Another QuakeCon, another big Bethesda keynote. As someone who has reviewed two Bethesda games after eight years in the industry, I consider myself the resident Bethesda expert. As such, I was extremely excited to see the debut gameplay footage for DOOM Eternal, and all the ripping and tearing that ensued. While there was a lot happening in the video, or videos rather, one thing in particular stood out to me. That’s the Doom Slayer’s movement, or rather the set of upgrades thereof. The 2016 DOOM was already a textbook case of running and gunning, but DOOM Eternal lays some additional bricks that makes the foundation even more solid, causing the overall modern DOOM thesis to stand tall.
The “original” DOOM was all about momentum. You, as the Doom Slayer, had to keep moving. (Unless you got lost moving from one monster closet to the next.) This was pushed by the game’s internal makeup, with little in the way of consistent ammo and health pickups. Instead, DOOM gives you incentives to get in and get violent, with its Glory Kill mechanic. Hurt a demon enough and it begins to flash, at which point you can snap over to it and take it out with your bare hands, for free. Doing this healed you a bit, to keep you ripping and tearing despite taking the occasional hit. Then, the chainsaw would afford an equally in your face method of staying in the game, by causing ammo to spill in addition to guts.
The rest of DOOM was about speed. The Doom Slayer moved naturally quickly, which was facilitated by power-ups like haste and berserk. But beyond that, his actually physical abilities didn’t extend far beyond climbing up ledges and having a double jump. What that ends up creating is a literal gameplay loop, in which many of the levels (especially later in the game) are designed around allowing Doom Slayer to run in almost a circle, never really needing to do anything but run forward to corral the spawning demons into his sights. And don’t get me wrong, that was fun as hell. But just from eyeballing the DOOM Eternal footage, I can tell that the team at id Software expanded their thinking a bit, and the game is much more robust as a result. And the team achieved this with two major additions: the Meathook, and what looks like a quick dash move.
The Meathook is a grappling hook attached to the Doom Slayer’s classic shotgun. It shoots the hook out pretty far, and when it strikes an enemy, yanks the Doom Slayer in that direction. The dash move looks like a quick-step that can be done in any direction, but I’m not 100% certain there. It even looks like, at one point, the player in the demo does it in mid-air. Either way, these two functions together make for what looks like a more reactive experience, as well as one that allows for more creative and populated area designs.
Just in the DOOM Eternal video itself, you see the player propelling themselves all over the place, going from wide-open spaces to small ledges, and even sailing around in the air by going after flying demons. During this demonstration, you see more open spaces, more variation in terrain, more enemies in less predictable positions. The player zips around in the air with the Meathook, and even uses the dash to not only move out of the way of attacks, but also quickly reposition themselves or get an extra boost to move from one point to another. It’s incredibly dynamic, and at least in terms of a well-produced vertical slice, gives the impression of much more emergent, situational gunplay compared to the previous game. I dig it.
Video games are cool. It always makes me real happy when a game comes out that just revels in how much time the people making it put into the very concept of moving around in a 3D space. This goes from games like Moss, which challenges your brain to explore a space from different, simultaneous perspectives, to DOOM, which wants you to make snap decisions on the fly while moving fast and dealing with demonic obstacles. DOOM Eternal seeks to expand on the ideas introduced in the previous game, but instead of just succeeding in expanding, effectively shift the entire core gameplay flow to literally new heights. I for one can’t wait to get my mitts on it. And maybe I’ll hit the third Bethesda review of my career in the process.