The original DOOM duology are known for their frantic shooting fun, but there was a decade in between 1994’s DOOM II: Hell on Earth and 2004’s DOOM 3. In between, there was an entire generation of consoles that took gaming into the polygonal. There was no longer a need to fake 2D with sprites and you’d think that DOOM would be one of the first to hop aboard. The franchise has always been about pushing technology! DOOM actually did hop onto the bus, rather early, but it committed the unthinkable sin. Becoming a Nintendo exclusive, DOOM 64, a completely original entry developed by Midway, flew under the radar for decades. Many assumed it was a port, but the world wouldn’t get to know the full DOOM experience until 2020. Coinciding with the release of DOOM Eternal, Bethesda pushed out a squeaky remaster of DOOM 64 for modern platforms.
The Doomguy had done it. Every demon to ever cross over the borders should’ve been completely irradicated. The Cyberdemon, Spider-Mastermind, and Icon of Sin have been sent to an even darker existence than from whence they came, but one powerful force remained. Unbeknownst to the slayer of demons, and UAC, the Mother Demon has now revived every hellish being to ever fall to the Doomguy’s bloodied hands. Tired, broken, and no longer mortal the Doomguy must become something more to protect the only thing he had left. He must slay the Mother Demon and become the eternal Slayer guarding Earth from within Hell itself.
The basic DOOM gameplay is back in full force. On the surface, running around, shooting demons, and collecting keycards is no worse than it ever has been. The entire arsenal of DOOM II returns. There’s only one new weapon, The Unmaker, and it can break the game if you know how to upgrade it.
DOOM 64 is a lot less fun than the first two games. Everything in the game has been redesigned and none of it looks good. Animations that once felt satisfying, if choppy, have been smoothed out but lose their charm. The acoustics have been ruined too. Previously crunchy and satisfying sounds such as the shotgun and demon death noises are muddy and annoying. The soundtrack goes for an ambient tone that doesn’t match what I want or expect, from a DOOM game. A driving force of DOOM and DOOM II is the music compounding your adrenaline.
Levels have no meat on their bones. Like DOOM II, they’re gigantic but empty. Each level is too dark and maze-like to get a feel for. It feels like they were trying to recapture the feeling of the original, but this goes beyond “poorly imitating.” There is no challenge to completing levels. You simply hunt the switches to reveal the keycard and walk through the obvious door. Even on the most challenging difficulty, you’ll spend more time looking for switches in the dark than fighting demons. “Challenge” in DOOM 64 only gets as far as spawning Arachnotrons and Lost Souls behind you after pressing a trapped switch.
DOOM 64 isn’t a mind-numbing experience, but it is extremely far from the best the genre has to offer. As a naysayer of N64 shooters, I’d say this is one of the worst the system had to offer. Much like a demon of hell, it has all the makings of man but no soul to tie it together. Midway truly did some ungodly things with DOOM 64.