmare. To paraphrase another Lone Wolf Psychopath: these assholes are locked in here with you. I’m constantly chasing that dragon, and I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time doing so.
This is ultimately a call of solidarity. If you feel like you aren’t playing Doom Eternal at the break neck speed that it seems to be demanding of you, know that you’re not alone. As cathartic as punching a single, man-sized hole into the existential threat of annihilation is, deciding what pace to do it in is a decision only you can make. Stop and smell the roses in the Super Gore Nest, why don’t you?