There’s something very special about thecombat in the most recent DOOM games.
As you bounce between enemies like an angrypinball, it’s not uncommon to come out these gauntlets with an elevated heart rate anda white knuckle grip on the controller, or mouse.
Every single combat encounter is a rollercoasterride of glory kills, weapon switching, quick decision making, and lighting-fast movement.
So let’s break one down.
Not a whole level from DOOM Eternal, but justone, single, five minute fight.
What can we learn about DOOM combat from asingle combat encounter? Let’s find out.
So let’s jump to the game’s 11th stage, Nekravol Part II.
This level takes place in a towering citadelin the heart of hell where souls are extracted for.
uh, I dunno.
I wasn’t really paying attention to thestory.
Anyway, the level’s first proper fight takesplace in this chamber, which is built around a massive soul-sucking… fountain thing.
The first thing to note is that the area looksmore like a multiplayer map than your standard singleplayer corridor.
This is a pretty large, and totally symmetricalarena with different levels of elevation – including a raised platform at the bottom, and two areason the sides which are accessible via ramps, or acrobatic bars.
Lower down, you’ll find pools of toxic souljuice which hurt pretty bad if you tumble in.
There are also lots of items scattered around, like ammo, armour, and chainsaw fuel – plus a handy overdrive power-up which momentarilygives you infinite ammo for all your guns.
But more important than all of that, is themonsters.
This single encounter features almost halfof the entire DOOM Eternal cast – but they don’t all come in at once.
Instead, they spawn in at specific pointsduring the fight, giving the encounter a unique flow – which I’ve split up into a bunchof different phases.
So in phase one we’re faced with two Imps- bouncy critters who can throw fireballs, a Mancubus – a bloated lump with flamethrowers, and a Revenant – a scrawny skeleton with a jetpack and missile launchers.
There’s also a few Zombies, but more onthem later.
After you kill a handful of enemies, we enterphase two.
Here, two more Imps spawn in at the bottomof the map, and four new enemies appear at the top.
These are Gargoyles – basically Imps withwings, which makes them even more of a nuisance.
Kill a couple more enemies and we get thefirst big baddy: the Baron of Hell.
This guy is a super upgraded version of theHell Knight, and relentlessly charges after you with deadly ground-pound attacks.
The next phase only kicks off when you dropthe Baron of Hell’s health pool to about a third.
At that moment, a Pain Elemental appears.
This dude floats around like DOOM’s famousCacodemon – but can also spawn Lost Souls who zoom towards you like kamikaze missiles.
And if you drop the Pain Elemental’s healthto roughly one third, we’ll be greeted with two Whiplashes: slithering monsters who zig-zagright up into your face.
Kill either the Pain Elemental or one of theWhiplashes and we enter the fourth and final phase.
It starts with the Doom Hunter: a shield-coveredbaddy on a hoverboard who was introduced as a boss in level four, but is now liable toshow up in standard encounters.
And if you drop the Hunter’s health to abouthalf, we’ll see the last spawn of the encounter: two Prowlers, who are teleporting nastieswith a painful claw attack.
This trigger system ensures that you won’tbe completely inundated with different demons.
But it does mean that if you don’t takeout the biggest demons fast, you can have a whole bunch of monsters to juggle simultaneously.
And while there is a predictable rhythm acrossall of your restarts, it’s never going to be exactly the same each time you play.
Okay, so that’s the set-up out of the way.
But how does this encounter actually feelto play? Well, from the moment you start playing, thiscombat encounter will see you asking yourself a number of key questions.
Starting with this: “which enemy shouldI focus on?” Staying alive in DOOM Eternal means figuringout where you should focus your fire, by deciding who is the biggest threat.
So, in phase one, the Mancubus is slow andits projectiles are relatively easy to dodge.
Especially if you neuter its launchers witha well-aimed attack.
That means you can leave it alone with onlyminimal worry while you concentrate on other enemies – like the Revenant, whose endlessmissile barrage makes it a good target for destruction.
(I should note that in this specific combatencounter, the Mancubus and Revenant seem to be practically glued to the spot.
I'm not sure if that’s a bug or intentional, but it does make both of them way less threatening in the grand scheme of things).
In the second phase, the decision of who tofight first is largely made for you.
The Baron of Hell is ultra aggressive andmakes a constant beeline towards your position – so you really need to focus your fire onhim.
And in phase three, we see a good exampleof an enemy who demands to be taken down quickly: the Pain Elemental.
Because it can endlessly spawn new monsters, it should probably be taken out pretty quick.
Though, as it’s quite slow and the Soulsgo down in a single shotgun blast, you might be alright to leave it for a while as youfocus on the more aggressive Whiplashes.
When you’ve picked an enemy, the next questionyou should ask yourself is this: “which weapon should I be using?” Success in DOOM Eternal often means makingsmart choices about which weapon to use on which monster.
The Mancubus, for example, is a giant, slow-movingtarget, so he’s easy to bonk with a rocket launcher – especially when compared to thesmall and nimble Revenant.
The shotgun is great for monsters who liketo get right in your grill like the Whiplash, while the heavy cannon is great for pickingoff enemies who hang back, like Gargoyles.
