20 essential tips for conquering Doom

Back to Hell

So Doom is finally out. And, as we hoped for the longest time, Doom is brilliant. But whether you’re a returning fan of the original games, or a new enthusiast wanting to get in on all of this lighting-fast, skull-shakingly kinetic demon slaughter for the first time, there are things you need to know. You see, Doom is a very different game to pretty much anything else out there right now. In both campaign and multiplayer, it’s a unique proposition that requires you to relearn the book on FPS, whoever you are.

So it’s time to impart the knowledge. Ahead, you’ll find 11 key tips and approaches for rampaging your way through to Hell and back, and then nine more for effectively murdering your fellow Doomguys online upon your return. Doom is much more than ‘circle-strafe FTW’, and so there is much to learn. So let’s get started, shall we?

SINGLE PLAYER: For God’s sake, move

The first, second, third, fourth, and last thing you need to do in Doom is move. It comes before shooting, it comes before those skull-cracking Glory Kills, and it comes before even thinking about chainsawing anything in half. Because movement is the thing that facilitates your ability to do any of the above effectively. 

Hold still, and Doom’s demons – whether high-flying rocket-slingers or ground-based melee specialists – are going to swarm you like wasps made of brimstone, lava and eternal torment (so wasps, then). You’ll get boxed in, you’ll get shot to pieces, and then you’ll die. Constant movement is your greatest weapon. Run, strafe, shimmy and leap. As long as you’re constantly shifting your position, you’ll keep Hell’s forces (just) at bay, and maintain an upper-hand of ever-changing firing angles and opportunities required to optimise your use of different weapons. This is how you do it. At its core, this is how you play Doom.

Don’t worry about focusing too much on one enemy

Leading off from that point, it will often be tempting to focus your aggression on the biggest enemy on the field until it’s dead. But that is not always wise. In fact, it is often the opposite. If you have that Hell Knight or Mancubus pinned down in a relatively secluded corner of the fight, by all means hammer it for a moment, but always remember that this strategy should be the exception, not the rule. If you’re holding a localised position, everything else on the battlefield is closing in on you. I promise you. It’s happening. And you don’t want that. 

Instead, hit-and-run is your best bet. Of course, you should do as much damage to the big guys as is safe to do so at any given moment – weapon-switching is your friend in this respect – but you should always be doing so while constantly roving of the fight area, hitting everything you can with whatever’s response is most appropriate. You’ll be much safer evading something dangerous than you will concentrating too long on killing it, and you’ll do much greater damage to the overall demon forces by spreading the pain around. Soften them up, and you’ll be amazed by how fast those big threats drop, all at the same time, toward the end of the battle. But there is an exception to this rule…

Identify any key players and take them out first

Many fights have a priority enemy that just has to go down as quickly as possible. But these aren’t always the biggest, most obvious monsters. Doom’s demons complement each other beautifully in terms of their abilities, and so, depending on the situation, the presence of almost any monster can massively amplify the threat of the overall opposition. The right demon in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world, and you need to be aware of which one that is at any given moment.

A Summoner – which will spawn in more demons for as long as it’s alive – is an obvious target, but the rest will depend on what’s happening. If you’re in a wide, tall arena, then long range, air-to-ground fire from Revenants and Cacodemons will cause you big problems if you try to ignore it. In tighter, more intricate areas, the fast, powerful melee hits of Pinky demons and Hell Knights will shut you down really fast if you don’t get drop them as a matter of priority. Even a large number of Imps can screw you up if enough of them get to high vantage points and start lobbing down fireballs. The only hard-and-fast rule rule concerns the overall approach you should take. Appraise, contextualise, and then respond. But do it quickly. And as a side note…

Leave the grunts alone

The lowest-level demons – Unwilling zombies, Possessed Engineers, and (depending on the situation) Imps – will often intimidate with their numbers, but they’re rarely an immediate threat. What they are is a resource. When the fight escalates and things get hectic (and both of these things will happen; what you immediately see is rarely all you get in Doom), you’ll be very, very glad of some quick-to-kill meatbags to set up for Glory Kills and the health boosts that come with them. Unless they’re causing big movement problems, treat the grunts less like monsters and more like supply crates. Supply crates you open not with a crowbar, but with your fists and feet, and a lot of twisting. 

And stepping back to some bigger-picture strategy…

Don’t grab the power-ups straight away. You don’t need them yet

But you will. Because things are going to get crazier. Any arena fight you find in Doom will go through several stages of escalation, so while it’s tempting to nab that Quad Damage or Berserk – it’s always tempting to grab that Berserk – and mulch through those zombies and Imps in a couple of seconds, you’re only screwing over future-you.

