DEMO REVIEW: ‘DOOM ETERNAL’ is a Brutally Good Time at QuakeCon 2019

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Doom Eternal

It’s been 25 years since the first DOOM game came into the lives of gamers everywhere. A demonic first-person shooter that is all about smashing skulls and finding a Big F***ing Gun, fans of the franchise have been waiting for the newest installment: DOOM Eternal. Launching later this year, the folks at id Software have been saving the best of the DOOM Eternal experience for QuakeCon 2019 attendants – or it’s being called by the company, DOOMCon.

Developed by id Software, DOOM Eternal is the direct sequel to 2016’s DOOM, which won Best Action Game of 2016 at The Game Awards. Known for its lighting fast gameplay and viscerally violent kills, it’s time to rip-and-tear your way through new, never-before-seen dimensions in this dark, campy, and violent first-person shooter. Powered by idTech 7, we got the chance to play as the unstoppable DOOM Slayer and blow apart, smash, and chainsaw classic demons at QuakeCon 2019. As the demo opens, we’re on a moon base and in 30-minutes attendees were tasked to making it to the core of Mars.

Smash skulls into bodies, chainsaw enemies, and more. The gore from DOOM is dialed up to its most visceral level in DOOM Eternal, making each kill exciting in different ways. Like Mortal Kombat fatalities, the ripping and tearing adds to the play. Not only is killing demons visually exciting but since DOOM Eternal’s mechanics center on aggressive resource management the ways you rip through them matter.

Glory kills offer health while using the flame belch to kill the demons yields armor and finally utilizing your chainsaw will replenish your dwindling ammo.  In addition to that, you have to keep moving which makes the gameplay challenging, fast-paced, and unforgiving. That being said, in their panel on the game, the developers explained that automatic respawn on platforms, the incorporation of 1Ups, and a color-coded HUD system all work to make the challenging game fun to play.

But how does it work the player? We got a chance to test it out.

How was the learning curve for mechanics?

Kate: Honestly? The learning curve for mechanics is fairly steep. Thankfully, the tutorial before the demo goes through everything but the hard thing is using what you learned. It’s one thing to stand still and use a flame belch, it’s a whole other thing to remember to use that, and the chainsaw, and the other methods at your disposal. They’re all necessary and in 30-minutes, it’s very hard to grasp the cadence and movement speed needed to make it all work. Now, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun, it’ll just take at least a level or two when the game comes out to make the kill choices second nature and hit the ideal level of resource management that the developers intend.

Matt:  There is definitely a learning curve. Learning the controllers will be vital with the way they did resource management in this game. DOOM Eternal is a very fast-paced game so you need to be able to switch between weapons and kill enemies certain ways for different resources all while not stopping to take a breather. The tutorial was helpful, but since this was a demo with time constraints just tried to get through it as fast as possible to get to the gameplay and within the first minute realized I was in trouble and really needed that tutorial.

The developers said that they “want to kill you” in the game. Does the difficulty get to be too much?

Kate: I hate dying in games, but at the same time I love it. Truthfully, the developers at id give you everything you need to learn but also to offer a nice safety net. The 1Ups serve as a platforming puzzle to find but they also reward your work by allowing you to immediately respawn when you die – and if you’re like me, you’ll die a lot. The other choice was to make platforming difficult, but not impossible. Instead of having you reload to a checkpoint and lose your hard work every time you misstep off a ledge or dash in the emptiness of space, they immediately respawn you on the last ledge and save you the headache.

Matt: The game is going to be difficult that is for sure. I never felt cheated in any way despite dying multiple times during the demo. I do know just learning the controls and kill mechanics will be half the battle. Each time I died I realized what I did wrong and then corrected it the next time and got further relatively easy.

Just how creative are the kills?

Kate: The kills in DOOM Eternal are fun, gory, and super inventive. Since they’re directionally generated, you can learn new ways to make different animations happen when you perform a glory kill.

