DOOM Eternal Xbox One review: Much-needed goretastic catharsis

DOOM Eternal is a near-perfect follow up to 2016's sensational reboot of the legendary shooter franchise. The improvements that are good are really good, but some of the new stuff sadly doesn't land very well.

Doom Eternal Doomguy
(Image: © Windows Central)

DOOM (2016) was a bit of a surprise hit, and far exceeded many people's expectations. Reboots of classic, beloved franchises are tricky to pull off well, but id Software did an amazing job, reclaiming its shooter crown in the process.

DOOM Eternal was announced a while back, following the success of its predecessor. DOOM Eternal follows similar cues to DOOM II: Hell on Earth from the mid-nineties, where forces of evil invade our world. The core premise remains unchanged: rip and tear. And in that goal, DOOM Eternal soars.

With stunning art, an amazing soundtrack, and an explosive arsenal, wreaking havoc on demons never felt so good. However, some of the "new" gameplay elements and design choices id Software introduces feel like a step back, rather than a step forward.

Art, gunplay, and sound

What I loved about DOOM Eternal

DOOM Eternal is a truly beautiful game, in the most diabolical sense. The art team really had a field day with DOOM Eternal, pushing established concepts of Hell and body horror to their most delectable limits.

Towers of writhing flesh mounds pocked with vile jagged teeth, fallen demonic titans spewing entrails across the entire area, creating environmental hazards in the process. Huge vistas of bleak hellscapes, with demonic tendrils towering into the sky. There's a screenshot opportunity every few minutes in DOOM Eternal, if you have the stomach for its grotesque majesty.

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Developerid Software
PublisherBethesda Softworks
PlayersSingle-player campaign, 2v1 asynchronous PvP multiplayer
GenreFirst-person shooter
Xbox Play AnywhereNo
Game PassNo

Complimenting the visual direction is great sound treatment from Mick Gordon, whose new tracks for DOOM Eternal ramp up and down as the action gets more intense, with an explosive fusion of metal and industrial overtones. It's another flawless victory for DOOM's music, which has almost become the game's calling card in recent years.

The performance of the game is stellar as well, running at dynamic 4K with a rock-solid sixty frames per second on Xbox One X. Not once did I experience even the vaguest hint of performance degradation even in some of the games most intensive fights in later levels, making DOOM Eternal one of the most impressive games in terms of fluidity in recent memory. Graphically the game is a massive step up in general, having gone back to do direct comparisons with DOOM 2016. The texture pop-in that plagued the last game is completely eliminated, and the overall presentation is far more detailed.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Throughout my time with the campaign, I only encountered a couple of bugs, where a specific shotgun upgrade wouldn't work, and a specific upgrade station wouldn't work. Additionally, I only experienced a single crash, which may have been an issue with Xbox's fast resume rather than the game itself.

DOOM Eternal changes up the franchise's gunplay a bit, putting a bigger emphasis on the chainsaw as a means of replenishing ammo. Now, you're pretty much expected to saw a hapless ambient demon in half every now and then, with rapidly replenishing fuel to keep you going. You also have an array of new toys to play with, including a shoulder-mounted gun module that can spread grenades, ice bombs, or spray fire in an area of effect. The flamethrower is particularly important since it causes armor shards to drop off enemies to help you stay alive.

Getting used to the new flow of combat took a while, particularly since my muscle memory was still very much stuck in 2016, but after a bit of practice, I found myself carving through hordes of demonic entities with reckless abandon. The violent ballet that is so very uniquely DOOM achieves all new heights, with new weapons like the Ballista that can cut an entire room of demons in half, with new weapon mods to keep returning weapons fresh.

Additionally, DOOM Eternal dials up the gore to a whole other level. Shooting enemies will gradually peel the flesh off their bones in chunks until their guts and sinews are dangling around, and contextual gore for specific weapons and finishing moves make combat varied and satisfying. Anyone who felt like DOOM 2016 wasn't bloody enough is about to get a big payday.

Speaking of weapon mods, the new Super Shotgun grappling hook is more than just a tool of destruction. It can be used to pull you out of harm's way. It can bring you into close quarters with a fodder demon for a quick chainsawin', or a health-regenerating execution. With upgrades, it can also set demons on fire, granting you a boost of armor as you cut them down with a hail of shotgun blasts.

Used in combination with jumps, it can also be used as a tool to gain higher ground. One of the runes you can gather that grant passive bonuses let you slow-down time as you use alt-fire while in the air, effectively letting you create Matrix-like scenes as you soar through the air, carving bloody patterns with the giblets of your enemies.

