undoubtedly has some of the best guns in games. The Super Shotgun is a buckshot icon, where each pull of the trigger instantly tears Hell’s denizens to shreds. The BFG’s freakish green projectile erases any creature that its alien-like tendrils caress. But all of Doom Eternal’s many guns are useless unless combined with the Doom Slayer’s most potent weapon: speed.Id Software’s Doom games have never been about staying still, but Doom Eternal feels speedier than any of the entries that came before it. The Slayer has an athletic toolkit dedicated to movement; he is able to dash twice over short distances in quick succession, as well as double-jump to boost to new heights and leap clean over foes. But Eternal’s speed comes not out of opportunity, but necessity: stop moving and you’ll stop breathing.Environments continually populate with “mortally challenged” enemies, spawning in via eruptions of flaming energy. Thanks to the multi-tiered nature of the level design – Earth is decorated with both tall gothic architecture and deep chasms torn by Hell’s invasion – foes can arrive not just in front or behind you, but above or below, too. You’re surrounded on all sides, and that’s the first thing that puts you in your running shoes.
But where to run to? That’s the ever-present question, because Doom Eternal wants you to run both at and away from its foes. Each one – from lowly zombies to battle axe-wielding Marauders – hit far harder than you’d expect. You’ll want to be keeping grunts at arm’s-length and anything with a gun much further away, because to stay in their crosshairs is effectively a step towards death.
But you’ll also want to get in so close that you can taste their chargrilled, human-flavoured breath, as demons are not just your enemy, but your sustenance: tear one open and health will spill from its inside; chainsaw its head off and ammo will pop from its severed neck. And so begins the ballet: constantly one step forward and one step back. And, more than occasionally, many side-steps too. Circle strafing is a tried-and-tested FPS staple, afterall.
The people at id Software have built the entire game around this strange dance, and as you learn its steps you begin to understand how many aspects of the Slayer’s toolkit are not disparate, but symbiotic. Pinkies, for example, are enemies that charge like bulls and can only be properly damaged from behind. Many games would have you wait and bait its attack, jumping aside at the last moment in order to land a blow. But since you are almost always surrounded, that’s suicide in Doom Eternal, so instead there’s the Super Shotgun’s meathook; a grisly grapple that you can fire into enemies and pull yourself closer with. Combined with the double jump, it’s possible to slingshot yourself over a Pinky – avoiding enemy attacks as you soar through the air – and unload both barrels on your descent.
Doom Eternal (January 2019 Screenshots)
With these kind of tactics in mind, those multi-tier elements in the world that appear to be for exploration platforming suddenly become vital combat tools. Monkey bars jutt out from the edges of rock faces and walls, providing new pathways across chasms and up to high vantage points. From there you can gain a precious second to aim at an Arachnotron’s blaster with the Heavy Cannon’s precision scope, disarm it, and then leap down to tear it apart with the Combat Shotgun’s automatic barrels attachment.
One notable street battle has most of the road slathered in a purple gunge that forces the Slayer to practically crawl, unable to escape with either the dash or jump. The only way through this section is to fight almost entirely in mid-air, chaining together launch-pads and monkey-bar swings with a series of dashes in order to turn yourself into an organic drone.Not every encounter demands quite that level of acrobatics, but those that don’t are an increasing rarity as the game progresses. Even basic corridor scraps insist on a swiftness of movement that few other FPS games require. You can’t make it through Eternal by doggedly adhering to shooter principles you’ve played in other games.
Speed, momentum, and movement in Doom Eternal is vital to both staying alive and delivering death to your foes. It’s fascinating to see how it feeds into Doom Eternal’s aggressive and gory combat loop, with late-game enemies demanding split-second reactions and chaining of actions that I’d never previously associated with a FPS. In an era where many shooters reward patience and smart use of cover, Doom Eternal is instead reliant on mad feats of violent acrobatics. It is basically gothic parkour, gaming’s new premier blood-drenched athletics event. And it’s every bit as badass as that sounds.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer, and Doom Eternal is his favourite FPS since Titanfall 2. You can follow him on Twitter.