Doom Eternal’s First 3 Hours Throws More At You Than All Of Doom 2016

When you see Doom Eternal in action, it’s abundantly clear that id Software is doing a whole lot more than making another Doom 2016. It has gone wild with new tools of destruction and platforming mechanics, and unforgiving combat is the adrenaline pumped through its veins. Creative director Hugo Martin admits, “You’ve seen more in the first two-to-three levels in this game than you do in the entire Doom 2016, without question.” And after getting my hands on Doom Eternal’s first three hours, I’ll tell you: he’s not wrong.

As you’d expect, Doom Eternal wastes no time throwing you into the deep end. Hell is brought to earth, and Doom Slayer doesn’t think twice about jumping into the thick of it. If you played the previous game, you’ll feel at home with the act of juggling between weapons for the right situation, busting out the chainsaw to replenish ammo, and ripping and tearing demons with glory kills to keep your health topped up. That remains at the heart of Eternal, but you’ll be damned if you think you can rely on just that. The “Doom dance” has gotten more complex with some all-new steps.

The Pieces Of The Combat Puzzle

In typical fashion, you build out an arsenal over time with swappable attachments that turn each weapon into a destructive multitool. This time, each attachment has its own upgrade path to become even more effective, granting faster reload times, longer-lasting effects, or bigger splash damage. You also get a shoulder-mounted Grenade Launcher, which you can swap to launch Ice Bombs and freeze enemies in place. Then there’s the shoulder-mounted flamethrower, called the Flame Belch, which burns demons and makes them spit out armor shards. Even your fists get some extra love with the addition of the Blood Punch, which sends out an AOE shockwave to do even more damage through melee attacks. All these elements have their own upgrade paths, and expand your number of options to consider amid the chaos.

It’s not just about the weapons at your disposal, it’s also what you do with them. Some demons now take locational damage, letting you dismember specific parts to either stop them in their tracks or significantly hinder their capabilities. For example, sniping off an Arachnotron’s tail gun or destroying a Mancubus’ arm cannons takes away their devastating attacks. Both of these demons specialize in making combat hell and are tough to kill, so you’d be smart to cut them off before you get trounced. And Cacodemons aren’t so scary if you can make them gobble up a grenade to initiate instant glory kills.

Acquainting yourself with all these systems is necessary because if you’re not pulling out every stop in combat, you’re done.

You’re going to be eternally evolving, too; Runes and Praetor Suit perks are back. As if Doom Slayer wasn’t superhuman enough, Runes act as upgrades that grant you up to three dynamic abilities at a time, out of nine options total. Just to name a few: an ultra-fast temporary speed boost after glory kills, slowing down ala bullet-time while in mid-air, or the ability to initiate glory kills from further out. Praetor Suit perks help boost resistances and enhance basic capabilities within specific categories–or add to the destruction you can cause like scatter bombs that burst out of demons you kill with grenades. That’s just scratching the surface since there are 20 total Praetor Suit perks. Doom Eternal has layers.

Hell is your oyster, but part of the challenge is keeping up with everything you’re capable of. As you take a breath after killing every demon in a combat scenario, you’ll probably think about the weapons and abilities you forgot to use. Acquainting yourself with all these systems is necessary because if you’re not pulling out every stop in combat, you’re done. Ammo is more scarce than before, health is in constant short supply, so do what you need to do to get them. And you better stay nimble when demons start to spawn into the arena because it’s now easier to simply become overwhelmed.

Traversal, Scope, And Battle In Harmony

At times, combat arenas are unmistakably bigger, which goes hand-in-hand with the increased emphasis on mobility. Your instinct might be to strafe around certain areas of these combat arenas, but you’ll soon learn that spreading your wings to double jump across platforms, swinging on monkey bars, and dashing out of danger is integral to surviving large-scale battles. It’s how the game lets you create space between enemies and find crucial pickups while also driving home the increased size and spectacle of Doom Eternal.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of that dashing capability, too. In lieu of sprinting, you get a double dash that’s on a short cooldown–it’s not unfamiliar in Bethesda shooters as we saw with Rage 2. Its addition in Doom Eternal is small but effective, both as a way to navigate the chaos and as a tool for quickly closing distances. One such example is aerial combat; you might think a far off Cacodemon is floating out of reach when they’re glowing for a glory kill, but with a double jump and a double dash, I’m ripping out their eyeballs in mid-air. And once you get the hookshot attachment for the Super Shotgun, swinging to and from demons becomes this sort of bloody wave you’re riding. New traversal mechanics means nothing is out of reach.