Matt: This might easily be the best part of this game. They are very creative, brutal, gory, and just loads of fun to do. I really love needing to do different types of kills for different resources and using kill mechanics as resource management. I did really struggle with this during the demo as flying through the tutorial and then realizing I don’t actually know what each button or kill type does. However, when you actually do complete the kills it is very rewarding and adds so many elements to the game. Outside of all the mechanics, they are just fun to watch.

How well does the HUD work?

Kate: The HUD is maneuvered with ease. One of the best pieces of it is the weapons wheel. A new edition in DOOM Eternal is the color-coded ammo and when I listened to the developers say it would make resource management easier, I didn’t believe them. While resource management is still difficult and aggressive, as I got my bearings and began understanding which ways to kill the mobs, I started relying on the colors. I wasn’t thinking about gun type, just color and for some reason, that was easier, faster, and almost second nature. While I didn’t make it to the end of the demo, I can’t wait to use this in large arenas.

Matt: The developers have mentioned all the work they put into the HUD for this game and it really shows. Adding color-coded ammo, guns, and item pickups are just amazing. Makes it so much easier and allows the player to focus on actually playing the game. I think making all the ammo in vibrant colors was a fantastic idea and it really does work. There were times I could see ammo across the map and allowed me to know it was there and keep moving. I have always been a fan of the general color coding concept and love it when devs put color-coded systems into games, so this one is really no different. Players should focus on playing the actual game and doing fun stuff, not worrying about if they picked up the correct ammo or what ammo goes with what gun.

How did you manage the mobs and heavys?

Kate: So badly. This was my first playtest for DOOM Eternal and finding a balance between ripping and tearing or skillshots was hard at first. Luckily, the tutorial gave me the weak spots on the heavys but at the same time, the ability to exploit those points is extremely difficult when you’re not used to dashing around and keeping on the move. If I stopped aim through my scope I got easily overwhelmed and relied on my 1Ups to get me through the stage, hoping I wouldn’t have to reload to the checkpoint. But I loved this challenge. It pushed me to pay attention, be engaged, and ultimately how to use my environment. By the end of the 30-minutes, I was taking time to platform, to shoot below, or to simply deal with the lesser demons in the mob before taking on the heavy. This game is going to frustrate people, and while it doesn’t hold your hand, it does light the way for you to succeed.

Matt: Not well, I think the game will have a pretty high learning curve especially for new players, which is a reason makes me excited for this game but also just makes it hard to get everything down and learn it all in a timed demo. I am not an experienced DOOM player so for me, the demo was an eye-opener. This is a hard game and is going to take some time to learn things. After being able to watch the developers play the demo while going through mechanics and listening to their thoughts on difficulty, mob management, and resource management is it just a lot of information to take in. I do wish I had played the demo after being able to watch and listen to the developers play the demo, as I feel I would have done so much better. This game going to be a learning experience with managements of all kinds and should be really fun.

So, what about the soundtrack?

Kate: Mick Gordon’s soundtrack to DOOM Eternal was played at the start of every panel, party, and during every intermission, it was everywhere. And I was in love with it. It got me moving and hyped. It thrashed even harder than DOOM (2016)’s soundtrack and it truly fits the game perfectly. It energizes you, and it is hard to feel defeated when it’s blaring in your ears and you’re running around as the Slayer.

Matt: DOOM (2016) soundtrack is amazing and from what we heard of DOOM Eternal, the soundtrack is going to be just as amazing. Mick Gordon is back and awesome as ever. You can find the Doom (2016) soundtrack on Spotify and I recommend anyone go check it out.

There is still a lot more to DOOM Eternal. While did learn more about Battlemode, the game’s multiplayer, we got to attend a panel that dissected it. And even in this demo, we only got a small taste of one level, which the developers assured us that even then there would be more to the level that we didn’t get to experience yet. While both of us had a rough time getting adjusted, the truth is that the game is loads of fun.

You can get your hands on a Big F***ing Gun on November 22, 2019 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One

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