In a few minutes, Hell’s big guns are going to arrive, and, especially in the later stages of the campaign, you’re going to wish you had a nuclear option. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Armour plating on fire off the shoulder of Doomguy. I watched Revenant beams glitter in the dark near the Yellow Key Gate. Trust me, by the time you’re dealing with several of EVERYTHING at the same time, the fact that he didn’t squander the ability to punch the head off a Baron of Hell is going make past-you the coolest person ever. And similarly…

Don’t panic. Don’t blow your ‘best’ weapons too early

Ie. ‘Do not piss away all of your rockets and BFG ammo at the first sign of a Pinky’. The reasons are partly the same as when it comes to power-ups, but there’s also the important matter of weapon suitability to take into account. Because not every gun is created equal, and the ones that pack the biggest immediate punch are not necessarily the most powerful. Again, it all comes down to situation and tactical context. 

Got a Gauss Rifle? Nice. It’ll murder anything you point it at pretty damn quick. But you really want to hang onto it for when the Cacodemons arrive. Its charged shot will kill them faster than anything. Rockets? Save those for slowing down distant – but rapidly incoming – Knights, and for setting off explosions behind the soft flanks of Pinkies if you have the remote detonator unlocked. But if those two get close, you’ll do better by ducking and weaving with a shotgun. Just as importantly, some guns are just too powerful to use in certain situations. Fire a rocket into the middle of that mob of zombies, and they’ll be in soggy, charred bits long before you have a chance for a Glory Kill. Doom’s combat is a marathon, not a sprint. Sustained – and sustainable – combat is the key to dominance.

Upgrade your health and armour first

Getting into the meta-game, you need to prioritise the right upgrades. In terms of your Praetor Suit – which can be upgraded with Argent caches hidden around Mars and Hell – you want to hit health and armour first, in that order, and then move on to ammo capacity. Keep cycling through the trio like that, and every three caches you’ll find will send everything up a level, all nice and evenly. You need push none of them any faster than that. 

It’s worth keeping them in balance rather than boosting one and having to play catch-up with the others later on, but doing so in this order will make sure that your survivability rating is always up to par with the current situation regardless. Ammo is a lesser priority, because the chainsaw’s bullet-spewing kills will ensure that even if your maximum load is a bit lower, you can remain topped up at all times.

Think about your gun upgrades. They’re game-changers

When you find the service bots that install new gun mods, take a moment to properly investigate each one, including its upgrade path. Do not just buy one on a whim because it sounds superficially cool. All of these things expand your tactical options in fundamental ways, so you really need to acquire and upgrade them in the order that’s going to give you the most benefit and the most fun, based on how you play. 

The combat shotgun’s grenade launcher, for instance, allows you to clear space at medium range at the same time as beating the hell out of anything close up, letting you make the free time to engage in prolonged buckshot battles without getting (too) mobbed. Its rapid-fire salvo, meanwhile, doubles (in fact triples) down on its prowess for up-close assault, and eventually gives you damage bonuses, meaning that it will tear through a small group like wet paper. Similarly, the plasma rifle’s two options allow you to either fire a large stun-shot to temporarily lock down certain enemies, or charge up a localised, area-of-effect heat burst through continual fire. You can unlock all of these things in one campaign run if you explore properly, but you’re bound to find some more important than others. Think about that when you upgrade.

Explore, in every direction

As for finding all the stuff you need in order to power up, exploration is king. Doom is frequently a very non-linear game, and you need to accept and embrace that right away. In between fights, you should be checking your (constantly updating) map. Get used to swirling it around, zooming in and out, and changing viewing angles in order to decode every potential secret path and hidden-in-plain-sight platforming route around you. Because there will be a lot. And remember: Just because you can see a tantalisingly out-of-reach area, that doesn’t mean you should expect the way in to be nearby. 

Sometimes it is, of course, but sometimes you’ll find that the route to it loops back around from much further in the level. Or that a switch later on will open a door appearing earlier on your path. And always, always be ready to look up and down. Don’t assume that because you’re looking at a locked door then unlocking that door is the right thing to do. You’ll often find routes in via the ceiling or floor, and not necessarily direct ones either. Basically, just keep spinning your map, deciphering what you can – you can upgrade its detail as you go -  and reverse-engineer a logical route between any secret that pings up and your current position. Even if there doesn’t seem to be a way to immediately navigate it. Because there will be, somewhere.

If you really can’t find a hidden route, step back and look at the bigger picture

And if none of that works out for you, step away and stop scrutinising. I wasn’t joking about that ‘hidden-in-plain-sight’ thing. Doom is brilliant at that. Its level design frequently lays secret routes out right in front of you, just waiting for you to recognise the right platform or narrow ledge as being exactly what it is.  

All it takes is the right perspective, and perhaps a little distance, to see the flow of the platforming run ahead. So if you remain stumped by something you’re sure you should be able to get to, walk away a little and get a different view of it. And don’t underestimate how many things Doomguy is agile enough to get on top of. ‘Most things’ is the answer.

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.