John Romero’s Sigil is Not Quite DOOM

The original DOOM is back! Sort of.

DOOM has received a lot of love over the years. Released back in 1993, this 3D shoot-em-up has been revisited again and again by multiple individuals, some adding their own unique stamp to the game. There have been thousands of new levels created for the game, multiple mods and even an overhaul that cranks up the game’s gore level to match that of its recent remake.

And now it’s John Romero’s turn. One of DOOM’s original designers, Romero has chosen to release Sigil, a free set of nine new levels for the game. Yet rather than give DOOM fans more of the same, the levels he’s created are strangely labyrinthine. You’ll spend just as much time shooting buttons and ducking through traps than you will blasting enemies.

On the one hand, it’s an admirably creative use of DOOM‘s existing resources; with no new monsters or art assets (though there is new music), Romero has done something genuinely original with the game. Though, perhaps having been spoilt by 2016’s DOOM remake, I was expecting more. Unlike Serious Sam, DOOM never pitched you against massive hordes of enemies; rather, it flung just enough foes at you to keep you on your toes. Sigil drip feeds you enemies and ammo is so scarce that counting bullets becomes your priority.

That’s something that worked in the Resident Evil 2 remake, where you could choose to avoid foes rather than face them head-on. But Sigil will happily cram you into a corridor with a Baron of Hell, with only a handful of ammo left. And if you do use your last bullet to puncture his demonic skull, it’s entirely possible you’ll be stuck because you now have nothing left to blast the out-of-reach switch in the room behind him.

The original DOOM was nowhere near as high-octane as the remake, but Sigil’s slow pace  – so slow, you’re often peeking through holes in walls hunting for the next switch – did nothing for me. Its level design is interesting, but unless you’ve been craving a more puzzle-based experience, none of them are particularly entertaining.

Sigil is worth checking out for curiosity’s sake, and it’s free so you’ve really nothing to lose. Romero certainly deserves kudos for giving his own time to revisit DOOM 20 years later. But if you’re looking to plunge back into the hellfire, Brutal Doom or the upcoming DOOM Eternal are more likely to slake your bloodlust.