DOOM 64 – A Retrospective
“The planetary policy was clear. An absolute quarantine was guaranteed by apocalyptic levels of radiation. The empty dark corridors stand motionless, abandoned. The installations sealed.”
Doom 64 took me by surprise. Growing up I never owned a Nintendo 64 (I was a PlayStation kid), so for years I operated under the belief that no such conversion of id’s classic first-person shooter had made its way onto Nintendo’s console. By the time I learned of its existence, my interest was best described as “indifferent”. I just casually assumed it was Doom all over again, not caring to dig any deeper into Midway Games’ title.
What a putz.
Doom 64 is no mere remake of the original game, but a sequel to the events of Doom II: Hell on Earth. And, curiously enough, a more compelling and interesting game than id’s own Doom 3, which followed some years later. You may boo and jeer me all you wish, but it’s true.
For starters it’s a far creepier game than Doom 3, creating a pervasive sense of quiet unease without ever laying it on too thick (there’s no ludicrous villainous laughter or any comical jump scares, for instance).
We start our war against Hell’s relentless evil in a sealed UAC base, long since left dormant. Here the game echoes with traces of Alien 3’s dread and isolation, its horror far more acute than the original games. But then I never considered those games horror per se, and now, having played the entire series, I feel like only Doom 64 and Doom 3 can lay claim to being proper horrors titles.
That’s not to say Doom 64 is some kind of survival horror, though. It’s as action-packed and brutal as you’d expect from a Doom game, with a host of ghastly demons intent on pulverising you with balls of flames and sizzling orbs of energy. Unfortunately they’re not nearly as confounding as the game’s plethora of repetitive puzzles.
Whilst I loved the bizarre and unsettling architecture of the world – especially Hell itself, with its great walls of fire and crackling violet thunderstorms raging above desolate sierras – they aren’t easy to navigate. You’re going to need to find keys to progress, but that involves pressing buttons to open doors and clear obstacles. The problem? It’s often a mystery as to where these doors are, meaning you’ll spend a lot of time racing around the map looking for whichever door has opened. It’s an in inelegant and frustrating piece of design.
But beyond that you have a thoroughly enjoyable Doom game, brimming with atmosphere and the kind of gory, white-knuckle combat you’ve come to expect from the series. Sure, it was a little outdated even for the time, relying on the tried-and-true Doom formula, but I see little point in marking it down for that.
It’s Doom, and that formula was more than good – it was revolutionary. Kudos to Nightdive Studios for bringing it to PC, enabling players who missed out the first time to play it anew.