A classic that still holds up today, Doom 64 remains not just the most overlooked Doom game but sneakily one of the best.
This review of Doom 64 is based on the Xbox One Port. It also available on Nintendo 64, Nintendo Switch, PC, and PS4.
Look, I know Doom Eternal is the game everyone’s playing right now, but the oft-overlooked third instalment in the franchise, Doom 64, came packaged as a pre-order bonus with that game and is currently enjoying some deep discounts on various digital storefronts, so now seems as good a time as any to return to blocky Hell and see if it’s still worth the trip.
And yeah – turns out it’s still pretty great.
A lot of people either forget or never knew that Doom 64 isn’t a port but an original title; a sequel to the first two games – naturally complicated in the history books by Doom 3 not actually being the third one, and so on – developed by Midway Games. It’s very much in the same vein as Doom and Doom II, with the same fast-paced, no-nonsense shooting, the same varied denizens of the underworld, and the same maze-like level design, but that level design is significantly more complex here than it was before.
More on that in a moment, since it’s the most obvious and lasting improvement. But every element feels slightly fine-tuned in Doom 64; the new sprites are more detailed, even after originally debuting on a system with notoriously ugly games, and the lighting and effects feel as though they’ve been slightly spruced up for this port. The weapons – including some new additions such as the glorious Unmaker – feel great and punchy, and while we’re still in the lateral-aiming-only days, the series’ trademark pace and precision are resolutely intact. A new, eerie ambient score is a great addition, helping to underscore the impressively bonkers environments.
Those environments really are great, boasting much more complexity than those in the first two games but also a better sense of internal logic and consistency. They’re jam-packed with secret areas and nebulous, multi-stage puzzles, but strung together by clever signposting and environmental cues that make exploring these areas a joy rather than an exercise in hammering the use button against every wall and surface.
It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though, since even though Doom 64 makes less use of the “enemies emerge from a hidden door behind you” gimmick, it still features shooting galleries that are perhaps too long for their own good. Enemy variety is consistently pleasing, but even though the entire point of Doom is to shoot demons, shooting huge swathes of them every few seconds without much variation can quickly become tiresome. The “Lost Levels” bonus missions feel less enjoyable than they might have thanks to this.
Still, all things considered, Doom 64 is really quite something; a classic over two decades old that still absolutely holds up today. While Doom Eternal might be hogging the limelight, make the time to check out one of its neglected elderly relatives – you won’t regret it.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.