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Dealing enough damage to an enemy may cause them to 'stagger' which is indicated by a blue highlight. When the player comes into close range, indicated in an orange highlight, the player can perform a special melee action which kills the enemy instantly in a spectacularly brutal fashion. In addition, the player is invulnerable while performing the kill, however this invulnerability is not applied on higher difficulties.
Boss battles (the Cyberdemon, the Hell Guards and the Spider Mastermind) can only be finished with glory kills; failure to do so will result in the boss recovering a bit of its health and continuing the fight.
Enemies killed through glory kills always drop health pickups.
The Berserk powerup takes away your weapons when active, but greatly reduces your taken damage and allows you to instantly glory kill any non-boss enemy within melee range.
In multiplayer, glory kill opportunities occur in random occurrences while dealing damage, usually when an enemy is on low health. Unlike glory kills in single player, the player is not granted brief invulnerability, and enemies who can have a glory kill performed on them don't stagger. If a player is performing a glory kill and is killed before executing the killing blow, the intended victim will survive. This applies to glory kills against demons, and Baron and Prowler glory kills.
- Lost Souls are the only enemies that cannot have a glory kill performed against them.
- Some enemies have varied glory kill animations based on where the player aims on the enemy before performing the kill, such as the leg sweep on a Hell Razer while looking at its right leg.
- Glory kills may have been inspired by a notably popular mod for the original Doom series called Brutal Doom, which included "Rip and Tear" mode, an alternate unarmed combat mode which could be accessed after grabbing a Berserk Pack, and which allowed you to perform Mortal Kombat-style fatalities on monsters.
- At least two glory kills were cut from the official game release. One was a frontal glory kill on a Hell Knight, consisting of punching it in the head three times then snapping its neck. The other was a frontal glory kill on a Mancubus, consisting of having its core ripped out of its belly and having it rammed down its throat, whereas they briefly belch before exploding after a few seconds.