“You can’t just shoot a hole into the surface of Mars.” –Samuel Hayden
Having killed Deag Ranak, Khan Maykr moves the remaining Hell Priest, Deag Grav. Knowing that Deag Grav is integral to the dæmonic invasion on Earth and sets out to hunt him down, but with the Khan Maykr accelerating the invasion, the Doom Slayer must first destroy the Super Gore Nest. He then heads for the Arc Complex to secure the remains of Samuel Hayden, who leads the human resistance on Earth. While Hayden’s body is destroyed, his mind remains functional: upon uploading Hayden’s mind to the Fortress of Doom, Hayden informs the Doom Slayer that Deag Grav is located on Sentinel Prime, and the fastest way there is through a portal located at Mars’ core in the city of Hebeth. With time an enemy, the Doom Slayer seizes control of the BFG-10000 and blasts a hole on Mars’ surface, then fights his way towards the core and the portal, intent on killing Deag Grav. At the halfway point, DOOM Eternal has proven to be a superb experience, an upgrade over its predecessor in every way. Fights demand more strategy and thinking compared to its predecessor, and the tools that the Doom Slayer has available to him means that spur-of-the-moment decisions do not leave players short-handed. While there are some techniques that work better on some dæmons than others, a steady aim, keeping an eye out for any advantages one can utilise and map knowledge goes a long way in surviving firefights that are far more dynamic and challenging than what DOOM had offered: having now spent thirteen hours in DOOM Eternal, it becomes clear that id Software had delivered their promises from E3 and then some. Besides increasing the monster variety, id Software introduced Destructible Dæmonsto bring DOOM Eternal to the next level: monsters that sustain enough damage will appear and behave differently in response to the player’s actions. Both maps and arenas are designed to encourage clever navigation and combat, pushing players to experiment with different combats styles and move around differently rather than sticking to a single strategy. DOOM Eternal‘s levels themselves are bolder and more eye-popping than those of its predecessor, and nowhere is this more apparent than after the Doom Slayer fires the shot that puts a hole in Mars.
On top of the increased gameplay, DOOM Eternal introduces dry, sardonic humour into its story in a clever way. Once Samuel Hayden is connected to the Fortress of Doom, he implores the Doom Slayer not to shoot a hole in Mars. Moments later, the mission objective appears for the player: shoot a hole in Mars. Similarly, when the Doom Slayer makes to operate the BFG-10000 and the safety protocols engage, an impatient Slayer taps the fire buttons a few more times before VEGA overrides the safety mechanism. These subtle details add personality and a bit of light-heartedness into a game that is otherwise about brutal, over-the-top violence. However, the crown jewel in DOOM Eternal is the UAC’s insistence on calling the Hellspawn the “mortally challenged”. At several points in the game, a hologram can be seen imploring Earth’s (presumably remaining) residents to welcome the Hellspawn with open arms, and the UAC has deemed the phrase “dæmon” to be a slur, hence the change. However, the Hellspawn are, of course, intent on exterminating all of humanity, and the ludicrous thought that one must welcome one’s death is what drives the humour. DOOM Eternal is, in short, poking fun of the idea that there are those who would cling to political correctness even where there is no grounds for doing so. In general, folks who play games like DOOM play DOOM to unwind, and jokes like these are taken in stride, a small aside in a game whose focus is combat efficiency, reflexes, adaptability and resource management. However, there are some who insist that such jokes are harmful and may promote real-world misbehaviours despite a lack of evident indicating otherwise. Such beliefs manifested as a handful of articles on game journalism websites expressing outrage at this, and one wonders if the writers of such articles would be even more outraged to learn that they are alone in their perspectives: a couple of jokes poking fun at society’s more asinine opinions isn’t the end of the world, and at the end of the day, DOOM Eternal excels not because of its narrative or its ability to “drives home a truism that many people, against good evidence, still struggle to accept”, but because it is able to push the limits of what is possible with technology and encourage players to better themselves. DOOM Eternal‘s sales speak for themselves in this regard, and it becomes clear that a few jokes alone do not break a game.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The Doom Slayer returns to Earth with the aim of destroying a Super Gore Nest that could summon enough dæmons to overrun the planet. I overlook a ruined city here armed with the plasma rifle, and despite my old EVGA GTX 1060 SC lacking the hardware for real-time raytracing, the game nonetheless looks gorgeous. One thing I was particularly surprised by was the fact that I’m actually running the game with everything set to ultra settings (and the memory pool is set to “medium”), but in spite of this, I’m still getting a smooth 60 FPS.
