PAX East 2020: Doom Eternal Desecrates Earth

It’s been a long time coming.  Doom has always been about the demonic takeover of Mars, but the big threat behind the pure brutal action was that someday it would arrive on Earth.  Doom Eternal takes place a couple of years after the end of the previous Doom, and despite his Martian victory the Doom Slayer’s work is nowhere close to done. The moon is shattered, Earth is decimated, giant continent-sized pentagrams are carved into the planet’s surface, and with the body-count in the billions things are looking grim.  The final fate of humanity can only be averted by a lone warrior with no issues wading through an ocean of demon blood, so the arrival of the Doom Slayer on Earth means that just maybe there’s a small glimmer of hope after all.

Doom roared back to life in a big way with 2016’s revival, which returned the series to its roots long after 2004’s awkward attempt to second-guess what people would want from a modern entry.  While it didn’t feature the same enemy density of the original games, Doom made up for it with hard-hitting action that kept the player bloody to the elbows and level design featuring a huge number of secrets to chase after.  Doom 2016 moved fast, played hard and let players make the choice to breathe a little between one encounter while to explore the level or dash on through to keep the action flowing depending on personal preference and really that’s all anyone wanted from the series.  Doom is a modern action-classic and Doom Eternal is shaping up to be the same except bigger and more epic in every way.

Bethesda was at PAX East with Doom Eternal in tow, letting people sit down and start a game from level 1, and while there wasn’t enough time to do more than get a general impression, the game made a strong enough one that it instantly rocketed to the top of my must-play list.  After an intro movie just long enough to amp up the mood before getting out of the way, the Doom Slayer heads down to Earth to (sigh) rip and tear through the horde (note: “rip and tear” was funny because it was so deeply stupid.  The phrase really isn’t redeemable when used in-game, no matter how hard they try.)  While the Doom Slayer can’t bring his entire arsenal and power-up supply from the previous Doom along on the trip, he does start out more powerful than the last time with the base weapon being the tactical shotgun and already having the double-jump boots equipped.  After killing a handful of popcorn monsters the chainsaw shows up, and then an easily-found secret lets you know to pay attention to the surroundings. A firefight or two leads to the heavy cannon assault rifle and then it’s time to get down to serious killing.

If this sounds a lot like the last Doom, there’s no denying it is.  What Doom Eternal is doing, though, is getting back to where people left off as quickly as possible before rocketing into new territory.  There are new moves, weapons and monsters to learn, not to mention the huge variety of Earth environments that don’t look a thing like the red sands of Mars, and Eternal doesn’t seem to want to waste a second getting to it all.  There’s even a story this time outside of “go here and shoot things”, which is a little unusual but doesn’t seem like it will get in the way of demon evisceration.

All the new features like swinging from horizontal poles and triple-jumping for more air time are welcome, but what sold me on Doom Eternal was its feel.  It’s obviously a sequel, sure, but everything felt right, punchy and meaty and entertainingly bloody.  The Doom Slayer has a fantastic move-set, enemies attack in large numbers and applying the former to the latter is deeply satisfying and fun.  Plus there are giant multi-hundred-foot tall demons wandering about, with the promise of an epic confrontation when it’s time to take them down.  And honestly?  That sounds exactly like everything Doom needs to be.


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