Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time…
I’m normally a cautious type of player when it comes to first-person shooters. Instead of charging in guns blazing and letting rip with my trigger finger, I tend to hang back, firing off single shots (or very small bursts) from afar before I really have to move up and get involved in the firefight. Doom Eternal is not a game you can play cautiously. It demands action and momentum, as the only thing you’ll achieve by sitting still and taking cover is a swift ripping and tearing of your guts across the floors of hell. It should feel alien and unnatural, but it’s hands down one of the most exhilarating shooters I’ve ever played. And a large part of that is down to Doom Eternal’s stupendously good Meat Hook.
I’ve already expounded my love for Doom Eternal’s Meat Hook in a separate post, but in summary, this new addition to the series’ classic Super Shotgun is an absolute revelation, marking a clear evolution in both style and substance from id Software’s also excellent Doom reboot in 2016. Doom has always been a series that brings the fight to you whether you like it or not, but the Meat Hook lets you launch yourself into the fray like never before. Come within range of an enemy, for example, and you can sink its serrated edges right into the face of your demon prey. Once secure, you’ll be hurled toward them, giving you ample time to pump them full of Super Shotgun shells as you close in on their location. Later on, you’ll also be able to do this in slow motion, while setting them on fire. And let me tell you, it is glorious.
But the Meat Hook isn’t just about luxuriating in Doom Eternal’s gorey glory kills. With its renewed focus on platforming and exploration this time round, demon encounters are now confined to specific and clearly defined battle arenas – and they are chock full to the brim of demonic nasties waiting to mulch you into meat paste. Fights are harder and faster than Doom 2016’s ever were, and traversing their often enormous settings can sometimes become a challenge in and of itself.
Enter the Meat Hook. Not only does it let you carve a clear and specific path through these cavernous hell pits, but it’s also a secret ejector button, letting you wrench back victory from the very real jaws of defeat. The number of times I used it to ‘escape’ a particular hairy situation were too many to count, as I’d either backed myself into a corner with nowhere to run, or the enemies I was facing were simply too big to jump over. The Meat Hook, however, gave me the height and reach I needed to turn the tide, and I’ve yet to encounter another game where flying by the seat of my buff marine pants has felt this thrilling.
They’re great emotional peaks to counter its more sedate platforming troughs, but even the game’s quieter sections are still full of challenge and visual splendour. Eternal’s cracked open planets, heavenly halls and blood-drenched hellscapes are proper feasts for the eyes compared to the dull space station interiors of Doom 2016, and they help lift the game’s unique blend of runnin’ and gunnin’ to new, pulse-racing heights. While the Doom Slayer has all the elegance of a thrashing, angry tank climbing up Eternal’s pock-marked walls, his acrobatic leaps and bounds are the perfect extension of his newfound Meat Hook-enabled athleticism. Whether it’s lobbing yourself through the air to different parts of an alien soul refinery or swinging across vast torture pits in the depths of hell, Doom Eternal is a game that delights in and celebrates its own freedom of movement – and it does it as deeply and intelligently as any Mario game. Yeah, I went there.
It’s just such a joy to play, and easily one of the best games of 2020, if not the last decade. There’s simply no excuse not to give it a go now it’s on Game Pass for PC, too, so buckle up and enjoy. It’s a real treat.