The Pain Elemental is a flying enemy, andso it’s particularly weak to your ballista weapon.
While the Doom Hunter is covered in a blueshield so you’ll probably want to use the plasma rifle to break his defences.
And the Baron of Hell can be chopped to bitswith the chain-gun.
Throughout this encounter, you’ll be changingyour weapon constantly.
You’ll also want to think about the otherstuff in your arsenal.
Your freeze bombs are great for stopping theteleporting Prowlers.
And the blood punch can deal huge damage tothe Doom Hunter’s shield.
Plus, you’ll want to choose the perfectmoment to use your get-out-of-jail-free cards like the BFG and the crucible.
And don’t forget about that tasty overdrivepower-up.
Great for chewing up the Baron.
Soon enough, you’re going to run out ofammo, or lose a bunch of health.
So DOOM Eternal throws up another question:“how am I going to recover my resources?” Maybe you’ll dart towards one of the healthkits or ammo pick-ups on the map, but there’s only a few and once they’re gone… they’regone.
Luckily, DOOM turns every enemy into a lootcrate on legs.
A resource piñata just waiting to be burst.
So you can use the glory kill on staggeredenemies to get health.
The chainsaw to get ammo.
And the flame belch to make enemies drop armourshards.
To facilitate this, the Zombies actually infinitelyrespawn during the fight.
These staggering idiots can barely do damageand get killed in a split second, but they’re a handy source of ammo, armour, and health.
And in the middle of all of this chaos, you’regoing to have to ask yourself the even more fundamental question of “where am I goingto move to next?” Many enemies in DOOM Eternal will punish youfor standing still, and others will force you into specific movement patterns.
So the Baron of Hell makes you backpedal, while the Revenant’s lock-on missiles force you to jump and dash.
And because there’s no such thing as coverin this game – you’ll spend pretty much this entire combat encounter in a state ofconstant movement.
So the arena’s floor plan contains a number of distinct pathways – both on ground, and in the air.
In fact, these monkey bars allow you to movebetween the three most elevated areas without ever touching the ground.
This allows you to move around unimpeded byobstacles, while picking between different routes, depending on where you need to go, and what you want to do.
So getting through this fight – or, in truth, any combat encounter across both DOOM 2016 and DOOM Eternal – means finding answers tofour key questions.
You might want to think of these as priority, preference, preservation, and position – or, the 4 Ps.
All four Ps must be considered simultaneously, and constantly reevaluated as the new information arises – like running out of ammo, or seeingnew enemies spawn in.
The weapons and monsters are distinct withunique properties and different weaknesses – encouraging you to find preferences andpriorities – but without creating a single, “right answer” to the combat puzzle.
Plus, the four Ps regularly feed into eachother: especially by having resource management be part of the combat system.
This means that running out of stuff can hijackthe other questions: so your priority might quickly shift from taking down a boss monsterto shotgunning a zombie.
And the open level design gives you the spaceto dodge and weave through the environment as you weigh up your options.
And with all that in mind, you can see whyDOOM feels so different to other shooters.
Indistinct enemies provide no real reasonto prioritise targets, so you might as well pick at random.
Two-weapon arsenals limit your ability tomake interesting choices.
Regenerating health makes you run and hide, instead of changing your engagement style.
And a cover system means you often don’tneed to think about your position, simplifying the mental load to only three questions ata time.
It’s no wonder why DOOM feels so intensein comparison.
But that’s not to say that the series is perfect.
Especially so in Eternal, which makes a numberof bizarre changes to its design that, in mind, meddle with the beautiful balanceof its predecessor.
So, some enemies now carry weapon-specificweaknesses – like tossing a sticky bomb in a Cacodemon’s mouth to instantly staggerit.
And these are drilled into your head withpop-up tutorials on every loading screen.
Even though other weapons will work, this can makeit feel like there actually is a single right move you must perform to win, effectivelyreducing the game’s raft of tactical possibilities down to a single, correct answer.
Likewise, the Buff Totem and Archvile – whichcontinuously spawn new, super-powered demons – are so dangerous that they simply must becomepriority one.
Compare those to the Pain Elemental, whichspawns Lost Souls, and DOOM 2016’s Summoner, which spawns Imps – both are good candidatesfor early destruction, but can also be ignored for a while without you becoming totally overwhelmed.
And finally, there’s the more aggressiveresource management.
The max ammo on all your guns has been massivelyreduced, and you’ve now got to regularly use the new flame belch to get armour.
Both of these facts can push the preservationquestion to be unevenly pronounced in your mind – so you can find yourself spending moretime patching up your resources than slaying demons.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on theMarauder.
screw that guy.
But when they’re at their best, the combatencounters in the new DOOM games are a flurry of fast movement and tactical decision making.
And all of this happens in the blink of aneye.
A single playthrough of this encounter mightlast all of five minutes – much less time than you’ve spent watching this video – butit’s an incredibly tense five minutes – with your brain having to be on full alert at alltimes as you constantly find new answers to those four key questions.
I won’t blame you if you need a moment tocatch your breath when the last demon drops.
Hey, thanks for watching! I’m curious to hear your thoughts onwhich game did it best: DOOM 2016 or DOOM Eternal.
Please leave your thoughts in the commentsdown below.
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