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DOOM Eternal Preview: QuakeCon Europe 2019

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Quakecon 2019's DOOM Eternal demo begins aboard a UAC ship and transitions through the debris of space, eventually ending up on the broken surface of Mars. Using an extensive arsenal of guns, some returning and some new, the player must slay their way through several demons across a wide array of environments.

The Combat Shotgun and Super Shotgun return, along with the former's grenade alternate fire mode. The Super Shotgun is now fitted with a grappling hook and can pull the player in the direction of nearby enemies. It proves extremely useful in the platforming sections, as well as when quickly manoeuvring between demon lackeys during combat.

Image Credit: Joshua Boyles

A Ghostbusters-style beam of energy acts as the new Gauss weapon's alternate fire mode. It holds enemies in place while dealing damage but requires the player to slow down significantly. The Chain Gun is another new addition, and has the fastest rate of fire in the game but takes a while to spin-up first. Aiming down the sights and charging up the new Ballista gun will send out a high-powered grenade, ruining its target. The Ballista appears to be replacing the Gauss Cannon from the last game.

Dispatching Demons is kept fresh with each enemy type having target spots that can be destroyed first to make the takedown easier. For example, the Arachnotron enemies hold a turret above their head which, if destroyed first, makes taking down the enemy far easier. This applies for most of the higher-powered enemies in the game, and it provides a much more cognitive fighting experience than directly outputting as much damage as possible.

Courtesy of Game Press

Further embodying the moniker of a 'thinking man's action game', the way you recover health, shields and ammunition has changed. Ammo is still replenished by slicing up enemies with the chainsaw, but health and shield replenishment are now separated between glory kills and damage dealt with the new flamethrower. Torching demons will see them slowly ooze shield items, whilst executing a glory kill will see the victim explode in a flurry of health items. Forcing the player to utilise a different method to replenish a specific utility is an excellent method of adding variety to the combat while also encouraging the player to be more conscious of their combat.

Even on the medium difficulty the demo was set to by default, Eternal proves difficult. Demons spawn at a constant rate and persistently pursue the player; standing still to line up your aim correctly is punished harshly. You're encouraged to stay on the move, which not only leans into a breakneck pace of gameplay but also lends itself well to the movement mechanics that are new to Eternal.

Image Credit: Joshua Boyles

Yellow monkey bars are located around the levels and can be used to gain extra height on jumps, which I found useful for gaining a birds-eye view of the arena in a pinch. Rough walls can now also be climbed. They didn't often appear in combat scenarios, but in the 3D platforming sections between arenas, they offered a welcome change of pace and an extra dimension to the puzzle-solving of discovering collectables and upgrades (which remain a significant aspect of DOOM's gameplay).

DOOM (2016) wasn't averse to the odd joke at the ridiculousness of the situation presented, but Eternal appears to go all-in with the self-aware tone. Particularly game-y mechanics, like extra life pickups, are placed front and centre while the familiar AI humour continues from the first game.

One ridiculous set-piece saw Doomguy kicking away a BFG cannonball and instead, using the BFG Canon to fire himself across space. The events of DOOM have become so obscene in their ridiculousness that attempting to portray them as serious would completely undermine the tone - Eternal gets it right by accepting the comedic nature of its events and running with it.

Courtesy of Game Press

On top of everything that DOOM Eternal does well, it's a stunner in both its art direction and audio design. The level design is married well with the visuals, which often provide incredible scenes to look at. One of the more memorable ones was when I surfaced a cliff and found myself staring into Mars' core. Perfectly contrasted against the circular light was the silhouette of a winged demon that proceeded to attack.

Although the image was held only for a few frames, it remained stuck in my mind's eye long after the demo ended - it perfectly encapsulated the theme of DOOM's art direction. And of course, Mick Gordon's return for the soundtrack is highly welcome. The metal-rock tracklist ebbs and flows with each fight and heavily contributes to the fast pace of the gameplay.

There's little to complain about with what I've experienced of DOOM Eternal so far. It's similar enough to 2016's instalment while fully embracing what made that so great and evolving where necessary. I get the impression that Quakecon 2019 showed a tiny slice of what Eternal has to offer, and I can't wait to what's in store on November 22nd.




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