It took 30 years, but a speedrunner's finished Doom 2's opening level in an unbelievable 4.97 seconds

Speedrunner 4shockblast recently broke a record that had stood for many years on Doom 2's opening map, Entryway. Their new world record run is a masterclass in eking every possible advantage out of the map and the various speedrunning tricks Doom 2 players have discovered over the years. It's not just a new record: it's a testament to how the speedrunning community pushes one another on to previously unimaginable feats.

That may seem like a bit much, but just you wait. 4shockwave's run can be seen above, and the first thing you'll notice is that it's over almost as soon as it begins. This run of Entryway is the first-ever sub-5 second run, clocking in at 04.97 seconds, which includes all of the level's monsters and is being run on Ultraviolence (it goes down as a Pacifist run, mainly because there's no time to blow anything away).

The bar-setting record for Entryway had been set in 1998 (!) by one Thomas Pilger, a legendary figure in the early Doom scene and holder of countless records in the game.  Entryway's simplicity, a twisting corridor filled with monsters leading to a more open room with an exit door, saw Pilger set a time of 5 seconds that players assumed would be hard to substantially improve on.

In some ways they were right: Pilger's run wasn't as optimised as it perhaps could've been, but the level is so short that the opportunities to save time seem few and far between. The Finnish Doom legend Ocelot would be the first to improve on techniques for the run in 2001 (which says everything: three years in this community is a lifetime), managing a time of 05.26 thanks to the incorporation of strafing movement (increasing Doom guy's momentum) and clever use of gunshots to "guide" monsters where he wanted them to go.

One thing Ocelot didn't do was use a technique called "sr50", which is explained and showcased in great depth in Karl Jobst's excellent video on 4shockblast's achievement. Sr50 can be essentially thought of as super-strafing: a technique that allows players to pick up even more speed in certain areas of the game, but is very hard to execute reliably.

In 2002 Slasher managed to incorporate sr50 into an incredible run and achieve a time of 05.14 although, even then, there were a few occasions he didn't execute the sr50 strat and there was a one frame error on the final door. This run would stand for an astonishing 15 years.

It's 2017 when 4shockblast first appears on the Entryway scene. Initially their ambition is simply to top that Slasher record, and they manage to get it down to a 05.09 with the sr50 trick, on top of which they'd come up with their own approach to the final door: using left strafe instead of right strafe to open the door which leaves the player in a slightly odd angle of approach, but with increased momentum that isn't otherwise possible. In short, using this technique, when the door opens Doomguy can zip through it at top speed without any start-up. 

This was the key to a faster time: a speedrunning trick where Doomguy faces the angle of a corner and, if it's hit perfectly, retains his momentum. This trick is so difficult to pull off it's very rarely seen in speedruns where there isn't a setup opportunity (for example lifts, where players have more time to get the perfect line). It's a crazy thing to base a speedrun on because it's so difficult to execute and, yet, Entryway does contain that one door where it can be used.

4shockblast was able to achieve a 05.09 time with all of the above and no monsters in the level: this is a perfectly legitimate niche of Doom speedrunning, prized by some because it removes the randomness of monster behaviours and elevates pure movement and speed. But the run still had notable errors (Jobst points out a particularly amusing one of the run starting with Doomguy in the wrong orientation).

What it did contain was the seed that set off another runner, Depravity, who also chose to approach the speedrun by playing without the monsters. Depravity's thinking was that the previous runs were impressive but not properly optimised, and with sr50 and the momentum door trick they could shave off even more frames. Depravity managed a time of 05.03 in 2020 without any monsters, and three months later in May 2020 would finally break through: a 4 second run on Entryway.

Zombie mode

Remember that it's taken 26 years to get to this 4 second speedrun. And that's without the monsters. Re-enter 4shockblast who, thanks to a record of 05.14 set by Dastan in September 2021, for some reason had come to believe this would be possible with the monsters.

