Doom 64 is a first person shooter developed by Id Software and distributed by Midway for the Nintendo 64. I’m going to assume you have already played Doom, seen my review of it, or know enough about it to avoid going over all of the basics. It was a largely popular game that has been ported to nearly every device imaginable. You might think that Doom 64 is just a Nintendo 64 port of Doom, much like the SNES port or the Playstation’s port The Ultimate Doom. However, this is more akin to something like the Playstation’s Final Doom in that it’s a game based on the Doom engine with all new levels. Though, unlike Final Doom, it’s considered a spinoff.
I think this is due to the story, but it’s not really explained in detail in-game. Maybe the instruction booklet I no longer have briefs you on the main mission, but as I understand it you’re basically the same space marine from the other games that is once again tasked with going through space stations and Hell itself to relieve these demons of their lives. Your ultimate goal seems to be to destroy the mother of all demons to stop them from spawning once and for all… which might also be why it is considered a spinoff because… well Doom 3 would be a hard sell without any demons, wouldn’t it?
The gameplay is basically all the same stuff. Get the guns, shoot the demons, get the keys, open the doors, hit the switches, beat a few bosses, and call it a day. It does have a few additions. There’s the new Unmaker weapon, which runs off of the energy cell ammunition. There’s a slightly revamped map system that adds a textured version of the surroundings. The whole game is one long journey rather than multiple episodes, with not only a few secret levels but some hidden levels and one super-secret level as well. The biggest changes are in the presentation. All of the weapons, items, and enemies have had their sprites redesigned to look darker and grittier. There’s a lot more usage of darkness and lighting in the level design. Even the music has been changed from rockin’ midi tunes to ambient, atmospheric background sounds. There’s even an all new end boss!
I do appreciate this game. Having more levels with the same old Doom mechanics is a good thing for Doom fans, even though it’s the first Doom I really played through. The gameplay holds up. Placing the super shotgun after the shotgun feels more natural, though maybe that’s just because I played this one first. And hey, some of the levels are based on older levels from the previous games, which is a neat little touch to see how they work in this more dark and detailed engine. It’s a good dose of classic FPS fun on the Nintendo 64 for sure. You can even customize your buttons to your liking for controls. I’ve also got to praise the forward thinking save features, which allow you to either save to a memory pak or write down a password, as there are pros and cons to both. And while I can respect the darker, more horror-themed nature of the game, this is where my gripes start.
I personally prefer the more colorful graphics of the first Doom as well as the rockin’ midi tunes, but that’s just me. My actual annoyances start with the speed function. Unlike in the previous games, this one is hardly noticeable when you use it. This also means that sometimes when you’re asked to do these annoying platforming feats without the ability to jump, you’ll fail because you’re not exact enough with the speed. Strafing while running gives you a bit more speed for some reason, but even then your momentum or the hit detection on walls can mess you up. It’s frustrating. Some of the enemies have been taken out for this game. The specific ones I can note are the revenant, arch-viles, and the spider mastermind. I’m not sure if the engine couldn’t handle it or if it was a conscious choice, but either way it means there’s a bit less variety than in Doom II. Also, it seems like monsters can still hurt one another here, but they can’t seem to actively fight one another like before. Oh, and the natural annoyance of falling into pits that will kill you slowly without an escape or trial and error sections are only even MORE annoying here when you can’t save at any point. This is a console game, folks. You can only save between levels so making massive fuck-ups will often result in reloading the entire level from the start. Now, most of my complaints of this game are pretty small and nitpicky. Sure, it could’ve been more advanced by the time it came out, but the simplistic mechanics work well enough. However, my major frustration with this game goes into spoiler territory so skip the next two sections to avoid what little I could spoil here.
So you go through all of the levels, you get to the final level, gear up on all the health, armor, and ammo you could need. You grab a limited invincibility item and charge into a large room with one large structure in the middle and three on the sides. Armies of enemies start pouring out of the transporters as you spend your time, ammunition, and possibly a chunk of your health on taking them all down like there’s no tomorrow. And then the structure in the center opens to reveal the mother of all demons, and she is pissed. She can send you into the air with a powerful attack and send out heat-seeking missiles that are near impossible to dodge, along with dealing massive damage. It MIGHT be possible to beat this boss normally, but after my tons of tries it sure doesn’t seem probable. Especially since you’ll waste so many resources before you even see the bitch. So that means you will most likely need to go back and find those secret levels.
There are three secret levels which seem to have no real rhyme or reason to their placement, which makes sense for secrets I suppose. But the fact that you practically NEED to go to them in order to beat the game makes their extremely hidden nature annoying as shit. So just look up their locations before you start playing to ensure you don’t miss ‘em. Why do you need to go to them? Because each one of the three secret levels contains a demon artifact, which you also need to figure out how to acquire. Each one powers up the Unmaker weapon. So once you get all of these, THEN at the last level you can put the artifacts into the switches by the spawners and keep the horde from coming. Then you’ll save precious resources for fighting the main boss, which can be easily handled by your fully powered Unmaker. This shit should NOT be a damn near requirement to beat the game, especially on the easiest difficulty. Also, the super-secret level can only be accessed by very specific and time-sensitive means and the level is very difficult for unlocking a features menu. It’s neat but too secret for its own good and not necessarily even worth the headache.
Still, as much as I can bitch about the game, even just playing until the end boss is a fun time. It’s more Doom. It’s a darker, more horrifying take on the Doom aesthetic with the same solid mechanics as before, and even more secrets. If you’re a fan of classic first person shooters and own the Nintendo 64, give it a shot. Especially if you’re a Doom fan that overlooked this because of the system or your assumptions on the game. It’s a good time with new levels that’s worth checking out for 20 to 25 bucks or so. It might just scratch that classic Doom itch better than Doom 3, huh? But I’ll have to get something that can run it so I can see for myself. Until then, keep calm and kill like Hell.