How do you follow up a masterpiece? That's the unenviable question the team at id Software had to answer for themselves after they released Doom in 2016. And for some, the answer to that question, Doom Eternal, is going to be a disappointment. Not because it's a bad first-person shooter, but because it's different.
Sure, everything you've come to expect from a Doom game is present and accounted for in Doom Eternal, including classic enemies like cacodemons and revenants, a killer metal soundtrack and, of course, Doomguy himself. But if you go into Doom Eternal expecting a repeat of the game you played in 2016, you'll be disappointed. Doom Eternal will also kick your butt.
That's because Doom Eternal plays in a way that is significantly different than its predecessor. Sure, you have many of the same tools, but enemies are faster and far more aggressive than their 2016 counterparts. In most instances, each one also requires that you use a specific weapon to take them out. For example, one of the best ways to deal with cacodemons early on is to use the combat shotgun's sticky bomb mod to lob a grenade at them before they're able to get close to you. You combine this with the fact your character can't carry much ammo, and it means Doom Eternal forces you to switch between weapons at almost every moment. Quickly swapping between guns has always been in the DNA of arena shooters, but Eternal forces you to internalize this behavior in a way that -- unless you played it at its harder difficulties -- Doom 2016 did not.
At first, I hated this about Eternal. Until you get the hang of its gameplay loop, you always feel like you don't have enough ammo to finish fights. Ironically for a game that's all about speed, Doom Eternal asks that you be patient while you learn how to play on its terms. Some players will hate this, and I did for a time too. But once you start mastering its mechanics, Doom Eternal's battles can be thrilling.
Less successful are the things on the periphery of Eternal's shooting mechanics. Tonally, it's a different beast from its predecessor. Doom 2016 had its goofy moments, but Eternal embraces that side of its predecessor and runs away with it. At one point during the game, one of the characters tells Doomguy, "You can't just shoot a hole into the surface of Mars." Joke's on him. I had a stupid grin on my face during these moments. But at the same time, I also missed the cohesion and atmosphere of its predecessor.
A lot of that has to do with the fact you're not limited to a single research facility and a couple of levels of Hell. Instead, in Doom Eternal, you travel across the solar system and beyond. There's more visual variety to its play spaces as a result, but that comes at the cost of more linear levels. There's no mission in Eternal like 2016's Foundry level where you can approach the objectives in whatever order you want. With a greater emphasis on platforming, you'll also spend more time jumping between ledges than you might think is reasonable for a first-person shooter.
Eternal isn't necessarily worse for these the changes it makes to Doom 2016's formula, but it does feel like it won't appeal to some players as a result. But you gotta hand it to id. Faced with the dilemma of how to follow-up something so many people love, they made the tough decision to do something different.