Some of you may be surprised, shocked even, to learn there was a full and proper Doom game released exclusively for the Nintendo 64, back in 1997. It was a sequel to Doom II, despite the fourth game in the series being called Doom 3. This, sadly, has only fuelled people’s selective memories and many aren’t even aware of Doom 64’s existence. 23 years later, however, with the launch of Doom Eternal that wrong has hopefully been righted. But is it worth a second look, or should Doom 64 be condemned to the history books forever?
In case you were unaware, you can purchase Doom 64 on Xbox One separately on the Xbox Store, as with all the other back catalogue releases. However, if you purchase the Doom Eternal Deluxe Edition, Doom 64 will be included, which is nice.
Anyway, it’s the usual story here. You are on the hunt for the Mother of Demons in an attempt to put an end to Hell’s invading forces once and for all, which are regenerating after previous attempts to vanquish them have seemingly failed. It’s just another excuse to go shooting demons in the face, but you won’t hear me complaining. Only through the game’s menu do you find this out – there’s no setup at all, you’re just thrown in. Top marks to Doom Guy and Hell’s demonic hordes for their persistence though.
Doom 64 boasts over 30 levels to shoot through, including the “Lost Levels”, which have never been playable before. The usual skill levels (difficulties) are here too, even though they have been renamed in more recent games. I decided to have a blast on “bring it on”, which these days is “hurt me plenty”… or medium in layman’s terms.
As I said earlier, there’s no easing you into Doom 64. In the absence of any scene setting, you’ll acquire your shotgun immediately and find yourself facing off against Pinkys within the first five minutes of play. Gladly, the weapon is still devastatingly effective, even from long range.
The controls are near identical to the first two games, complete with your classic bobbing walk and fixed height at which you hold your gun. As you might have guessed, that means there’s no jumping either. Instead, you can toggle autorun by pressing down on the left thumbstick to clear gaps, which works as a decent substitute.
There are loads of pickups to be had too, some which grant temporary power-ups such as the light amplification goggles. These allow you to see much more clearly in dark areas, which comes in handy. Otherwise the familiar mix of armor shards, ammo clips and medikits all make a return. Boosts are also back, such as Berserk and Supercharge. You may need to protect your eyes however, as the latter can turn things into something reminiscent of a 90’s rave scene.
You’re also equipped with a map, which can be accessed by hitting the view button. This is useful for identifying secrets which, in classic Doom style, are often hidden behind seemingly normal walls. Use it with caution however, as when you move your map cursor, Doom Guy also moves around in the game. This is a tad frustrating, unnecessary, and caused me to meet an untimely end on one occasion, having been crushed to death.
Doom 64’s main draw is most probably how good it looks compared to its older brothers. The demon slaying action is just as entertaining as ever and hasn’t aged too shabbily at all, even by today’s standards.
You’ll recognise most, if not all, of the demons if you’ve played a Doom game before. This is also the same with the arsenal of weapons that you will, pretty quickly, collect. All are pleasingly realised in their 3D forms, and manage to strike the right balance of menacing but not too horrific.
The level design in Doom 64 is also on form, hiding plenty of secrets and consisting of so many moving parts it feels like you’re wandering around inside a giant Rubik’s Cube at times. There are loads of switches, and it’s not always clear which one does what, but then finding out is half the fun with Doom. It’s also easy to get lost or miss things, however your rate of progress will depend on how much of a completionist you are.
Doom 64 starts with a much more moody and tense tone than the others. There are no pumping demon slaying beats to be heard. However, you’ll be hearing all sorts of nasty noises and waiting to see where the baddies jump out at you from, as is standard. It’s interesting, because even on the middling difficulty Doom 64 feels easy, at least to begin with, especially for a Doom game. However, it’s still challenging to find all the secrets, for those that feel the need to do so.
All that being said, if you die you’ll lose all your weapons, and will have to start the level over. This makes things instantly more challenging, such as trying to take on Cacodemons and the like with just your pistol. You can save at any time however, and this proves pretty handy once you know what’s coming.
Doom 64 on Xbox One is exactly what you have come to expect from the franchise. There’s nothing new or surprising here, but it’s another solid set of demon slaying levels nonetheless. In all honesty, as Doom II was to Doom, it feels as if it could simply be an expansion to the original game. However, as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Put simply, if you are a fan looking for a new Doom experience, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re new to the series, it’s as good a place as any to start.