BOSTON – I have a somewhat embarrassing confession to make: I have never played a Doom game start to finish. As a child, I toyed around with my dad’s copy on the family PC, and tried to make it through Doom 64.
As an adult, I sampled Doom (2016) at conventions and used it to test gaming headsets. But I’ve never felt compelled to sit down and invest in a Doom game – until now. After playing the first 20 minutes of Doom Eternal, I’m convinced that I’ll be missing out if I don’t play through this one.
I went hands-on with Doom Eternal at PAX East 2020, and while it’s my third time trying out the game, it’s my first session that lasted for more than 10 minutes or so. In this demo, I got to play through the beginning cutscene and a good chunk of the first level, slaying more demons than I could shake a chainsaw at.
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Doom Eternal isn’t just a fast-and-furious, adrenaline-soaked adventure; it’s also a very smart game about resource management. And if that sounds boring, then you haven’t experienced Doom Eternal’s approach to the topic.
When Doom Eternal begins, things look grim. Demons have broken free from Mars and made their way to Earth, killing off massive swaths of the population. It’s up to the Doom Slayer, who dons his helmet and grabs his shotgun, to make things right once again.
First off, it’s worth pointing out that the simple act of shooting in Doom is immensely satisfying. The shotgun feels weighty and blasts enemies into satisfying, gory chunks. You can upgrade it to launch sticky explosives, or fire in a full-auto mode. The machine gun is also adept at blowing your foes to smithereens.
But while you’ll want to soften enemies up with bullets and shells, that’s not how you’ll want to kill them. The first resource you’ll need to manage in Doom Eternal is your health, and since enemies hound you at every turn, it’ll go down quickly and frequently. But you can restore it easily by performing a glory kill on an enemy: wearing it down with projectiles, then getting into melee range and tearing it in half. Or sticking its own limb through its eye. Or crushing its head. The animations are all delightfully over-the-top, and even help give the Doom Slayer a bit of personality. He is not here to mess around.
While blasting your way through the game’s soulless husks, beefy soldiers, crafty pyromancers and crablike turret monsters, you’ll run low on ammo pretty often. That’s where the chainsaw comes in. This old Doom mainstay will cleave just about enemy in half in a single stroke. (It’s incredibly fun to watch, too.) After you carve an enemy into bloody chunks, it will drop all sorts of ammo for your myriad weapons, letting you get back to the slaughter. As you down enemies, you’ll find more gas for your chainsaw scattered around the level, keeping your forward momentum up at all times.
We’ve already covered Doom Eternal at length in other pieces and at other events, but the PAX East demo was as good as any of the others. In a way, it’s a video game in its purest form – moment-to-moment gameplay that demands your full focus, forcing you to juggle a ton of variables without pausing to think. It’s a heady mix, and thanks to a variety of difficulty levels, just about anyone can enjoy it.
Doom Eternal will come out on March 20 for PC and consoles, and cost $60. Rip and tear.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.