Saving The Worst For Last

HIGH The Sentinel Hammer’s a pretty decent addition.

LOW The Dark Lord boss fight is abysmal by every conceivable metric.

WTF They’ve literally made The Ancient Gods, Part 1 worse with this release.

Note: This review covers the DLC for Doom Eternal. For the full review of the core game, click here.

The final battle to dispel the demons of Hell is nigh! By the Doom Slayer’s own hands, The Dark Lord has been resurrected, and thus Doomguy must now travel on a sacred dragon to the site of the final battle against all evil with the fates of Heaven, Hell and humanity itself at stake!

Yes, the story’s still absolute bobbins. No, I wasn’t joking about Doomguy riding a dragon. And worse, the final DLC for Doom Eternal is but a pale shadow of the excellence that came before it, resulting in a weak and lifeless conclusion to one of the greatest first-person shooters ever made.

Returning players will notice that there have been some changes made to the user interface, with the icons for various timers such as the flame belch or chainsaw now appearing near the center of the reticle when they’re ready to go. It’s probably a decent change to help out newer players, and unintrusive enough that they barely registered for me whilst in the thick of combat.

Less welcome is the change to the Marauder enemies whereby causing a stun triggers a ‘comical’ Looney Tunes-style sound effect and bright swirling stars to appear above their heads. I guess the original animation of staggering around with the tooltip explaining in exacting detail how to kill them wasn’t enough for some spectacularly unobservant players? If that’s the case I personally can’t wait until the platforming sections are reworked to feature a ‘Meep Meep’ sound effect whenever the player is required to dash in midair, followed by a ‘Wile. E. Coyote plummeting’ soundbite whenever they screw up.

There are five new enemies introduced in this content, but they’re all fairly lazy variations on previous foes and about as enjoyable in practice as chewing on a dead rat. From Stone Imps who spin-dash across the battlefield to armored Barons of Hell who can be sniped during an attack to shatter their armor, the long and short of it is that these ‘new’ enemies are all variants on older, better designs with some pointless gimmicky twist added to them that usually requires a specific and irritatingly restrictive approach to overcome.

Possibly the worst of the bunch is the Cursed Prowler — a particularly loathsome little bastard who poisons the player before teleporting away, leaving the Slayer hemorrhaging health and plodding around without the ability to dash. The twist is that the Prowler then has to be smacked with a Blood Punch to remove the curse. If that Blood Punch gets wasted for any reason, good luck getting out of the encounter alive.

To help him contend with these boring new foes, the Slayer has been granted a new and powerful warhammer to help him out. What sounds like an incredible addition to his arsenal is slightly disappointing in practice, as it’s used mainly to extend stun phases on staggered enemies or to boost resource-gathering efforts. It’s fine, but feels slightly superfluous and tacked-on.

The new stages are largely mediocre, lacking the atmosphere of the best in the series and erring towards the less-interesting ‘fantasy’ aesthetics Eternal introduced. There’s a medieval village, a mountain peak, what might very well be the blandest Earth location imaginable, and finally a trip to a half-decent hellish dimension for the big finale. The combat encounters are similarly pedestrian, with an over-reliance on fodder enemies and significantly fewer white-knuckle moments than before. Honestly, some of these encounters are laughable — try not to chuckle when a horde of Imps attack en masse, as if they’re supposed to present some sort of threat through sheer numbers alone.

…And then, of course, there’s the final boss.

Punchy, dynamic, interesting and adrenaline-pumping… the Dark Lord boss fight is none of these things and less. It might just be the single worst boss encounter I’ve come across in years. It’s a slow, lumbering, drawn out car-crash of a finale that involves trying to bait out an attack before delivering a counterblow that knocks him off-balance and opens him up for some real damage.

Everything about the fight is terrible. He’s essentially a bigger sword-and-shield-wielding Marauder cosplaying as a Warhammer 40K Space Marine, complete with a gigantic health bar. He also constantly summons various wolves and hellbastards, and heals huge chunks of his life gauge any time he makes contact with the player or gets shot outside of the one move that leaves him vulnerable — which, of course, he barely ever uses even when kiting him at the optimal range.

It’s almost impossible to describe just how ill-conceived this battle is, especially in a series that usually prides itself on visceral, pulse-pounding action. Rip and tear? Sit and fucking wait, more like.

It’s not a good sign when I turn off a boss fight midway because I’m bored out of my mind, but that’s exactly what happened the first time I got to this overhyped clown. It’s a ludicrously tedious fight that punishes minor mistakes not with death, but with something far worse — a pointless time sink as the boss heals himself back to full health. He isn’t even particularly difficult, it’s just a soul-sapping slog with no redeeming qualities.

So, this new stuff is fairly awful compared to the excellence of their previous offerings, but what’s even worse is that they’ve gone and fiddled with The Ancient Gods, Part 1 in their spare time, making it a less engaging and challenging experience than it used to be. Early encounters now have enemies missing or replaced with weaker versions across all difficulty settings, resulting in a lazier, slower start to an expansion I originally thought was the perfect Doom experience.

To offer an essentially-perfect Doom experience and then take it away in a follow-up patch is something I find borderline offensive — it’s a little bit like Leonardo da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa, and then then deciding five months later that she needed a big cartoon mustache growing out of her ears.

This underwhelming finale to the rebooted Doom saga would be limp enough when judged on its own merits, but the fact that the developers went back and screwed around with what made The Ancient Gods, Part One work so well is criminal. This expansion is more Doom Eternal, which should be a good thing, but turns out to be the weakest and most disappointing that Doom Eternal has ever been.

Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by id Software and published by Bethesda. It is currently available on PC, PS4 and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on PC. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. No time was spent in multiplayer modes, as the Battle Mode reportedly has no changes made to it.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore and Intense Violence. I’ll just cut and paste most of the ESRB breakdown from Part 1 here, because it’s pretty good and still applicable: Players use machine guns, shotguns, laser rifles, and blasters to kill demons in frenetic combat. Large blood-splatter effects occur frequently as enemies get decapitated and/or dismembered during combat. Players can also use blades and chainsaws to dismember and decapitate enemies at close range. Combat is frenetic, highlighted by realistic gunfire, screams of pain, and large explosions. Hell yeah!

Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: While there are onscreen indicators showing where damage is coming from, playing Doom Eternal without sound would be very difficult on higher difficulties. Knowing where enemies are coming from is crucial, and the only real way to do that for an enemy outside the player’s view is listening out for their telltale sounds.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls, at least on keyboard and mouse. The controller has a variety of preset modes to choose from instead.

Darren Forman
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