2016 marked the return of id Software - the fabled game-makers behind 1993's Doom. With the 2016 title, the studio brought back speed and ferocity to a stagnating genre.
Doom (2016), in many ways, was a return to form for id Software, who announced to the world that the Doomslayer was ready to dominate the genre again.
Instead of being a reboot, Doom (2016) was a continuation of the series, and it didn't rely on users knowing the older games or the lore attached to it. The result was a fast-paced and violent video game that could have easily alienated younger audiences who are more attuned to the formulaic arena shooters.
Instead, Doom introduced all gamers to the roots of the FPS genre. Fans immediately hailed the game as a breath of fresh air in a style that had grown stale. Doom (2016) took audiences on a visceral and adrenaline-fueled ride through its hellish world.
To top the success and gameplay of Doom (2016) and catch lightning in a bottle again would be a monumentally difficult task. But that is precisely what id Software did in 2020.
Doom Eternal: The most overlooked game of 2020
After 2016, fans knew that id Software had a winning formula. The quality of the sequel was all but assured. However, id Software wasn't satisfied delivering more of the same. Instead, the studio chose to experiment and introduce new elements to the game and take even more risks in pacing and combat systems.
But the game was released to overwhelmingly positive reception from critics and fans. Many were happy to see the studio reject a formulaic approach and praised the game as a jolt of energy that, even though it harkened back to the franchise's heyday, introduced plenty of new and original elements.
From an almost arcade-like aesthetic of item pick-ups and a deliberately in-your-face approach, Doom Eternal blended the rebellious streak of the early 90s with the modern gloss of the 2010s.
Here we take a look at some of the key areas in which Doom Eternal excelled and how exactly it could.
Doomslayer's new toys
Players have a decent idea of what to expect from Doom Eternal because of Doom (2016). Fast combat returned, with Doomslayer practically bouncing around the arena at a blisteringly fast pace.
Every attack by the player has a visible effect on enemies, with skin and bones peeling off their bodies with each hit. Making for an extremely clever yet visceral visual representation of the enemy's health.
With the Grappling Hook addition, traversal was made even more fun and added plenty of fresh elements to the platforming section. More than that, the Hook made each combat sequence even more fast-paced, with the Doomslayer being able to zip across areas in a blinding flash.
By far, the most genius design choice was the scarcity of ammo, which ramped things up in terms of difficulty and encouraged players to play differently.
This time around, players would have to switch weapons always to have ammo at hand constantly. This worked on multiple levels, as on the one hand, the player would have to gain mastery with each weapon and exactly how to get the best out of it in any given situation.
Moreover, players must rely on other methods to replenish their ammo outside of Glory Kills. That is precisely where the Chainsaw is useful.
Sawing weaker enemies with the Chainsaw results in easy ammo drops and ensures that a player always has the right tool at hand to tackle each combat sequence. Combining the Flamethrower's abilities and the Chainsaw to replenish both ammo and armor represents a kind of synergy that is unmatched in modern gaming.
Also, setting hoards of lower-level enemies on fire using the flamethrower is cathartic.
Doom Eternal is a puzzle game on steroids.
While that statement might raise eyebrows, it might not be too far from what Doom Eternal feels like on greater difficulties. Right off the bat, there is no reason for players to experience the game on lower difficulties. The challenge is precisely what opens the game up to experimentation by the player.
Although the combat scenes are challenging, Doom Eternal provides players with the tools they need to get past every stage. Developers have ensured that players can complete the levels with the resources provided in-game.
In many ways, each combat encounter is a visceral game of puzzle-solving that involves making decisions in rapid succession with escalating difficulty. Each enemy type can be reduced to a bullet sponge, but if the player is paying attention, their weak spots are highlighted on a comically cartoonish level.
For example, Arachnotron's tail is practically begging for the player to take a shot at it at all times. Once the tail is gone, the Arachnotron can't lob all sorts of projectiles at the player. The Doomslayer can move in for a quick kill.
Similarly, every enemy telegraphs its weak point, and it is up to the player to discover and exploit it. This is where Doom Eternal truly shines, as it not only encourages users to play fast and smart but also promotes weapon-switching.
For instance, the Possessed Soldier's enemy type's shields are easily destroyed when players use a Plasma Rifle. This type of weapon's effectiveness is spread across almost every enemy type, making for an intense combat loop that never gets old.
At all times, the player must be aware of the tools at their disposal and how to get the best out of them in each situation. Killing lower-level enemies in a flash of violence and shotgun shells wouldn't be the smart choice. The better option would be to let them stay alive until the player desperately needs ammo and shields.
This kind of synergy between each gameplay system leads to Doom Eternal feeling like one of the most effective all-time games. Nearly every gameplay element is utilized in each combat sequence, effectively taking away all sense of fatigue or repetition.
To quote Joe Rogan, Doom Eternal can be boiled down to "high-level problem-solving with dire physical consequences."
As the player strafes and dodges the many projectiles on the screen, the sense of synergy never fades away. Each system leans carefully on each other to create one cohesive gameplay loop that gets better, faster, and stronger with each combat sequence.
No conversation about Doom Eternal is possible without mentioning Mick Gordon's excellent soundtrack. Despite the controversy post-launch, the soundtrack itself is a good reason why Doom Eternal works on so many levels.
Rather than simply settling into the background, Gordon's 9-string guitars, powerful synths, and ear-shattering drums are always in the player's face. Doom Eternal sounds exactly how one would imagine it to be - pure metal and electronic cacophony.
The soundtrack is as brutal as the violence on the screen. No words can do justice to the feeling a player gets as they clear an entire arena of demons with "BFG 10000" playing in the background.
It becomes virtually impossible to put down the controller because it pushes a player to fight aggressively until the last demon has been stomped into the ground.
With so much to like, why didn't Doom Eternal win more Game of the Year awards?
One would wonder, with so many things to love about Doom Eternal, why did it not bag the coveted GOTY award, getting more publications and award shows. The short answer is that 2020 was possibly one of the most stacked years in gaming regarding quality.
One must remember that Doom Eternal was one of the first big AAA game releases of 2020 and already set a high bar. As the months passed, players got to experience instant classics like Ghost of Tsushima, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, The Last of Us Part II, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
Therefore, Doom Eternal not winning Game of the Year is not a statement of its quality itself. But rather, a reminder of just how many great games players were witness to in 2020.
While some would choose to consider that if Doom Eternal had a later release date, maybe perhaps more close to November, it would have stayed more fresh in the public's eye and stood a better chance.
But as it stands, all of that will remain conjecture and an endless series of "What could have been?" At the end of the day, what does Game of the Year mean apart from a public acknowledgment of the game's quality? Therefore, Doom Eternal need only be a player's own personal Game of the Year for it to be every bit a masterpiece that it is.
Note: This article is subjective and reflects the opinion of the writer.