DOOM was always an action-packed frag-a-thon, but that’s not to say it didn’t try to be creepy at times. However, it was the PlayStation port that really cranked up the spook-factor with its coloured lighting, unsettling sound effects and eerie soundtrack, which helped it stand out from other versions of the game. DOOM 64, developed by Midway Games, might as well be the PS1 version on steroids. It was vastly underappreciated at launch, but Nightdive Studios’ smashing port of the game (coinciding with the release of DOOM Eternal) is bound to make retro shooter fans love it all the more.
The story picks up where the previous games left off. The UAC research laboratories, which unwillingly unleashed the forces of Hell unto Earth, are now quarantined and bathed in radiation. However, a malfunctioning satellite from one of these relay stations sends a late warning message about a single demon that survived the massacre, and is now resurrecting the one-slain monsters! As the titular DOOM Marine, you’ll need to do some cleaning out before re-entering Hell to destroy the creature. You’ll receive the occasional text intermission after specific levels, but once again, its emphasis is on the gameplay.
This isn’t some glorified map pack like Final DOOM. No, DOOM 64 is a whole new game from the ground up. While it still relied on 2D sprites in 3D environments (unlike most other shooters around the time), it still looks stunning to this day. The enemy designs are very creative and make them look even nastier, while the weapons have a nice new look to them. The gothic textures and frequent use of coloured lighting gives each environment an eerie and unsettling appearance and feel to them, too.
At its core, it’s still a DOOM game; shooting demons, key-hunting and plundering for secrets are still its core ingredients. However, the level design is considerably different than before. Since they’re tighter and more compact in size, they don’t overstay their welcome, and that’s also thanks to their creative level designs. Its advanced engine allows for some more complex scripted events and devious traps, which really makes it feel like a unique experience. Foes will teleport in, engravings on walls will launch projectiles, and the environment around you may crumble or peel back to reveal pools of lava, or armies of monsters ready to spawn in and rip you apart.
The tried-and-tested arsenal from before make their triumphant return, albeit with a few tweaks. The pistol and shotgun are still outclassed by the super shotgun, which now reloads even faster. The plasma gun doesn’t spray projectiles as much as before, but it still kicks ass, much like the chaingun and rocket launcher. While the BFG9000 makes its triumphant return, the real star of the show is the Unmaker, a laser gun that can be upgraded with three demonic keys (exclusively found in the secret levels, respectively) to boost its attack power considerably. On top of that, you can expect the same power-ups from before, like invulnerability, invisibility and the berserk pack for super-powerful punches.
Replacing the stock sound effects in the PlayStation port of DOOM was a big plus-point for the port (many of the enemies sounded like horny camels in the PC version), and thankfully they’ve been used here as well. The weapons sound a lot punchier, much like the distinctively inhuman screams and roars of the demons. Aubrey Hodges returns with another horror-centric, ambient soundtrack, and even though most of the tracks aren’t quite as diverse as his previous works, it’s still a haunting listen that makes the game feel all the more spookier.
Now it’s time for the golden question: what’s so great about Nightdive Studios’ rerelease? Enough to justify a purchase, that’s for sure. Smoothened textures, speedy loading times and achievement support are all to be expected here. It runs without a hitch on the Switch, too, and it even features perfectly functional motion controls. Plus, it contains seven brand-spankin’ new levels. These toughies are just as awesome as the original missions, albeit with a higher attention to detail and a bigger enemy count.
DOOM 64 is still a beast of a shooter with a fantastic single-player experience. While it’s still unfortunate that it lacks any sort of multiplayer support, its longevity and challenging gameplay more than makes up for it. The impressive graphics and sound design still help it stand apart from other shooters of the decade, and it runs flawlessly on the Switch. Slaying demons on-the-go is a helluva lot of fun, and considering this cracking port will only set you back a few bob, it’s safe to say that it’s packing more bang to your buck than a shotgun blast to an imp’s face.