"I don't know exactly what insanity drove me to look at this run last year," says 4shockblast. " [A] meme thought sent me into the spiral of 'wait, 4 actually IS doable here' pretty quickly. Doable I thought without even messing with the door boost. I was right... but also wrong, sort of. At first my thought was you could thingrun the end imp; it seemed easier than the precision required for the boost, and hey, as long as you can get to the exit at the appropriate time, it's free, right? And so, I just went into attempts, not expecting to still be doing them a year later lmao."

The 'thingrun' 4shockblast refers to is another movement trick, where brushing past objects or enemies at the right angle conserves momentum. 4shockblast goes into some great detail on the various milestones that have to be hit throughout this brief window of time: "I obviously expected this run to not come easy, but somehow I managed to simultaneously under- and overestimate the challenge, there's a lot of things that need to go the right way for the 4, so here follows."

They identify two main strategies. "The first is thingruns; you gain a bit of speed if you run alongside an enemy in wallrun directions, and you just so happen to get a zombie perfect to do this on right at the start of the map," says 4shockblast. "To thingrun along the zombie, without having to do anything extra, you have to quickstart to a single precise angle, then you get one tic of thingrun." So you get a big boost at the start of the map, then have to take eac corner tightly, after which there's an opportunity for another thingrun on a zombie.

"To add to the above, you need to shoot at the start to lure the zombies to the closer wall, so you can pass them by. Not a very precise shot, but still something I regularly missed; shoot too early, and you get blocked by the first two zombies, too late and you get blocked in the hallway."

The second Imp in the level is also a problem ("Only a few angles get past him cleanly, sometimes you can hit the wall and not lose any time"), and the second corner, before we get to the exit hallway itself.

"Doom wall collisions are not something you ever want to rely on going well, and this is no exception," explains 4shockblast. "Whether or not you get slid along the wall or lose all momentum is a crapshoot; it doesn't matter for how fast you press the door per se, but it does make a huge difference with how you move afterwards. Because of this, sometimes when moving into position for the ending, I would run out of the hallway entirely, because I lost all momentum and didn't expect it. Basically, there's no consistency with knowing what to do there."

This all sounds very frustrating. Imagine being the guy who actually did it. The final imp in the exit room is also a problem, which 4shockblast eventually solved by moving away from the idea of thingrunning it, to prioritising the door boost and shooting straight past them to the exit button. The door boost's RNG is its own story ("If you are in the right position, you still might not get the boost," says 4shockblast, "It just might fuck you over. No explanation.").

As 4shockblast phrases it, "put all the above RNG and semi-RNG together, and well, you're still fucked trying this trick." Over time they developed strats to mitigate these issues, all built on the foundation of precise, tight turns and swapping between strafing and sr50. They worked out that mouse strafing into the wall, which doesn't stop the door boost from randomly failing, "but does improve the consistency, if you can get it."

Finally, it all came together. "In the end, I got this 18 minutes into the stream I was doing today," says 4shockblast. "I didn't get a single candidate run this stream except this, so it was definitely a huge shock to just get it, and then just relief. This was a 4.00 door, so it's a fast ending. Not even gonna bother to count attempts, but it is tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand. I started running this last year in February, there were huge breaks, but in the end, it still took absolutely forever. Time to enjoy some retirement. GG."

4shockblast ends, as all good Doom speedrunners should, by paying tribute to the players that came before him, and made this run seem possible. "Thanks to Dastan for the 5.14 and depr4vity for paving the way to 4 with the [No Monsters run]. Also, to my chat for watching this awful grind for some reason."

It does feel slightly weird to describe something that takes less than four seconds as one of the great speedrunning achievements of our time, but then that's the nature of the beast. And another reminder of why Doom remains so vital, so central to this hobby, and that is how it somehow retains the capacity to surprise even its most dedicated players. Doom may run on everything, as the saying goes, but players will do everything for a new Doom run.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."