Doom Eternal isn’t a complete reimagining of the franchise, nor even a great departure from its 2016 predecessor. What it is, instead, is a tightening up of controls and mechanics, a broadening of scope and world, and a doubling down on all the intensity, speed, and visceral mayhem that made 2016’s Doom so successful and beloved.
This follow-up to Doom is a worthy sequel, to say the least, building and improving upon almost every single facet of 2016’s structure and mechanics. There is a greater focus on story; the set pieces and level backgrounds are gorgeous; there’s a far greater variety of settings. The level design has a more maze-like structure to it, and a greater emphasis on verticality that goes beyond the combat arenas. It is, in short, everything players could want in a sequel. It’s the first, but more. Bigger, tougher, more ambitions, more refined.
Doom Eternal does offer a few new mechanics that change up and add variety to the way in which the game is played. Each mechanic, big or small, has had a positive change on the combat and traversal in Doom Eternal. For example, the Doom Slayer can now swing from bars—a mechanic that adds a greater emphasis on platforming; this mechanic also allows for increased maneuverability on the battlefield. Another great new mechanic is the Chrono Strike, an optional rune that can be unlocked and equipped which allows the Doom Slayer to enter a short phase of “bullet time” slow motion.
Speaking of precision shots, another great new mechanic is the ability to remove vital and powerful limbs from enemy demons, thus making them far less dangerous and threatening until you can slay them for good. Knowing each demon’s weak point and taking it out with the most effective weapon is satisfying and can quickly turn the tide of battle. Combining this mechanic with the Chrono Strike is a gateway to victory.
These new and tweaked mechanics, while impactful, do not completely transform the game. Adding a few more ways to jump and climb is not reinventing the wheel, and allowing you the option to sometimes slow time isn’t always effective. There are two mechanics, however, which do alter the game entirely. One is brand new and the other is a finely tweaked mechanic from 2016’s Doom.
Doom Eternal’s Dash Revitalizes Mobility
The Doom of 2016 was praised over and again for its combat, which hinged on speed and momentum. A constant feedback of blood and guts was rewarded for quick decision making, fast reflexes, and tactical gameplay. Players ran and dodged around arenas, jumping and climbing and getting the drop on enemies. And yet, despite this emphasis on speed and quick reactions, there was no dash function. After playing through Doom Eternal, you’ll look back at its predecessor and wonder how that is even possible.
The dash mechanic of Doom Eternal has an enormous impact on how the game is played and is one of the key mechanics when it comes to approaching combat tactically. Doom Eternal is, after all, a game of tactics. Success relies on knowing enemy attacks, defences, weaknesses, and movement patterns, as well as having a keen familiarity of each combat arena. The dash is an essential tactical tool. Dashing can be done in four directions, allowing for quick advancement towards enemies when the shotgun is your most effective weapon, and dashing back away from enemies that prefer to lash out with their claws. Dashing left and right allows you to effectively dodge incoming fire.
The dash also comes into play where platforming is concerned. It allows for greater mastery of the environment and even factors into the player’s ability to find, reach, and unlock secrets that are hidden across each and every level.
Adding to the diversity of the dash mechanic are several praetor suit upgrades which allow for a faster recharge of the dash after use and the ability to instantly recharge the dash after a glory kill. Now, you can dash into a vulnerable demon, brutally slay them, and dash away again to resume your murder spree without a drop of momentum being wasted.
Speaking of momentum, this is what the dash enhances most of all. Looking back at 2016’s Doom, it’s strange to consider how a vulnerable enemy, flashing blue in a tantalizing fashion, had to be slowly approached on foot only for your chance at landing a glory kill to be snatched away from you because you weren’t quick enough. And this in a game where speed is everything. In Doom Eternal, the dash offers such an improved momentum that glory kills are all but guaranteed and executed almost constantly thanks to your new ability to dash across the arena from one demon to the next.
The dash also allows for more versatility where weapons are concerned. Close-range guns like the super shotgun have more functionality (and not just because of the awesome new meat hook ability). If you can dash over to an enemy in less than a second, closing the gap between you, you can then risk firing off a super shotgun round into their face and dashing backwards or even around them before they can lay a finger on you. Dash forward again to repeat the process. This also works the same way for the chainsaw, which brings us neatly onto our other essential mechanical change.
The Chainsaw: Your Saving Grace
The chainsaw is one of the most iconic and essential elements of the Doom franchise, next to its metal soundtrack, its stoic and voiceless protagonist, and its roster of demon enemies. It was found in Doom 2016 and it still shares the same function here, in Doom Eternal. However, the chainsaw mechanic has been tweaked so perfectly here as to completely change the way that players must approach battle. The tweak is so pronounced, in fact, that it feels like an entirely new mechanic.
When playing through Doom 2016, it’s entirely possible that you may have made it all the way to the end without ever using the chainsaw. Its purpose is to cut down an enemy for an instant kill and an enormous dump of fresh ammo for almost every weapon type. It’s a fun way to restock your ammo reserves. However, Doom 2016 provided enough ammo—and ways of upgrading your ammo capacity—that shortages were very rare. There was little incentive to use the chainsaw.
This sequel tells a completely different story. Ammo is painfully, antagonistically scarce. Scarce to the point of frustration, forcing the player to turn quickly to the chainsaw as the only way of saving themselves from death. Using the chainsaw becomes a frantic final shot at saving yourself, and it is exhilarating to see that multicolored shower of ammo pour out of a split-open demon and refill your shotgun, allowing you to tear open the very enemy that was about to deliver the final blow.
Simply making ammo scarcer isn’t enough, however. Two other simple changes were made: one to the chainsaw itself and another the layout of battle arenas. The chainsaw can still be refuelled, as before, only now it automatically and quickly regenerates a single bar of fuel during battle. This is done quickly enough to ensure that, once you’re out of ammo again, you can refill it. This is paired with the fact that arenas are now scattered with scrawny, low-level zombies that eat up ammo unnecessarily. Their sole purpose in life is to provide food for your chainsaw, and thus ammo for your guns.
These two changes fit together perfectly. The automatically regenerated fuel is only enough to take down these smaller and weaker enemy types. In order to take down heavy and superheavy demons with the chainsaw, you’re going to need more fuel, which is still as scarcely found as it was in 2016’s Doom. Likewise, the zombies do so little damage and move slowly enough that they can be completely ignored during a combat encounter. As the game progresses, you learn to see them less as an enemy threat and more as an ammo cache.
The introduction of the dash mechanic and the reinvention of the chainsaw, combined, entirely rework how players approach combat in Doom Eternal. The game is far more tactical than its older brother. It encourages experimentation with weapons, a more intimate knowledge of the arena, one eye on your ammo reserves and the other on your chainsaw fuel. You need to know your enemies’ weaknesses better and the placement of zombie chainsaw food at all times. The game requires more mature strategy and quicker reflexes. The chainsaw and the dash each provide players the means of developing that strategy and implementing those necessary reflexes.