Thoughts on Doom: Eternal
Doom: Eternal is a pretty good name for a franchise that keeps getting ported, updated, and rebooted more than 25 years after it first launched. Though I don’t do much gaming these days, the siren song of Doom was just too much for me and I caved and bought a PS4 and a copy of Doom: Eternal a few weeks ago and have been playing it off and on for about a week. Here’s one old guy’s take on the reboot so far, after completing several levels and maybe 15 hours of gameplay.
What makes a good game?
I play Doom for one reason, and one reason only: I want to power through levels and blow things up. Preferably really scary looking demons that go boom in interesting ways and that pose a challenge without making me repeat levels dozens of times to get past a boss or whatever, and without being more frustrating than my life in general. The point is to relax and blow off some steam.
At no point in my life have I been a super-serious gamer. Even in my 20s and 30s, I was a casual gamer looking to unwind for a few hours and then set the game aside until I had some spare time. Games that require a lot of commitment aren’t what I’m looking for, really. Preferably a game would have a high replayability factor, too. Something that is as much fun to pick up for the 20th time as the first.
The original Doom and sequels pass this test. I have picked them up and played them time and again on various platforms (the iOS port was really not a great experience), and especially love just putting my Doom Guy in God mode and mowing down monsters left and right for an hour or two here and there.
Quake III Arena is my all-time favorite. It’s simple, fast paced, was easy for me to pick up the controls and strategy, and rewards replays. I could play against bots on “The Longest Yard” and the other Tier 6 maps all day long and enjoy it.
Controls and power-ups
The number of controls you have to remember in Eternal is a bit silly. I’m used to having to memorize the movement controls, switching weapons, firing (of course) and a bit more. This one adds all kinds of fiddly power-ups and gee-gaws to weapons that you have to toggle between and a whole experience and leveling-up process that’s just more like work than fun. My expectation is by the time the character is sufficiently powered up to be fun, the game will be pretty close to finished.
Q3 notwithstanding, I actually hate games that require a lot of jumping. Platformers that have a lot of intricate jumping from this precarious bit to that precarious bit are tedious. Eternal is particularly bad about this because in some cases it’s really not clear even where you’re supposed to be jumping. After playing through a few of these it’s become more obvious but initially it was really frustrating and not fun.
It’s also really changed the nature of Doom to be more like other games, and it feels a bit generic. I mean, the stadard monsters are all represented, but it feels like they’ve been slotted into a pretty standard template that could be just about any game.
Graphics and story
It’s pretty, I’ll give the game team that much. The graphics in the game are really good. Contrary to the gaming industry’s belief, though, I’m not actually clamoring for more pixels and polygons. I was perfectly happy with the state of the art graphics for Q3, and if the industry had never evolved any further I wouldn’t have really cared. The old Doom games are perfectly fun even with the old creaky 90s bitmaps.
They do rely a bit heavily on repeated animations of glory kills or whatever. Fun the first time. Hilarious the first time my fiance watched me playing, but they get a bit repetitive and tedious after a few hours.
The storyline is … confusing and not interesting. Why do games even need a storyline? I may be in the minority here, or maybe the game industry just isn’t listening, but the fewer cutscenes and attempts to impose a narrative on a game the better. Really, if I want a story I’ll read a book or comic, or listen to a podcast or watch a show or movie. Something something Hell Priests just feels like a third-rate death metal band premise.
Overall, I’m having an OK time playing Doom: Eternal and don’t regret the purchase. But I’ll probably end up having more fun playing older titles on the PS4 than this reboot. If anybody from Id or Bethesda are reading this, what I’d really love is an open world Doom that has high replayability (think early Grand Theft Auto titles without all the fussy missions) and simpler controls. No need to update the graphics engine or impose a storyline. Just Doom Guy and endless demons to mulch with the chainsaw.