Note: I wrote this review for Deimos Force a couple of months ago. They haven’t gotten around to posting it yet, so I’m publishing this here.
DOOM Eternal is a joke.
Let me explain.
It begins with the title – in ALL CAPS as if it’s screaming out its name. Then there’s the absurdly brutal violence, fetishization of heavy weapons, blood-soaked graphics, and most of all, the ludicrously heavy soundtrack.
DOOM Eternal is everything the ‘90s was afraid of – violent games, heavy metal, and satanism. But it feels like a joke, a great one in fact, because like a good satirist, id Software blends excellent craftsmanship and artistry with purpose and intent. Eternal is a game that feels fresh and new in a field where boredom is often the key to success.
While there’s a lot to see and hear in Eternal, it’s how the game makes you feel that’s more important. id has put its decades of experience on display here through bullet ballet. The Slayer moves with incredible grace across the battlefield, using his guns, shoulder-mounted flamethrower, grenades, and his bare fists to decimate his enemies.
You see, unlike its contemporaries – the big, expensive Call of Duty and Battlefield games – DOOM Eternal doesn’t rely on mastering microscopic movements. It doesn’t ask you to memorize maps, weapon handling, and whatnot. In fact, it only demands one thing: keep moving! Standing still or retreating behind cover is never an option. Your only strategy involves moving in and out of fights. Good tactics include choosing the right weapons at the right time, mining weak enemies for health and ammo, and using the flamethrower for armor in what can only be called a dance of death.
With that said, the joke continues through the weapons. Everything is badass. You start the game not with a pistol but with a freaking shotgun that also shoots sticky grenades. It gets even better with the Super Shotgun that now comes with a ‘Meat Hook’ (I mean, come on!). It screams power with every shot, and the staggering punch will fill you with glee even after the thousandth demon you’ve killed with it.
It gets even better: every weapon can be upgraded. The combat shotgun can be made fully automatic, turning enemies to pulp in seconds. The heavy machine gun throws unlimited micro–missiles. Rocket launcher? Heat-seeking missiles. The BFG? Well, now it goes to ten thousand.
Each of the weapons is brilliantly realized and highlighted through the demons you kill with them. Skin and muscles are torn off with every shot, and the floor gets littered with torn limbs and brain matter. The graphics speak only violence, channeling the spirit and energy of death metal album covers.
That’s not to say everything is perfect. See, the game is designed around arenas filled to the brim with demons. You’re expected to handle dozens of enemies at once. The only enemy that breaks this beautiful dance is the Marauder. When he appears on stage, the dance stops and has you focusing on a deadly tango surrounded not by spectators but other participants. It doesn’t quite work in the controlled chaos of this dazzling experience.
And don’t get me started on the platforming. It breaks the flow of the game, which is centered around fast action and movement. It introduces friction in an otherwise frictionless experience. You’re expected to navigate and make precise jumps in an unforgiving environment. The only consolation is there’s another brilliant bullet ballet at the end of it.
Mick Gordon’s ridiculously badass music provides company throughout the game. Gordon continues his artistry and originality, mixing chainsaw sounds with a metal choir comprising of a whole slew of heavy metal vocalists to make another preposterously amazing soundtrack that feels unique. The punchy and frenetic music underscores Eternal’s visceral action. During the quiet moments, it goes low and contemplative, completing the experience.
Eternal is full of personality and comedic timing. The story is more fleshed out this time, channeling the feel of Saturday morning cartoons from the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s a power fantasy in the same vein as He-Man, and it’s glorious as hell. Like before, the Slayer remains, letting the story be told by Vega, Samuel Hayden, and UAC holograms. The testament of a good story in 2020 is how meme-able it is, and Eternal has resulted in some of the best memes I’ve ever seen.
Hey, I did say it was all a joke.
But what a wonderful and brilliant joke it is. Eternal is the result of breathtaking engineering and artistry that we have rarely seen this generation. Combat, movement, music, graphics – everything comes together for you to experience something truly special. Eternal is elaborate and self-indulgent – its violence so over-the-top, you can’t help but smile; the music so grindingly beautiful, it brings you to your knees; and the writing so ridiculous and meta, it makes you appreciate how goofy it is. id has created a masterpiece of a joke that will go down to be one of the best in gaming history.