There’s lots of things the new Doom game does well, but one that took me completely by surprise was its excellent boss fights.
Warning: There are spoilers for Doom in the paragraphs ahead!
You encounter a number of familiar faces in Doom, faces you’re asked to blow up over and over. Imps, cacodemons, pinkies—the gang is (mostly) all here, ready to meet your trusty double shotgun. Though personal favorites like the spiderdemon didn’t seem make the cut this time, I knew there was no way I’d finish the game without a one-on-one with this guy:
When the original Doom was released on PC, the cyberdemon wasn’t even mentioned in the game’s manual. He was a nasty secret waiting for players.
“Some of the monsters you’ll face aren’t shown here,” reads the manual. “Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”
That wasn’t the case for this game. Bethesda Softworks and id Software revealed what the cyberdemon was gonna look like early on, as evidenced in the screen shot above, so it was a question of when he would show up.
“When” happens pretty late into Doom, and the game spends an entire level hyping it up. The only way for you to return to the Hell dimension is to extract an item that just so happens to be embedded in the cyberdemon.
The way it plays out when you reach the end of the level is fantastic:
Video Credit: GhostRobo
The life bar is what surprised me the most, though. No other enemy in the game has one of those, and this guy gets the most video game-y thing ever! But it’s fine, as it lets the player understand their progression in the fight, rather than having to frustratingly dump bullets into a giant sponge.
Though it’s a novel encounter, what’s actually memorable about you vs. the ol’ cyberdemon is how damn fun it is to fight this lumbering monstrosity.
Boss fights are bad in most games that aren’t Dark Souls. Too often, it feels like an outdated relic of game design that’s hung around because developers aren’t sure what to replace it with. Other times, the fights are tonally at odds with the rest of the game. (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, anyone?)
Doom’s fight with the cyberdemon is ridiculous, tough as hell, and makes excellent use of everything you’ve practiced in the game to this point. That’s how a boss fight should work, ideally: an extreme test of skill.
This new Doom isn’t just about strafing left and right; it successfully expands on Doom’s combat by integrating verticality. The jet boots, which let you alter your direction mid-air and jump twice, widen this further.
You need to make use of every single option to survive the cyberdemon, whether it’s dodging the missiles that come flying from the sky:
Or timing your jump to the precise moment when he fires a massive laser that, if it connects, can take you out with a single blast. (This is especially true on the ultra violence difficulty level, which I highly recommend!)
Like any good boss fight, there’s a second phase. With the cyberdemon, it might actually be more memorable than the first phase; it takes place in Hell and forces the player to pull off some nimble acrobatic feats to survive.
Image Credit: Generic Gaming
That bit took me for a loop the first few times, as getting the timing down is awfully tricky.
Even though I died a bunch of times while tackling the cyberdemon, I was never frustrated. The fight isn’t unfair, it’s nuanced. By the time I’d put everything together, I was handily dodging everything the cyberdemon could throw at me. It was no longer a fair fight: I was kicking his ass.
There’s another boss fight soon after the cyberdemon, in which you’re forced to tackle two nasty brutes at once, and it was equally satisfying. I’m sure there’s another one waiting at the end of the last level, and unlike boss fights in other games, I cannot wait to see what Doom has in store.
Maybe boss fights don’t have to suck.