Picture the scene. You've just vanquished every demon Doom Eternal has to offer. You've grabbed all the cheat codes and mastered the Master Levels. Where does an all-conquering Slayer turn? Battlemode, id's cure for the common deathmatch and Eternal's main multiplayer offering. One of two experiences awaits you once you bypass the annoyingly mandatory tutorial. You spawn in as the Slayer and try your hardest to overcome overwhelming odds, or you spawn in as the Demon and hope that you're not facing a bloodthirsty veteran. Neither option is engaging right off the bat, one of the many hurdles that Battlemode faces in attracting players to its unique translation of Doom combat.
For those not already familiar, Battlemode is a 2v1 arena fight where you either play as one of Hell's many demons or a mostly accurate translation of Eternal's Doomguy. As the Slayer, you have your full arsenal and most of your moves, but you face a much more serious threat in the form of player-controlled demons. You have to keep the pressure on both players while bypassing the minions they summon. Wait too long after killing a demon and they spawn right back in to torment you more. It takes a few rounds to really get acclimated, but winning after rounds of speedy combat is quite satisfying.
Playing as the demons is more fun right off the bat, both because of their novelty and their ability to wreck house if properly coordinated. Each demon can spawn in two or three sets of minions around the map as well as utilize powerups and class-specific abilities. This can lead to creatures that don't feel at all like their campaign counterparts, for good and for ill. The Pain Elemental comes in mostly the same, summoning Lost Souls and darting around the air. By contrast, the infamous Marauder and his projectile ax are much weaker than his frustrating single-player incarnation.
Over my hours with Battlemode, I've had fun in both roles, but it definitely took some dedication. No matter what your preferred character, there is no good ramp to get new players acclimated to this novel setup. Matchmaking doesn't seem to be based on rank of any kind, so new players could be thrown in with skilled veterans at any moment. I don't care how good your tutorial is, this is the type of experience where you need real-world experience before you get it right. For the first few hours, you're mostly going to lose in spectacular fashion. Especially as the Slayer.
Much like many of the bigger fights in Eternal's campaign, Slayers need to know very specific strategies to deal with each player demon effectively. You can poke and prod at your opponents for a while, but a dedicated team will easily overwhelm even a halfway decent player. On the flip side, if one of the demons isn't playing as a team, you can expect the Slayer to bash the pair in record time. There's really not a lot of in-between, and it's unclear how many Doom fans are going to stick around to get good at the mode. It's so dependent on all three players giving it their all in the current setup, and I just don't see that happening all that much as I'm playing with random strangers.
This is doubly concerning when you consider the paltry rewards for sticking with multiplayer. The cosmetics-laden free battle pass has some nice looking stuff, but you seemingly need to dedicate days to unlocking it all, and for what? Battlemode matches are maybe 15 minutes a pop and offer little that's novel once you get over the playable demons. More Doom combat is fine, but one might wonder if some sort of randomized co-op arena mode might have been a better fit for the series. This competitive action is nice, but if you don't want to do deathmatch, you might as well lean into your best features.
Funnily enough, Battlemode's best moments for me are when one player quit out. Going one on one with a demon or Slayer seemed to balance things out, although some demons work better in this configuration than others. Because everything centers on asymmetrical action, it's hard to go it alone, but I still had way more fun as a lone Mauraduer than as a babysitter for a player still learning the ropes. Maybe Battlemode would work better as some sort of souped-up boss fight, or as a mode where two teams of two each have to deal with that dynamic. As it is, the entire setup makes Battlemode feel less than vital, a fun distraction from multiplayer games that matter.
Give Doom 2016's deathmatch all the crap you want, but it never felt as throwaway as Battlemode does at this early juncture. Once they updated it to remove the DLC map packs and give it proper progression, you could easily have fun for hours even if you barely knew what you were doing. The high player count and familiar objectives provided a more relaxing way to (glory) kill time, even if it all really did feel like an off-brand Halo.
All I know is that I was able to play Doom 2016's multiplayer for several hours on Xbox the day before Eternal's arrival. There are still plenty of players enjoying that mode, or at least enough to get a few games going each evening. In three or four years' time, will I still be able to round up two people for Battlemode? I'm not so sure. Unless id add different game modes to change things up or some really funky cosmetics to grind for, there's not much to the actual gameplay to keep people coming back. After spending several hours learning how to actually play, I have no desire to jump back in. If that's not the death knell for a multiplayer mode, I don't know what is.