Demon Pit is what you get when you take the movement shooters of old and put it into the wave survival format of arena-based FPS games. Looking at the art style and the sparse-yet-functional story will instantly draw parallels between this game and that which undoubtedly acted as the primary source of inspiration: Doom. Demon Pit has you as a hunter of demons in a hellish realm taking on waves of unholy creatures in a test of endurance in seeing how far you can get before you inevitably fall before the hordes.
As you progress through the rounds you will find that the gameplay and its various parts evolve slowly and become more elaborate in response to your growing skill and familiarity with the feel of the game. Your weapon wheel slowly fills out with the staple shooter accoutrements (pistol to shotgun to machine gun/minigun to rocket launcher and so on) and the enemies you face will slowly grow both in number and vary in response. After a certain number of rounds, the stage itself will morph from the standard square to different configurations with unique challenges such as deadly lasers moving across the battlefield or pools of lava, all of which restrict your movement and your ability to dodge your foes.
The crux of the gameplay is very much that of classic movement shooters: you are given a set amount of health that does not recover on its own, and instead you must rely on one of the four health power-ups which are located on raised platforms on the walls of the stage. These do not respawn for a while once used so you must make use of them sparingly. The key to success is focusing on constant movement and awareness of enemy placing and their projectiles. Keeping up the momentum is vital to not getting overrun – you’ll be dodging bullets whilst also keeping distance from enemies that attack by charging into you. To enhance the focus on dodging and quick gameplay, special points have been placed throughout the arena to which you can quickly teleport simply by looking at them and pressing the left trigger. These add a whole new layer of manoeuvrability to the mix that aids greatly in outfoxing and running circles around the pursuing hordes. There are even some in the air which only become more vital to survival as the arena introduces environmental hazards to the gameplay.
The soundtrack is filled with visceral screams and electronic bass reminiscent of Mick Gordon’s Doom 2016 soundtrack. It is a mix of dark creeping dread evolving into violent crescendos where the music hits its climax. The voices – from wailing and moaning and screaming to strange chanting – help to add a demonic, hellish flavour to the aggressive high points while also adding a subtle creepiness to the more mellow parts of the soundtrack. It complements both the aesthetic and the gameplay very nicely.
While the game is very functional and plays nicely, there are a couple of small things which may throw people off while playing. During my time with Demon Pit I quickly noticed a rather aggressive aim assist. While more casual players may appreciate the assistance, I found that I had some difficulty when trying to aim my sights from one demon in the horde following me to another. The crosshairs seem adamant to remain on the enemy I was previously trained on and, during such a fast-paced situation in which you need to act rapidly, being slow to aim and fire can prove fatal. Another small thing I noticed was a delay in switching weapons. While this may have been an intentional choice on the part of the developers to make switching weapons a more deliberate action that requires forethought, I feel that it was somewhat antithetical to the frenetic gameplay typified by the movement shooters this game seeks to emulate.
Overall, Demon Pit on Xbox One is a love letter to retro shooters of old with Doom being a primary source of inspiration. While the level to which Demon Pit borrows from Doom might be perceived as too liberal, it is not without its own flair. Featuring fast, engaging gameplay with a smorgasbord of weapons that are each unique and have their own specific uses, the game is accessible to casual gamers and the more committed following alike. Arms, enemies and the stage itself all grow and shift as the rounds count up, keeping the gameplay fresh and exciting even as the time ticks by and the enemies keep coming. Fans of retro FPS games, arena shooters and wave survival games will all find aspects of this game to their liking.