Back in 1997, the world was going crazy for 3d. The Nintendo 64 was out, Mario 64 had changed the gaming landscape, and a behemoth of the First Person Shooter genre was released on the world – GoldenEye. In its wake, Doom 64 struggled to get the attention it truly deserved.
Bethesda are now rectifying that with the re-release of the cult classic Doom 64, available now across all major platforms (PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch). Whether you’re done ripping and tearing in Doom Eternal, or looking for something to hold you over until its Switch release, let’s see if this forgotten release can stand up with its peers.
Doom 64 is a fast-paced shooter with a focus on movement, big guns, and all kinds of hellspawn trying to stop you from reaching the exit. So far, so Doom.
And this is thing about Doom 64, whilst it’s not as fondly remembered, it’s certainly not because of any issues with its gameplay. Original developers Midway Games, have shown a clear reverence for the original series and understood what made the games so special. Gunplay is just as tight as ever, there’s plenty of combat, puzzles, and secrets to be found. If you didn’t know anything about the history of the franchise, you’d think it was another game from ID Software.
That said, there are some minor changes to previous titles. The level design is more reliant on puzzles than before. You will find yourself getting lost these labyrinth-like mazes, but often the solution comes from is finding the right button to press, and realising which door that opens for a few moments. It can lead to frustration when your flow is interrupted, but fortunately, the solutions are never too obtuse.
Doom 64 also features no multiplayer. It was an odd choice back then, and remains an odd choice today. I understand that this is representing the game as it was, but work has been put into the port. I would’ve loved to have seen the new developer Nightdive Studios take more time and add in a multiplayer mode.
1997 was a time where true 3d gaming was in its infancy. Whilst titles were coming out, companies were still trying to figure things out. As a result, a lot of games from this era haven’t aged particularly well. Doom 64 is rough around the edges, but thanks to particular design choices, the things that made it less impressive in ’97 actually help it hold up now.
A lot of shooters had made the choice to go down the 3d rendering route. Doom 64 uses 3d objects for its level design, but the enemies are 2d sprites placed on top. This means whilst backgrounds are far simpler textures and shapes, enemies still retain a classic look and feel to them. The sprite work is deliciously gory, and killing any foe results in entrails, bone and sinew splattering across the room.
But, it’s not all quite a classic Doom. There’s one particularly odd design choice which I never did quite understand. Doom 64 is a direct sequel to Doom II, but some of the enemies designed have been overhauled. For the most part, it’s just minor changes, but there’s a couple of choices that majorly overall some of the demons and weapons. They’re still instantly recognisable, however, it just feels slightly off.
The Nintendo 64 had a distinct sound to the machine. Doom had a distinct heavy metal inspired sound track. Unfortunately, these two objects clashed, and much like a rocket to a Cacodemons face, there’s only going to be one winner.
There’s plenty of articles out there that will explain how the Nintendo 64 didn’t have a dedicated sound chip, and sound took up processing power. There’s plenty of examples where developers worked around this and still put out legendary soundtracks. However, Doom 64 is not one.
Gone are the bombastic tracks we expect with any Doom game, and instead, we have a much more ambient vibe. It’s actually effective, and as a real sense of isolation and terror to the game. But ultimately, it’s just not quite Doom.
Outside of the soundtrack, effects are as you would expect. Zombieman grunt like you’d expect, Hell Knights roars echo across the room, just it’s not a highest of sound quality. The sounds won’t be haunting your dreams long after playing.
With over 30 levels, Doom 64 will keep you glued to your system for a dozen hours at least. And thanks to its rock-solid gameplay, repeat playthroughs at all difficulty levels are a joy. It’s just a shame about the lack of multiplayer. Had this extra mode been added, it would’ve given players a lot more of a reason to take a trip back to hell.
Doom 64 is an often forgotten about title that really doesn’t deserve to be. It sticks to the classic formula and does it well. Its unique atmosphere and flare helps it stand out in the Doom lineage. It’s been stuck on the Nintendo 64 for too long, and it’s a real pleasure to see if final have a chance to reach the audience it warrants.
At a bargain price (£3.99) it’s one I can easily recommend to anyone. That said, it does have it’s rough edges, and if you don’t enjoy going back to shooters of old, this won’t change anything. I award Doom 64 a Thumb Culture Silver award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.
This article was written by Rich Canning