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Now, before I alarm some people over the title of my review, I just want to say right now that I like this game. Actually, no, I LOVE this game. I've played it once on Ultra-Violence with a few subsequent Nightmare runs and had an absolute blast. I'm referring to the reaction some parts of the audience have had towards it, but I'll get to that later.
This game demands so much from you and it's an absolute joy to play. You're switching weapons, prioritizing targets, taking out weak-points, selecting the right enemie(s) to get resources from... Getting through a tough fight in this game is way more satisfying and rewarding than anything DOOM (2016) had to offer, which was already a great game. Don't even get me started on the variety, art direction, and soundtrack.
To sum it up; you are a badass in 2016, while Eternal makes you one.
I'm not saying that the game is perfect (then again, I can't think of one that is). I wish the upgrade system was streamlined, perhaps by removing weapon upgrades, mission/mastery challenges, and making the air-control rune, dash and faster dash recharge, swinging, and weapon switching the default (then again, this is also an issue I have with the previous game). Also, maybe ease players in a bit more, like increasing the default ammo count and not introducing Arachnotrons and Cacos in the first damn level, and perhaps make a single permanent ammo upgrade received midway through the campaign that goes to the current max to compensate. More labyrinthine levels like the Super Gore Nest would also be appreciated. Oh, and make the Crucible like a melee version of the Doom 3 Soul Cube that replaces glory kills. These issues I have are mostly nit-picks, though.
The thing is, while general public reception has been very positive, there's a good amount of people who decry things like platforming (which IMO makes traversing environments more engaging and isn't even that hard), the Marauder (which doesn't break the pace if you know what you're doing), ammo limits (don't spam the SSG), and general "bloat" (like the Blood Punch or Flame Belch, which is ignoring the purpose of those mechanics). It's sad that this game feels this misunderstood.
Also, the story. Like, who cares? DOOM's "narrative" has been B-movie shlock first-and-foremost and aside from one certain brief section, doesn't get in the way that much not that unlike most past entries (and you can skip most of it now unlike DOOM (2016)).
I'm hoping those who didn't complete the game will warm up to it, and for those who did and still didn't like it, it will be Vindicated by History for them. I also hope id Software doesn't dumb-down the next game because some people sucked at this one, can't put the blame on themselves, and didn't understand its nuances.
Let's get this out of the way: DOOM Eternal is still leagues better than most of its contemporary FPS brethren, just like its predecessor was. The combat is fast, gory, and cathartic with lots of weapons and tactics to choose from; the setting's beautifully fucked up and has lots of interesting lore to it; there's enough collectibles to sate most any fan of that aspect of gaming, and they're all pretty cool; and, of course, the Slayer himself is a real G. I don't regret pre-ordering this game and setting aside a few days to play it in the least.
But while I was playing it, I found myself constantly comparing Eternal to 2016, and rarely favorably - somehow, most of the aspects that made that game so fresh and engaging aren't as good here, and not in the sense of "I've already seen this so it's not interesting anymore". Even with the extensive data logs and backstory presented, the story and characters don't feel as fleshed-out, compelling, and well-written as those of the "first" entry do; part of this, in my opinion, is due to cutscenes changing the camera angle to a third-person view rather than constantly maintaining a first-person shot from within the Slayer's helmet, which removes the element of constant immersion that 2016 had and feels unnecessary. There's also the fact that the new main antagonist, the Khan Makyr, just isn't as "worthy" an enemy as Olivia Pierce - both are absolutely terrible and self-centered people, to be sure, but you don't get to learn as much about the Khan Makyr's personality and history and her involvement in the plot lacks the personal weight of Pierce's fucked-up actions, so her eventual demise just isn't that satisfying, especially given how surprisingly NOT gory it is; I'd say this is in part due to her juggling screentime with a few other antagonists serving under her who you ALSO get to learn stuff about. Oh yeah, and the new UAC rep popping up in hologram form is just constantly annoying rather than funny like the guy on Mars, which would be more tolerable if you actually got to kill her at some point, but you don't. Per the overall story, something about it just keeps it from resonating as a personal battle like 2016's did, and the conclusion feels rushed and unsatisfactory in its method of keeping the story open for another entry, unlike 2016's ending that was just totally badass on all fronts.
As for gameplay, I rarely found myself getting a rush from combat as I did in 2016 and instead felt a lot of frustration toward the end of the campaign, which I would attribute to two things: enemy rushing and Marauders. The former would just chew away my health like no one's business and eventually drained all my lives (yes, this game has 1-Ups, but they basically work like Phoenix Downs rather than restarts so it's fine), even as I was playing on the lowest difficulty, while Marauders...the first time you fight one as a boss it's pretty fun and intense because it forces you to time attacks and keep dodging, but they just keep popping up in later missions while you're fighting OTHER strong enemies, which turns them from a change of pace enemy to a frustrating, groan-inducing sight as they keep blocking your attacks and pursuing you across the map. I really wish we'd just gotten the one Marauder as a boss to avoid that kind of frustration, I can't even imagine how bullshit they feel on higher difficulties.
All in all, DOOM Eternal's not a bad game or sequel, I've definitely played far worse over the past few years and I do think those involved put their best foot forward - but whether for a want of more development time or a misjudging of how far nostalgia goodwill can go, it's not entirely what I'd hoped for.
Platform Reviewed: PC
After a generation of linear shooters and open world sandboxes, Bethesda and id Software brought back the classic arena FPS with the exhilarating 2016 reboot of Doom. Having played through it twice (once on Xbox, once on Switch), I was eager to see how the reboot's sequel could make improvements. So did Eternal build upon its predecessor well? In a word, yes... albeit with some strings attached.
While 2016's visuals were impressive enough, Eternal takes the aesthetics and graphics to a whole new level. Thanks to its transition to id Tech 7, gone are 2016's pop-ins and somewhat dull colors. What we have, instead, is oodles of variety in terms of settings, lighting, and texture work of characters and environment alike. The new engine even allows players to shave off chunks of demons, making each shotgun blast far more impactful.
Speaking of impact, Mick Gordon's music is back and better than ever. Its dynamic build-up and headbanging climaxes are the perfect backdrop to the game's frenetic firefights. I also greatly appreciate his generous use of Ominous Demonic Chanting, courtesy of a choir formed of metal artists, whenever I explored the map and searched for that extra collectible.
The exploration has been substaintially improved. In addition to double jumps and dashing, you no longer die instantly when you fall into the pit. It may not seem like much, but Eternal's Zelda-esque map design encourages creative traversal to reach new areas or secrets, so I greatly appreciate not having to load a save if I made a wrong move.
Given all these positives, it's surprising that the two areas I feel mixed in are the technical stability... and the combat. On my new ROG laptop with an Nvidia GTX 1660Ti, I've ran into framerate drops and freezes during intense firefights. Until the latest patch, I couldn't even boot the game from Steam without disabling the AMD CPU's internal graphics first. My laptop exceeds recommended specs, so I'm puzzled why id let laptop optimization slip through the cracks.
As for the combat, it's fun but it doesn't feel as right as 2016. There are tools that allow you to generate armor from burning demons and the weak-points in each demon adds much appreciated strategy to the mix. However, I felt the pace of fighting the demons itself was off. Like Xilinoc, I experienced unearned difficulty spikes from constant Zerg Rush and a boss demon that becomes a recurring enemy by the endgame.The relentless waltz that is the 2016's pace gets derailed at times, and I hope id takes an opportunity to address these spikes.
Overall, Eternal is a followup that takes two steps forward and one step back. The Slayer's time is now... provided he can handle the uneven combat pacing and the technical issues first.
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