I’ve been craving more Doom since finally experiencing the original two games earlier this year. So imagine my surprise when I learned there’s a followup game that largely passed under the gaming community’s radar when it first came out. Having now blasted my way through the true third game in the classic Doom canon, I can comfortably say any Doom fans who haven’t tried Doom 64 should immediately grab it. It’s only $5 and it’s a really worthwhile experience.
A New Experience.
I didn’t play this as a kid, didn’t have an N64, so the 2020 Steam port is my first experience with this game. I’m pleasantly surprised by how it maintains the Doom formula while also adding new curveballs and tech advances into the experience. You’ll probably find it a bit easier than normal Doom so I recommend the hardest difficulty. Mouse+keyboard is just way more precise than the N64 controller they balanced for. Plus the PC port comes with Doom’s usual “save anytime” system so you don’t need to complete each level in one try.
The biggest changes come in map aesthetic and architectural design. We occasionally get rooms on top of rooms now. There are some awesome set pieces where parts of the map geometry change before your very eyes. I like how the automap can toggle between Textured and Wireframe modes, and the weapons have a great punchiness to them.
If I had to complain about something, it’d be how many times the maps rely on “sprinting at a ledge” puzzles. The originals kept that to a minimum because it highlighted how the game didn’t have a jump. So Doom 64 constantly calling attention to it was a weird call. But in general, the devs struck a great balance keeping that Classic Doom feel while using the N64 tech advances to create more dynamic maps with more varied puzzles and an oppressive horror atmosphere.
Boosting Cool Mechanics
In other ways, the game expands on many cool mechanics that were in short supply. As I mentioned before, there are a lot more puzzles. But never anything so nebulous that I couldn’t hit buttons repeatedly until I figured out what was going on. The secret levels in particular were incredibly memorable. The devs embraced them as opportunities to take off the kid gloves and really throw some mind-bending level designs at you. Doom 64 also includes way more “monsters teleport into a previously-cleared area” challenges. This combos with the backtrack-heavy level design. It might be why they didn’t add a Nightmare difficulty.
The Steam release of Doom 64 also adds a new set of levels that “tie the classic and reboot Doom series together”. Though in classic Doom format it doesn’t put a lot of effort into the storyline. We mostly have to take the text crawl’s word for it. Gameplay-wise, the Lost Levels are a massive leap in difficulty since they were designed with modern PC gamers in mind. I’d played the whole game on “Watch me Die!” difficulty, the hardest available. But I didn’t find it nearly as challenging as the equivalent “Ultra-Violence” difficulty in the original games. The Lost Levels, on the other hand, were a massive step-up in difficulty. Several times I strongly considered dropping down to a lower difficulty. Though I’m glad I powered through because the final map, Final Judgment, is probably one of my favorites in all three games.
A good recommendation!
In short, if you like Doom I and II you’re probably going to like Doom 64. It stands apart with its graphical and design advances. Yet gameplay-wise it’s neither too disparate nor too samey to what came before. In addition, the new Lost Levels tie both eras of Doom into a single canon. That makes this a worthwhile experience for fans from either generation. Your classic Doom experience just isn’t complete without also playing this game.