The secret to its frenzied, exhilarating firefights is resource balance. You’re constantly short of everything you need, but what you need is in abundant supply – and naturally the best way to gather it is slaying Hellspawn. The clever part? The manner in which you slay determines the resource corpses leave behind. Burnt enemies leave armour, punched leave health, chainsawed leave ammo.
This has a number of profound impacts. Primarily it keeps you thinking about which method of slaughter will provide what you need in the moment, adding a real-time puzzle element to each encounter; this is only a “dumb” shooter on the surface.
But it also keeps you close to death constantly, ratcheting tension. This in turn keeps you moving constantly, because you’re less vulnerable.
It keeps you switching weapons compulsively, both because you’ll inevitably run dry and because foes have different weapon-specific Achilles heels. It even keeps you thinking about the order of slaughter, because leaving weaker enemies breathing means you have readily accessible walking health packs or ammo for later.
Multi-layered combat arenas are peppered with lengthy, clever platforming puzzle sections. Against established wisdom, the generous traversal abilities and ludicrous level design make these moments excellent palate cleansers.
To top it off, the tone complements proceedings perfectly. It’s heavy metal, B-grade sci-fi/horror, and filled with ludicrous objectives like “destroy the Hell Priest” and “shoot a hole through Mars”. It’s so pulpy I found myself reluctantly intrigued by Doom’s lore for the first time ever.
The overall result is exhilarating. Doom Eternal‘s underlying systems propel you into a frenzied overdrive. I’d say it’s textbook game design, but they’re going to need to rewrite the textbooks now.
Doom Eternal is out now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, classified R18+.