You might be hesitant with the idea of just how much is being layered into the Doom formula, but from what I played, it’s as if id Software painstakingly made sure every mechanic, weapon, and ability serves a purpose.

Platforming itself is fine; it asks to look at your environment as if it was a puzzle found in an action-adventure game, and requires you to connect your jumps to monkey bars and specifically sticky walls. This also affords more elaborate ways for the game to hide secrets, which is good news for those wanting to find every single Rune, Praetor Token, and cute little Doom Slayer figure tucked away in hidden corners.

Hugo Martin says the new mobility has helped expand the scope of Doom, saying, “It’s mostly meant to try to create an experience that’s engaging for players even outside of combat, and expand the scope of the levels quite a bit.” He isn’t concerned about it feeling out of place either. “We’re steering into being a video game. What that means is we tell the designers, ‘just embrace the contrivances that you find in video games. If you want a floating jump pad out in the middle of space where there’s no f*****g gravity, for no reason, do it.'” It’s hard to tell how it’ll play out over the course of the full game, and if they’ll become roadblocks to Doom Eternal’s best parts, but so far, it’s welcome variety.

Another element that really sells the scope of the game is the new hub area in space, the Fortress of Doom. It’s your home between missions that overlooks Earth and harbors a plethora of unlockables. I could peer through the locked doors and see what looks to be armor upgrades, extra mods, and more toys to mess with, but throughout the game, you’ll be rounding up Sentinel Batteries to get these doors open. There’s no doubt to be more secrets within, like a powerful weapon that unlocks with Empyrean keys you earn through tough Slayer Gate challenges, or just that giant mech-like Praetor suit being constructing inside the Fortress.

The Work Cut Out For Doom Slayer

It’s wild to think that I was able to experience so much of what Doom Eternal is packing in just the opening three hours, yet there are certainly more surprises beyond. In Hugo Martin’s words, “We’re hell-bent on engaging you from beginning to end. This is a 22-plus hour game.” He also mentioned that at a certain point, they’ll give you everything you need, and the onus will be on you to make it all work; “It’s Bruce Lee walking into the dojo, just like, ‘I’m going to wreck 30 dudes.'” To put it another way, Martin said “the fun is mastering [Doom Eternal], because that power fantasy, you’re going to earn that.”

Doom Eternal makes you earn victory for sure, but tuning difficulty was a significant focus for the id Software team. In relation to how Doom 2016 handled difficulty, Martin said, “What was frustrating is that it was kind of like learning a new combat dance… the fireball distance and the way that I learned to dodge it… different rules.” Now, the approach is to scale existing mechanics. Regardless of whether you play on easy, hurt me plenty, ultra-violence or nightmare, the method to the madness remains consistent.

On easier settings, enemies will be less persistent by shooting fewer heavy shots at a time and they’ll do less damage, leaving more room for error, that’s all. Doom Eternal wants you to play a certain way, and its variables are tuned to push you toward engaging with most of its systems regardless of difficulty. The emphasis on resource management, juggling of your arsenal and abilities, and damage enemies take all stay the same.

Doom Eternal throws everything plus the kitchen sink at you, but gives you all the tools you need to deal with it. While three hours is just a slice of the full game, it’s hard to deny that it’s extremely well-put-together. You might be hesitant with the idea of just how much is being layered into the Doom formula, but from what I played, it’s as if id Software painstakingly made sure every mechanic, weapon, and ability serves a purpose. You can’t get away with mindless shooting or pure accuracy here–Doom Eternal really is that relentless FPS combat puzzle, and a bloody, gruesome one at that. You’ll see what I mean on March 20 when Doom Eternal hits Xbox One, PS4, and PC, and later this year on Switch.

Author: GameSpot

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