Updated: Jan 25
Welcome back, everyone. In the previous article, we investigated Doom’s development, its inspirations and its diverse bestiary of demonic enemies. In particular, we saw how each enemy type was designed to fill a specific mutually supporting role with the other enemies. This resulted in combat that required tactics and target prioritisation as much as it required split-second reflexes.
In this, the second article in this three-part investigation of Doom 1993, its sequels, expansion packs and offshoots, we investigate Doom’s iconic and influential arsenal of weapons and abilities.
The game’s purposeful variety in enemies was matched by an equally purposeful variety of weapons with which to fight them. These weapons had a distinct hierarchy, with more and more powerful death dealers being acquired as the game progressed. This helped to balance out the increasingly dangerous demons you encountered, their ever-increasing numbers and the fiendishly challenging level designs they populated.
Each weapon had distinct pros and cons, and victory over the demonic hordes often depended on choosing the right tool for the right job - in the right situation. The list below explains this in greater detail. Note that the list is more-or-less in rank order of the weapon’s firepower - from lowest to highest - and the order in which you obtained them during gameplay;
Your bare fists were your default starting melee weapon. Pretty much useless, but became devastating when paired with the berserk power-up.
The chainsaw was great for dispatching weaker enemies at close range, but was useless at a distance and all but suicidal to use against the larger enemies.
The pistol was both accurate at long range and economical with ammo but had a relatively slow rate of fire and its per-shot damage was rather anaemic.
4. Pump-Action Shotgun
The shotgun was very effective at close-to-medium range and its supply of ammo was plentiful, but its effectiveness was questionable against long-range targets. The inclusion of the shotgun may have been another of Aliens’ inspirations.
5. Chain Gun / Minigun
The Chain Gun fired rapidly which was great against the easily stun-locked Cacodemons. However, its need to keep an enemy in your line of sight made it dangerous to use against enemies that were less easily stun-locked - especially if they were armed with hit scanning weapons themselves.
6. Rocket Launcher / RPG
The rocket launcher’s explosion was devastating and caused splash damage. This made it effective against both larger enemies and whole groups of weaker ones; however, its splash damage made it dangerous to use close up. At long ranges, enemies could evade its relatively slow-moving rockets.
7. Plasma Rifle
The Plasma Rifle was great all-round, but its ammo was both in short supply and shared with the BFG, and thus had to be used sparingly.
8. BFG - Big Frickin' Gun
Dooms ultimate weapon - the BFG - used up a lot of its already scarce ammo per shot and thus had to be saved for when you really needed it. However, one shot from it was capable of clearing whole rooms of enemies. It could be considered Doom’s equivalent of a ‘smart bomb’.
Doom 2 Weapons - The Super Shotgun
Doom 2 added a new weapon to Doomguy’s arsenal - the Double Barrell ‘Super Shotgun’. Its rate of fire was slower than the pump-action shotgun and it chewed through your ammo supply twice as quickly, but at point-blank range its firepower was immense. Doom 2 was the first FPS to incorporate the now-iconic weapon, but it would not be the last. Indeed, the double-barrel shotgun has become a staple of FPS games ever since.
Influences of later FPS
This arsenal of melee weapon, pistol, shotgun, multi-barrel machinegun, rocket launcher, energy weapon and room clearance weapon would become commonplace in most FPS games that came after. What’s more, most post-Doom FPS would more-or-less copy the order in which Doom introduced these weapons to the player during gameplay.
Incidentally, Doomguy was able to carry all of the above weapons at once, which was a trend almost all future FPS games would follow for some time. (Until the release of Halo with its two-gun mechanic.)
Traps n' Treasures
Doom is littered with secret areas, often hidden behind false walls that will raise to open upon walking up to them and pressing the ‘use’ key, or by hitting a switch elsewhere in the level. These hidden areas often contained useful pickups, such as armour, health packs and ammo. Some may have contained demons too, making them something of a double-edged chainsaw.
Some of the more significant secret areas would grant the player early access to heavier weapons which usually would not appear until much later. This makes these earlier levels far easier than they otherwise would be. Knowing the locations of such pickups is all but essential for survival on Doom’s most punishing difficulty level, the aptly named ‘Nightmare!’
Doom took the concept of secret areas a step further by including whole secret levels. These were often more challenging than the main-game levels at that stage of the campaign. Therefore, they were a bonus challenge for those seeking to test their mettle.
Secret areas and secret levels would become staples of many future FPS games, including the likes of Blood, Duke Nukem 3D and the Serious Sam franchise.
Doom featured several time-limited powerups, such as invisibility and invulnerability. Abilities such as these would become staples of many future FPS games. In some, they would also be implemented in the form of pickups, such as Unreal's Tournament's overshield. In others' they would be implemented as innate abilities, such as the semi-invisible cloaking device modes in the Crysis franchise, or when playing as a Predator in the Aliens vs Predator games.
Doom’s berserk mode has also been implemented in several post-Doom FPS games in one guise or another. Examples include the Demon Morph from Painkiller and the maximum adrenaline ‘Feral Abilities’ sections in Far Cry Instincts.
Painkiller: Overdose Demon Mode
Painkiller’s Demon Morph in all its gory glory
A novel feature in Doom is the friendly fire between demons. If a demon of one species were to hit a demon of a different species with a projectile weapon then the injured demon would turn on the demon who launched it. This could be particularly useful in crowded areas as it could quickly escalate into a free-for-all, thus saving you the trouble (and ammo) of having to fight them yourself. All you needed to do after the carnage had finished was mop up the survivors, who were usually in a weakened state. Sadly, relatively few post-Doom FPS games have implemented this mechanic, however, it may have indirectly influenced the three-way fighting found in games such as Half-Life.
So, Doom had a superb bestiary of monsters and an iconic set of weapons to shoot them with. It would have been disappointing then if the effects of said weapons upon said demons had been underwhelming. Thankfully the effects were anything but. Enemies would die in suitably gory fashion as you filled them with lead. Hitting a demon with a sufficiently over-powered weapon - say a rocket launcher or the berserk fist - would cause them to explode into a pile of bloody body parts. It has been claimed that Doom’s liberal use of this mechanic is what popularised the term ‘gib’ - short for giblets.
Doom's Berserk mode
Doomguy subscribes to the ‘Everything can be solved with punching’ school of thought.
Sound and Music
To complement the gameplay and visuals, Doom would need a suitably bombastic soundtrack. The inspiration for this allegedly came from the office stereo and the music the team enjoyed. Since Doom was being made in the early ‘90s this music was mostly rock and metal. As a result, many of the tracks in Doom had an uncanny resemblance to them, even in their MIDI format.
I did say the team behaved like rock stars remember?
Dooms soundscape was equally effective. The sound of the chainsaw, even when idling, felt empowering. The sound of the pump shotgun’s pumping action sounded suitably ‘ker-chunky’ and the report of its blast was loud and full of base - just as a shotgun should be.
The noises made by the enemies was no less memorable. The hisses, roars and elephantine trumpeting of the demons were suitably unsettling, whilst their death sounds gave a tell-tale auditory cue confirming they had died. This was especially useful when taking out enemies who were no longer in your line of sight. This death sound mechanic would also become a mainstay of both single-player and multiplayer FPS games.
Doom 1 and 2 sound effects