- After learning that I could customise the UI’s colour scheme, I immediately switched over to the UAC colours, which provides a much subtler UI than the defaults, which I felt to be a little too cartoonish. The distinct colours actually do serve an important purpose: at a glance, one can ascertain the status of their resources. However, they’re also quite distracting, and the UAC colours make it much easier for me to keep my eyes on the fight without sacrificing ease-of-readability. This small change made all the difference, and I am impressed with how DOOM Eternal provides players with this level of customisation.
- The Super Gore Nest was one of the missions demoed at E3 2018, and back then, the UI more closely resembled that of 2016’s DOOM compared to its modern counterpart. However, having now acclimatised to the new UI, I prefer the style in DOOM Eternal. In their original playthrough at E3, the demo had shown numerous features available to DOOM Eternal that impressed viewers. However, to the community’s great surprise, id Tech had actually not told the community the whole truth with their E3 demo – most developers end up altering their final product from what an E3 demo as the game gets further into production, and sometimes, fans are left disappointed when studios under-deliver. DOOM Eternal, on the other hand, gave fans a product that was superior to the demo.
- The Super Gore Nest level was even more fun in person than it had been in the demo: id Tech’s artists create a sense of scale to really emphasise what’s at stake. A recurring theme in DOOM seems to be the fact that no matter how gargantuan something is, there’s always a way to bring it down, and so, while this Gore Nest looks insurmountable, exploring the city for options eventually leads VEGA to indicate that the Gore Nest was built around an electrical generator, which produces a current strong enough to disintegrate flesh when operational.
- Thus, the Doom Slayer heads into the depths of the facility to reactivate the power generator. The first breaker is easy enough, but par the course for most games, the second switch requires exploration and a bit of creativity to figure out. After entering the radioactive sewers underneath the city, I came upon a radiation suit. This is an old classic from DOOM, allowing the Doom Slayer to traverse toxic sludge and swim through submerged areas. Pickups replenish the suit’s abilities, but the suit itself offers no defense against enemy attacks in any way.
- After acquiring the chaingun, the Doom Slayer has an effective close quarters, high RPM weapon capable of shredding groups of dæmons or melting through a single tougher opponent. The chaingun shares the same bullet pool as the heavy cannon, and once acquired, the heavy cannon becomes the preferred weapon of choice for sniping: two to three rounds will kill the weakest of dæmons, and the precision bolt makes it a great weapon for picking off weak points on tougher foes from afar, before closing the distance to finish them off. I ended up going for the energy shield attachment, which gives me superior survivability in close quarters firefights.
- Looking back, the Fire Bars of Super Mario are a far more intimidating hazard than their counterparts in DOOM Eternal: the presence of armour and health means that one could survive a glancing blow from these without dying, although care must be taken not to get knocked into a bottomless chasm from taking an impact. I’m not the only one who was reminded of Super Mario‘s Fire Bars by these hazards; at least a few other players have noted the similarities. While decades of gaming experience mean I no longer fear the Fire Bars, I can’t say I have an inclination to go back and play Super Mario: my skills simply aren’t there for 2D platformers.
- Here, I come across one of the Slayer Gate keys, along with some health pick ups. The Slayer Gate challenges have been remarkably fun, and DOOM Eternal touts them as being a step up from ordinary combat encounters. Having played through five of the six so far, I conclude that these challenges are immensely fun, and immensely demanding on players, but they’re not impossible. My strategy for Slayer Gate challenges were to equip a high RPM weapon and a heavier, slower-firing weapon (e.g. plasma rifle and super shotgun, heavy rifle and rocket launcher), and then quick-swap between the two. In this way, I was able to even beat the Barons of Hell that show up during these challenges.
- DOOM Eternal is very unforgiving when it comes to ammunition, and in the heat of a firefight, one will run out of rounds for their active weapon if careless. This forces players to constantly change weapons, and get creative: if one has no more shotgun rounds, dealing with Cacodemons requires a bit of lateral thinking. Once all of the keys are unlocked, it’s time to return back into the heart of the Super Gore Nest and take it out once and for all: here, I’ve found all three keycards, and unlocked the final segments of the level. However, before I continued, I decided to sweep back through the mission and finish finding all of the secrets that I could.
- Admittedly, the massive, pulsating heart at the Super Gore Nest’s core brought back memories of Metro 2033‘s Biomass, a similarly repulsive and putrid organic construct. Both cases require activating a power source to destroy it, and the results are immensely satisfying – I’m not sure if the commonalities are intentional, but a cursory search finds that no comparisons have yet been drawn. Once the threat to the planet is averted for the present, the Doom Slayer returns to his stronghold and prepares for the next mission, to retrieve Samuel Hayden, who knows of Deag Grav’s whereabouts.
