Every enemy has a slightly different pattern to its attacks, casting projectiles from different angles and attacking at close range with varied timings. But all of them are dangerous to a Doomguy who doesn’t move. There’s an extraordinary feeling of power to how your character both moves and fights. But if you remain still for more than a few seconds, you’ll simply be overwhelmed. To stay alive, you must keep moving, pick a target, take them out, spin around and move on.
Doom’s combat is both visually spectacular and stupendously violent, but there’s more to it than simple visceral pleasures. The splatter-tastic “Glory Kills”, wherein your character brutally executes his opponents with hands and feet, shattering a zombie’s skull against the ground or snapping the neck of a Hellknight, guarantee that an enemy will drop health upon death. In addition, killing an enemy with the chainsaw causes them to shower the floor in ammo, as if the denizens of Hell breakfast on bullets. The more powerful an enemy is, the more “fuel” is required to dispatch them with the chainsaw. This results in a compelling rhythm to the combat, as you flow between opponents not simply attempting to kill them, but to do so in a way that gives you what you need in the moment.
Variety is equally important to the success of Doom’s mechanics, and the game takes an interesting approach to expanding the weapon roster. Aside from newly introduced Gauss-Cannon, all the weapons will be familiar to Doom veterans. But all weapons except for the Super-Shotgun come with two optional alternate fires. The standard-shotgun, for example, can be upgraded with a triple “chain-shot”, or the ability to fire an explosive-shell, while the heavy machinegun has a splendid “Micro-missile” barrage that transforms an otherwise unremarkable weapon into one of the highlights of the game. The alt-fires of the chaingun and the gauss cannon are astonishingly powerful, but force you to either slow down or stop when firing, which creates a pleasing risk/reward element to using them.
As your opponents become more powerful and their numbers increasingly absurd, you emergently develop tactics for countering them efficiently, how best to maximise damage while conserving ammo, choosing the right time to grab the Quad-damage, or the ridiculously messy Beserk power-up. The alt-fires of your weapons can be upgraded, as can the functionality of your “Praetor” armour, improving its damage absorption or ability to detect secrets on the map.
Speaking of which, of all the aspects of Doom which nod to the original, its perhaps the level design which is most evidently inspired by the 1993 classic, all twisting, mazelike corridors filled with doors that must be unlocked using the appropriate keycards, while its quieter corners are stuffed with secrets. Some of these are fairly obviously signposted, while others fiendishly tricky to sniff out, even if you choose to upgrade your suit to hint at their location. Secret-hunting makes for an enjoyable distractions from the frenetic fighting, although I don’t think it will hold your attention for that long.
This is mainly because although the level design impresses on a geometric level, in terms of environments Doom sticks surprisingly and disappointingly close to Doom 3’s aesthetic, switching between the bloodstained gunmetal corridors of the UAC facility and the browny-orange corridors of Hell. What’s more, in the second half of the game the environments front-end their arena like qualities in a way that is far less subtle, suggesting that there may have been a bit of a rush to get the campaign finished. There are moments when it varies things up. The early Forge level is probably the highlight in terms of blending a complex, open space with a distinctive theme, while your final return to the UAC facility provides a welcome late change in colour-palette.