Doom Eternal Chainsaw (Image credit: Windows Central)

Doom Gore Scenery (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Each level is full of secrets to unlock and uncover, to be displayed inside Doomguy's central hub of operations, although it's a bit of a spoiler exactly how that works, DOOM Eternal makes its unlockables and collectibles rewarding to unearth. I collected what felt like quite a ton of stuff throughout the campaign, many of which are celebrations of past id Software titles from the DOOM legacy, with a bit of Quake and Wolfenstein here and there. There are easter eggs everywhere too, and I'm looking forward to seeing what more observant players unearth in the coming weeks.

DOOM Eternal is another goretastically-satisfying shooter from id Software, with jaw-dropping vistas, stomach-churning monsters, with some of the meatiest, smoothest gunplay around. As great as DOOM Eternal's core aspects are, some of the attempts to diversify the gameplay don't land as well as I expect id Software hoped.

Platforming, level design, story delivery

What I disliked about DOOM Eternal

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Nothing here is what I consider a deal-breaker for DOOM Eternal. Truly, if you loved 2016's take, you're going to love this one too. However, I do want to air some grievances about the game, across aspects that I felt really held it back as an overall package.

I'm not sure anyone played DOOM 2016 and thought "this game needs more platforming."

For some reason, DOOM Eternal puts a big emphasis on platforming. Clunky, awful, platforming. The Super Shotgun's grappling hook gives Doomguy new feats of agility, it plays no part whatsoever in the game's strange insistence on forcing you to scurry awkwardly along inexplicably obvious climbing walls, cavort on monkey bars, and double-jump and double-dash across levels. Towards the end of the game, the game even gives you literal hoops to jump through to get back to the action.

I reinstalled DOOM 2016 to see if I was simply being crazy, but where the previous game split the action up between encounter scenarios and exploration in large, sprawling levels, DOOM Eternal's epic combat segments are separated by these odd platforming segments and tedious water displacement puzzles that feel like they'd be more at home in Tomb Raider.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The fact you don't die from failing a platforming section, but merely teleport back to the spot you fell, is almost like an apologetic admission that they aren't fun to participate in. I'm not sure anyone played DOOM 2016 and thought "this game needs more platforming."

While the art is incredible, and DOOM Eternal really outdoes itself with some of its scenery and set-pieces, the level layouts are fairly linear in their progression. It also feels like there's less ambient storytelling in DOOM Eternal, which is a bit of a weak point for the game in general.

DOOM has never been known as a story-based title, but it's a bit odd how many important plot details were buried away in text-heavy codex entries in this one. I had to dive back into the codex after I had finished the game just to try and work out what had just transpired, given that so little of it really shines through in the game itself. It's a shame too, since the body of lore id Software is building for this incarnation of DOOM is incredibly rich and detailed. If you're willing to hunt down and read the text logs, that is. I would genuinely like to see DOOM take itself a bit more seriously in this regard, but I may be in the minority there.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Finally, as of writing, I was unable to test out DOOM Eternal's "Battlemode," as the servers are unpopulated. I did however try out the offline tutorial. Battlemode is a new 2v1 PvP multiplayer mode that lets two player demons battle against a single player Doomguy. You can spawn enemies in and utilize various demonic abilities while battling the Doom Slayer. I'll write up some thoughts on that in a future article, once the servers are populated. It might provide some fleeting fun as a mini-game, but it doesn't seem particularly groundbreaking, and it certainly doesn't represent the meat of DOOM Eternal — by far, that is the campaign.

Should you buy DOOM Eternal?

If you loved DOOM 2016, you simply have to buy DOOM Eternal. The gunplay achieves all-new heights, with new gore mechanics, spectacular new weaponry, and varied demons from DOOM's vast back catalog (as well as some new ones, no spoilers though, sorry!)

While the story delivery takes even more of a back seat in DOOM Eternal, id Software still delivers some impressive setpieces, epic boss battles, and stunning scenery, as the forces of Hell begin to devour our world.

I can't help but wonder why id Software felt the need to triple-down on the mild platforming elements DOOM 2016 introduced, because all they do is add road bumps to where you really want to be — in the midst of the DOOM hellscape, ripping and tearing demonic creatures from the depths. Thankfully, DOOM Eternal brings plenty of that. And then some.

DOOM Eternal was reviewed on Xbox One X using a copy provided by the publisher.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!