DOOM Eternal Preview: Rain of Blood

Let me reassure you straight away; DOOM Eternal is more of the same rip-and-tear action you know and love. If you thought 2016’s DOOM cranked the heavy metal up to 11, DOOM Eternal leaves its hotel room completely trashed and french kisses the bell-hop as it walks out the front door, past the smashed TV on the sidewalk and into the bar next door at 8 am.

Okay, granted I’ve only played a couple of hours of DOOM Eternal, so can’t really speak about the quality of the full game. What I’ve seen so far though, gives the strong impression this sequel is going to be even more bad arse that its 2016 predecessor.

So, what did I see and do?

During my preview session, I went hands-on with the first three levels; Earth, Exultia and Cultist Base. I also played around in the new Fortress of Doom area, a sort of hub-world that connects each of the levels. 

DOOM Eternal Preview

There’s a greater emphasis on weaving a story here. id Software has struck a good balance between focusing on what DOOM is known for — namely, demon-killing action — and trying something a bit different.

The cut-scenes were all fairly brief and over within minutes, with much of the world-building and lore dolled out through codex entries scattered around the game world.

Don’t worry though, DOOM Eternal gets you into the action pretty darn quick once you load that start screen.

Go to Hell

Each of the three levels I played was considerably varied in both setting and tone. This is, of course, a radical change to DOOM 2016. There, players spent the first half of the game traversing the same futuristic space station facility, before arriving in Hell for a short stint.

DOOM Eternal’s second and third level, Exultia and Cultist Base, differ quite a bit in their respective environments. The former whisks players off to an ancient ruined city, before portal-jumping into more familiar territory. The latter has players blasting away the hordes of hell in a high-tech facility situated atop snow-covered mountains. 

With new environments come new ways to explore said environments.

Doom Slayer is now equipped with double dash/dash jump, wall climbing and bar swinging abilities. Dashing is a welcome addition to DOOM Eternal, making ‘getting out of dodge’ during demon firefights so much easier than before.

I’m not really sold on wall climbing and bar swinging.

I find it quite odd that Doom Slayer is out there swinging and climbing walls between demon kills, it just doesn’t seem to fit his bad-boy, kill everything persona. This particular pill is especially difficult to swallow when watching his climbing mechanic.

It makes the Slayer appear cat-like; his bulky, armoured hands clawing at the wall like a kitten patting its paws at wool.

Punch Puzzles to Pieces

Despite my personal feelings, I’m happy Doom Slayer’s new abilities aren’t just for show. Rather, they’re put to good use by allowing you to overcome an increasingly challenging series of environmental puzzles.

While every person and their dog will have their own opinion concerning their difficulty come launch, I thought the puzzles found in DOOM Eternal’s first three levels range from simple to overly head-scratching.

This leaves me to wonder whether as the difficulty of these puzzles increases throughout the game, so does the potential for player progression to come to a screeching halt. 

One of the best aspects of DOOM 2016 was its ferocious momentum. That constant drive to push forward despite overwhelming odds. I’m concerned that with the addition of these puzzles DOOM Eternal may end up lacking that same momentum during later levels.

This could result in a troublesome experience where players spend upwards of 30 minutes trying to figure out puzzles between demon encounters.

Admittedly, I have only played through three levels, which is barely enough to scratch the surface. Also, my puzzle-solving skills might suck, so there’s that to remember.

My issue with DOOM Eternal’s environmental puzzles is based entirely off a short hands-on preview: not an extensive playthrough of the final game. Ultimately, however, I think this topic will come down to personal preference; whether you’re annoyed by this slow-down in pace comes down to the individual rather than it being a case of horrible game design.

Gotta Keep Moving

Puzzle-solving aside, DOOM Eternal really comes into its own when you start shooting shit. As with DOOM 2016, Eternal is fast and fluid in both its handling and movement, further cementing id Software’s first-person shooter reputation within the industry.

The relentlessness of combat keeps you in constant motion as you attempt to maintain a clear line of sight on your targets whilst trying to stay alive.

In addition to some of the demons found in DOOM 2016, I also came across a few new faces. One of these cheeky boys is the Carcass; a demon resembling Soldiers in appearance but who sports a fashionable energy shield. As the in-game hint pop-ups note, shooting the shield with the Plasma Rifle causes it to explode, damaging anything within its immediate vicinity.

It’s deeply satisfying to see demons explode in a rain of blood.

Responding to the strength and weakness of enemies is just one part of what’s described as DOOM Eternal’s “combat puzzle.” A series of constantly moving parts and interlocking systems that players will need to navigate and master in order to overcome the game’s fierce enemies.

Combat Puzzle

Resources such as health, armour and ammo have been made scarce with only a limited number of each scattered around the environment. To maintain your stocks you’ll need to rely heavily on three core combat abilities; Glory Kills, Flame Belch and the Chainsaw.

