Both recent DOOM games, the 2016 soft reboot and 2020’s DOOM Eternal, open with allusions to the phrase “rip and tear” with biblical cadence. The DOOM Slayer is a godlike entity, a being who disrupts the political balance of Heaven versus Hell, and a human vessel of inhuman power. His mission, calling, and truth is ripping and tearing, he feels it in his bones and hears it in his essence. Doomguy lives in the Fortress of DOOM, a structure of godliness and DOOM-liness that floats above the Earth like an alien watchtower.
Oh, and by the way, here’s where “rip and tear” comes from:
Behold, the terrifying power of internet memes. The absolutely bonkers Knee Deep in the Dead comic book adaptation resurfaced online back in the YTMND days, flourished as meme culture grew, then somehow wrapped back around to the source material. Except it did so in extravagant fashion, with so many layers of meta it probably warrants its own TV Tropes page if it doesn’t have one already. In DOOM (2016), the phrase appearing was novel, the opening riff of a crunchy, heavy metal ballad that was one part masturbatory, one part satire, one part earnest adoration of what was before. It was an early sign of what the DOOM reboot was, is, and will always be. But then a sequel had to happen, and the direction it took hasn’t sat well with everyone, myself included. Most people loved it anyway, and I get why, to be fair.
DOOM made fun of itself as much as it strove to be something earnest and special. On one hand, you had a shooter that was aggressively old school, but at the same time found a way to push that formula forward. Aggression was the meat, and everything else was seasoned with a biting wit that was hardly ever spoken. Instead, the DOOM Slayer ripped and tore his way through everything, including exposition and contemporary gaming tropes, and scoffed at lore as a concept. At the same time, it had its fun in the codex, where everything was given a corny, overwritten description dripping with love and irony.
With DOOM Eternal, the codex page becomes the focus, as we’re thrust into not only a DOOM II-like Hell on Earth scenario, but also a heaping helping of DOOM lore that abuses trope after trope with a surprising recklessness. DOOM Eternal does appear to be set directly after the events of the previous game, but pulls so much lore jargon, political factions, and demonic social structures out of seemingly nowhere that it’s disorienting. Perhaps some of it lived in 2016’s codex, but if you followed the creed of the DOOM Slayer himself, you’d be completely lost upon booting up Eternal. Where did the Sentinels come from? Are they angels? Where’s the doctor from the first game? How the hell did Doomguy get a Fortress of Solitude rip-off?
The worst part, is that DOOM Eternal wants to answer all of these questions, and turns Doomguy into a willing participant in the lore dumps in order to do so. No longer a pair of massive, gloved hands tearing through any obstacle, Doomguy becomes a man with a face and body, a man who speaks, a man who is willing to patiently sit through and participate in expository cutscenes. Then, the game’s video game part just pushes you into large monster closets, which are admittedly a lot of fun now that the DOOM Slayer can like, double-jump and air dash like he’s a big fan of Guilty Gear or something. Jumping from boring cutscene to arduous enemy rooms sounds jarring, but luckily id tossed lengthy jumping puzzles in there too, just in case you were having too much fun.
I loved DOOM, and I wanted to love DOOM Eternal, but I just don’t. It’s a shame too, because if there was ever a video game to ironically embody the phrase “poetry in motion” by way of violent body horror, DOOM Eternal is that. But it completely 180s from the smart, cutthroat vibe of the last game and sails right into all the stuff that game poked fun at, with what feels like a Diablo-like sincerity. It isn’t a well-told story either, relying on all the usual Important Noun mythology sci-fi leans on too much and attaching unnecessary backstory to things that never needed it. DOOM Eternal perfectly adapts the life cycle of a meme: from insular gag in the internet subcultures, to self-referential product, to retail-driven homogeny. Rip and tear isn’t funny if it’s supposed to be cool.
DOOM Eternal is available now for the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, and the PC. It will launch for the Nintendo Switch on a later, unannounced date.