CS Review: Doom Eternal — an Orgy of Blood and Chaos
I had an epiphany after my weekend-long binge playing Bethesda’s Doom: Eternal, during which I racked up about one-million three hundred and thirty-six demon kills-by-chainsaw and triple the amount of kills-by-super shotgun — at the risk of sounding derivative, this is the greatest first-person shooter ever made.
This statement comes with a caveat. Not everyone will enjoy this style of gameplay in which the primary objective is to run like (and from) Hell and blast everything in sight. Indeed, Doom: Eternal frustrated me like few games have; and will likely cause many a gamer to chuck their controllers in pure rage — even on a normal setting. Some of the online reactions bemoan the difficulty attaining ammunition, the increasingly manic firefights that evolve into some operatic level of insanity the deeper into the game you get; and the somewhat exhaustive platforming. To those critics I say, I get it. I feel your pain. But would you want it any other way?
Doom: Eternal is an orgy of violence, blood and chaos that will leave your thumbs numb from the absurd amount of button smashing needed to traverse each arena; and your eyeballs bloodshot from an inability or unwillingness to blink for fear of missing a beat. There were any number of times where, having absconded a stage by the skin of my teeth, I had to lean back, take a breath and collect my person.
And that’s not hyperbole.
This game throws an entire legion of Hell — and their mothers — at you and never lets up. Demons of all sorts – many familiar, some new — smash their way onto the screen. Some shoot flames. Others fire missiles. Some are smaller winged bastards that spray green acid-shit from the sky, while others tower over the ruined skyscrapers that lay in waste across Earth.
Armed to the tooth with Doom’s trademark arsenal of shotguns, machine guns, plasma rifles, grenades, and flamethrowers, players must plow through the madness as the Doom Slayer; a Man With No Name, who has battled in this arena since his introduction way back in 1993 when id Software released the original Doom, a game I still have memorized to this day — I even remember the cheat codes, which, as a side, pop up during Doom: Eternal as one of many wonderfully placed Easter eggs.
Doom: Eternal feels like the game id Software would have released had the technology existed in the early 90s. This is the Doom I remember, nay wanted, as a kid — a crazy whirlwind of blood-drenched lunacy unmatched by any other game on the market.
Bethesda tries to make sense of the madness by expanding Doom lore and even mythologizing the Doom Slayer. And while that structure adds a nice layer to the proceedings, at least from a storytelling perspective, it really isn’t needed. (Doom’s simplicity is part of its charm. Keep it that way.)
Eternal opens with the forces of Hell, last seen in 2016’s enjoyable (though, comparatively, pedestrian) Doom reboot, now shacked up on Earth. The Doom Slayer sets off to kill three powerful High Priests working for the Khan Maykr, blah, blah, blah. Players start with a combat shotgun, but quickly gather more weapons and their added attachments, like the oh-so-sweet sticky bombs that come in handy against those pesky giant, gun-toting spiders. And that’s it. As with every Doom game, your goal is to collect keys, open doors, and find and explore secret areas all the while engaging in high-octane combat.
That’s the gist.
The combat system does take some getting used to. There is no duck-and-cover option. And really, no strategy either. The player enters an arena, like the entrails-laden Super Gore Nest, the rock soundtrack goes berserk, enemies flood the screen; commence with the running, jumping shooting and gore. Rinse and repeat. Through it all, to keep the player moving, the game limits the amount of ammunition one can carry. So, unless you’re using one of those aforementioned cheat codes, you can’t Rambo an army of demons with your chaingun from a single perch. Nope. You blast a trio of imps with your shotgun. Then launch a sticky bomb at an arachnotron. Then switch to the plasma rifle to destroy a shield-toting soldier demon. Then go full-blown manic with the missile launcher to ward off a mancubus. When ammo runs dry, you gotta rip out the chainsaw and slice an enemy in half — its corpse will produce more clips — or run around the arena and hope to holy God you can find some spare bullets lying around.
Similarly, when your life begins to dwindle, you’ll have to attack and kill one of the weaker baddies using glory kill — introduced in the previous 2016 game — for health, or spray an enemy with your shoulder-mounted flame thrower to attain armor.
That’s the game. Your level of enjoyment will depend on what you expect from a first-person shooter. As stated, many have balked at the elements I found gratifying. Many prefer the more tranquil 2016 chapter, which afforded the player a certain degree of structure and control. And again, I understand.
There’s a boss in Doom: Eternal that you have to shoot from a very specific distance when his eyes turn green for half a second. He zips around like a crack-fueled zombie wielding an ax that fires out some sort of laser thing that quickly depletes health with every hit. Oh, and you’re surrounded by the atypical projectile-tossing demons. I died about a dozen times during this battle, swore, threw a fit; and felt like a friggin’ champ when I finally prevailed.
And that was one of the early bosses.
Doom: Eternal is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the short-tempered. This is a game that will thrill, piss off, anger, and entertain in a variety of ways. But that’s the point. This is a trip through Hell disguised as entertainment.
I loved every agonizing second of it.
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