Hands-On With Doom Eternal At PAX Australia 2019

I had no intentions of writing an article when I went to PAX Australia over the weekend but playing Doom Eternal ticked that particular meter right into the green. After watching incredible trailers and gameplay while stuck in the queue hall line, augmented by healthy doses of flame, I inadvertently stumbled upon the Doom Eternal booth.

Within ten minutes I was at the front of the line, scheduling in a time to play the next iteration of a franchise which, at that time, I’d barely played before.

Fast forward a few hours and I’m sitting in an extraordinarily comfortable chair in front of a very nice PC as the screen begins loading up Doom Eternal. The first thing that becomes immediately apparent is how remarkably smooth the game’s movement system is, with mobility being a key highlight of Eternal. Whether it’s using the rapidly refilling dashes to manoeuvre around the hordes of demons arrayed against you or launching yourself across space to grab onto and climb a conveniently textured wall, Doom Eternal highly, highly recommends you always stay mobile.

Otherwise you may die…a lot. To be entirely fair, as my playtime set out to prove to me, you’re going to die a fair amount anyways. It’s just the way of the game. The demo first took me through a basic tutorial area, where I became acquainted with a limited selection of the mainstay weapons of the series, primarily the shotgun. While the tutorial was of a basic sort, it definitely helped me, considering my limited experience with the Doom franchise. It also introduces the player to weapon mods, which can be picked up as you progress throughout the game, in a true arcade-pickup-style.

From Rocket Launcher projectiles that can explode in proximity, to mods which incorporate a bit more precision to the Heavy Cannon, these pickups add a bit of variation and strategy to your play-through. The demo provides you with almost every single one of the weapons you’ll be able to use to slaughter your way through Phobos, with the Ion Cannon, Chaingun, and Ballista just being a few of my personal favourites.

While mods they do add a lot of fun and and promote a variety of different playstyles, the weapons still maintain their base destructive power and feel, my favourite of which by far, is the Super Shotgun with Meat Hook. Oh my what an absolute delight this is. For those unfamiliar, the Meat Hook is an attachment for the Super Shotgun which fires a grappling hook at your foes, dragging you towards them so they can be dealt with in the appropriate fashion.

The Meat Hook adds to the already impressive mobility by not only allowing you to charge at foes ready to blow them apart but using them as launching platforms to escape other demons or to re-position within a given area.

But then again, you can always simply throw yourself into the fray with your chainsaw at the ready. On that vein, the one thing that initially threw a wrench into the metaphorical works was the resource management side of things. I’m very used to games where the only real thing you have to manage is your health and ammo and if you’re low, you simply hide or find more.

Doom Eternal doesn’t play those kind of games, encouraging you to get up close and personal to get what you need. Need armour? Use your shoulder-mounted flamethrower to singe those demons back to Hell. Ammo running a little dry? Time to pull out your chainsaw and carve a bloody swathe through your foes. Low on health? Weaken your opponent enough to see them slightly glow then rush in for a gory Glory Kill.

A Glory Kill puts all the gruesome elements of the Doom franchise into a single devastating move, eliminating demons by bashing skulls in, ripping heads off, using their own appendages against them, and more. As was definitely apparent through my time with the game and elaborated by Jonny Roses Community Manager for Bethesda ANZ in a PAX Aus panel, there are so many different forms of Glory Kill.

Each demon has their own set of Glory Kill animations, which can also change depending on the angle you approach them from. Thus, the gory and devastating end you deliver to a Revenant may be vastly different when you drop on them from above, as opposed to walking straight up to them.

And you’ll have plenty of chances to drop onto foes, with the many open spaces of Doom Eternal featuring plenty of verticality to give you an edge against the almost never-ending demon hordes, helped along by conveniently-placed portals to transport the Doom Slayer to different parts of certain areas.

While I didn’t progress as far as I wished within the Doom Eternal demo and I died quite a bit, my time playing cemented by desire to add this game to my collection. The combat, in what I can only assume is the true Doom fashion, is fantastically-fast paced without being stressful or overwhelming. The player is given all the tools to remain perfectly in control while still being presented a challenge. This approach works very well with the trappings of resource management, as you constantly need to keep an eye on your UI, watching your health, armour, and ammo, while bolstering your supply accordingly.

My main takeaway from my time with Doom Eternal at PAX Australia is that this game is one to definitely pick up when it launches on the 20th March 2020, if for nothing else, the absolutely amazing mobility system and catharsis through demon-slaughtering.

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