DOOM Eternal is phenomenal. That we know. But what if you want some of that old-school DOOM action? Well, there’s DOOM 64 for that.
Originally released for the Nintendo 64 back in 1997, DOOM 64 isn’t simply a port of the original game. It is, actually, a sequel to DOOM 2, but being developed by Midway Games rather than id Software, it presumably wasn’t worthy of the title DOOM 3. In any case, it’s a DOOM game alright, one with 32 levels full of the enemies and weapons you know and love. And with its levels actually made from polygons for the first time, it had a quite a distinct flavor back in its day.
Remastered for PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC, DOOM 64 remains very playable now, even though DOOM Eternal exists. The controls have been updated to make them more palatable for modern players, and the visuals have been tidied up so that it’s not quite an eyesore. They were maligned back in the day because they were viewed as old-fashioned, but DOOM 64‘s usage of sprites for enemies and weapons has paid off in the long-run. They’re actually the highlight of the game in this modern age, not looking anywhere as dated as the primitive 3D environments.
“DOOM 64 doesn’t provide the same kind of thrills that DOOM Eternal offers, obviously, but it certainly still entertains”
DOOM 64 was released perhaps at the wrong time. It’s unapologetically an old-school first-person shooter that asks you to do little more than push switches and shoot things, but in that simplicity there’s plenty of fun to be had. Besides, at least DOOM 64‘s map design could be a little more experimental thanks to the move to 3D. In DOOM 64 you can actually get height, and there are walkways above other walkways. That’s unimpressive now, but back then it was a big deal. The result is that many of DOOM 64‘s levels were more labyrinthine than ever. In fact, some of them are still quite tricky to navigate now.
The best levels in DOOM 64, however, are undoubtedly those that are more open, those that challenge your shooting skills rather than your navigational abilities. There’s only so much switch-pushing and key-collecting you can do until it becomes a little tiresome. Thankfully there are plenty of those more action-focused levels, especially as you proceed further into the game. And the game’s drip-feed of new weapons and enemies keeps you interested. DOOM 64 doesn’t provide the same kind of thrills that DOOM Eternal offers, obviously, but it certainly still entertains.
The difficulty of DOOM 64 can be a little all over the place. Some levels feel very punishing, especially when they have traps that resign you to a slow death. If you don’t manually save frequently, you’ll be taken back to the start of your current level with your equipment stripped back to basics if you do find yourself mortally challenged. Grab a Super Shotgun and you’re pretty much ready to deal with anything the game throws at you though – it’s perhaps a little overpowered compared to your chaingun, plasma rifle and even the rocket launcher considering how plentiful ammo is for it.
Your limited movement is likely to be the biggest downer on your DOOM 64 experience overall, though. You’re frequently expected to cross gaps, and without the ability the jump your only option is to run as fast as you can and hope that inertia does its job. It also feels weird shooting enemies eight or so feet higher than you simply by shooting forward; you can only aim left and right, not up and down. Still, these issues don’t hamper your time spent slaying demons too much. You might just occasionally get frustrated by the limitations imposed upon you.
“If you have a penchant for retro shooters there’s plenty to like”
One thing to note is that DOOM 64 probably doesn’t have the soundtrack you were expecting. Out are the midi tunes found in older DOOM titles that serve to get you pumped. Instead, DOOM 64 has a more subtle, ambient soundtrack that cranks up the horror. Combined with the game’s darker atmosphere, you might find yourself a little creeped out at times, especially if playing with headphones.
It’s dated, sure, but for £3.99/$4.99 you can’t really go wrong with DOOM 64. There’s just under 10 hours of solid gameplay here, and many might return to tackle the game’s harder difficulty levels. It won’t get your heart racing in the same way that more modern DOOM titles do, but if you have a penchant for retro shooters there’s plenty to like. It’s perhaps the best of the classic DOOMs, if you don’t mind that its soundtrack doesn’t have tunes that you can tap your feet to, that is.