DOOM 64 – Game Review





Published by Bethesda – Developed by Nightdive Studios/id Software/Midway – Out Now on PC, PS4, Switch (version tested) & Xbox One – 1 Player

Whatever happened to Dooms 4 through to Doom 63. Well, the original Doom got ported to just about everything, Playstation, SNES, Megadrive, the original Doom has even been made playable on a pregnancy test! (I AM NOT JOKING; google it!)

So when Doom 64 first came out, I, along with a lot of other people, gave it a pass, assuming it to be the N60s version of the original game. But then, when playing it for the first time, I remember being quite bewildered at the fact that it’s not a port, but an entirely different game.

Misleading marketing aside, Doom 64 is its own chapter in Doom lore. Unique in many ways and an intriguing tonal precursor to Doom 3 and narrative precursor to Doom 2016.

I am aware that a Doom 64 review has already been posted on this website, but as part of my Doom series I queried, “Can I go ahead and Doom 64 everyone all over again”. The response was “Rip and Tear”.

So, the Nintendo 64 is called such because the console was a technical enhancement from its predecessor… duh! The console ran on 64 bits. I know… me too. It’s a testament to what happens when you let your geeky tech-team name the console and not, say, the marketing team! And it led to Nintendo sticking 64 onto quite a few of their launch titles and bestsellers. So how it ended up on the Doom one is beyond me – as by all accounts Doom 64 didn’t do to well and was considered a misfire. Maybe it’s the black sheep of the family.

Ok, so I love this game. But, in the age where Goldeneye ruled, and where you can aim and look left/right AND up/down, it felt a bit antiquated being restricted to the horizontal plane. Sure, you can shake your head for “no”, but you can’t nod.

The weapons are all back, (the pistol’s still useless) with a new, unholy addition too boot. The two shotguns are more effective, the double being particularly so. Due to cartridge size, the reloading animations are simplified to lowering the gun image out of view. The chaingun has a purple muzzle flash, not sure why, and it’s firing sound effect is still the same as the pistols only sped-up. The rocket launcher is ace, ok so same as previous Dooms but it sounds better, the explosion looks better, just a very satisfying gun. Now with the plasma gun, I’m a man of two minds, the shooting sound effect is much better than the synth-screech from original Doom, but the gun has a continual electric hum, like the chainsaw’s passive “engine-ready” sound effect. It just bugs me. It can drown out the sounds of monsters and leave you open to surprise attack. But it’s ok because the plasma gun shares ammo with two of my favourite guns, the BFG (ooh baby) and the Unmaker, or “!@#%” as it is referred to in game text. Both are very satisfying weapons. The BFG is much the same, but this time, a shockwave from the blast hits the player-characters eyes, on impact it turns the entire screen green. It’s a very great effect, albeit cosmetic, addition to the BFG. The model is better looking too, smoother and more refined than the Lego mash-up it used to be. And with the Unmaker. Does the name not say it all? A laser weapon more powerful than the plasma gun that can be upgraded to be three times as powerful. And the design of the gun is horrifying, it looks like the torn-out thorax of a Demon!

The music of Doom 64 is also very different. Where Dooms 1 and 2 gave us rights dodging altered-rock tunes from the early 90s, Doom 64 gives us the groans from the bowels of the spaceship Nostromo. The groans are unsettling, disturbing and occasionally nauseating. There’s something grim about the music (if it can even be called that) that really brings in a hellish feel to each level. It adds to the sense of isolation and terror. As the levels progress the tunes get creepier, with a few stand outs in the hell-themed levels. A great departure as it really brings a whole new atmosphere to the Doom experience. This experience will be amplified in Doom 3, though arguably to a lesser effect.

New monsters include the nightmare imp, a purple, slightly transparent version of the regular imp that throws purple fireballs which travel faster but I can’t say they do any more damage. I like the look of them, and the regular imps in general as they are such an improvement over what came before. I may even say that these imps, and those appearing in Doom 2016 are my personal favourite looks for this demon. The second new demon is the boss, the Mother Demon, who, lore-wise, birthed all the other demons. The mother demon throws fire, homing rockets and launches you into the air like the Arch-Vile did. A lot of firepower for one Demon.

There are a few omissions in the game, and this is due to cartridge size, only so much can get squeezed in. Gone are the Revenant and the Arch-vile. Whilst those two demons are difficult to deal with, revenants homing rocket and Arch-vile’s sight-based attack and ability to resurrect, and their absences will be welcomed by some Doomers, it leaves a bit of a gap. Both of those demons require different tactics to deal with, adding variety to the gameplay. A shame both were omitted in a game where, when you have to pick and choose, there’s a bit of redundancy with the inclusion of both the Hellknight and Baron-of-Hell.

There seems to be a strange doubling up in Doom 64. For instance; the chainsaw has two blades (what type of trees were these meant to cut down?), the Pain Elemental has two mouths (what imbecile thought that was a good idea, seriously, I want a recording of that meeting where Pain Elementals mouths were a bullet point on the agenda), the in game model for the cacodemon now has two arms when they were just floating, biting tomato heads before; the Arachnotrons now wield two plasma rifles, TWO PLASMA RIFLES… I mean… WHY?!?! and, if you play the game on hard, even the Cyberdemons come in pairs. What is this? Homer Simpson’s philosophy of “If less is more, think how much more, more is?” Well, I will say it now friends, Doom 64 is MORE DOOM.

The levels are completely new, no reuse of old textures like in Doom 2. New artworks cover everything from weapon models, enemies, and, I have to say, something I never knew the original two Dooms were missing until I saw them in 64 … GARGOYLES. Where were they John Carmac? Eh! John Romero? (for clarity, I am talking about the stone ones that loom from antiquated buildings and Tim Burton movies, not the enemies called “Gargoyles” from Doom Eternal – more on them in a later review) Now I do not know who invented gargoyles, or why (who looks at a building and thinks “you know what will really spruse this up, concrete bat-monster-demon-horns”). But in Doom 64 they add so much more creepiness to the game. One of the limitations of the game is that objects, dead bodies, torchs, and the gargoyles themselves, they always face the player, you only see one side of them. Personally, with the gargoyles, I don’t treat this as a game limitation, I consider it atmosphere; bat-winged monstrosities are always facing you, watching you through beady little yellow eyes… shudder… adds so much atmosphere of the game.

Speaking of atmosphere, there are a few levels called “fun levels”. I suppose the only thing fun about these levels are their lack of canon story, the fun levels frequently place you in a maze being chased by a cyberdemon. One of these levels places the player starting in the centre of an arena surrounded by eight arachnotrons on raised plinths. When they say “fun Levels” they mean fun for the Demons!

There is a new expansion released for Doom 64 (not playable on the N64) that was released to coincide with the release of Doom Eternal, The Lost Levels. In many ways this functions as most expansions, and especially like ones released over two decades after the fact. There are fewer levels, all the same monsters and a faster escalation, which there has to be with only six levels. The story behind the expansion also kinda undermines the uniqueness of Doom 64s home boss, the Mother Demon. This time, on the final level, the player is tasked with felling the sister, the resurrector. Short-comings aside it’s certainly a short-sharp blast of Doom 64 in a run-down retelling.

 

Though I personally think that Doom 64 works better as a slow build, an atmosphere, a sense of dread. The game is great in its atmosphere but the problem with atmosphere is that it’s just not as marketable as boom, bang, action. As much as I like this game, I am not alien to why it wasn’t a smash hit, it looked great but was technically behind other releases at the same time. It was a Doom game for Doom fans by Doom fans, and on that, I consider myself one and am grateful the series has this entry.

rating:6.5/10

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