After a dismal start to the year for new releases, id Software has issued the industry with the firmest kick up the arse imaginable. DOOM Eternal is absolutely incredible. In building off of a fantastic predecessor, the Texas-based studio has reached new heights as its equation of intense, fast-paced action and enjoyable exploration has been enriched with new ideas and mechanics. Platforming can now consider itself a part of that core gameplay loop, and the experience is all the better for it. DOOM Eternal is an unequivocally essential trip to hell and back.
DOOM put its FPS competition to shame four years ago, and its sequel has raised the bar all over again. It gets to the point where this has to be considered Bethesda's greatest achievement of the PlayStation 4 generation -- it truly is that good. From phenomenal gunplay right the way through to responsive controls which make the fears of first-person platforming a thing of the past, this is a title which gives the industry's greatest a run for their money.
Naturally, the shooting is at the epicentre of our praise. The no-nonsense Doom Slayer is back to rid the world of demonic evil once more, armed with the sort of weapons only he could even begin to dream of wielding. Whether it's the classic Combat Shotgun laying waste to Imps, a Rocket Launcher locked and loaded with destruction, or the all-new Ballista in prime position to rip and tear, each and every gun feels outstanding in your hands. There's a satisfying weight to pulling the trigger that makes every kill a triumph -- something which truly comes into its own the more you progress.
That's because the closer you come to victory, the more intense fights feel. It goes from clearing a room of Revenants and a handful of Cacodemons to taking on waves upon waves of hell’s fiercest foes. It might sound like a terrifying prospect, and it is, but the Praetor Suit comes fitted with some nifty upgrades to help you handle the onslaught this time around.
DOOM Eternal brings back the concept of the Glory Kill and expands upon it to the point where it is just one of various ways to regain health, armour, and ammo. Disposing of demons in a gory fashion continues to reward health pickups, however, should you be in need of armour on top of that, the Flame Belch will come in handy. Setting enemies on fire procures extra protection once they're dead while a new melee attack named the Blood Punch can be tuned to drop health in close quarters. The chainsaw rounds out your options by sprinkling the battlefield with ammo for nearly every weapon in your inventory all over again.
Working in unison, the four features help to create the need to be constantly engaging in battle. A health pack or two might be dotted about each and every combat arena, but they'll only take you so far in preventing death. As such, getting involved in the action is pivotal to both taking down enemies and boosting your own chances of survival. Approaching a Cyber-Mancubus might sound like a bad idea in theory when you’ve got one foot in the grave, but there's no greater feeling when you come out the other side having successfully circumvented its gunfire to deliver a satisfying Glory Kill -- yielding more health than ever. While other video games ensure security with cover and acts of retreat, DOOM Eternal's safe space is its enemies.
Weapon mods make a comeback, garnering a new lease of life as they take advantage of combatant's weak points. From the Heavy Cannon's barrage of missiles through to the new Super Shotgun's grappling hook, every modification has its use. A Revenant's blasters can be destroyed to turn it into a melee-focused foe, losing its tail is what a Pinky hates the most, and Cacodemons are susceptible to grenades.
The mechanic adds yet another layer to a combat system which can already consider itself one of the deepest and most enjoyable around. It's the quick-fire, intense action which sets it apart from the rest, allowing you to speedily get about the place as you reign down terror from wherever you see fit. With weak points to think about and more options at your fingertips than ever before, engaging in the game's infinitely replayable combat scenarios should be considered a privilege. This is first-person shooting at its very, very best.
And all of that action can be accessed at your leisure from the game's hub. That's right, the Doom Slayer has his own base of operations. Suitably named the Fortress of Doom, the ship orbits the Earth and gives you the chance to replay missions, enjoy music tracks from classic id Software titles, and listen to tongue-in-cheek ARC broadcasts. It's by no means a game-changing addition, but at least it serves as a place to relax and unwind throughout the 15 to 20 hour campaign.
When you are out in the field and not loosening hell's grip on mankind, however, fully exploring the healthy amount of levels is the next best thing. You'll do that through platforming. Equipped with a double jump and two dashes to make use of, the Doom Slayer is incredibly mobile in the air -- allowing him to reaches places no other human being could even dream of. You'll take advantage of that by climbing up designated surfaces to parkour your way to new areas, swing off of poles to gain speed and momentum, and avoid sheer drops through a combination of the two. Covering vast distances in the blink of an eye is especially thrilling as platforming very quickly becomes second nature. It does become slightly tedious when you fail a jump and have to make your way back to the start point, but we could count the number of times that happened on a single hand.
The increased mobility has also allowed the developer to get creative with the placement of its collectibles. Environments can smartly hide vinyls and toys behind breakable walls, discreetly place upgrade points off the beaten path, and even stash cheat codes where you’d least expect them. Putting the in-game map to excellent use, working out how to reach them can be just as enjoyable as any combat arena.
Those environmental puzzles may be a bundle of fun, but that most definitely does not mean that the overall level design has been left by the wayside. Quite the opposite, in fact. No matter where in the universe you are -- whether that’s in hell, on Earth, or anywhere in between -- every mission is assured to come with its own spectacle. Gigantic statues depict battles of old off in the distance while the planet we call home looks almost unrecognisable after being ravaged by the demonic horde. It's seriously impressive to say the least, keeping you guessing as to what's around the corner every step of the way.
Even the narrative which links those levels and set pieces together is surprisingly interesting. It's not going to win any awards, with much of the plot based around pushing back hell's invasion of Earth, but the quest to take those behind it all down is thoroughly entertaining. With some genuinely interesting lore and backstory to uncover along the way, it's a story which certainly makes for a pleasant surprise.
Better yet, the game runs extraordinarily well on PS4 Pro. Aiming for 60 frames per second, there was just a single instance in our playthrough where the game failed to maintain that smooth consistency. It wasn't a big deal, occurring in the middle of an incredibly heated exchange with a huge amount of enemies on screen, making for a reliable title when all is said and done. The visuals aren't quite as impressive, failing to better the likes of God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2, but as id Software has managed to launch an experience completely lacking bugs and glitches, all is forgiven.
Alongside its excellent campaign, DOOM Eternal will also ship with a 2v1 multiplayer offering named Battlemode. Two players take up the role of demons while their opponent controls the Doom Slayer in an effort to take them down. Unfortunately, the servers for this online mode won't go live until the game itself releases and so we haven't had the chance to sample what it has to offer. Therefore, we shall issue a follow-up article in the near future detailing our thoughts on Battlemode.
DOOM Eternal delivers one of the best FPS campaigns of all time. The way it weds fast-paced, sensational action with gratifying platforming makes for a single player experience that will be remembered as one of the PS4's very best. And with a smooth frame rate to boot alongside the phenomenal feeling of handling any one of the game’s weapons, id Software has truly outdone itself. DOOM Eternal is superb.