- Thus, the Doom Slayer returns to Earth and makes his way to the ARC facility: the Armoured Resistance Colation, which was formed after the UAC’s corruption. This mission sees players return to the city streets, bringing back memories of Halo 3: ODST‘s New Mombassa. Before the Doom Slayer can actually get to the ARC building, the area must first be cleared of dæmons, and defensive batteries must be brought online so that tentacles obstructing the path can be cleared.
- Prior to setting off for the ARC headquarters, VEGA will instruct the Doom Slayer to pick up the Ballista, a Night Sentinel weapon that uses the same ammunition as the plasma rifle to create a highly destructive bolt for long-range combat. The weapon is not of human design and replaces the Gauss Cannon from DOOM, and in practise, it’s a powerful single-shot weapon for destroying weak points. Lore suggests that the Ballista is more deadly than the human Gauss Cannon, and the weapon looks absolutely nasty. I do miss not having Siege Mode, but the Arbalest mod is supposed to combine the raw power from the Gauss Cannon’s Siege Mode with the penetration power from the Precision Bolt.
- The second mod for the Ballista is the Destroyer Blade, which fires a horizontal blast of energy that can cut through entire groups at once, altering the weapon’s functionality and turning it into a miniature BFG. Here, I’ve finished an intense firefight against a group of dæmons in a restaurant, and during this fight, there was a Berserker powerup that allowed me to physically rip dæmons apart. I’ve heard that the Berserker sphere is exceedingly rare during the campaign, and considering how powerful the powerup is, I suppose this is fair – it’s said that with this powerup active, the Doom Slayer can kill even the mighty Barons of Hell instantly, exploding it with a single punch.
- Having initially picked up the microwave beam mod for the plasma rifle, I ended up acquiring the heat blast, as well. Looking back on the changes between weapon mods of DOOM and DOOM Eternal, it seems that DOOM Eternal had changed up some weapons so the mods were more distinct: weapons with mods that seemed similar in functionality, so id Tech ended up rolling the functions of DOOM‘s mods into one and then introducing a new mod that accommodates a different play style. The heat blast is a fun mod to run with, acting similarly to World of Warcraft‘s Dragon Breath – when fully charged, it discharges the weapon’s built-up heat in a cone in front of the player.
- I’ve seen that with real-time ray-tracing running, DOOM Eternal looks impossibly good: the water reflections here are impressive, and one detail I’ve become immensely fond of is the play of light on my active weapon. However, even on ultra-nightmare without any real-time ray-tracing, DOOM Eternal looks much better than it has any right to, especially considering that I’m still getting silky smooth frame-rates for most of the game: I’m averaging 60 FPS for most places, and while I occasionally seem frame-rates drop in more intense firefights, the game handles very well. Some testing finds that I use about 5 GB of graphics memory out of my available 6 GB, which isn’t too bad.
- To be honest, I am a little surprised that my machine has held up this well over the years: it’d originally been built to play the best titles of 2013 (Battlefield 4, Crysis 3) at 1080p60 on ultra settings, and back in 2016, I upgraded the GTX 660 SC to a GTX 1060 SC such that I could run DOOM. The machine has handled Battlefield 1, Battlefield V, Battlefront II, The Division 2 and Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War reasonably well; I neither stream nor have any plans to play games at 1440p or 4K in the foreseeable future, so my current setup continues to meet my current requirements. While I do have plans to build a new machine in the future, I’m glad my rig continues to hold out in the knowledge that hardware continues to be scarce.
- Here, I return to the street level after using the defense turrets to rip apart the tentacles. A purple fluid covers the ground, and this mixture prevents the Doom Slayer from jumping or moving as quickly. In a firefight, this can prove absolutely deadly, but fortunately, there are options available to the player – use of the super shotgun’s meathook allows one to latch onto a dæmon and beat a hasty escape from a bad situation. I typically use the super shotgun for its meathook – the massive firepower means the weapon is wasted on the weaker enemies, but being able to pull oneself out of a tricky spot and then utilise a combination of double jumps and dash, then switching weapons, makes the super shotgun as much of a tool as a weapon.
- I’ve read a lot of complaints about DOOM Eternal‘s gameplay; the leading criticism is that the game supposedly pigeonholes players into a certain play-style and routine while simultaneously punishing them for deviating from the optimal route. This couldn’t be further from the truth – the so-called optimal approach is used when one has a chance to prepare, but when the fluidity of combat catches one off-guard, it’s a matter of creatively using what one has available to them in order to get out of a difficult situation. Unskilled players (like video games journalists) lack the forward thinking needed to extricate themselves from overwhelming enemies numbers and brutality because they expect there to be one way of playing, but competent players will see alternatives solutions, both in terms of their equipment options and utilising the map to their advantage. When the Marauder is introduced, a handful of players found this foe to be so overwhelming they quit playing outright, and those who insist on fighting a certain way demanded the enemy be removed from the game.
