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Doom Eternal embraces its retro roots in tons of new QuakeCon footage

It should be pretty clear by now that I am an enormous fan of Doom 1 & 2, and 90s FPS design in general. While I greatly enjoyed Id Software’s 2016 reboot of the series, I didn’t love it. After watching three good chunks of footage live from QuakeCon, I’m feeling a lot more positive about its sequel, Doom Eternal. Green-haired zombies, spiky imps, semi-abstract urban-demonic hybrid environments, an underslung grappling hook and a bunch of new ideas were on display. Check out the gore-drenched action below, along with the extended and wooly thoughts of a certified Doomhead.

While I’m glad they didn’t name this one Doom 2: Hell On Earth (for the sake of keeping retro mods separate), that’s exactly what Doom Eternal looks like. Doom 2’s monsters are all represented, including Pain Elementals, Arachnotrons and (being introduced as a possible boss), the Archvile. Existing enemies have regressed to something a bit closer to the originals, too. Mancubi look less high-tech, Former Human soldiers have goofy green haircuts, and Imps are covered in spikes. There’s also some new critters, like a poison-spitting winged Imp-like thing.


We’ve time-stamped to the start of the Doom presentation, but if that fails, skip to 43:03. First new gameplay is at 50:14, second is at 58:04, and third is 1:03:51.

While it’s hard to judge from the footage, level structure feels a little more old-school as well. There felt like a lot less ‘player walks into arena, doors lock, kill demons and continue’ scenarios. Instead, levels look larger and more open, with interconnected secrets. Vertical mobility is even greater than in the previous game, thanks to a powerful grappling hook that lets you use any demon’s body as a hook-point to pull yourself to – even flying enemies, letting the Doom Slayer launch himself skyward to new areas and hard-to-reach ledges. There’s even fast ground/air-dashes.

Level design feels more playful and willing to be abstract, too. Great thing about hell itself melding with earth is that it doesn’t have to make sense. You can have a shopping centre full of sci-fi advertisements, that you swing off a pole out of (another new mobility tool) and into wall-to-wall demon meat-tunnels. I even spotted a very obvious crusher trap, smashing down on top of a bundle of powerups, tempting the player to take stupid risks that of course you will.

There’s a few new weapon options on display, too. There’s a Painkiller-esque stake gun, its bolts detonating after time. Also, the Doom Slayer’s armor seems to have picked up a Revenant’s shoulder-mounted weapon arm, as you can now cycle through a variety of grenades to load into it or switch to a flamethrower mode for additional close-up firepower. Yes, you can dual-wield a super-shotgun/grappling hook and flamethrower here. Oh, and the classic Doom 2 plasma gun makes a return, familiar beige barrel casing and all.

There’s even a Dark Souls or Resident Evil 6-styled invasion mode. Players can choose to raid someone else’s single-player session – fortunately not deathmatch-style, but rather to possess a demon. While I’m sure the player-controlled demons will be a cut above the usual NPC fodder, I’d not expect them to be too much deadlier in the name of balance. It’s an exciting feature though, and gives the game a bit of an (optional) multiplayer spin, even if you’d rather just stick to the story mode.

One very nice new feature is visible damage on monsters. As you pile shells, rockets and god-knows-whatever-else into demons, chunks of them will fall off, they’ll bleed, and they’ll be staggered briefly as a part comes loose. I feel this’ll go a long way to get around the ‘bullet-sponge’ feeling of enemies in Doom 2016 – they may still take a similar amount of damage, but you can see that you’re hurting them, and that makes a lot of difference.

There’s even more that I’d love to dig deeper into. The fiery Baron Of Hell variant with flaming blades and an internal structure made up of lava and bone that becomes more visible as you damage it looks cool. The Archvile reveal (here comes flame boi) was all well and good, but the revelation that the player gets to use the demonic key-sword that was teased so much in the first game? That’s interesting. I also want to know what’s up with that “Demonic Corruption” gauge on the map screen. I was a bit sceptical about Doom Eternal, but well done, Id, you’ve got me excited again.

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Dominic Tarason

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