is ripping apart that reputation. The fundamentals are all there – gore, chainsaws, shotguns that split hellspawn in two – but this sequel is much smarter than its 2016 predecessor. Stratton describes the new game as “junk food with nutritional content”. And boy, do I feel full of nutrients. Tasty, blood-soaked nutrients.There is a lot to unpack in Eternal’s combat loop, but it all comes back to one thing: beautifully grim demon destruction. Foes don’t just burst with the killing blow; they are gradually torn apart with each bullet and bomb. Flappy bits of cheek dangle from the side of bruised Cacodemons, chunks of brain fall away to expose the skeletons of Arachnotrons, and and the skin of a Hell Knight is gradually flayed to reveal its ripped muscles over the course of an extended encounter.
This, naturally, provides some incredibly gross feedback that makes every weapon in the Doom Slayer’s arsenal a delight to play with. But the gore system is more intelligent than that: it acts as a diegetic health bar for each foe. Each of Doom Eternal’s combat encounters pits you against dozens of demons, and requires you to be perpetually mobile. This means that you may fire a few rounds into a foe but be unable to score the killing blow before having to leap across the arena to a safer spot. When your lap of the area brings you face-to-face with that enemy again, it’s immediately obvious which one has already taken damage and which ones are fresh due to the bullet-riddled flesh and liberal blood-spatter.
Against Doom Eternal’s largest enemies, this gore feedback is a godsend. As battles heat up, Hell starts to throw multiple big boys at you, such as the grotesquely obese Mancubus and the lanky Revenants. Being able to take a look at two Mancubi and immediately work out which is the bigger threat is fantastic. The one with broken guns and seven torso wounds can be easily finished with a shotgun blast or two, but if they’re already weak and without guns it may be worth focusing on the healthier threat.
Doom Eternal (January 2019 Screenshots)
This all ties into Doom Eternal’s approach to tension, which ebbs and flows with every passing second. The number of demons crowding your screen is a factor here, but developer id Software mostly ratchets tension through the use of…. resource management. Yeah, I never expected to say that in an article about Doom.
The Doom Slayer is kept alive through three resources, as he has since time immemorial (AKA 1993): health, armour, and ammunition. Doom Eternal makes sure you barely have any of it. But, unlike a survival horror in which you’ll only find half a packet of bullets each mission, Doom Eternal is constantly giving you health and ammo. It just so rapidly forces you to spend it that you’re always on the knife edge between life and death, and full and empty magazines.
This balance is achieved by Doom Eternal’s elegant combat loop, which refines and builds upon foundations laid by Doom 2016. Glory kills – in which you deal a killing blow by literally tearing demons apart with your bare fists – reward you with health. The bigger the demon, the better the drop. Setting foes on fire with your shoulder-mounted Flame Belch cannon provides you with a scattering of armour fragments to collect. And chainsawing enemies into tiny pieces results in an explosion of ammunition drops that can immediately get you back in the fight.These three actions combine and flow to give Doom Eternal a more distinct rhythm to its combat than any previous game in the series. With one eye on all your resource meters, you’ll be finishing off enemies with the very specific kind of kill required to keep you battle ready. The game is even smart enough to automatically pull out the chainsaw the moment you fire your last bullet, which allows you to quickly eviscerate the closest enemy and refill your pockets with buckshot.
There is a lot going on in Doom Eternal’s wider systems. Runes allow you to augment your combat style, providing small enhancements like slow-motion air dives or a longer range on your Glory Kills. Substantially improved traversal mechanics mean that platforming becomes integral to combat; you’ll quickly find yourself chaining together monkey bar swings and rocket salvos. But while all these elements bring well thought-out additions, they only work because the very fundamentals of Doom Eternal’s combat is so excellent.
Marty Stratton says that Doom Eternal is junk food with nutritional value, but I think he’s underselling it. Doom Eternal is a delicately balanced gastronomic experience, but it tastes like the best, greasiest burger you ever ate.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer. You can follow him on Twitter.