- The Marauder is actually one of the best designed enemies in any video game ever: it forces players to focus their attention on them and fight them on the Marauder’s terms. In short, this foe gives players a taste of their own power; the Marauder dominates CQC with its super shotgun, and can throw its Argent Axe for long range combat. It is protected by an impenetrable shield, and it will summon a spirit wolf when shot at. This enemy is designed to punish impatient players, all the while rewarding strategic movement and weapon usage. To beat a Marauder, one must bait it into swinging its axe, and then shoot it – after it is stunned, one can immediately follow up with a second shot. Of course, one can use indirect fire to stun it, as well. On my first fight with the Marauder, I had come in with some knowledge of how to fight it, so I used distance to bait its attacks and struck with a combination of Ballista and the super shotgun.
- The Mars Core mission starts out at the Phobos BFG-10000 facility. The 2019 E3 began here, and it was here the “mortally challenged” joke first became known to the world at large. However, this was nothing but a manufactured controversy from video game journalists overreacting to the idea that a game poking fun at political correctness could somehow be “harmful” towards society; DOOM Eternal itself is a fine game, and it is ludicrous to suggest that entertainment could influence the way people think. Here, I fight my way across the facility to the BFG-1000 itself, a massive cannon of immense power.
- Because of the BFG-10000’s presence, this mission was particularly exciting since I knew it was time to finally pick up one of the most iconic DOOM weapons of all time. With this past long weekend, I’ve been able to really make progress in my larger posts, and in a few days, I’ll be ready to publish a talk on Violet Evergarden: The Movie; this post is going to be as large as my old talk on Tenki no Ko, and as such, took a while to prepare. The Heritage Day long weekend was a fantastic chance to do this, along with just kicking back in general: I went for a walk earlier this morning and then enjoyed a home-cooked burger and fries.
- Once the Doom Slayer reaches the BFG-10000 and uses it to blast a hole in Mars, he then rips the weapon from the cannon. On the PA network, the facility is to be evacuating to the surface of Mars: the thought of the Doom Slayer with the BFG is sufficiently terrifying such that the UAC’s staff would rather move to the surface of Mars, which the Doom Slayer had just blasted, rather than occupy the same facility as him. After acquiring the BFG-9000, players will have a chance to fire it for the first time, clearing out an armada of Cacodemons with a single shot. The BFG-9000 is best fired in an open space: the energy discharges emanating from the plasma orb do more damage the longer the orb is in the air.
- The size of the hole in Mars becomes apparent when players move to the mission’s next phase: the crater has collapsed, giving the Doom Slayer a clear shot to the core. While I know this was simply a skybox, it speaks volumes to the impact that a good skybox can have on the scale of a level. This segment of the mission requires a bit of platforming: the Phobos facility has fragmented, and it will take some good coordination to get to the ion cannon that will propel the Doom Slayer to the next part of the mission.
- The combat shotgun might be less useful later in DOOM Eternal as more powerful enemies show up, but the weapon remains highly effective with the sticky bombs; upgrades allow the weapon to reload faster and have a larger blast radius, making it an immensely useful tool for clearing out rooms. The weapon challenge entails destroying the Arachnotron turrets fifteen times, and while these enemies were common earlier in the game, I’ve noticed they’ve become less common of late. With this in mind, I made the mistake of not spending weapon upgrade points earlier, leaving me less time to unlock the weapon mastery upgrades.
- The Doom Slayer’s casual disregard for Samuel Hayden’s remarks is hilarious: after recovering the remains of Hayden from the ARC Complex, I was surprised to see that Hayden’s powerful robotic body was destroyed during the events of Operation Hellbreaker. However, his computational matrix still remains functional, and while the ARC scientists weren’t able to transfer him to a new body, the Doom Slayer sees fit to take the remains back to the Fortress of Doom. The Doom Slayer’s personal stronghold is based on the same architecture, allowing Hayden to resume his reluctant assistance of the Doom Slayer.
- One thing I’ve noticed about DOOM Eternal was that the campaign missions load very quickly: on my machine, I can get from hitting the start button to the campaign in the space of a minute, and I imagine that folks with more modern setups and sufficiently large SSDs can accomplish the same on shorter order. In spite of the game appearing to possess steep hardware requirements, DOOM Eternal is superbly optimised and runs very well even on older machines.
