The Doom game from 2016 is not only one of the best first-person shooters ever, but also one of the most surprising reboots. Id Software hadn’t made game that lived up to its legendary pedigree in quite some time before that point, as evidenced by the passable Rage and oddball Doom 3. Given its predecessor’s success, it’s not as likely that Doom Eternal will surprise us in the same way. After all, it’s not shocking that a new Doom game from that same studio is absolutely incredible but it’s also not a shock that Doom Eternal was one of the best games at E3 2019.
Doom Eternal gracefully borrows a lot of what made the 2016 reboot a classic, giving it a familiar feel. But it doesn’t just rest on those laurels and churn out yet another samey experience. Instead, Eternal pushes and evolves almost every mechanic to great effect as showcased in the hands-on E3 2019 demo.
Doom Eternal Preview | Gotta go fast
The Doom Slayer is even more nimble this time around as his double jump now works in tandem with his new ability to air dash, swing on monkey bars, and grab certain walls. On their own, they amp up the tempo and give the player more ways to get around. But chaining them together ensures that you never stop moving and constantly have more ways to get the jump on your demonic opponents. The few arenas in the demo were also quite varied and had plenty of environmental objects — like jump pads, portals, and monkey bars — to help you never stop moving and never stop killing.
Blistering pacing is what gives Doom such a commanding superiority over all of its contemporaries as almost each and every one feels sluggish in comparison. While it’s unclear how difficult the final game will be, the demo was quite hard but manageable when played at the high speed the game expects you to play it at. Harsh difficulty pushes you to keep moving and to be constantly thinking about your next step to avoid getting devoured by whatever Cacodemon or Mancubus that can outshoot you. Standing still will be your demise and Doom shouldn’t play any other way.
Doom Eternal Preview | Ripping and tearing and flaming
Doom’s core combat has also gotten more than a few tweaks to complement its new suite of traversal abilities. Glory Kills and the chainsaw return, bringing back the dynamic of strategically killing your enemies in different ways depending on what resource you need. Eternal adds the Flame Belch system, which is a small turret on your shoulder that recharges after a short while. Once enemies are lit on fire, they spit out armor the more you shoot them. The seemingly small change layers on yet another tactical option for players to think about as they carve through Hell’s worst.
Glory Killing is now even more strategic because of the Blood Punch system. Glory Kills charge up your Blood Punch, which adds extra oomph to your melee attack and damages nearby enemies. When combined with the Flame Belch, it’s possible to light a few enemies on fire before then pummeling them all with one fatal Blood Punch, yielding both armor and health. And while the new rechargeable shoulder mounted grenade doesn’t seem to add any strategic value yet, it’s other systems brilliantly add to the core loop of Doom’s combat.
Eternal also equips the Doom Slayer with a few additional and returning weapons. And even though the shotgun is still the shotgun and the Ballista is a lot like the reboot’s Gauss Cannon, each has gone through some sort of makeover. The aforementioned classic shotgun now shoots sticky bombs too in addition to its all-powerful buckshot. The updated Plasma Rifle still is fast-firing machine gun, but it now also has a secondary microwave attachment that fries enemies that explode. Bigger demons take longer to cook but they have a larger explosion radius.
But the best one is easily the almighty Super Shotgun that is still the beloved double-barreled blaster with a twist. Instead of a traditional secondary fire, it shoots a grappling hook that buries into enemies and pulls you toward them. Equipping a shotgun with a grappling hook is a legendary idea up there with the chainsaw gun from Gears of War but it’s more than just a rad idea. It pulls you right back into the action in a fluid, kinetic way that brilliantly mixes movement and offensive firepower. The range seemed a bit short but it’s probably more designed to pull you toward enemies you’re somewhat close to and not a means to fling you across the entire battlefield.
Doom Eternal Preview | The best bestiary
And these enemies had far greater variety than the last iteration. Eternal is said to have twice as many demons and this demo felt like an accurate vertical slice of that expanded scope. While other shooters lack variety or simply fake it with palette swaps, Doom has always been adept at making its bestiary of horrifying creatures require different approaches and strategies.
Eternal looked to hold up that philosophy as its many hellspawns spawned in the world. Mixing them in unique configurations has the potential to encourage players to quickly prioritize the biggest threats and go from there. That moment-to-moment thinking works well with the aforementioned strategies already baked into the combat. Eternal’s few battlefields in the demo had plenty of variety as did the previous entry, making it easy to have faith that id will once again place thoughtful enemy combinations inside of well-designed arenas.
Its arenas are still visually striking too, mixing demonic architecture with dilapidated UAC structures and otherworldly vistas. Sharp reds give Doom its distinct tone and it appears that Eternal is staying consistent with that style. Some of the trailers teased less hellish, angelic worlds, but hopefully Eternal uses its signature red and orange color palette more because it is still utterly striking.
Although that shouldn’t be a surprise. Of course Doom Eternal looks fantastic; it’s building off its near-perfect predecessor. And that seems to apply to almost every aspect of this game. The fast-paced combat loop and extensive list of meaningful upgrades are familiar but strengthened by id’s clever tweaks and additions that will hopefully be expanded upon even more in the final game. It’s hard not to anticipate more, given the quality of this demo. However, it was disappointing that its intriguing multiplayer mode wasn’t playable too as that was the one soft spot of the 2016 installment. Although with a single-player showing this strong, Doom Eternal not only looked like one of the best games of the show, but it also appeared like it will be an easy Game of the Year contender.