By Adele Chapline Smith
NEW YORK (CNS) — Most locked down by the coronavirus pandemic may feel that an apocalyptic fantasy game is the last pastime they would care to turn to at the moment. For those who think otherwise, there’s “Doom Eternal” (Bethesda).
This intensely violent, gory title takes for its premise an invasion of the Earth by the armies of hell. Players assume the role of the Doom Slayer, a Space Marine whose job is to fight back against the demonic forces.
With a large percentage of the population annihilated and massive portions of the planet crafted into hellish fortresses of pain and suffering, the Doom Slayer is sent to rip and tear his way through the infernal hordes. His goal is to kill three “hell priests,” thereby breaking the hold their mysterious master has over the world. The story campaign guides gamers through this journey toward ultimate liberation.
The developers have taken creative license with the demons, varying their design from the human to the bizarre. Some of them resemble traditional zombies. But the Doom Slayer also mows down floating fiends with gargantuan mouths and razor-sharp teeth.
The most persistent element of “Doom Eternal” is its gratuitous violence, as the Doom Slayer deploys weapons like shotguns, chainsaws and flamethrowers. The death of an enemy might involve graphically depicted decapitation or dismemberment. The feature allowing for these so-called “glory kills” can, however, be disabled via the settings menu, thus reducing the severity of the mayhem.
The game’s hardcore aesthetic is reinforced by Mick Gordon’s heavy metal-style soundtrack.
“Doom Eternal” does not involve any vulgar language or sexual elements. Yet, in addition to the relentless slaughter it portrays, the inescapable occult content makes it even less suitable for young and impressionable players. While the forces of hell are accurately portrayed as evil, the idea of defeating them physically rather than spiritually seems alien to the spirit of the Scriptures.
The fact that gamers, besides being able to compete against friends, can also go through matchmaking queues to vie against strangers on the same platform is another source of concern for the parents of youthful players.
With the “glory kills” turned off, the game might be acceptable for most grownups. But the inclusion of this option requires a restrictive classification raising a flag of caution even for casual adult gamers.
Rather than descend into the dark world of “Doom Eternal,” potential players would be better advised to spend their time engaging with its distant source material, the Book of Revelation. There they will find the promise — especially comforting in the present situation — that, with the return of Christ, “there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.”
Painful death is, by contrast, the stock in trade of this churning combat adventure. Most will want to look to other choices for diversion in a time of crisis.
Playable on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Stadia, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.
The game contains pervasive bloody violence and occult themes and imagery. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, material whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is M — mature.
Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.