"There’s a misconception about DOOM – that it’s a mindless corridor shooter," DOOM Eternal director Marty Stratton explains. "I want to make it clear that that is not the game we made."
As the frantic death metal riffs of Mick Gordon's OST start up and we rip and tear our way through a hellspawn-infested ruin, we start to realise what Stratton is referring to, specifically.
DOOM 2016 garnered a ridiculous amount of positivity, critically and commercially, when it hit consoles and PCs nearly half a decade ago. But for all its creativity and playful map design, a huge swathe of the gaming audience still saw it as simply new DOOM.
Stratton and his team at id Software are going above and beyond in DOOM Eternal.
"It's the best game we've ever made," he says earnestly. "And I can't wait for everyone to play it."
Latest screenshots for Bethesda and id Software's upcoming game, DOOM Eternal
The first, most notable thing we picked up on in the opening three hours of the game is the different rhythm this game has, compared to 2016's soft reboot of the series.
"DOOM 2016 became a bit repetitive," Stratton admits, "so we’ve done everything we can to ensure DOOM Eternal is one page turn after another".
The general pattern of gameplay is still the same: exploration, arena battles, puzzles, traversal challenges all weave together to form a tight feedback loop, level to level.
Thanks to the newly expanded suite of traversal tools at your disposal (grappling hooks, dashes, double jumps and more besides), the platforming challenges add an extra layer of depth that was missing from 2016's version.
To that end, there are more weapons in DOOM Eternal. There are more mods. There are more upgrades to your Praetor Suit. There are more divergent paths you can choose to power yourself up.
Enemies seem to have had their mobility upped, and the ballet of death that DOOM 2016 mastered so well has been tuned to be more intense.
Resource management is a problem you need to solve on the fly – ammo is scarce, relentless waves of demons are a constant drain on your health and armour, and staying still means certain death.
Even on the easier difficulties, you need to think about your whole toolbox in order to come out on top. Wandering around with just a shotgun and your fists isn't going to get you very far at all.
"‘The game doesn’t just give anything to you, you have to earn it," says Stratton.
Chainsaw kills will cause enemies to spray ammo out of their severed arteries, using your (gnarly) shoulder-mounted flamethrower will force defeated foes to spit up armour, and tapping your melee button to activate those beautifully OTT Glory Kills will repay you with health.
It's a satisfying, rhythmic dance that you don't really see on any other battlefield in gaming, and it's something that Stratton is understandably proud of.
"[We like to call it] Aggressive resource management," says Stratton. "Burn, execute, kill. If you need something, it’s there. You just have to think about it, then go out there and take it. It’s push forward combat."
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With so many guns on offer (Plasma Gun, Heavy Cannon, Rocket Launcher, Combat Shotgun, Super Shotgun, Chaingun, BFG-9000, your grenade launcher, DOOM Blade, flamethrower, fists and that nasty-looking Crucible Blade) – paired with the suite of abilities and traversal tools you're given, you'd think DOOM Eternal would run the risk of feeling cumbersome.
id Software has designed the opening portion – from intro levels, to the introduction of the hub world and beyond – to give you time to reacquaint yourself with these tools of destruction before really throwing you into the deep end.
"‘We use a martial arts analogy in the studio," reveals Stratton. "When you enter the game, you’re a white belt. As we introduce you to more weapons, more systems, teach you how to kill more demons, you get better.
"By the end of the game… you’re a black belt."
After over three hours with DOOM Eternal, we can say with confidence that Stratton is on the money – DOOM Eternal is a power fantasy that keeps you in check.
You might keep powering up, over and over and over again, but the enemies make you check yourself. It's a power fantasy that keeps you sharp, keeps you thinking.
In every way, so far, DOOM Eternal is more enjoyable than DOOM 2016 – and that's a hard bar to pass.
id Software's latest shooter has the potential to be the grittiest, most gratuitous game of the year… and we can't wait for it to launch.
Doom Eternal will launch on Xbox One, PS4, Google Stadia and PC on March 20, 2020.
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