The day I learned that Doom Eternal had a multiplayer mode was the day I walked into GameStop and purchased a physical copy. Oddly, I’d consumed a hell of a lot of Doom-related content up until that point, but none of those previews and hype trailers highlighted this little fact. It was a casual flip of the box, where “Battlemode” is emblazoned across a lower corner that made me immediately ask, loudly and maybe a little aggressively, “wait, Doom has fucking multiplayer!?” The Guest Advisor behind the counter just sort of shrugged, eager for me to leave the store and stop putting his health at risk.
It’s not much of a surprise that Doom Eternal’s Battlemode wasn’t part of the main messaging efforts. I remember the last Doom’s multiplayer being shoved into every presentation of it on the lead up to launch. Not a whole lot was promised from it – it was always considered a secondary distraction to 2016’s fantastic campaign. Yet, I remember distinctly the conversation about level creators and progression systems and shooter modes that you’d expect from the house that Quake built. I also remember it being sort of an eye roll inducing part of any Doom-related conversation that year.
Maybe to avoid over-hype, id Software would rather us just be surprised by this little endgame treat this time around. After the hour or so I spent with it, ”surprised” is a bit of an understatement of how I feel about it. Battlemode fucking slaps.
Battlemode is an asynchronous shooter, meaning both sides of the fight are not necessary even on purpose. Players assume the role of either the Doom Slayer or a pair of demons from a short list of Heavy and Super Heavy foes. In a best of 5 bout, both teams use all of their resources and the environment, to punish each other until only one team stands tall.
The many ways that the design keeps players empowered and actively prodding at each other is really smart and quite innovative. Slayers will find themselves in pretty familiar territory. Your full weapon wheel (minus super weapons like the BFG and The Crucible) are at your disposal, complete with upgraded mods. Both grenade types, your flame belcher, and your handy chainsaw all act like you expect them to. You can dash, use lift pads and portals, swing on monkey bars – basically every way you ripped and tore your way through the campaign is an option in multiplayer.
This may sound overpowered at first, but remember, it’s one versus two human-controlled super demons, and all the AI controlled fodder and heavies they spawn. You’ll need all the help you can get.
Demons have a few abilities that are signature to themselves. The Mancubus can fire smoke screens, the Pain Elemental is always airborne and can use lost souls as fireballs or a shield (or both), etc. If you saw one of these six elite demons do it in the single-player, they probably do a version of it in the multiplayer. Demons also have a customizable set of abilities that allow you to spawn different minions or affect the arena in tactical ways.
Maybe you want to pressure the Slayer into a strafing pace that they can’t keep up with, so you spawn a hell knight to run them down. Maybe you and your partner want to hunker down in a section and fight it out, so you drop a zone of recovery that heals you both so long as your say in it. The strategic combos between demons and their loadouts feels near endless, and they all are effective ways to plan some tactics around.
All of these abilities are on cooldowns, and demons can’t use any of the platforming areas in the arena, so there’s definitely drawbacks to playing as them. All of the fodder/summoned demons can be glory killed, chainsawed, or lit on fire to grant the slayer life, ammo, and armor in the same way the campaign did, where demons’ recovery capacities are noticeably limited. Combat always feels like a race against time. Both literally against a round timer, and figuratively; Killing the Doom Slayer before he has an opportunity to get a second wind, or the demons get attritioned to dust.
Between-round upgrades allow you to make adjustments to your strategies on the fly, similar to other action multiplayer games like Battlerite. Maybe you’re playing that giant butt head Marauder and your piss puppy isn’t lasting long enough to get it’s teeth into the Slayer. There’s an upgrade available that adds some health and lowers the cool down, so you’ll be summoning that dastardly dog way more often. I’ve seen these buffs be real game changers for both sides of the fight. A Slayer could get beat 0-2, but with a combination of powerful buffs becomes nigh unstoppable.
It’s been almost impossible for me to get a game where I designate myself as a demon, so I tend to just jump into the Quickplay and let chance decide. I’ve played more games as the Slayer, but it’s hard not to love playing as a demon more. Some of it is because I just played a 10 hour campaign as the big, green killing machine, but it’s also because playing as a demon, win or lose, is just so goddamn cool.
As new and interesting as Battlemode is, it also feels pretty delightfully old school. I’m sure id Software wouldn’t mind if it became the next big eSport, but it doesn’t feel designed with that in mind. It’s reminiscent of old school arena romps like Red Faction, where getting in multiplayer means were here to shoot at each other for fun, not fame. There are so many mechanics, so much reckless abandon with the agency being provided to players that it feels earnest and humble while also feeling batshit crazy. You truly love to see it.
It’s been over a week, so I’m sure you’ve had plenty of time to beat this campaign. I implore you to give Battlemode a spin before you move on to the next digital adventure. It may not be your next multiplayer obsession, but it’s such an interesting take that it’s worth experiencing, even if just for a few rounds.