Doom Eternal, a delightful descent into hell signed by the masters of the genre
Four years after a tremendous reboot, the cult license for Doom came back from hell on March 20 with “Doom Eternal”, still under the auspices of the publisher Bethesda. And again reminds who is the standard meter of the genre.
Small flashback sequence. After being put to sleep for twelve years, as much to say an eternity in the digital age, the legendary development studio Id Software again came out of his bag in 2016, under the auspices of his publisher Bethesda, the video game license Doom. A somewhat risky bet, in the sense that the genre of FPS – which Doom is one of the pioneers – has evolved enormously. To cite only a handful of examples, we have since had ultra-scripted FPS like the saga of Call of Duty; FPS in open worlds, like the franchise far cry at Ubisoft; or FPS “Narrative Driven”, like the extraordinary Bioshock. Contrary to these trends, the original developer of Doom preferred to return to the fundamentals of a game and a license which even invented its own genre: Doom-like. The result ? Neither more nor less than the bloody and exciting renaissance of a license that we no longer present.
Four years later, Id Software decides to put a piece back in the Jukebox, going out on March 20 Doom Eternal, direct continuation of the opus released in 2016. And, to be honest, we have to make amends here. It was when the title was announced, via a teaser unveiled at E3 in June 2018, barely two years after the 2016 vintage, we had the feeling that it was probably the boxing match too many, having the impression of having already toured the owner. What more could the studio bring to an already widely proven recipe, just two years earlier?
It was very bad to know Id software. “Twenty times on the loom, put back your work. Polish it endlessly, and re-polish it. Add sometimes, and often erase”. It is unknown if the members of the studio are fervent readers of Nicolas Boileau, author of this famous quote. But the least we can say is that (very) good craftsmen they are, the developers have further refined and refined the recipe for their FPS meter standard, to deliver a dantesque video game . Mea maxi culpa.
Hell on Earth (and a bit elsewhere anyway)
Following the events of Doom (2016 version), Earth was invaded by demonic forces, wiping out 60% of the population of the planet, with the help of the now corrupted Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC). What remains of humanity fled Earth or regrouped as part of the ARC, a resistance movement originally formed to stop the invasion, but which went into hiding after suffering heavy losses. The Doom Slayer, previously sent to an unknown location, returns to Earth with a new arsenal of weapons and a fortress on an Earth satellite controlled by artificial intelligence by the name of VEGA, to annihilate the demonic forces, which are pouring out its fiery legions.
In this new iteration, the player therefore embodies the Doom Slayer, an ancient human warrior of unknown origin endowed with considerable strength, who fights the demonic forces of Hell. Unlike the previous section, and even if the Doom license never shone with its scenario (this is not frankly what we ask), Doom Eternal has reviewed his copy on this point, trying to build around the indestructible central figure a whole mythology concerning him, against the backdrop of an eternal struggle between Hell and Paradise, which here takes the name of Urdak. If the story takes on the appearance of a B series which would be viewed without any displeasure (really), it is, however, solidly served by a very inspired artistic direction; a point that we also raised during our session to get started with the game last January.
Between the colossal buildings with decadent Baroque architecture, as on the planet Exultia, the sumptuous landscapes of Apocalypse on the ravaged Earth, or, even more, squarely in Hell with the logically tortured architecture of Nekravol, the citadel of the Hell and its immense ziggurats reminiscent of the Tower of Babel, we are regularly surprised to walk through the levels observing, a bit dumbfounded, in the background, the remains of titanic clashes between sentries and demons high in a fifteen-story building . A high level artistic direction therefore, which we owe to Hugo Martin, who was hired by Bethesda as Creative Director on the Doom reboot in 2016, and catapulted here as Game Director, imprinting a little more in passing its visual leg on the license. For the anecdote, moreover, the latter had worked on many Concept Arts for the game Dante’s Inferno, a Beat’em All released in 2010 and edited by Electronic Arts, which was inspired by The Divine Comedy, and in which the hero of the game descended one by one the circles of Hell to find his beloved.
The packaging is good. But what about the content, in other words the gameplay? Without surprise, Id Software remind who is the boss. The Trademark of a license like Doom, it is undoubtedly the nervousness of its gameplay. De-railing in good standing in “no brain no pain” mode. Nervous and absolutely frantic, the confrontations force the player to move all the time, under penalty of violent and rapid death. Regularly, hordes of demons sweep over the player with a regularity worthy of a Swiss cuckoo clock. It shoots and it explodes in all directions, while we run like crazy in a space fortunately sufficiently open to slalom between the fireballs and other laser cannons of the arachnotrons. Obliged to switch with the different firing modes of his weapons, regularly performing rushes (one of the novelties of this opus), the Doom Slayer must also often go to hand-to-hand confrontations, just to open two in the rules of the art thanks to a Glory Kill the demons to regain, at your choice, hit points or armor. Here too, your survival is at stake. And when you run out of ammo, nothing beats a chainsaw or, better (and in the last third of the game), cut enemies squarely in half using the powerful sword called “crucible”, weapon ultimate slayer needing to be recharged.
When we talk about frantic action prohibited even with epilepsy, we go up a notch with the optional levels called “Slayer’s Doors”, which balance on the Doom Slayer several waves of enemies, in a more “arena” space. Self Control rigor, which requires concentration, but also terribly rewarding once mastered. Let it be said: the global challenge of Doom Eternal is noted, which is more from the second level of difficulty of the game (“make me hurt”), on the four. And we have from time to time wanted to throw the rage across the room with rage over certain confrontations, where we had nevertheless shown an Olympian zenitude in Dark Souls type games (certainly, by squeezing still sometimes the teeth …).
That said, and nuance is important, Doom Eternal nor is it a violently punitive, unfair game. It forces the player to perfect his mastery and dexterity in confrontations. A mastery which is also formidably put to the test with the arrival of a newcomer in the infernal bestaire of the license: the marauder. Large fallen undead warrior equipped with a shield capable of repelling all projectiles (even those of the legendary BFG-9000!), He violently attacks the player if one is too far or too close, and even finds the time to regularly summon a spectral hell dog that pounces on you and never lets go. The only way to defeat him is to observe a very short exposure window (less than a handful of seconds), when his eyes turn green, and target the head first. Suffice to say that it is better not to miss the boat, on pain of being badly corrected. And when the latter comes accompanied by a friend identical to him with a handful of Mancubus demons with rocket launcher arms, whose damage is violently boosted by a totem of rage that must imperatively be destroyed as soon as possible, it will give you a little idea of the frenzy of fighting we talked about above …
In fine, it will have taken us – with the ladle – about fifteen hours to complete the adventure Doom Eternal, without having looked for all the secrets of the levels covered, or even touched the asymmetrical multiplayer mode offered. A life more than honest therefore. If the title is undoubtedly one of the best representatives of a genre that he himself founded, we will nevertheless put a damper on the enemy bosses. Few are truly memorable, with the exception perhaps of the aptly named Gladiator, a perverted and distorted variant of the minotaur equipped with a hallucinating flail and an impenetrable shield, during a well brought flashback level. A reserve which does not condemn to the stake this Doom Eternal, which offers a fun one way trip to Hell. Warmly recommended!