E3 2019: DOOM Eternal hands-on impressions
Despite some promising looking debuts like Tango Gameworks’ GhostWire: Tokyo and Arkane’s Deathloop making a stir at Bethesda’s E3 showcase Sunday night, the star of the publisher’s conference was once again DOOM Eternal. As the sequel to 2016’s highly praised reboot of the classic action franchise, Eternal has some big shoes to fill. But executive producer Marty Stratton and creative director Hugo Martin seem confident that players will be pleasantly surprised by the game. “Oddly, it feels more like DOOM, because everything counts a bit more,” Martin says.
Based on my approximately 45 minutes of hands-on time with Eternal at a pre-E3 press event in May, the game definitely feels like DOOM, but with a few added layers of resource management, mobility and strategy added in for spice. “Resource management” may not be exactly the right term, since that phrase evokes pace-dampening sequences of inventory Tetris. In Eternal, maintaining supplies is very much part of the battle, even more so than it was in Doom 2016. Chainsawing an enemy leads to an explosion of ammo and Glory Killing provides more health, just as in the previous game, and there’s also a flamethrower that forces demons to drop armor. Keeping all of those resources topped off requires players to constantly change up battle strategies, shredding, burning, bashing and blasting in equal measure.
Basically, DOOM Eternal made me feel like John Wick, if John Wick had a chainsaw and a flamethrower and rocket boots (maybe this year’s E3 just has Keanu Reeves on my mind). With a gauntlet of demons of various shapes and sizes before me, I waded, constantly in rocket boosted motion, into the fray, scrolling between a half dozen sci-fi weapons as circumstances and ammo reserves dictated. In the snarling imps and brutish hell knights, I saw enemies, but also resources — piñatas full of heath, ammo and armor ready to be smashed open.
Adding to this list of combat priorities was the introduction of destructible demons. Heavy enemies in Eternal have particular sections that can be destroyed to change the balance of a fight. If an Arachnotron’s rapid fire cannon is taking down your health too quickly, the best strategy may be to knock that cannon out of commission rather than taking the time to kill the demon outright.
New weapons and alternate fire modes for classics also change up the flow of battle in meaningful ways. A favorite example of mine, and of Stratton’s, is the Meat Hook attachment on the Super Shotgun. Using the hook, the Slayer can grapple toward enemies, allowing him to become even more mobile than his usual double-jumping, double-dashing, wall climbing self.
All around, DOOM Eternal feels like it should recapture that combination of tight, quick gameplay and demon-bone-crunching catharsis that made the previous game in the series such a (guilty) pleasure to play, while adding some new degrees of depth and challenge. The game will be out this November, and much more information about new features should be coming during summer’s QuakeCon.