After the widespread success of the 2016 DOOM reboot, the franchise has come back in a huge way. Not only is Doom Eternal a direct sequel out in the first quarter of next year, but the original three games have each been released on modern consoles this year, and Doom 64 is a pre-order bonus for Doom: Eternal.
It was clear from the get-go that id Software was not only staying true to the new direction of the series set up in Doom (2016) but that this time around, everything was being cranked up to eleven. Fast-paced, smooth, action-packed gameplay, accompanied by intense, raw, heavy-metal. Doom Eternal takes place after the events of Doom (2016) as Earth is being overrun by the demonic forces of Hell. Spanning multiple locations in the full game, the demo takes place on the Mars moon, Phobos, as the Doom Slayer is pulled back into the fight in an effort to defend the BFG 10,000, an enormous version of the iconic weapon.
As players enter the station, there is a tremendous sense of scale. Doom Slayer moves into what appears to be the main dock of the space station, fit with an enormous window that directly overlooks the surface of Mars and a full reveal of the BFG 10,000, large enough to fit on the side of a ship. The detail and lighting of the station are absolutely gorgeous; it's dimly lit, with shadows cast over ever surface in between the red flash of an emergency siren that indicates we're under attack. The atmosphere is full of dread and fear and the station staff are scrambling to find there footing and a place to hide.
The opening minute of the demo goes a long way to set up just how renowned the Doom Slayer character is, not only to fans and the industry but to people within the world of Doom. "Oh my god. It's him," is said by the first operator as he steps backward to move out of the way. Each and every character in the room acknowledges the Doom Slayer's presence, half out of fear, the other half admiration. Doom Slayer walks up to a cowering operator in his chair, pulls his lanyard by the man's neck, and drags it over to the locked door to gain access with ease. The final portion of the cut-scene shows an Army Grunt yells out, "Who are you? You can't be here?" before quickly realizing who he's talking to. Doom Slayer slowly walks up and takes the man's gun without saying another word, before moving to the elevator that will lead to the surface of Phobos.
An overhead announcement can be heard, "Warning! The slayer has entered the facility," almost as if the warning was being made to the demons directly. The last time players had this type of feeling in an introduction was playing as Master Chief in the opening mission of Halo 2. id Software clearly wants the player to feel powerful every chance they get and everything about Doom Eternal does that vision justice from how character's in the world react to the sight of the Doom Slayer to the new Super Shotgun Meat Hook mod that latches to an enemy and pulls the Slayer perfectly in range for a Shotgun blast.
Originally scheduled to release in late 2019, Doom Eternal was delayed until March 2020 to give id Software more time to polish and make sure the game was up to their own high standards and based on the demo alone - Doom Eternal looks and feels fantastic. After a brief tutorial that runs players through basic mechanics like climbing, Glory Kills, and some of the new fancy tech that includes the Super Shotgun Meat Hook mod and a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher with a flame-thrower, the real action could begin.
The early part of the demo takes place in the lower levels of the space station, eventually to the surface of the moon Phobos. While the new weapons are all on show to their full potential, the standard moment to moment gameplay is exactly what's expected in a Doom game. Doom isn't designed like a typical first-person shooter, movement is key to survival and the best way to experience what the game has to offer. Taking time to land shots and ducking for cover won't work here and players will be quickly overrun by enemies by not staying on the move.
One of the best examples of this is how smooth the transitions are from weapon to weapon. One particular room was full of Demons, Barons, flying Cacodemons, and new enemies like the zombified humans, with a scarcity of ammo left in a very tight environment. The game seamlessly transitioned between five different weapons and continued shooting as each ran out without the player needing to do anything. No button pushing, just smart and intuitive game design. That same approach can be seen again in resource mechanics where Glory kills will provide health, chainsaw kills rewards ammo, the new Blood Punch AoE attack from back-to-back glory kills, and the ability to get additional armor from flamethrower kills.
Doom Slayer has a number of new movement mechanics that play a significant role in why Doom Eternal feels like id Software took the 2016 reboot and cranked everything up to eleven. Players will now have the ability to double jump, slide, quick dash, and climb on specific surfaces. One particular jumping puzzle on Phobos required the player to use a combination of the double jump and dash to reach Halo-style man canons out in space, while the gameplay tutorial had a particularly tough section that required the player to climb a wall, use the dash to perform a wall-run like maneuver, and then double jump to another wall opposite and climb to the top. Using all of these mechanics in quick succession was honestly, very difficult to nail down and took multiple attempts but once we had it nailed down, the movement potential was on a whole other level to Doom (2016).
id Software has done a fantastic job of creating a game that truly feels like a proper sequel and a step forward for the franchise as a whole. It's disappointing that Doom Eternal was delayed until 2020, however, if the playable demo is anything to go by, the wait is going to be more than worth it. For those that are interested, we've compiled a complete list of the Doom Eternal Editions and Pre-Order bonuses.
Doom Eternal releases March 20, 2020, for PC, PS4, Stadia and Xbox One.