One of the most surprising things about 2016’s Doom was how well it develops the character of “Doomguy.” No longer a simple face, the Doomslayer is now a motivated force of will with clear intentions and deviating effectiveness. With just a handful of memorable moments, Doom‘s hero was a real character, and that only builds further in Doom Eternal.
Those simple scenes evolve into impressive cinematic moments. As seen in the game’s debut trailer, regular soldiers cower in fear at this freak of nature. Playing the sequence for yourself really makes all the difference, highlighting just how well Eternal ties you into its titular role. What I wasn’t expecting was how that would continue throughout gameplay with third person camera movements that just add to each level’s storytelling.
Surprisingly, the game that comes to mind as I play for the first time is Halo: Combat Evolved. Throughout the demo, there are these little moments that show your hero blasting through a wall or grabbing a ledge at the last minute. You can suddenly see the Doomslayer’s face through his visor, his blank stare saying it all. They never last longer than a few moments, but they provide so much variety, both in pacing and in worldbuilding.
These moments don’t tell an overt story, but they do explore the full range of actions for such an inhuman playable character. Loading into the planet-scale BFG is amazingly fun in the first person, but the moment doesn’t click until you see the gun move from the outside and take in its massive scale. Only then can you quickly cutting back for the launch and fly through a solid concrete wall like you were bringing the Covenant back their bomb. It’s a subtle thing that not found in later Halo sequels, but it is right there in Doom Eternal.
Camera cuts might be useful in one of Doom Eternal other major additions, its climbable walls. Similar to the most recent Tomb Raider games, Doomguy can climb very specific white walls in the environment. In one section of the demo, there were jumping puzzles where you maneuver between floating platforms using this specific mechanic.
It seems like it fits in well with the game’s double jump and air boost abilities, but there is one singular problem. You stick to first-person throughout these sections, even when you’re jammed against a solid wall. You have to comically turn widely to find where the developers want you to go next, and grabbing onto the wall from midair feels clunky thanks to the choice of controls. Clicking in the right stick just isn’t precise enough when you’re dealing with a life and death scenario.
As for the combat, the basics are still all here. There are grand arenas where you circle strafe around demons while blasting them away. The Doomslayer’s new toys include a shoulder mounted grenade launcher and flamethrower, which are undoubtedly fun. However, it does seem like the developers are stretching the limits of complexity when it comes to the game’s control scheme.
Perhaps I just don’t have the new additions down as of yet, but certain button placements feel awkward. I kept hitting the chainsaw when I wanted to interact with objects (another action placed on clicking the right stick) and shooting off flames when I wanted to switch weapons. Since both of these aren’t unlimited use, the fact that they’re easy to waste is worrisome.
Despite all that, these problems aren’t the end of the world, especially by a game that looks and feels this good. When you’re just running around with the Super Shotgun and using its new meat hook grabbing ability, everything clicks wonderfully. iD has redesigned several enemies and items to link up more faithfully to the 1993 original, a move that makes Eternal feel nostalgic and new at the same time.
iD’s bloody original already had some of the best shooting around, but Eternal seems to raise up the rest of the game to that same standard. The developers knew what worked and what didn’t, and that shines through even in this early build. There are some questionable additions to the Doomslayer’s toolbox, but it’s worth powering through those flaws to get to this action. If the rest of Doom Eternal lives up to what I played, then there really is no stopping the Doomslayer come November.
TechRaptor previewed Doom Eternal at E3 2019 following the Bethesda press conference. The demo was played on PC with an Xbox One gamepad.
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