While it’s great that the Internet has become more of a universal tool than even a couple decades ago, there’s something about Web 1.0 that I miss from time to time. Maybe that’s because this was an era before every corporation on the planet had annexed the place, filling them with cheap styrofoam memes and half-hearted efforts at savvy. Ah, for the days of Newgrounds and Albino Blacksheep, a time when the world was still full of mystery and surprise! These days the Internet’s not the refuge it used to be…but that’s not to say that Web 3.0 (4.0?) is all bad. There’s some points of light every now and again.
Case in point: Twitter’s love affair with Animal Crossing: New Horizons and DOOM Eternal, two games on the polar opposite of the grimdarkness spectrum that launched on the same day. Naturally, we’re going to talk about both, so let’s get DOOMed!
When a demonic invasion ravages Earth, it’s up to you as the Doom Slayer to save the day! You’re going to do this by defeating the Hell Priests, high masters of the demon forces that need a good stabbing. This means a fair amount of running around, blasting baddies, swinging around on conspicuously-placed bars and climbing up walls. Unlike basically every other game in the franchise there’s a whole lot of plot going on in DOOM Eternal, so much there’s a huge Mass Effect-style codex if you’re interested. Trust that I was not, so it’s entirely possible to get through this game without caring at all, but it’s there if you want it.
Here’s the problem with DOOM Eternal: it feels like it would rather be a character-action game or something instead of a shooter. It’s a DOOM game where you’re going to run out of ammunition, health and armor constantly. That’s not necessarily un-DOOM, but rather than a sense of tension brought about by a lack of resources, Eternal’s more of a set of spinning plates, each requiring a massive amount of attention to coordinate properly.
If you’re low on ammunition, chainsaw a demon and it’ll spew out more! If you’re hurting for health, you can perform a quick Glory Kill on a stunned enemy a la DOOM 2016, if you need armor you’ve got a new shoulder-mounted flamethrower that can ignite enemies, causing them to spew out armor shards when they’re damaged or killed. On top of all this, you can use a new Blood Punch super attack that recharges as you use Glory Kills and can take out lesser enemies in one shot.
That all sounds pretty cool, right? The problem is that all of it, as well as several types of grenades, are all running on separate cooldowns. In order to encourage you to pay attention to this, your maximum ammo count is comically low, forcing you to switch weapons constantly and keep an eye on that chainsaw meter to keep that shallow pool topped off. Upgrading your character via of the four – yes, four – separate upgrade systems can help with this, but the overall sense of panic, rather than tension, remains ever on high alert.
You even get more health back from Glory Kills when you’re low, so you’re constantly encouraged to play on the edge, trying to balance gunplay, cooldowns, dodging and goofy acrobatic maneuvers. Later bosses even introduce puzzle elements.
When you’re able to get the chance to slow down and check the scenery out, it’s pretty nice, for what that’s worth. DOOM Eternal looks absolutely fantastic and runs well on surprisingly low-level hardware. As with previous DOOM games, there’s a strong focus on exploration and discovering secrets, which ends up being one of the better aspects of Eternal. Plenty of (goofy, 90s-style) detail has been packed into each of the maps, so there’s plenty of reason to take a look around. Character and demon models also look and animate gloriously.
That said, as someone who genuinely enjoys playing video games, I hate being negative about them. Thanks to e-celebrities like the Angry Video Game Nerd, Angry Joe and so on, we’ve got plenty of me-too reviewers who are more than capable of handling that side of things. On the other hand, I have to be honest, so I didn’t have a great time with DOOM Eternal, though I recognize that others probably will. As a shooter, it’s decent but pretty confused about what it wants to do. But as a DOOM game, it’s DOOM Lite at best. If you keep an open mind, it’s entirely possible you’ll enjoy what this game is offering, but after the masterpiece that was DOOM 2016 it’s hard to keep one’s mind quite that open.