- Here is a another perspective on the hole in Mars: the planetary core is visible here, and it’s time to go before the planet collapses back on itself. I would imagine that in the event that such damage could be done to a planet, the mass of a planet’s material would close any hole. The amount of damage done to the surface would be enormous, enough to fracture the crust and create planet-wide seismic and volcanic activity. Thus, when the UAC facility order its staff to evacuate to the surface of Mars, one can immediately infer that the Doom Slayer is such a terrifying presence
- After platforming over to the escape pods, I prepare myself to head on over to Mars’ core, where the lost city of Hebeth is located. According to the in-game lore, reaching Hebeth requires navigating a treacherous path through Mars’ mantle to reach the core. I’ll note here that this past weekend, the Halo: Infinite technical test was running, and while I’m a part of the Halo Insiders programme, I did not receive an invitation to participate. While this would’ve been a great opportunity to see how Halo: Infinite ran on my machine, not participating was a blessing in disguise, allowing me to finish off a few other things and spend time doing things like outdoor walks. I wonder if 343 Industries will do an open beta closer to the launch, and while it would be nice to get an invitation, since I have plans to buy the game anyways, I won’t be bothered if I were to sit the open beta out.
- The presence of Hebeth suggests a hollow planet: these theories are not scientific in any way, but in the realm of fiction, make for fantastic settings. Godzilla vs King Kong was such a work that took the protagonists to a hollow space inside Earth, and while one would expect it to be dark inside, there’s even a light source. How this works defies conventional understanding, and DOOM Eternal‘s portrayal of Hebeth makes more sense, with flowing magma providing the lighting to this diabolical environment.
- With the portal to Sentinel Prime just a stone’s throw away, all that separates the Doom Slayer from his foe is a small army of monsters which are easily defeated. It goes without saying that I’m excited to press on forwards with DOOM Eternal: the game has exceeded all expectations, and my initial reservations proved unfounded. One element about DOOM Eternal that was a deal-breaker was the inclusion of Denuvo’s anti-cheat software, which uses a kernel-level solution that runs even when the game isn’t. Denuvo has a track record of creating CPU-intensive anti-cheat solutions that also requires multiple hard drive reads, degrading hardware performance and lifespan. This inclusion was controversial and rightly removed from DOOM Eternal, and at present, no such software is installed with the game, allowing it to run efficiently.
As such, halfway into DOOM Eternal, I’m having a fantastic time: this is a game that is clearly crafted for fans of DOOM who want a more exhilarating, more challenging and more immersive experience. Instead of simply copying the DOOM mechanics whole-sale, DOOM Eternal introduces new mechanics that promotes creative and strategic play on top of having swift reflexes and a steady aim. Initial remarks about DOOM Eternal‘s gameplay being lesser than that of DOOM‘s prove unfounded; despite its dazzling array of options, it was claimed that DOOM Eternal pigeon-holes players into approaching a given fight one way. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and players who gripe about DOOM Eternal‘s gameplay are likely folks who stick with what are colloquially referred to as the meta way to play the game. In other words, for a given game (or situation), there is an optimal way to play, and players artificially limit themselves to these constraints because other games reward sticking to meta approaches or, in some cases, the individuals simply lack the creativity to solve problems in novel ways. Such narrow-mindedness can result in a degraded experience, but for games journalists, their pride means rather than admit they haven’t made an effort to learn game mechanics, they’d sooner dismiss DOOM Eternal as a “…a dizzying catastrophe” that is “not nearly as good as the original” because the story is “more convoluted”. DOOM Eternal‘s story is simple enough: to save the Earth, the Doom Slayer must kill high-ranking dæmonic and roll back an ancient conspiracy from those who tapped into Argent Energy as a power source, unaware of its dangers. The story has always been secondary in DOOM, and in DOOM Eternal, it is sufficiently serviceable as to justify a fantastic rampage of blood, guts and gore as the Doom Slayer rips and tears his way through hordes of Hellspawn to save the world. The supposition that all games necessarily need a story meritorious of The Booker Prize for Fiction can only stem from the belief that DOOM Eternal is a mindless shooter, and one can deduce that the games journalists who hold such thoughts likely started up the game, found themselves overwhelmed by every fight and ran out of ammunition because they’d made no effort to learn the game mechanics. Then in their frustration, they needed some sort of flimsy justification to put DOOM Eternal down. Fortunately, since I’m no games journalist, I do possess a modicum of skill for games like DOOM Eternal: my experience is dramatically more positive, and I can say with confidence that I am going to continue enjoying a game whose developers understand full well what fun constitutes.