Glory Kills are of course the fan favourite feature which made their debut in DOOM 2016. Performing Glory Kills in Eternal now nets you considerable health. To pull a Glory Kill off, simply deal enough damage to enemies to make them begin to flash, at which point using your melee attack will bring you — and the camera — in at close range to execute them in a wonderful display of blood and gore.

Flame Belch is a flamethrower that when triggered sets groups of demons on fire. As they continue to burn, small amounts of ammo will procedurally drop for you to pick up. Of the three key abilities that make up the ‘combat puzzle’, I found this the least effective as it slowed me down whenever I used it. 

Rip and Tear

And then there’s the mighty chainsaw which, when activated, sees you cut through enemies like soft butter. Chainsaw kills rewards you with a tonne of ammo to restock your arsenal. However, the chainsaw also requires fuel to be used, which can be found scattered throughout the environmental arenas where enemies are waiting. 

Though not all demons can be killed instantly with the chainsaw. The level of fuel you currently have determines which demons are susceptible to your chainsaw. Zombies and Imps can be cut down with just one piece of fuel, whereas something a bit bigger like the Arachnotron or Mancubus requires at least three pieces of fuel. 

Once I mastered these abilities I was then able to bounce around the battlefield under intense fire, picking off smaller demons for health and ammo before zoning in on the big boys like the Revenant and Hell Knight. 

Demon: Meet Shotgun

Okay so I’ve talked about some cool new abilities, as well as some not-so-cool ones, the action and touched on the story: but what about the weapons? It wouldn’t be a DOOM game without kickass weapons! 

DOOM Eternal’s opening level starts you off with the humble combat shotgun. From there, it’s not long before you acquire your first weapon mod and second gun; the heavy cannon. Other guns I got to play around with included the Plasma Rifle and Rocket Launcher.

Like its predecessor, DOOM Eternal lets you enhance your guns and other weapons at various upgrade stations located throughout the game. Each gun can be fitted with two modifications, which can be further enhanced with additional upgrades. 

For instance, once you unlock both modifications for the combat shotgun, you can choose to enhance the sticky bomb mod with extra bombs and/or increased explosion range, and so on.

Upgrade Your Upgrades

The majority of the gun mods are fairly similar, if not the same, as they were in DOOM 2016. The difference here is, of course, the option to further enhance your weapon mods in order to customise how you want to slay demons.

However, one gun which was noticeably different is the Super Shotgun. Unlocked around the mid-way point of level three, this iconic bad boy is now fitted with a Meat Hook mod from the get-go. This attachment allows you to draw demons in for some close-range carnage.

Like in DOOM 2016, Eternal also lets you upgrade the Praetor Suit. Though this time you’ll need to locate special tokens scattered throughout the game to spend on upgrades to enhance your health, armour and the like.

These upgrades also provide additional bonuses to abilities such as the Flame Belch. For example, it makes enemies stay on fire longer. I also stumbled across a couple of runes during my hands-on which let you choose from a selection of special bonuses such as perform Glory Kills faster.

Keep ‘Em Coming (Back for More)

As I played through the opening levels more and more content continued to unlock. From the aforementioned Praetor Suit upgrades, to mission challenges, these optional trials unlocked at the beginning of the third level, Cultist Base, and award both Praetor Suit points and Sentinel Batteries which are used to upgrade the Fortress of Doom.

This extra layer of content comes on-top of the hidden Slayer Gate challenges, which are described as optional, intense combat scenarios. I wasn’t able to find any of these gates, but I’m told at least one exists within the first three levels.

The exact number I don’t know.

Then there’s the Demon Prison, an area located within the Fortress of Doom which is essentially a ‘horde mode’ where you blast away waves of demons.

Sounds fun, right?

It is, especially since you have infinite health and can just keep going until you leave the area. In terms of scaling and which enemies appear, however, I’m unsure as a Bethesda representative wasn’t able to confirm.  

Raining Blood

From what I played, DOOM Eternal looks like it’ll be a pretty strong follow-up to DOOM 2016. It retains the same fast-paced gameplay fans know and love (and expect), but tries out some new ideas. 

Some of these new ideas don’t really stick their landings, such as wall climbing and a higher number of environmental puzzles. But that’s just me. And I have only played the game for a couple of hours.

While others such as the deeper level of gameplay customisation, in-mission challenges and some new enemies have the potential to lift DOOM Eternal above its predecessor.

Jayden Williams attended a preview event in Sydney, Australia hosted by Bethesda.

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Jayden Williams
I started playing video games on my grandmother's Sega Master System (go, Alex Kidd!) and after almost 3 decades haven't looked back. I've written for various gaming outlets over the years and enjoy playing across all console platforms and genre types, though have a penchant for action/adventure, RPGs and loot-shooters. Pokémon is my favourite franchise and was there at the birth of the infamous 'rare candy' hack.

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