Doom (2016) was quiet possibly the best first person shooter in history. Note the use of the word “was.”
Doom Eternal’s combat system is most certainly better then Doom (2016) and stands alone as the best first person shooter in gaming. Every decision that Id Software made when it came to the combat – enemy diversity and weaknesses, gun effectiveness and ammo storage, arena size and build, player movement and options – all work together to create a first person shooter with challenge and style that makes the player feel like the Doomslayer.
Doom Eternal’s combat system has some obvious inspirations, with Doom (2016) and the Quake series serving as the foundations. The enemies are based off enemies in the Doom series, but feel more like the bullet sponge enemies from the Halo series, with the fire rate of Killzone or Bulletstorm.
The game features a large variety of enemies, with unique behaviors, weapons, movement, and most importantly, weaknesses. Ranging from zombies who blindly wander around, to giant Doom hunters that have long ago been destroyed but are now alive through technology and argent energy, every enemy serves a purpose on the battlefield and achieve one goal: destroy the Doomslayer.
Most of the games combat is done in large open arenas, directly built like Unreal Tournament, which fill with various enemies and bullets within seconds of the Doomslayer’s arrival. At that point, the Doomslayer has one goal – rip and tear.
Just like in Doom (2016) the Doomslayer has plenty of weapons at his disposal to slay the Hellspawn. Shotguns, and machine guns, rocket launchers, a launcher with the properties of the guns from Dead Space – every gun has a purpose and helps keep the doomslayer in the fight. The soldier demons are more susceptible to shells, the more muscular demons require the chaingun or heavy machine gun to cut them down to the bone, energy shields require the plasma rifle. Explosions can clear out a large group of smaller enemies, precision shots can be used to isolate the weak points on a larger enemy. Unlike Doom (2016) every weapon is vital to the players success and the Super Shotgun can not get the Doomslayer through every encounter.
Part of keeping the players using every weapon is keeping their ammo extremely limited. Even fully upgraded, the Doomslayers weapons have extremely limited capacity, meaning the player will have to find more ammo often. Of course, various ammo types are spread about the arenas, but even that ammo will not be enough to get the player through some of the harder arenas. In these instances, the player can use the chainsaw to rip a smaller enemy (Zombie, Imp, Soldier, Gargoyles) which causes them to drop ammo of every type.
Most important to the combat is the glory kill system, back in all of it’s glory from Doom (2016). Once an enemy has been dropped below a certain health threshold, they will start to flash blue and orange, indicating that they are susceptible to a glory kill. By running up to them and hitting them with a melee attack, the Doomslayer will perform a gory, violent kill move on that demon, which will cause the demon to drop health, and depending on the enemy and type of kill performed, could injure the demons around them. In most arenas, this is the only way to get health, and makes the smaller demons that are easier to chainsaw and glory kill vital to success.
These arenas get crowded, normally with somewhere between 20 demons shooting at you in the smaller arenas and 40 to 50 shooting at you in the larger arenas, and that is not counting the demons that spawn in waves. The player has to stay moving, always keep an eye out for ammo or smaller enemies, and be smart with their shots, or they may die. Combine this smart, strategic playstyle with the high intensity, adrenaline pumping, fast paced combat encounters that the arenas provide and Doom Eternal gives players the ability to feel invincible,
The difficulty does not feel like other difficult games, that manufacture difficulty in unfair or unavoidable ways, instead just utilizing the games mechanics to ramp up the difficulty. Limiting the ammo and health drops forces the player to balance fighting the big enemies and killing the small enemies, putting multiple enemies in the arena that chase down the player with power moves forces the player to stay up high and move quickly, setting out multiple opponents that move much faster then the slayer and keep the slayer at range forces the player to find a creative way to corner the opponent and stay accurate.
This combat system is at it’s absolute best in the Slayer’s Gates, a series of secret encounters where the intensity is turned up to 11 and the difficulty spikes exponentially. These secret encounters transport the slayer to small arenas with limited ammo and health drops where the game throw tons of enemies into the arena in wave after wave. This forces the player to play extremely quickly and efficiently, quickly jumping between firing, to glory killing, to chainsawing, to retreating, to firing again, showing the system at it’s absolute best.
Everything in the combat system works together to make the Doomslayer feel like a god, and help give the player a sense of accomplishment after every encounter.