How the game wants you to play it and why hate is your friend. Good to be back down there.
So let’s do this quick and dirty, just like Doom Eternal handles things. Go to the game’s options and turn off auto-aim, because rule one is: “Always do your own damn shooting!” Then crank up the difficulty to Ultra Violence, because we’d like to experience an actual video game, don’t we?!
Suddenly a faded but burnt in memory of Doom 2 is triggered, in which I pick up a rocket launcher and a “hellevator” drops me into a room filled with dozens of Imps, Cacodemons and a few Hell Knights. “How am I supposed to survive that?!” After many tries, I succeeded, and nothing in gaming feels more rewarding than that. A classic scenario for this series, anyone going for that feeling should set the difficulty in Doom Eternal at least one higher than estimated comfortable.
Oh, and I remember another thing — my review about 2016’s Doom (or rather a pal reminded me). The article contained other key settings that upgraded the gameplay experience a lot. Some of them still apply. So, here we go again.
Look at it, ALL of it!
Clear out the HUD (head-up-display) completely. In the viewing settings I kicked all the stats, bars and that horrible compass off my screen. Squeaky clean. Also I moved the field of view-slider way up to 110, another literal “game changer”. The 90’s games did have the big info bar display on the bottom, but the picture above it kind of was 16:9 with a fish eye lens look. So, I’m keeping it real and old school.
Without the HUD you will play Doom Eternal differently — in a good way. Check out, what that even looks like, in this little excerpt from a Twitch stream I did. Or this little best-of reel I made…
In Doom Eternal we need to abandon hope and especially our obsession with waypoints. You know, it’s kind of cheating, when you think about it. Tunnel vision, I follow a stupid illusive and unreal marker, that is lecturingly blinking and relieving us from using our brain maybe just a little.
But with the waypoint gone, you change the way you look at a level. And Doom Eternal’s are gorgeous. This game is so full of hidden stuff and beautiful apocalyptic vistas, you are free to relish in without being distracted or stressed out by this dumb directing dot. I organically explore and enjoy the levels, all of the map. And the right way to progress is marked quite clearly with green lit clues throughout the game anyway. Fuck the waypoint.
It’s true, without the HUD you also lack all of the infos about ammo, equipment and health. But who cares? You’ll know, when you’re dead! The millisecond you spend checking stats might even cost you your life. There’s no need for exact meters, counting down and giving you numbers. They change so quickly within moments. And the screen prompts “low ammo” and “low health” are still very regular, don’t worry. Those can’t be turned off.
Nothing in the Doom Eternal HUD is essential (that’s probably why they made it optional). The mods and extent of heating are clearly distinguishable on my guns themselves. Only if the grenades are set on frag or ice, I will have to just remember. And I left the tiny “extra life” counter on the left upper corner, because it’s more video-gamey.
You know how this works
And I love Doom Eternal for embracing being a video game and having figured out, what’s important. And sticking to it. No excess fat. Gameplay starts right away, no big intro, no boring tutorials, GO! Point, shoot and try to stay alive. No reloading–shenanigans, you know the drill. That is also something the 90’s Doom did. This new one continues using the established gameplay mechanics from Doom 2016: the glory kills (for health drops), the chainsaw (for ammo drops), all the controls and all the button settings. Like a good sequel should, it picks up right where it left off.
Platforming’s big in Doom Eternal and the traversal-puzzles that go along with it. Combining dash-mechanics and double-jumps just right is tricky. And be sure to clutch tightly to those ripped cliffs or Cronenberg-structures looking like open-cut flesh.
Speaking of the devil (and the old games). Level design was everything back then, also in Doom Eternal it’s turned into mind-blowing art. The structures and environments don’t have to appear realistic or functional. They only have to be cool, gigantic, gory and diabolical. It’s all style, baby. So Doom-logic suffices. Between the bigger though detailed combat arenas the level design is full of twisted little paths, dead ends and nasty door-lift-button-mechanics. The levels are supposed to be disorienting nightmares after all.
And they only pretend to be dumb elementary color-coded child’s play. You actually have to use your noggin! Some of the areas have sticky floors, not letting you jump. Simulated classic Doom-movement in a way. I wonder, if that was intentional or just my meta-imagination.
So I try to find my way through the carnage in an adrenaline daze, I power and hustle through insanely convoluted areas, pulsating with body horror and the projectiles of enemy waves.
All you need is hate
And that’s how the Dark One gets you. You will hate this game so much, so many times. How it makes you do stuff again and again, run laps, tease you and annoy you endlessly — all just to find yourself in another impossibly difficult encounter. My girlfriend asked something like, how I could handle all of the gore. But the true psychological strain lies in the never-ending frustration, the constant concentration and velocity of the gameplay. One controller already broke!
I replayed this one encounter more than 30 times until I cleared it. It’s always different, sometimes I hit perfectly and go through the hordes like a swift god of chaos. Another time I’m killed instantly after re-spawn. Wave after wave of monsters, with vicious and relentless AI, attacking harder and stronger. Futile.
There it is, the hate.
Hold on to it! That is what will make you succeed. The pure and endorphin-stricken rage will help to bulldoze the biggest infernal army. And when that save icon twirls, marking the stage as “clean”… silence. Panting and with a mysterious sore throat (have I been screaming?) I thank the hate. It’s my friend now.
Then the voice of your mission computer radios me and sounds pretty much the opposite of hateful. In the middle of hellscapes he‘s speaks friendly like Microsoft costumer service. Puny pet peeves: This doom guy is punching through giant boulders, walls and gargoyle demons into bloody dust, but he can’t break a glass window in the office building? Or thinly woven fences? Come on. Also, like sequels often do, Doom Eternal comes off a bit too self-assured and cocky. Don’t lose your cool. I got my eye on you!
It’s an unbelievably enjoyable game. I want to play it right now.
I hate it so much.