Doom Eternal introduces you to new weapons and abilities slowly. After discovering a new item, you're guided through a quick tutorial that demonstrates how to implement your new tool into your rolling rampage across each level. As you get stronger you begin to feel more comfortable. The early levels that left you feeling a bit out of breath become a rosy dot in the distance.
At this point, you've started to subconsciously scan every room for enemies to rank them by threat level and eliminate them in a fluid sequence. You know how to exploit weak points, and have learned which weapon counters each breed of demon. You're unstoppable. That is, until you meet a creature that has been designed specifically to hunt you.
Enter the Doom Hunter, a super heavy demon that specialises in long-range lock-on missiles. Partially constructed before your very eyes, this modular monstrosity is a terrifying amalgam of flesh and steel. A canon and chainsaw line its arms, and it scoots around the arena on a mechanical sled. It's commonplace to hunt large monsters among among a sea of little threats in Doom, but this fight encouraged me to evolve my play style significantly.
Before the fight began, the game gave me some advice: "Destroy the shield with the Plasma Rifle to briefly disable it. Destroy the sled to permanently disable its protective shield and missiles". In theory, this seems straightforward. However, in practice, it's difficult to keep your eyes locked on that brute of a prize.
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Remaining on the floor and strafing left and right around pillars was a solid enough strategy to begin with. I was even able to remove the boss' shields with the Plasma Rifle and land a few bold hits on their sled. Unfortunately the little guys kept getting in the way. Despite only playing on the 'Hurt Me Plenty' difficulty, I found that pesky Imps congregated around me as I tangoed with the Doom Hunter. Just finding the boss in this steel cage of a room was proving to be tricky and its shields rendered my small bursts of fire measly and ineffective. I'd lost my confidence against this imposing creature, and was neglecting a number of valuable tools at my disposal. Soaring through the air en route to chainsaw a soldier for some greatly needed ammo, something clicked in my brain.
I took to the skies. Rather than dashing to safety, I dashed parallel to the Doom Hunter, hitting every possible jump pad on my circuit. I spent airtime scouring the map for the beast as I mopped up any poor soul in my way. Finally, the boss' sled crashed to the floor and with that, a fresh onslaught of enemies populated the arena. I started stripping back the Doom Hunter's health once again, this time with ease. After a theatrical glory kill I exhaled, proud of my achievement. But the track hadn't finished. Dropping through a hole in the floor I landed heavily on an icy platform into a larger arena, teeming with more enemies and two Doom Hunters. The second portion of this boss fight has you traversing a larger arena with more enemies.
Doom Eternal's campaign is a constant learning experience and this boss fight teaches you how to approach its combat. The further you venture, the more powerful you become, but if you haven't embraced the new approach that the sequel wants you to take, you'll struggle to get very far. In our interview, Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin from id Software, highlighted that finding ways to encourage players to play Doom Eternal in a 'fun way' has been a focus for the team. Martin says "we have the courage to frustrate the player so long as we have something to teach them". Moving outside of that core loop by strafing around a pillar and ignoring all your new traversal options is not something id Software consider as the 'fun zone'. "At that moment it's time for the game to kill you and frustrate you out of playing that way".
If you're as impatient as I am to hop into Doom Eternal later on this month, it's worth noting that you'll need to adjust the playstyle you fell into with Doom (2016) to truly appreciate what its sequel has to offer. Doom Eternal's foundations are true to its roots in that you're having a blast in an exaggerated escapade of violence. However, its new traversal tools elevate fights and make you feel even more powerful than before.